About Aunt Lil

Lutts family picnic: Charles on left with cap and pipe and Lillian on far right

Lutts family picnic: Charles on left with cap and pipe and Lillian on far right

How do you learn about a woman who no one in the family ever met? That was my challenge. Yet, over the past few years, as I have become a part of Dan’s family in various ways I feel I have learned as much as one can about her.

As a historian and a lover of genealogy, one of the first things I did for Dan was properly house his historic family photos in an archival scrapbook. I did this “behind-his-back” for a Christmas present with the help of his sister Merry. She helped me identify who was who in the old photos, gave me genealogy charts and helped me learn the intricacies of Dan’s vast New England and Prince Edward Island history.

Dan owns three photos of Aunt Lillian, a few more of her husband, Uncle Charles, and several of their beloved home in Kittery, Maine, where Dan and his family spent many a summer vacation.

Then, of course, there is the “ring story.” As the proud owner of the 1901 Shreve Crump and Low engagement ring I delved a bit deeper into Aunt Lillian. But it wasn’t until the cook book arrived that I felt the need to really find out as much as I could.

Ancestry.com to the rescue! Lillian B. Drown was born on December 29, 1879 in Alfred, Maine, to Albert and Ella Drown. She had one brother, W.N. Drown, and a sister, Grace Drown Elkins.

I’m not sure how Lillian and Charles met, but they were married on Jan. 7, 1901 in Kittery, Maine. Charles was listed as a baker and Lillian as a clerk. And so they began their life together in Kittery on the coast of Maine.

The earliest photo I have of Lillian is of her at a Lutts family picnic in Maine. Lillian is on the far right and I’ve pulled out a close up of her. Charles is the mischievous one in the lower left with the pipe and cap.

Charles did what all Lutts men have done since the first Lutts stepped foot on Maine soil in the 18th century: he made his living in and around the sea.

Charles and his brothers were bakers for a time, having the Lutts Brothers Bakery. They opened the bakery in Kittery Point during the Spanish American War. You could say they grabbed at an opportunity to become government contractors.

How is owning a bakery connected with the sea?

At that time, Spanish prisoners of war were being kept on board a prison ship in Portsmouth Harbor.  The government needed someone to bake bread for the prisoners’ rations.  So Charles and his brothers bid on the contract, won it, and opened their bakery. They kept the bakery open for several years after the war ended.

We still own Uncle Charles’ recipe book for the bakery, which includes huge quantities for making baked goods. For whatever reasons, the brothers did not stay in the bakery business.

Uncle Charles and Aunt Lillian's Kittery Home

Uncle Charles and Aunt Lillian's Kittery Home

By 1910, the census has Charles working at the occupation he would stay in for the remainder of his working life: he worked in the storeroom at the Portsmouth Naval Yard.

The census also lists two boarders who would make a lasting impact on Charles and Lillian’s lives:  Herbert Elkins, age 37, and his 9-year-old son, Alvah Herbert Elkins.

The family story is that Herbert moved in with Uncle Charles and Aunt Lillian, who took care of him until he died from TB. As a result, Herbert gave Uncle Charles and Aunt Lillian the three-acre farm and the house that they would live in on Love Lane in Kittery for the rest of their lives.

Like most oral history, the story got a big confused and condensed in the telling. They did indeed appear to have nursed Herbert until he died of TB. (We are the proud owners of Herbert’s naval dress sword.)

But Herbert was actually a relative — their brother-in-law. Thanks to ancestry.com, I learned that Herbert Elkins married Lillian’s sister Grace Drown in 1900. To further confirm this, the 1920 census lists Alvah Herbert Elkins as Charles and Lillian’s nephew. He is still living with them at age 18 in 1920. This relationship was all news to Dan’s family!

Lillian contemplates how to cook a bear

Lillian contemplates how to cook a bear

Ancestry.com goes on to tell me that in 1923, when Alvah dies at age 21, Charles and Lillian are named executors of the estate. By 1930 they are no longer renters, but home owners, and the lovely old farmhouse on Love Lane in Kittery is now theirs. They continue to have boarders however as they take care of another family member, elderly Aunt Sarah Grant.

Now, as to my other photos: Our all-time favorite photo, which gives you a glimpse of Lillian and Charles – their humor, spunk, and Down East ways, is the bear photo! It appears Uncle Charles has bagged a bear, which would be pretty unusual in Kittery in the 1920s. He stands in front of their barn holding a shotgun.  Aunt Lillian stands next to him holding the dead bear up as if its a piece of Kleenex for all to see her man’s prowess! Or hers….

Dan's Aunt Fae, Uncle Charles, and Aunt Lil

Dan's Aunt Fae, Uncle Charles, and Aunt Lil

But truly, I think Aunt Lillian was a motherly soul. One thing I haven’t mentioned is the fact that they had no children. Which may be why they readily took in boarders and happily raised their nephew. Here’s Uncle Charles and Aunt Lil with Dan’s Aunt Fae.

On November 21, 1945, Lillian passed away at 66. Her obituary states that members of her Thursday Social Club in Kittery attended “en masse.” She was buried just up the road from their home in the Lutts family plot at the Orchard Cemetery.

Charles never remarried and lived the quiet life of a New England widower to the end of his days.