It’s been very exciting in the course of my family research journey to uncover a few ancestors considered by their contemporaries to be “colorful characters”. Probably the most colorful and intriguing has been my 3rd great-grandfather in my maternal line, Valentine Mink (1778-1832), as vividly described (and undoubtedly written with much embellishment!) in the following excerpt from “History of Old Broad Bay and Waldoboro“, by Jasper J. Stahl :
The prince of all Broad Bay wizards, and one who, to a large degree and over many years, stood in an especially intimate relationship to the Evil One, was a member of this same Mink family. It is to this congenial camaraderie between man and Devil that we owe the richest single item in our local folklore, which for rather obvious reasons I have entitled:
The Faust Saga of Old Broad Bay
The Faust legend is one of the favorite themes of old German folklore. During the seventeenth century, the strange and unaccountable doings of Doctor Faustus were the subject of many folk tales and a favorite theme in the folk books of the period. In the eighteenth century Goethe made use of the theme in his “Faust”, one of the major creations in world literature. In its simplest form this legend is the tale of a man who made a pact with the Devil, whereunder the Evil One agreed to provide the man during his lifetime with everything that his heart desired, and the man agreed on his part at the end of his life to forfeit his soul to the Devil.
Broad Bay, too, had its Faust, though not a Faust who was a great spiritual leader to whom the Evil One showed and offered all the kingdoms of this world provided the man would fall down and worship him; nor a Faust who was a great scholar, the range and magnitude of whose wishes were such as even to tax the ingenuity of Satan to fulfill. This Broad Bay Faust was “Uncle Faltin* Mink” (1778-1832), a lazy, whimsical individual with a keen appreciation of the funny.
He was much like the Doctor Faustus of the folk books, whose fun in living was largely derived from the jokes and pranks he could play on friends and acquaintances, and on the success he might achieve in constantly outwitting those whose intent it was to thwart him in his easy and lazy modes of living.
Uncle Faltin had a double claim to fame, for he was the seventh son of a seventh son.
Uncle Faltin was of the third generation of Minks and lived deep in the wooded recesses of East Waldoborough, about one and one half miles in on the old road leading by the farm of Clyde Sukeforth. Uncle Faltin made his pact with the Devil as did Faust, but in so doing he did not seek the kingdoms of this world, rather the power to enable him to get along easily and pleasantly, to play weird pranks on his friends, and to bewilder and confound those who for any reason sought to circumvent him. As the seventh son of a seventh son, Uncle Faltin possessed considerable of the black art in his own right. To this the Devil freely added such power as was needed to enable his apostle to gratify his simple wishes, and in return Uncle Faltin agreed on death to surrender his soul to the Evil One.
Many tales connect themselves with Uncle Faltin’s doings. Some of these have been related to me by one who received them direct from an acquaintance and eyewitnesses. The directness of such evidence lends a weird realism to the activities of this local Faust. These eyewitnesses were present at scenes where Uncle Faltin’s occult powers were much in evidence. These were often brought into play at country dances where Uncle Faltin’s violin*** furnished the tunes. His power was such that by altering the mood of his music, he could convert a merry dance into an ugly brawl and thus create a spectacle highly amusing to himself.
The power of his music was especially felt in his own “breakdowns.” These were parties or dances held at his home in East Waldoborough. The old gentleman loved company and frequently invited groups of the younger generation to his home. On these occasions the Evil One would lend his full power and charm to the sounds emanating from Uncle Faltin’s strings. The old fellow would play the instrument with complete abandon, and the madness of his music would enter the very blood of the dancers and cause them to sway and whirl in passionate ecstasy, until they collapsed from dizziness and exhaustion. When, in the late hours, the swains would repair to the barn to hitch the horses in the pungs for the journey home, to their amazement they would find the barn and barnyard in a state of dire chaos and confusion–horses wild eyed, lathered with sweat and quivering; horses with tails braided together; horses harnessed to the wrong sleds; horses hitched in with their heads at the whiffletree ends and their tails at the thill ends. While Uncle Faltin’s inspired music had been working strange miracles in the house, his accomplice had been working comic effects in the barn. Thus the “breakdowns” would break up amid scenes of mirth and wild confusion.
Valentine Mink’s grandfather was Johann Georg Mink, a bookbinder who, with his family, was conscripted from his home in the Rheinland-Pfalz region of Germany to settle in the wilderness of Maine; arriving in 1753 aboard the ship Elisabeth, he was one of the first settlers of a town that would be named Waldoborough (Waldoboro). Three of his sons, my 4th great-grandfather Paul with siblings Valentine and John would fight in the Revolution.
It must be noted that based on my Mink family research, Valentine was not the seventh son of a seventh son!
Paul has his own quirky write-up in the same book that the above account of Valentine “Uncle Faltin” Mink was excerpted from; a subject for a future blog post!
*** According to Jasper Stahl, Valentine’s violin was (as of the publishing date of his book, 1956) in the possession of Valentine’s great-grand nephew, Merle Castner. I’ve tried every resource to locate his violin but with no success.
If anyone has any knowledge of the present whereabouts of Valentine’s violin I would be hugely grateful!! I would love to see it and photograph it.