The Confederate Yankee of Belfast

In mid-2016, Sally Simonton and her cousin, Thad, placed a metal marker on the unmarked grave of their great-grandfather, George J. Grotton. Buried in Grove Cemetery in Belfast, Grotton was a Confederate who moved to Maine after the war. (Courtesy of Sally Simonton)

Just when you think every Maine-buried Confederate has been located, another one pops up.

This time, however, the Confederate — George J. Grotton — became a Mainer.

His tale begins with his birth in Lombard, Spain on August 22, 1835. His father was a Spaniard, his mother a Maine girl born in Lewiston.

Arriving in the United States as a 15-year-old “sailor boy” in 1850, Grotton settled in Virginia and joined a Virginia regiment on April 11, 1861. Betsy Paradis, the former local history librarian at the Belfast Free Library, discovered that the online “Maine Veteran records” described Grotton as a captain in a Co. I , with his regiment unknown.

Discharged from Confederate service in Pennsylvania in 1865, George Grotton moved to Belfast for reasons that seem unclear. In either 1870 or 1871 he married Hannah Knowlton, listed as 18 years old in the 1870 Swanville census.

The 1880 Belfast census listed Grotton as 43, married, and a fisherman, and 28-year-old Hannah as “keeping house.” The Grottons had two sons, 3-year-old Carl and 2-year-old Loraottas. The last name could be a census-taker’s phonetical spelling, because the Belfast vital records indicate that “Loron P.,” the “age 3” son of George and Hannah, died of the “membrane coup” on April 19, 1881.

The Grottons also apparently lost an “infant” on April 4, 1880.

The obituary of Confederate veteran George J. Grotton was published in the June 20, 1901 Republican Journal. (Courtesy of Megan Pinette)

The 1900 Belfast census identified additional Grotton children: daughter Iola, 16; daughter Rose, 13; son George J. Jr., 11; son Lawrence F, 8, and daughter Janet B., 5. Williamson’s History of Belfast, Vol. II, identifies Janet as Jeannette Bertha Grotton.

His obituary published in the June 20, 1901 Republican Journal indicates that the Grottons had nine children in all.

Soon after arriving in Belfast, Grotton “worked as a common laborer, then he carried on a fish market at the bridge,” according to the obituary. He started worked at Mathews Bros. (a flourishing company to this day). “Employed in hand work as a finisher in the door department,” he “was an industrious and skillful workman.”

Boasting “a good common school education” when he moved to Belfast, Grotton “continued his reading and studies, keeping well informed on current events and adding to his store of general knowledge,” the obituary indicates.

The image emerges of an educated man with a good intellect and the ability to take care of his family. According to Williamson’s History, Grotton was a justice of the peace by March 6, 1889.

“For several years [he] did a pension business,” his obituary noted, and Grotton served four years on the Belfast School Board.

Grotton fell ill in late spring 1901. A doctor diagnosed appendicitis, and “an operation was performed” to alleviate that condition. Unfortunately, it “was found to exist in an advanced stage and complicated with an adhesion, an ulcer and other troubles.

Grotton died at home in East Belfast on Thursday, June 13, 1901. As customary, his family held his funeral at home on Saturday, June 15 with the “Rev. A.A. Smith officiating.” The funeral “was largely attended by his (Grotton’s) fellow-workmen at the mill, his neighbors, and representatives of the School Board.

“His shopmates, J.H. Stinson, H.W. Staples, T.D. Guptill and A.K. Braley” bore the coffin to a Grove Cemetery grave, the obituary noted.

The 1910 Belfast census found Hannah Grotton and three of her children living at 36 Bridge St., East Belfast. She died in 1926.

In mid-2016 Sally Simonton and her cousin, Thad, placed a metal marker on the unmarked grave of their great-grandmother, Hannah Grotton, widow of George J. Grotton. (Courtesy of Sally Simonton)

Her grave and George’s went unmarked until the Grottons’ descendants, Sally Simonton and her cousin, Thad, “placed markers on our” great grandfather’s grave in 2016, Simonton indicated in an email to Belfast Historical Society President Megan Pinette, who had provided some information about George Grotton, including his obituary.

“Unable to afford (a grace) stone as of yet,” Simonton and her cousin “did have metal markets made” and “also placed a veterans marker with a flag” on Grotton’s grave.

According to an email that Pinette sent Simonton, the Grottons are shown as living on “Bridge Street, Robbins Road, (and) Patterson Hill. They are all in the same area, [and] might be all the same house.”

So at least a fifth Confederate veteran has been confirmed as buried in Maine. George Grotton decided to become a Mainer, and his life in Belfast proves he was a pretty decent Yankee.

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.