Some years ago we were given a trove of personal letters, correspondence, and photographs between Elisabeth Odiorne and her husband and various other family members. In them is a wonderful, important link to our past. She was a fine writer, providing first-account description about her days, months, and years as a member of the Masterman family living on Moosehead Lake. In the coming newsletters to our members, we will be publishing a series about her and what captured her imagination about life here on the lake.
We thank Christopher Livesay for submitting these to the Moosehead Historical Society’s archives. They will be forever saved for public enjoyment and research. Thank you also to Keith Smith, who donated a diary of Mrs. Odiorne’s he found at the West Paris dump and thought enough to send it to the Moosehead Historical Society for safekeeping. These provide many items of historic, cultural interest pertaining to Moosehead Lake and the Mastermans. — SA
Elisabeth Damon Odiorne was born in 1902, the daughter of Cornelius John “CJ” Damon (1858-1941) and Mary Ann Masterman (1869-1947). She was the grand-daughter of Edward Goff Masterman of Masterman Farm in Sandbar Tract, on the shore of Moosehead Lake located between Greenville and Rockwood. She was courted by and eventually married Joseph Odiorne (1904-1983). Elisabeth died in 1988.
Her story begins with her family. Anyone driving to Rockwood from Greenville will see the Masterman Farm sign on Rt. 15. Edward Masterman, George Masterman, John Masterman, and CJ Damon were well known hunters, trappers, guides, and farmers.
Her grandfather, Edward Goff Masterman, was born in Sangerville in 1842; her grandmother, Betsey Ella Cousens, was born in Dexter, 1851. They had four children. One — Elisabeth’s mother, Mary Ann — was born in Kingsbury. The other three were all born at Sandbar Tract.
From an early age, Elisabeth and Joe began a correspondence that would span a lifetime. They started out as pals during their teens, which soon turned into a true courtship, with many letters exchanged over many years before they were united into marriage. By today’s standards their romance might be considered quaint. Their letters are full of the pronouncement of budding love, though guided by the social keeping of the turn of the last century. He was much more demonstrative in his letters, while she in the early years demurred, in apparent no rush to union. There were certain accommodations that had to be met before marriage was even considered, a societal construct understood and accepted by both of them.
After graduating high school, Elisabeth (fondly referred to as “dear Bette” by Joseph), became a teacher. Joe wasn’t sure what he wanted to do at first and was completely smitten with Bette. Letters were traded back and forth as he attended first Bowdoin College, then Harvard for medical school. In 1925, he writes, “Mother asked me when we planned to be married. Of course I said ‘Not until I am through at Harvard’ but I made a mental reservation to the effect that it was not from choice and that I’d ask you to marry me tomorrow if it were possible or perhaps, better, practical.”
In another letter, he writes, “I’ve known you nearly 6 years and loved you more than 5! … and before long you will have worn the ring a year. I shall never forget the excitement of buying it and keeping it a secret,” and later that summer, “I am hoping that you will be as happy as possible at Kineo.”
The letters also spark with youthful fun and full awareness of the social mores of the time. That fall, freshly back at college, Joe quotes to Bette from the French novelist Honoré de Balzac’s Physiology of Marriage, “Between two beings susceptible of love, the duration of passion is in proportion to the original resistance of the woman or to the obstacles which the accidents of social life put in the way of your happiness,” to which Joe comments, “Those should be encouraging, especially the last, when you think that by 1928 we will have experienced 8 years of obstacles.”