Editor’s note: The following synopsis was provided by the author:

“Fractured Family: Fighting in the Maine Courts,” by Douglas I. Hodgkin; printed at Central Maine Community College; part of the Androscoggin Historical Society’s publication series; paperback, 166 pages.

Sometimes one’s ancestors behave poorly. That is a theme explored by local author Douglas I. Hodgkin who researched and wrote a book about a feud within the family of his great grandmother, Sarah D. P. Hodgkin, of Lewiston between 1915 and 1923.

“Fractured Family: Fighting in the Maine Courts” centers on the case of Brackenbury v. Hodgkin, decided by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 1917. The case, which settled the ownership of the family farm, is studied by contract law students and is cited as a precedent in cases involving “unilateral contracts.”

Sarah Hodgkin promised the homestead to her daughter and son-in-law, Bertha and Joseph Brackenbury, if they would come from Missouri to care for her. But they did not get along, so Mrs. Hodgkin attempted to transfer ownership of the property to one of her sons.

Her five sons took sides in the dispute, which generated other controversies and altercations that often resulted in appearances in various local courts.

“With the number of lawyers involved, both as advocates and as judges, you almost get a who’s who of the local bar at the time,” notes author Hodgkin.

The book places the feud in the context of Lewiston history in the early 20th century. Besides the legal issue of the unilateral contract, it discusses issues of elder care and elder abuse and the courts’ inability to resolve the feud.

The feud, according to Hodgkin, was not passed on to later generations. “In fact, a Brackenbury descendant in Missouri helped me do the research with materials from there and from that side of the family,” Hodgkin said. “Probably the feud was largely forgotten because the participants and their children would talk very little about it.”

However, the story did not die because the case surfaced in law school texts. “Some of my former students who went to law school contacted me and asked whether this Hodgkin family in Lewiston was related to me, the author said.

Hodgkin unearthed the story from the trial transcript and letters introduced as evidence found at the Maine State Archives, plus diaries and newspaper articles. Many photos record the people and the setting.

The family property at issue was located on what is now the south side of the Maine Turnpike where it intersects with Pleasant Street. The formerly rural setting of the feud became highly developed after construction of the turnpike, Commercial Street,and Alfred Plourde Parkway.

Therefore, this book preserves not only an account of the background of an interesting case, but also photos and description of a neighborhood that has changed dramatically.

Hodgkin, professor emeritus of political science at Bates College, is a native of Lewiston and author of other works on Lewiston history, including “Lewiston Memories,” “The Grange at Crowley’s Junction,” and the chapter on Lewiston in “Androscoggin County, Maine: A Pictorial Sesquicentennial History, 1854-2004.”

“Fractured Family” was designed and printed by students at Central Maine Community College in the graphic arts and printing technology department as a yearlong learning project. Vicki Parmley, in particular, “did a beautiful job on the layout of the photos and on the cover design,” Hodgkin said.

“Fractured Family” may be purchased for $12, plus 60 cents sales tax, at the Androscoggin Historical Society and at the Book Burrow in Auburn and at Mr. Paperback in Lewiston; or from Douglas Hodgkin. If purchased from the author, add $2.40 for shipping.


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