Reverend Andrew A. Wiren
FATE DRAWS NEW SWEDEN NATIVE TO GRANDFATHER IN FLORIDA
By Joe McLaughlin
(undated Aroostook Republican newspaper clipping, Caribou, Maine; copy in Maine Swedish Colony files)
Until he retired and moved to Florida I 1977, Vaughan Wiren Pearson never really got to know his grandfather.
His grandfather had died when Vaughan’s mother, Estella, was at a young age.
But today, Vaughan has learned a great deal about his grandfather. When he retired after 40 years of hard accounting work, he and his wife, Bertha, moved to Cape Coral, Florida.
“Somehow destiny and fate seemed to draw us to the place,” Bertha remembers.
Through occasional references of Florida by his mother and her sister, Vaughan’s Aunt Alice, the Pearsons learned that their grandfather may have settled on Sanibel Island, Florida, which was now just a few miles from their Cape Coral home.
After investigating old records and tracing their family roots, Vaughan discovered his grandfather’s gravestone on the island. He also discovered that his grandfather had been one of the island’s first settlers and a pioneer in his time.
Vaughan now knew more of his grandfather, the Rev. Andrew A. Wiren, than he ever had.
His mother had lived in Florida with her father (Rev. Andrew A. Wiren), mother, sister and two brothers from 1884 to 1890.
But Vaughan’s mother never told her son much of that time. It was, he explained, a time she had just about blocked out of her mind.
“She had an unfortunate experience as a little girl (at nine years old),” Vaughan said of his mother, Estella. “She went to light a fire and the kerosene bottle exploded.”
The accident left Estella with severe burns and she was bedridden for a year.
The other main reason his mother never recalled Florida, Vaughan said, was he death of her father in 1890.
The Rev. Andrew A. Wiren died and his family moved away from Sanibel.
They moved back to the first place that Rev. Wiren had served as pastor. It was the place where Vaughan was born, New Sweden, Maine.
The Rev. Wiren became the pastor of the present Gustaf Adolph Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1871.Under his leadership the present church was built, as he was the first ordained minister of the original Swedish colony which came to New Sweden, Maine from Sweden.
Rev. Wiren and his family stayed in New Sweden until 1884. They then moved to Sanibel Island, Florida as a friend suggested the move due to Wiren’s health was failing because of tuberculosis.
But Rev. Wiren had laid down solid roots in New Sweden and it is these roots that may have been the force that somehow attracted the grandson that he had never knew to Sanibel Island, Florida.
Vaughan’s grandmother, Abia A. Vaughan, also laid down firm roots that may have attracted her grandson to Florida.
Abia A. Vaughan was the daughter of the original owner of Caribou’s Vaughan House. She became the first postmistress of New Sweden, Maine upon her return from Sanibel in 1890.
The love and friendship that her husband had given to New Sweden was given back to the Wiren family when they returned in 1890. The parishioners built a home for her family, which is the present Cheney home across from the New Sweden museum.
Her daughter, Estella, grew up and matured in the home and married New Sweden’s Bernard Pearson. The couple lived in the home for 60 years and had two children, Vaughan and Donald.
Bernard prospered in New Sweden. He owned a general store for a number of years and then became a partner in the John N. Johnson Company, which was the Ford Garage of New Sweden.
But his son, Vaughan, did not follow into the footsteps of his father’s business or into farming, the common occupation of his homeland in Aroostook County.
Those mysterious abstract qualities of fate and destiny seemed to draw him elsewhere. Vaughan, born in 1910 graduated from Caribou High School in 1927. He then attended Presque Isle Normal School for a year and taught school the next year to eight grades in a country school.
But he did not want to teach for the rest of his life, he remembers. “I did not want to teach or take up farming,” he said.
His Aunt Alice, who lived in Nashua, New Hampshire, drew him to a career in business and away from his New Sweden home.
Alice told her nephew that he could live in New Hampshire and attend one of the area business colleges.
Vaughan went to Lowell Business College for a year and then to Boston University for three years of evening classes. He graduated with a degree in accounting and began to lay down some roots of his own in Nashua.
He met his wife, Bertha Cornwall, at a Young People’s church outing in Nashua. The couple married in 1934. Ironically, they did not meet six years before when both took classes for teaching Sunday School in Ocean Park, Maine.
They both appeared in the graduation class photo from the school with Vaughan standing four people down from his eventual wife, Bertha Cornwall.
The couple had two sons and a daughter in their Nashua home. But, even though their family grew up in Nashua, they returned to New Sweden, Maine every summer to visit Vaughan’s parents and his home.
They returned again this summer for another visit.
“I still cherish the friendships I had here as a boy growing up,” Vaughan said.
After over 40 years of accounting work in Nashua, it was time for Vaughan and Bertha to move on. The cold New England winters were starting to take affect and with Vaughan’s retirement, the reasons for staying in Nashua became less.
Fate once again started to direct them toward his grandfather’s Sanibel Island home.
Some of their good friends had moved to the area and were urging Vaughan and Bertha to do the same. Vaughan’s sister-in-law had also moved to the area. They decided to make the move and built a house in Cape Coral, Florida in 1977.
They then began the search for Vaughan’s roots. Their search led them to Sanibel Island and Clarence Rutland. It seems Clarence was the son of one Othman Rutland who had bought a house that was first owned by the Rev. Andrew A. Wiren.
Clarence told Vaughan and Bertha that Othman and Rev. Wiren were buried side by side on Wiren’s old homestead.
The couple then sprang into action. They wanted to preserve this historic site of the two pioneers and thus had the graves marked with a double headstone in 1980.
Recently, the Sanibel Historical Preservation Committee recognized the site and it will be protected and preserved as a landmark honoring two of the area’s first pioneers.
Finding his grandfather after all these year, said Vaughan, “has really given us such a pleasant feeling of belonging after living in Nashua for so many years.”
It seems like Vaughan and Bertha Pearson were destined to live and belong there all along. In their case, fate was a slow, but happy process.
When Vaughan Pearson moved to Cape, Florida in 1977, he discovered that a pioneer that settled a nearby island was his grandfather, the Rev. Andrew A. Wiren. Vaughan, with his wife Bertha, found his grandfather’s burial place and erected a gravestone in 1980. The site has since been preserved by the local historical society. (Ketch photo of Bertha and Vaughan Pearson)
Florida Pioneer: The Rev. Andrew A. Wiren was one of the first settlers on Sanibel Island, Florida, in the 1880’s after leaving his first parish in New Sweden, Maine. (Old photo of Rev. Andrew Wiren)
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