Alexander/Crawford History

Town News

By John Dudley & 

Cassie Oakes


We all know that murder is a heinous act.  Did you know that the Machias Historical Society presented the stories of three Washington County murders at their October 15th meeting?  One murder had an Alexander connection.

Carlene Holmes read the 1824 court record of the trial of John Burnham of Machias.  He was charged of beating his wife Elizabeth so severely that she died two days later.  He was convicted of manslaughter and served nine years in prison at Thomaston.

He was part of the family that owned the Burnham Tavern in Machias.  His brother was so embarrassed that he moved to Cherryfield and opened a tavern there.   Moving with him were the children of John and Elizabeth, including their son Hiram who became a Brigadier General in the 6th Maine Regiment in the Civil War.  When John was released from prison, he could not face his family or old community and disappeared.

Betsy Fitzgerald researched the murder at Fletcher Brook in newspapers.  In 1886 Game Warden Lyman O. Hill and his assistant Charles Niles were shot while attempting to seize a dog they believed had been used in chasing deer.  Dogging deer had been made illegal by the Legislature.  Sandy Ives’ book “George Magoon and the Downeast Game War” gives a good view of the local feelings about the new game laws.

The Hancock man who pulled the trigger was Calvin Graves.  He escaped to California, but was caught, returned to Maine and spent the rest of his life in prison.  Members of the Society took turns reading the news clippings.

Rebecca McKenna researched and presented the story of the murder of Andrew Higgins.  ACHS Newsletter reported on their January 1908 murder on pages 16-18 in issue 143 (February 2010).  Becky has continued to research this case and presented things that John Dudley had not known.

First, the murder weapon was a birch-stick the size of a baseball bat.  The murderer, Nicholas Wallace, had crushed Higgins skull after walking many cold miles, then dragged the body several hundred yards where he jumped on the lifeless form crushing Higgin’s ribs.  Why such anger?  He then covered his victim with boughs before he walked to the Robb Hill, Alexander, home of Aaron Colson where Wallace spent the night.

Aaron Colson was the fourth husband of Susan Boles.  Her third husband had been Andrew Higgins!  Is there more to this story?  Besides living at Susan’s home, Andrew had lived at two other places in Alexander.  Finally, Andrew’s 94 year old grandson resides in St. Andrews NB.  When interviewed, he could not or would not provide additional information about the murder of Andrew Higgins.