Cumpston Research

The best products at the best prices!

Watson Cumpston death cert Trinity House Hull lloyds ship Voilier withernsea pier

Joshua Cumston  Piano Maker page 2

Tom Hardiman is not a Cumston descendant. His interest in the family stems from a former job in which he was Curator of the museum in the Maine town where William Cumston was born. His primary interest was William's father,  Joshua, who was one of the finest American cabinetmakers in what you would call the Hepplewhite style, but which is called the Federal style here.  All the data on this page is from Tom.


William Cumston was born 17 Feb. 1813 in Saco, Massachusetts (Maine did not

become a separate state until 1820). He was the second of four children of

Joshua Moody Cumston and Polly Foss Cumston. [See Tree in column 1]


William entered the then private Thornton Academy at the beginning of the June term in 1823. He begins making pianofortes in Boston in 1838 under the partnership of Lord, Gilbert, & Cumston, which becomes just Lord & Cumston the following year. In 1848 he joined the firm of Hallett, Cumston, & Allen, which became Hallett & Cumston in 1853 and

continued until Cumston's death 30 Jan. 1870. Though eclipsed by the massive

Chickering company, Hallett & Cumston was known for very fine pianos that are prized by collectors today.  


An obituary in the Annals of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, 1795-1892 (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1892) p.146 states:


"William Cumston was born in Saco, Me., in 1813. He will be remembered by a large number of our members as one of the largest and best pianoforte-makers ever known in this city. As a member of the firm of Hallet, Davis & Cumston, and later Hallet & Cumston, he was engaged in their manufacture nearly forty years. He was a man of singular executive ability, clear-headed and sagacious, one of those forceful men who compel circumstances to yield to their control. He joined our association in 1856, and served on the Board of

Government. In business he achieved a wide reputation and amassed a fortune. He was a man of strong patriotic sentiments, and during the war of the Rebellion was very liberal with his large means in promoting the comfort of our soldiers. As one of the " Ward Eleven Relief Committee" he was efficient and valuable. He was a director of the Metropolitan Railroad, the "Five Cents Saving Bank," and served in the Board of Aldermen. He was conspicuous in the higher bodies of Masonry, and his funeral was attended by DeMolay

Commandery. He died at the age of fifty-eight years, leaving one son, James S. Cumston, a member of this Association."



William's father, Joshua Moody Cumston (or Cumpston) was born in Saco 8 Aug.

1784 and died in Limerick, Maine on 18 July, 1835. 


Joshua was the second son of John Cumpston (10 eb., 1752-26 April, 1787) of Boston and Sarah Moody (15 June 1753 - 27 May 1795) of Kittery, District of Maine.


John was at least a 2nd-generation Bostonian, but Tom says he has not really traced the family back any further.


 In the American Revolution, John was a Lieutenant in one of the companies in Benedict Arnold's ill-fated march through the forests of Maine to attack Quebec in 1775. Like many veterans, John returned to Maine at the close of the war and married Sarah in Saco on 20 November 1781. Sarah was a favourite niece of the first Sir William Pepperrell, Baronet, and was raised in his lavish household. Her obituary states "She was a woman of

exemplary life, and was universally beloved by all her acquaintences." Several sources repeat that she was "highly cultivated and very beautiful." The Pepperrell family's 9,000 acre estate in Saco was seized by the State in 1779 and the Cumpstons may have chosen to live in Saco to plead the family's case while the estate was being disbursed, though the case was not settled in their lifetime.


Joshua was only three when his father died and only four when his mother remarried to Aaron Burnham, a farmer in Scarborough. The Burnhams already had a full house and Joshua was sent to live with his aunt, Mary Moody Clark in Greenland, New Hampshire. He was most likely apprenticed to his cousin, Joseph Clark, a cabinetmaker in Portsmouth, NH. In Portsmouth, Joshua would have seen some of the finest furniture in New England and may have even seen copies of Hepplewhite and Sheraton's guidebooks. He returned to Saco in 1808 and established his cabinet shop on Main Street.


Tom published an extensive article on this shop in the magazine Antiques in May of 2001. The shop quickly grew to be probably the largest cabinetmaking shop north of Boston,

employing 6 men at the height of its success in 1815-17. The finely veneered furniture produced in this shop is of the highest quality made in America. In the past 20 years, four chests made in Cumston's shop have sold in the range of $200,000.00 and a tall clock set a record in the late 1990s (which has since been surpassed), selling for $92,000.00. Cumston's finances collapsed in late 1816 and he was forced to sell out to his partners in 1817. He continued working through 1820, but as journeyman rather than master and partner. After 1820 he lives variously in Scarborough, Portland, and back in

Saco, and ultimately ends up at a farm in rural Limerick supported by his late wife's family. He died on the farm in 1835.



Tom Hardiman

York Beach, Maine, USA








John Cumpston (10 Feb., 1752-26 April, 1787) of Boston and Sarah Moody (15 June 1753 - 27 May 1795) of Kittery, District of Maine. J


Children of John and Sarah Moody:

First Child

Henry Van Schaick Cumston (22 Aug. 1782 - 6 May 1870)

Henry was a prosperous farmer and politician in the town of Scarborough,

Maine. His grandson, Dr. Charles McLaughlin Cumston, built the beautiful

Cumston Hall in Monmouth, Maine:


Second Child

Joshua Moody Cumston b. 8 Aug 1784 Saco; died 18 July 1835 Limerick Maine = Polly Foss Cumston


Children of Joshua Moody Cumston and Polly Foss Cumston:


1.  Henry Van Schaick Cumston b 27 Sept 1811

A portrait of Henry is in the hands of the descendants in Maine


2. William Cumston b 17 Feb 1813 Saco Massachusetts.


3.  Caroline Tibbets Cumston b 7 Oct 1814


4.  George Thatcher Cumston b 4 March 1816 [died young]


They also had a half-sister, Syrena Foss, born in 1806 (Polly had been married

twice before).



Third Child of John and Sarah Moody


John Greenleaf Clark Cumston (1786, d. 31 Jan. 1787, ae 3 months)



There is an Anne Cumpstone buried in the ancient Granary burying ground who died in 1716.

Tom Hardiman kindly sent this photograph of a Cumston chest, and the link to the Maine History website mentioned below.



This bow-front, four-drawer chest can be found in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House on Congress Street in Portland.


It belonged to Stephen Longfellow IV.


 Other Information

Title: Bow front chest, Portland, ca. 1809-1816

Creator: Cumston-Buckminster Workshop

Creation Date: circa 1809

Subject Date: circa 1809

Town: Portland

County: Cumberland

State: ME

Media: wood, veneers

Dimensions (cm): 93 x 103 x 55

Local Code: A85-253

Object Type: Physical Object

For more information about this item, contact:

Maine Historical Society

489 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101

(207) 774-1822