My Autobiography

by URBAN RUSSELL COOMBS

1932 -1951

1932 Ancestry and Birth.

My memories begin early in my life, but not quite this early. The knowledge I have for this year is the result of research and memories from later times.

My mother, who I’ve always known as Myrtle Irene Nesta Johnson, according to her, turns out to be (according to official birth records) Myrtle Hesta Johnson. This seems likely, but may be wrong because her mother’s name, on other records, was Nesta Gwendolyn Richardson. So Hesta, my mother’s middle name, may have been meant to be Nesta rather than Hesta. I don’t know where the Irene name came from, except that she may have had a fondness for it and decided to adopt the Irene name unofficially.

It seems clear that none of her six brothers had any connection with any Irene that I ever knew of, and her one sister, Margaret Johnson, (no Irene in her name) died at birth. My mother, whatever her name, was born in Temple, Maine, on Jan. 9, 1915. Her father, Grover Cleveland Johnson, was born in Bucksport, Maine in 1884, and Nesta Gwendolyn Richardson, her mother, was born on June 8, 1886 somewhere in central Maine. Grover and Nesta were married in 1905.

I know very little of what circumstances brought my parents, or my parent’s parents together, which is half the reason I have for writing this autobiography. If I knew more about that part of their young lives, my curiosity might be satisfied, and I wouldn’t feel so driven to explain, for my posterity, the motivations of my life. Be that as it may, my parents were married for 10 months before I was born.

My Dad, Urban Harry Coombs, was born in Bucksport, Maine on May 24, 1908, the first child of Aaron Urias Coombs, born in Bucksport, February 26, 1877, and Bernice Elsie Haynes, born in Penobscot, Maine, September 18, 1883. Aaron and Bernice were married on June 17, 1907.

My parents, Urban H. Coombs and Myrtle H. Johnson, were married on December 19, 1931.

The generations before those I’ve mentioned, my parents and grandparents, are not as familiar to me personally, though I vaguely recall some of them. Aaron’s parents, my Dad’s grandparents were Urias Coombs, born in Bucksport on June 30 1829, and Lydia Ann Dresser, born June 13, 1837 in Bucksport. These are on Dad’s father’s side of the family. On his mother’s side were grandfather George W. Haynes, born in Penobscot, Maine on October 24, 1852, and grandmother Rose Alice Perkins, born in N. Penobscot, Maine on October 6, 1854. On my mother’s side of the family (her grandparents) were Franklyn Johnson (possibly McIntyre) born in 1856, and Mary Willy Moore, born in Bucksport on November 7, 1862. These are my mother’s father’s parents. Her mother’s parents were Elroy D. Richardson, born in W. Tremont, Maine, and Lydia May Gott, born in W. Tremont, Maine on April 12, 1860.

All of my parent’s grandparents were hardly known to me, though I’ll be recalling memories of some of these great grand-parents in later years as I come to them.

I was born on October 6, 1932, within the town limits of Bucksport, Maine, in a farmhouse that my great grandfather, Urias Coombs, had built about 6 miles N. North-east of Maine Rt. 15 (Main Street) on outer Central Street in the suburb of Bucks Mills.

For those unfamiliar with Bucksport, and its' relationship to more familiar towns in Maine and the relative topography, the town is located in the uppermost delta of the Penobscot River, where the river splits into east and west channels to surround Verona Island, on which was built the ship that Admiral Perry sailed to the North Pole. The west channel flows under the Waldo-Hancock suspension bridge, over which traffic from Belfast, southward, flows to Verona Island and across another bridge to Bucksport on its way to Ellsworth, eastward, and on to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Belfast and Ellsworth are 19 miles from Bucksport, as is Bangor, which is north westward up the Penobscot River on Rt. 15.

If one drew a mental equilateral triangle with Bangor on the upper point and Belfast on the lower left point and Ellsworth on the lower right point, Bucksport would be at the center of the triangle. Across the river from Bucksport, in Prospect, there’s a state park with some historical value. Fort Knox State Park, with its granite walls, stone ramparts, old cannons and outbuildings, attracts tourist attention through the summer months year after year.

Another famous landmark can be seen shortly after one crosses the bridge from Verona Island and turns right on Main Street headed east. This is the Buck monument with its image of a leg that has given rise to many legends about the founder of Bucksport (originally Buck’s Town) whose name is Jonathan Buck. It, too, attracts much tourist attention.

I’m told by those who were in the house the night I was born, that it was a very cold wintery night even for Maine, and that I was a difficult first-born for my seventeen year old mother. If that’s true, and I have no reason to doubt it, then there’s good reason for me being born a "blue" baby, whatever that means if it doesn’t mean there was no heat in the room where I was born. It’s conceivable that the change from 98.6 to 75 degrees F temperature could leave a helpless baby a mite chilled. Apparently I got over it, but there’s no change in my appreciation for the warmth of the womb, maybe not 98, but I certainly prefer warm over cold. Still, sky-blue is one of my favorite colors...

A few side issues need to be included, since I’m not sure who was at my birth or came within the month or two that followed before the end of the year. I suspect that my Dad’s sister, my aunt, Shirley Alice Coombs, born in Bucksport, May 4, 1910, was in the picture somewhere, she’d have been 22, after all, certainly a factor in a new baby’s life. She probably wasn’t carrying my cousin, Elizabeth Conners, then, since she didn’t marry Alfred Conners until 1933, and Betty, or Lizzie, as I teasingly call her, wasn’t born until June of 1934. I’m sure my grandmother, Bernice was there. I suspect the family doctor, Dr. Carr, showed up sometime during the night, and Nanna Haynes may have been there as well. I doubt that Grandmother Nesta was there, but I’m sure she came as soon after as was possible.

Grammy Johnson (Nesta) had her hands full with some of my mother’s brothers, I’m sure. Those were Joseph Elroy Johnson, born August 13, 1906, Warren Johnson, born June 11, 1908, Russell Johnson, born January 5, 1910, Franklyn Keith Johnson, born January 25, 1912, Grover Dexter Johnson, born November 16, 1918, and Merwin Brown Johnson, born November 27, 1920.

 

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Updated March 2010