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The Mystery of the Five Williamses at the Doughty Point and Island Preserve

Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys might have had a heyday at the Doughty Point and Island Preserve. Nancy and her friends George and Bess would try to drive her convertible roadster there and would be foiled! Dashed! You can’t get there by road. Instead, they’d kayak!! Frank and Joe Hardy might have zipped west through the Gurnet on a speedboat adventure and stopped at Doughty Island. There was something about the Point and Island that called to them all….what was it?

Was it the family cemetery? James Doughty, his wife, Anna, and three grandchildren, Jesse Doughty, David Barstow, and Priscilla Barstow are buried near the tip of the point. Headstones for the last four remain. But family graveyards were common in Harpswell’s early days. That’s not the source of the detectives’ frisson.

Where to begin? Follow the deeds, of course. Fifty years ago, two couples did great deeds by donating their land to The Nature Conservancy. Dr. and Mrs. Donald Macomber donated the northern 40 acres of Doughty Point; Robert and Jeanne Zottoli donated Doughty Island. The deeds stipulate that the land essentially be left to nature. The Nature Conservancy turned them over to Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT) in 1996, and the Preserve was created.

The deed for the Island, however, contains this unusual clause: “This conveyance is made with this express condition and proviso, that no beverages now held by the laws of Maine to be intoxicating shall ever be sold on the aforedescribed premises.” And so the mystery develops.

The earliest deed with this proviso is a sale by Helen L. Judkins and her children on November 6, 1911. Two months earlier Maine had passed a constitutional amendment stating:

“The manufacture of intoxicating liquors, not including cider, and the sale and keeping for sale of intoxicating liquors, are and shall be forever prohibited.” Maine repealed Prohibition in 1934, yet the Judkins’ decree for Doughty Island persists. Why?

The deed has other intriguing features. One is that Helen Judkins, not her husband, Moses M. Judkins, owned the Island. She purchased Princes Point, including the Island, in 1884. Moses isn’t in the deed. When they sold the Island in 1911, Helen and her children separated Doughty Island from their Princes Point farm.

In 1896, Moses Judkins bought Doughty Point, thereby joining ownership of the Point and Island in one family. In 1911, he sold the Point to their children, and this is where it gets weird: The children were listed as Preston Williams Judkins, Alice Williams Judkins, Mary Williams Judkins, Bertha Williams Judkins, Ethel Williams Judkins, Otis Weld Judkins, and Helen Augusta Judkins. The first five, the “Williams” children, were born in Massachusetts. Otis and Helen were Mainers. What changed? And for whom were the first five children named?

There is no Williams in either Helen or Moses Judkins’ families. Moses, though, was a coachman for Moses Blake Williams in Boston in the 1860s. Moses B. Williams and his father, Moses, were wine and liquor merchants who were so successful that in 1871, Moses Williams paid taxes on the equivalent of $40 million dollars, the second highest assessment in Boston.

Unfortunately for them, the Williams’ business was caught in a fraud against US Customs. They paid a settlement of about $125,000 ($2.1 million today) in 1866 for years of fake invoices for champagne and sherry. The case included a spy in France, insinuations of bribes to government officials, and an 1866 Congressional investigation. The most shocking outcome was that Moses B. Williams shot himself in the head on October 5, 1866. His death certificate reads: “…by accidental discharge of pistol.” The press called it suicide.

Moses Judkins kept working in Boston as a stable keeper into the 1880s. He married Helen Emery of Bath in June, 1873. By 1884 they had the five “Williams” children. They moved to Maine, farmed, worshipped at the Methodist church, and had two more children.

Perhaps Methodism inspired Helen to ban the manufacture and sale of spirits on Doughty Island, but was there more? Did the Williams’ scandal and fallout also influence her? How did temperance fit with the Williams’ business of selling liquor? Only Nancy, George, Bess, Joe, and Frank can solve this mystery.

A final note: Two weeks before Moses Williams died in 1883, Moses Judkins advertised Williams’ horse for sale. The horse was named “Smuggler.”