MEXICO — River Valley area residents shared information, photographs and documents from their Scottish and Irish ancestors during a joint meeting of the Mexico and Rumford historical societies Wednesday evening in the Mexico town hall.
After a potluck supper, Jim Robertson of Rumford led off a presentation, which was to feature ancestors of the Scottish and Irish immigrants who came to Rumford from Europe, often through Canada, to build the industries upon which Rumford built its economy.
But those who spoke focused on family heritages and genealogical research they’d done of their relatives, many of whom worked in these industries such as paper mills and businesses that grew around it.
Robertson said his ancestors came from Scotland and settled in Rumford’s Smith Crossing neighborhood, where many Italians also settled.
“My father was the first one born in this country,” he said, adding that his dad’s older sister and older brother were both born in Scotland.
“What did they contribute to the area?” Robertson asked. “Well, obviously, none of them turned out to be the president of the country, and none of them turned out to be even the mayor or selectmen of any of the towns, but that’s immaterial because they still contributed.
“They contributed their hard labor to the mills, they contributed raising their family,” he said.
While in the seventh grade, Robertson said he worked in the Mexico Chicken Coop washing dishes and his uncle, Jim Robertson, an artist who worked in the mill, also painted advertising signs for the restaurant.
“No one family has a monopoly on what contributions are made in the community,” Robertson said, trying to elicit more to share their stories. “We all have family that contributed something, and, hopefully, we all contribute something ourselves.”
Irene Hutchinson of Byron brought a copy of a 15-foot-long chart delineating Scottish Clan Shaw, from which she is descended.
“My Joseph Shaw is related to just about everybody there,” Hutchinson said of the chart that dates back to 1056 and describes Clan Shaw, which aided Scottish monarch Malcolm the Third, and in 1056, dethroned Macbeth, an 11th century Scottish king.
Her ancestors are listed at the chart’s bottom. It shows they moved from Buckfield to Byron, where they raised sheep in the early 1800s, she said.
“Irene Shaw, whom I’m named after, was my great-great-great-grandmother,” she said. “It was interesting to find out who they were, how they got here and what they did. They raised a lot of sheep here, and the bears were so thick and killing the sheep that my great-grandfather Addison Young was known to kill 49 bears in his lifetime.”
One of her ancestors also rode the train to school in Mexico.
Bea Shaw Preblod of Mexico said she has traced both sides of her family back to 1633. Of relatives on her dad’s side who came to the area from Canada, she said some were from Scotland and Ireland.
Ella LaPlante said her ancestors came to Maine from New Brunswick, Canada, where her grandfather made tombstones.
“My mom came to the United States on her honeymoon with her husband to Rumford, where he worked in the mill and they settled here,” LaPlante said.
Frances Andrews DeFilipp of Mexico said her father’s ancestors were from Wales and joined the Scottish Ross Clan, “because all the Andrews men had died out.”
She said she is a direct descendant of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and John and Priscilla Alden of Mayflower fame, and that her ancestors were farmers who settled in Oxford. Although her grandfather settled in Lewiston. Her mother’s side came from Ireland to Nova Scotia.
A relative, Frank Perkins, was Mexico’s first fire chief, DeFilipp said.
“It’s important that we keep things around so we can share with our children and their children and so forth,” Robertson said. “Hopefully, our children and grandchildren will step up to the mic one day and say, ‘This is where I came from.’”
Bagpiper Denise Hurd of Andover performs “Amazing Grace” to wrap up Wednesday evening’s history presentation in Mexico on Scottish and Irish emigrants who settled in the River Valley area and contributed to growing industries.