Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Retire Whittemore Frees (1785-1860)

   This oddly named character is Retire Whittemore Frees, an outstandingly named member of the Maine state legislature from Penobscot County. Very little information exists online in regards to this oddly named man, and the spelling of his last name is also under scrutiny, being variously given as "Frees", "Freese" or "Freeze". I first stumbled across the name of this funny named man courtesy of the Maine Legislative Database (which lists him under the name Retire W. Freeze). The brief mention of him there denotes that he was elected as a member of the Maine State House of Representatives in 1839 from Penobscot County and that he served one term.
  Since locating his name all those months ago I'd forgotten all about Mr. Frees until locating a genealogical history of the Freese/Frees family entitled Freese Families, published in the early 1900s by a descendant of Retire's named John Wesley Freese. This work is one of the few sources I've found that mentions Retire W. Frees at any great length and it also supplied the very rare portrait of him shown above!
  Retire Whittemore Frees was born in Bangor, Maine on January 19, 1785, the fourth child of seven born to Abraham (1749-1800) and Hannah Whittemore Frees (1759-1793). Research has shown that Retire most likely inherited his odd first and middle names from his mother's brother, a Capt. Retire Whittemore (1757-1848), who lived to the great age of 91.
  Little could be found in regards to Frees's early life or education, and he is recorded as moving with his family to the town of Orono, Maine in 1790 at age five. He married in Orono in December 1810 to Ms. Fanny White, and twelve children were born to the couple, with all being described in the Freese Families as having "a natural gift for music as ducks have for swimming." They are listed as follows: Samuel (1811-1861), Jonathan (born 1812, died in an accident in California), Fanny (1814-1876), Benjamin (1816-1846), Hannah (1818-1865), Abigail (1823-1897), Daniel (1824-1825), Daniel II (1826-1904), Betsey (1828-1867), Retire W. (born 1830), John (1833-1892) and Rebecca (1837-1902).  
   In the year following his marriage, Retire Frees was elected to his first political office, that of selectman for the town of Orono and he is also mentioned as purchasing the family homestead from his father's relatives around this time. Frees and his family would reside in this home until his death fifty years later.

                   Retire W. Frees's name as it appeared in a Maine Legislative manual in 1839.

    In November 1838 Retire Frees was elected by the citizens of the town of Orono to the Maine State House of Representatives, defeating his opponent, Col. Ebenezer Webster. Taking office in January 1839, Frees served alongside fellow Penobscot native (and future U.S. Vice President) Hannibal Hamlin, who at that time was serving as House Speaker. 
  Frees served one term in the legislature and died at age 75 on October 22, 1860, at his home in Orono. He was subsequently memorialized in the 1874 work the Centennial Celebration, and Dedication of Town Hall, Orono, Maine as a very distinguished character in this town, stating that "his erect and noble form as he moved upon your streets will not easily be forgotten by those of you who were accustomed to see him in his frequent visits to the village." 
  Frees' wife Fanny survived her husband by nine years, dying in July 1870 at age 77. He was also outlived by several of his children and was presumably buried somewhere in the Orono vicinity, although his exact burial location is unknown at this time. 

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