Dennis Prue

Dennis Prue

Dennis has been researching family trees for more than 30 years. His expertise has been invaluable in helping to break through brick walls.

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This Old Tree, February 2013

The myth of Polly Armstrong, being Alexander Cochran’s first wife

Early History of Caribou by Stella White states that Alexander Cochran had two wives Polly Armstrong and then Olive Virginia Parkes, the widow of Bela Blanchard Gardner.

Alexander Cochran is born about 1801 based on age listed in the census of 1860. The 1850 census has his birth about 1803. Believe the 1801 is most likely closer to true birth. In both censuses he declares that he was born in Ireland. Alexander would die on Nov 6, 1864 in Caribou [when it was called briefly Lyndon].

Alexander is known to have at least five children from his first wife: John, Alexander, Jane, David and Mark. He would have twelve children by his second wife: Virginia Ann, William, James, George, Martha, Richard, twins Mathilda and Thomas, Henry, Herman, Evangeline and Lavina Rose. Also raised his step-daughter Lucy Gardner.

I have not found a marriage record for Alexander Cochran to a Polly Armstrong, either in New Brunswick or in Maine. I truly doubt that Alexander was married to Armstrong at all. This is in part based on the fact that his second known child Alexander Junior. When Alex Jr. died, the parents on his death records listed Alexander Cochran and Jane Wark, both born in Ireland. The first four children: John, Alexander, Jane and David list New Brunswick as their birth place. Mark the youngest is listed as being born in Maine.

I looked at records of Anglican Church in Woodstock, Carleton County, New Brunswick and found two records that are related to Alexander Cochran’s children. The first was on October 21, 1822, the christening of Alexander Jr. born August 15, 1821 in (Upper) Kent, Carleton County, New Brunswick, son of Alexander Cochran and his wife Jane. The father’s occupation was listed as a Miller. The second record is the christening of Jane age 3 and David Wark Cochran, infant, children of Alexander and Jane Cochrane on September 11, 1826. Father listed as farmer and resident of (Upper) Kent. Son David is named for maternal grandfather David Wark, Jane’s father.

While looking for someone else in King’s county New Brunswick in church records for Kingston, I found the christening record for John, born March 31, 1820 and christened the same day, son of Alexander Cochran and his wife Jane and the father listed as a miller.

This past October 2012, I was in Fredericton at Irving Library on the University of New Brunswick campus looking at land record and came across on film a land record of Alexander Cochran selling his property in Upper Kent in March of 1827 to William Wark [his brother-in-law]. Alexander’s wife Jane is listed on the land deed. It is shortly after this sale that Alexander and Jane would move their family to area of what is now Caribou, Maine.

Their son Mark would be born in 1828 in Caribou. Sometime between Mark’s birth in 1828 and 1832 Jane Wark Cochran died and Alexander marries Olive Virginia Parkes, the widow of Bela Blanchard Gardner. It appears that Jane is still alive at time of 1830 census.

Olive Parkes was married to Bela Blanchard Gardner and listed in 1830 census with her daughter Lucy Jane Gardner who was born in January of 1830. Bela Blanchard Gardner is supposed to die in about 1831.

If Alexander birth is about 1801, I do not see when he would have time to be married to Polly Armstrong, since he would marry Jane Wark about 1819. I believe many years after the fact people most likely asked grandchildren or even great-grandchildren about Alexander and his wives. Since the first wife had been dead for so many years most did not recall who she was. They did recall that the second was Olive Parkes.

The plot does have a twist in there is a woman called Polly Armstrong living in the area but she not married to Alexander Cochran.

Polly is the wife of Ferdinand Armstrong. The Armstrong’s according to the census are living in what is now Aroostook County in 1830, in 1840 [no town listed] in Township Letter G, range 2, in 1850 Maysville [formerly called Letter G range 2] and also in Maysville in the 1860 and 1870 censuses. Maysville is now the northern half of city of Presque Isle, Maine. Stay tune for next month’s “This Old Tree” to find out more about Polly the wife of Ferdinand Armstrong and her ties to the Cochran family.