Maine Genealogy Blog

Finding L.L. Bean's Birthplace

I am the fourth cousin twice removed of L.L. Bean. My father is actually related to him through both parents—his mother is descended from Beans, and his father's paternal grandmother was a Cummings, as was Bean's maternal grandmother. But my closest connection to L.L. Bean is geographical: he was born in the town of Greenwood in Oxford County—just up the road from where my father and I both grew up. But the exact location of his birthplace was unknown to us until I did a little digging.

Leon Leonwood Bean was born 13 Oct. 1872 to Benjamin Warren and Sarah (Sweat) Bean. His family lived in Milton Plantation in 1876, in the neighboring town of Bethel in 1877 and 1880, and moved back to Milton by 1881, where his parents died days apart in November 1884. But in 1870, before L.L.'s birth, they were living in Greenwood:

The order of enumeration suggests that they were living on Howe Hill in northwest Greenwood. They were listed between the households of William Horace Garey and Exist Legro, both of whom appear on a map of the area in 1880.

Land records establish that in 1870 the Beans owned the property marked "D. Cross" on the 1880 map. The homestead was purchased 3 Sept. 1862 by Benjamin W. Bean of Bethel, and sold by him to Daniel D. Cross of Greenwood, 31 Mar. 1873. In all likelihood, it was here that L.L. Bean was born in 1872.* His father purchased property (the site of a recently burned hotel) in the village of Locke Mills in Greenwood a month before his birth, but it was on Howe Hill that the Bean family had made its home for a decade.

The lot was bought by Amasa Bryant in 1830, and a year later a road was laid out at Bryant's request that ended at a stump two rods (33 feet) northeast of his house. Amasa sold to his brother Daniel R. Bryant in 1847, who sold to Asa and Rhoda Young in 1854. It was their daughter Susan who sold to Benjamin W. Bean in 1862. A map of the area published in 1858 shows two buildings on the lot, occupied by A. Young.

The road that formerly led to the homestead is scarcely visible now, but another woods road runs adjacent, and is easily traveled.

Following stone walls a quarter mile or so from the Howe Hill Road, we found a cellar hole. It was solidly built, and the wide entrance in the back made it clear that a barn had once stood here.

Several yards to the east we found another cellar hole—with walls so square, plumb and level that a house could be erected on them today.

Daniel D. Cross sold the farm on 28 Nov. 1891, and I find no evidence that it was ever again inhabited. The purchaser, Hiram Hodsdon of Bethel, did not live there, and after his death in 1893 the land was sold to two other non-residents. The buildings do not appear on later maps, and I think it likely that they burned—possibly in 1891, precipitating the sale by Cross. Perhaps the rusted wood stove that now sits in the cellar—the only sign of habitation still visible—dropped from the room above when the house was destroyed.

*[Update, 14 Jan. 2010] An article in the Lewiston Evening Journal of 25 Mar. 1872 again casts doubt on the birthplace of L.L. Bean. It reads: "The Press says that the dwelling house of Warren Bean, situated on Horse [sic] Hill in Greenwood, was burned at three o'clock Monday morning with all its contents. Insured for $600." The house was certainly rebuilt, but whether it was rebuilt by October 1872 is unknown. Given that Warren Bean was compensated by an insurance company for his loss, it is quite possible that a new house was erected during the spring and summer of 1872.

 Published September 9, 2009