Joseph Ramsdell was born in 1779 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, where he learned maritime trades including barrel making. He left Massachusetts at about age 20, trekking north and west through New Hampshire and Vermont, probably using family connections as he went. In Vermont he met the Cutler Family in the area of St Albans. He would marry into the Cutlers and in the next generation Cutlers and Ramsdells would go west to pioneer in Iowa and Minnesota. He didn’t marry Sarah Cutler until 1825.
In 1806, he bought 36 & 1/2 acres west of Split Rock on Lake Champlain where he raised wheat. We think his sister, Meriam Ramsdell may have already been living in Essex. She was married to Captain Thomas Edwards. Edwards owned a sloop which was pressed into the naval effort in the War of 1812. We made the Edwards connection when we discovered a book about the keepers of Split Rock Lighthouse that noted keeper Erastus Edwards was Joseph’s nephew.
In 1814 Joseph fought alongside his future brother-in-law, William Beaman (his future wife’s sister’s husband) under the command of Colonel Ezra Parkhill and Colonel Ransom Noble at the Battle of Plattsburgh.
After the war he raised his family and thrived in this Essex community of merchants, farmers and sailors for 50 years. He became lighthouse keeper in 1850 at age 71. Wife, Sarah Cutler died 1853. He died 1857 and is buried in Essex Cemetery. Henry Harmon Noble placed his grave marker in 1899.
Joseph’s daughter, Mary married into the well-known Essex family, the Hoskins. Meriam’s daughter, Mary married Daniel Martin. Other old Essex names mentioned in Joseph’s story are Ralph Hascall who was his lawyer and Luther Rose who sold him his land. Luther unsuccessfully tried to sue for its return. From this lawsuit record we were able to calculate his land was now the gracefully sweeping lakeside property on Whallons Bay. It can be viewed by driving lakeside along Albee Road on the way to Lighthouse Road. He also purchased lots in the town of Essex from William D. Ross.
Visiting the environs last year we were fascinated to see the extant evidence of family names and places validating our founder Joseph’s life in Essex. I loved the Nantucket-like eccentricity of the town. I can’t help but wonder if this Essex quality helps explain some of our Ramsdell quirkiness!!!