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John Polis
17th Maine Infantry - Company A

Created May 2003

John enlisted at Portland on 8-Dec-1863 in Company A, 17th Maine Infantry shortly after his marriage to Elizabeth, who was already twice a widow. John died of small pox on 23-Jan-1864 after arriving with his regiment in Virginia and approximately 7 weeks from the time he enlisted.

John Polis was born about 1832, probably in Maine, son of Joseph Polis of Old Town and Marie Marguerite, a Passamaquoddy woman. His widow, Elizabeth Polis, who gives her maiden name as Elizabeth Thompson, had already lost her only child, Franklin Peal, to the war about 2 years prior to John's death and her 2nd husband died the year before John.

The exact date of Elizabeth and John's marriage is unclear. Elizabeth gives several dates in the pension documents. First she gives 14-Sep-1863 "at Coolbrook NH by one Lewis Patol an Indian Preacher among them". On another form we see 25-Dec-1863 is written than crossed out [He enlisted on the 8th Dec!], and "a day in November" is written above it. She further states that she cannot furnish a marriage record nor a witness to her marriage, "as the Indian minister was a Traveler from place to place among the different families of Indians. She dont know where they might be found. The last she know they was in Canada."

John and Elizabeth were basket makers living a nomadic lifestyle. In the fall of 1863, right after their marriage, they were camped near the Grand Trunk Rail Road Station at West Pownal, ME. It is here that members of the Cushman family along with other locals "induced" John to enlist, to assist the town in filling it's quota. Elizabeth stayed in the area, living with Mr. Pierce that winter. It was here she received word of John's death, which arrived by letter from Robert Lowe, a local man and a sergent in John's Company. Elizabeth continued living the nomadic lifestyle and collecting a pension as widow of John Polis until about 1884. At that time she lost her pension and we lose track of her not long after.

John's first wife was Joan Corson of Brunswick, whom he married on 16-Jul-1856 in Brunswick. He was of Lincolnville at the time of this marriage. Joan was born 16-Apr-1839, daughter of Samuel Whitney Corson/Courson & Mary P. Coburn. The Corson family lived in Lisbon, Brunswick, and Lewiston at various times and the family had a rather poor reputation according to several different sources.

John & Joan had a daughter, Mary Isabelle, born abt 1857 and who died in June of 1883. Mary is found living with her Corson grandparents in the 1860 and 1870 census at Brunswick. Joan married 2nd about 1868 to William McIntosh, but the marriage only lasted a few weeks. She married 3rd on 20-Sep-1880 to John A. Dingley of West Bath.

Perhaps you noticed - John had two wives living at the time of his death! His first wife and daughter never made claim for his pension. It wasn't until 1884 the Pension Office discovered that perhaps Elizabeth was not John's legal wife and not entitled to his pension. Two different investigators looked into the matter in 1884 and the depositions they collected give us a interesting glimpse of Indian life in the mid 1800s.

  • Enlistment:8-Dec-1863 to 23-Jan-1864
Double Curve Design by Hannah Susep

Most of the information in the pension file referring to John and his family came from Joan Courson and other members of her family. Both investigators believed the Courson family were not reliable sources and untruthful in their statements. Nevertheless, we will present the picture they paint in their depositions, try to sort fact from fiction, and continue to search for new pieces of the puzzle.

So - here we have some wonderful information about John and his family, but it is full of contradictions. We must go about verifying what we can and try to put the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that makes sense. We can start by creating a timeline of events.

Events in the Life of John Polis
date event source
Copyright ©2003 Ne-Do-Ba
1850 The Corson Family is living in Lewiston 1850 Census
spring 1856 John Polis is performing with John Newell 2 depositions
1856 John claims to be "of Lincolnville" Brunswick record of marriage
16-Jul-1856 John & Joan are married in Brunswick town record of marriage
November/December about 1857 Mary Isabell Polis is born to John & Joan age in 1860 & 1870 census
deposition of Joan
Jan-1858? Margaret Polis, sister of John, dies
Peter Polis, brother of John, is killed in a fight with John
[Joan states this was January and the baby was about 6 weeks old]
Joan refuses to live in the woods with John after this
2 depositions
Mar-1858 Joseph Porus age 47 [Polis - John's father ?]
Mary Porus age 37 [can't be John's mother]
Newell Porus age 15
Tomekin Porus [female] age 10
Peol [Peter] Porus age 37
Newell Porus age 40
John Porus age 28 [right age for our John]
Penobscot census
1860 Joan Polis & daughter are living with her parents at Brunswick 1860 Census
Sep-1861 John & Joan Polis living & working in Lewiston deposition of Joan
Sep-1861 John Polis & George Eaton fake enlistment
Joan says Cushman True? of Topsham was involved in this enlistment
& brother, Reuben, was with them
deposition of Joan
no record of enlistments!
22-Sep-1861 Reuben Corson enlists military records
between 1861 & 1863 John Polis is reported KIA by George Eaton deposition of Joan
about 1863 Joan Polis stops living with John
[according to Joan, she was with John 7 years!]
deposition of Joan
late summer 1863 John Polis is at Colbrook NH with the St. Francis Indians deposition of Elizabeth
fall 1863 John Polis & Elizabeth are married at Colbrook NH
move down to West Pownal and camp
deposition of Elizabeth
8-Dec-1863 John Polis is "induced" by Greeley Cushman to enlist deposition of Greeley Cushman & others
military records
23-Jan-1864 John Polis dies of small pox while in service military records
19-Apr-1864 Elizabeth Polis files for a widow's pension pension records
about 1870 Mary Margaret Polis, mother of John, dies at Brunswick deposition of Joan
1870 Mary Isabelle Polis with Corson grandparents at Brunswick 1870 census
about 1877 Joseph Polis, father of John, dies deposition of Joan
about 1880 Joseph Polis, brother of John, at Old Orchard deposition of Joan
about June 1883 Mary Isabelle Polis dies 3 depositions

Researched & Written by: Canyon Wolf for Ne-Do-Ba

Ne-Do-Ba Comment - - - We will continue this research and add any new findings on these pages. If anyone runs into John or his family while searching old records, please let us know.