Lt. General
Lt. General Sir William Pepperrell by John Smibert - Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.

THE SOCIETY OF COLONIAL WARS
IN THE STATE OF MAINE

OUR HISTORICAL HERITAGE

A PREFACE

History, whether it be human history or natural/ecological history, is neither isolated event nor stories hung on unrelated pegs we call chronological dates. Both might be compared with a stream onward rushing yet encountering rocks, roots and vegetation which affect both its flow and the course it takes.

Maine has a history, remembered in the legends and folk stories of the Wabanaki: People of the Dawn before European contact. A question with an uncertain answer must be that as to when that contact occurred. Rare is the soul, indeed, wanting to divulge where they found the best fishing. The first European contact, therefore, may have been through Portuguese fishermen or perhaps through Viking Norsemen European documentation, however, certifies John Cabot, an Italian navigator, sailing the Matthew of Bristol, in the employ of Henry VII of England certainly arrived in Newfoundland in 1497 and commented on the abundance of cod. The report of Butringarius, the Papal Legate, about his conversation with Cabot’s son Sebastian would indicate that the elder Calbot certainly explored the Maine coast and probably went as far southwest as the Carolinas. Twenty-seven years later another Italian, Giovanni da Verrazzano in the employ of Francis I, the King of France visited the coast of Maine his reception by the aborigines, nevertheless, led him to think of Maine as The Land of the Bad People. One year later in 1525 a Portuguese navigator Don Estaban Gomez in the employ of Charles V of Spain and was responsible for such names as the Bay of Fundy, Casco Bay, and Saco. The tales–tall ones–told by David Ingram, an English sailor stranded at Vera Cruz, Mexico, who with two other English sailors almost unbelievably made his way to Maine in hope of finding rescue–returning to Europe on a French trading vessel-- added to the early and largely legendary understanding of Maine. Norumbega was the name given to a supposedly wealthy city of fur-clad Indians living in houses with crystal pillars. Fur-clad they were, indeed, to keep warm in the cold of winter, but the rest of the tales told in English pubs and taverns were imaginary and designed to elicit food and lodging. Fishing and trading, nevertheless, had brought European trade goods from luxuries to necessities by the late 1500s and Basque-type shallops with mast and sail were used by Micmacs along the Maine coast. In 1580 John Walker, an English adventurer, had bombarded a Penobscot village, stolen furs from storage and looted the village. The French were also interested in the North American trade and colonization possibilities. Neither the English at Roanoke nor the French Huguenots at St. Catherine, Florida, had succeeded in a permanent settlement. The first successful French colonization attempt was in 1604 on St. Croix Island; this site, however, led to wintertime imprisonment with resultant starvation and disease with the loss of almost half of the men. Such losses led Pierre Dugas, the Huguenot nobleman patron and governor, to move the colony the following year to Port Royal in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia; better known is his skilled navigator-cartographer Samuel Champlain, who charted the Maine coast and named many of the islands, e.g Mount Desert Island (l’Ile des Monts Desert), and Ile au Haut. It was from the basis of these rival claims that dynastic conflicts between England and France were carried to the North American continent.

The focus of the Society of Colonial Wars, nevertheless, is by charter between 1607 and 1775. It is sometimes forgotten that Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 was the only one of two English attempts at colonization; the other being the Popham Colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine. It was here that the pinnacle Virginia of Sagadahoc was the first ocean-crossing vessel build not only in Maine but in America. Three years earlier George Weymouth had explored the mouth of the Kennebec and, unfortunately, kidnaped five Indians. His report on Maine, nevertheless, had stimulated interest. George Popham, nephew of the Lord Chief Justice, and Raleigh Gilbert both returned to England where Popham died; the loss of support and the fire which destroyed the storage warehouse caused the “Northern Virginia” colonization attempt to be abandoned just short of two years. It is with 1607, therefore, that our MAINE TIMELINE must begin.


Popham Colony - courtesy of the Maine State Museum

 

DATES, EVENTS AND PEOPLE IMPORTANT
IN MAINE COLONIAL HISTORY

1607 Establishment of the Popham Colony at the mouth of the Kennebec.

1609 Henry Hudson, English captain of the Dutch Half Moon, steals an Indian shallop loaded with valuable furs, drops mortar fire on their village, loots their homes, and sails west to the river honoring his name.

1610 Jamestown Colony sends fishing vessels to Maine waters

1613 Jesuit Colony of Saint Sauveur established on Somes Sound, Mount Desert Island, by Father Briard and Enemond Masse, French Jesuits, which within a brief period before either a building or a fortification is started is discovered and destroyed by Capt. Samuel Argall out of the Jamestown Colony. This is the beginning of the struggle between England and France for the control of North America which will continue sporadically for a century and a half during which much of Maine is both ‘Eastern Frontier’ and a “no-man’s land”.

1614 Capt. John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) explored and mapped it for the Plymouth Company. Previously known as ‘Northern Virginia’ Capt. Smith, with the gift of a real estate agent, renames it New England.

1615 Bashaba, an important Sagamore of western Maine, is killed by Micmacs and other eastern Etchimin tribes. A fishing station is is financed by Sir Fernando Gorgas on Damariscove Island.

1616 Sir Fernando Gorgas is granted by James I Maine land and given the title of Lord Proprietor of Maine. Four years later he and others organize The Council for New
England replacing the failed Plymouth Company.

1616-1619 The “Great Dying” when over 75% of Western Maine’s Indians died, most likely, of European diseases: smallpox, cholera. measles, whooping cough, etc.

1620 The Mayflower brings the Pilgrims to Plymouth where they find recently cultivated but abandoned fields and village sites due to the deaths of so many natives. Abandoned Indian village sites become colonists’ towns; this they see as Divine Providence. Indeed, “theire want of people makes them nor feared by us as not beinge able to doe much mischiefe.”. The friendliness present at the “First Thanksgiving” aided by Massasoit seemed within a few decades to degenerate into callous indifference marked by complete disregard for English cattle and hogs destroying Indian gardens, or large nets blocking fish from moving upstream to Indian villages

1623 Plymouth Colony fur trading post on Casco Bay and at Saco; later at Cushnoc, Pejepscot, Richmond Island (Augusta), Pentagoet (Castine) (1630), and (1631) Machias. Thus were most of the Mayflower debts paid through furs.

1630-1642 The Great Migration (c.16,000) of Puritans to Massachusetts Bay


1635 Reapportionment grant to Sir Fernando Gorgas that part of the Maine coast between the Piscataqua (New Hampshire border) and the Penobscot calling it New Somersetshire; the French seize Pentagoet and the other Plymouth Colony trading posts.

1636 Founding of Harvard College from which would come many of the clergy for Maine

1641 Robert Jordan, Oxford-trained priest of the Church of England, arrives on Richmond Island. Through marriage and acquisition he became a large landowner at Spurwink As a supporter of the Gorgas proprietors, the Monarchy, the Church of England, and a very influential person he was a many-faceted irritant to the Puritans of Massachusetts (who took him in chains to Boston for the ‘crime’ of baptizing an infant using The Book of Common Prayer) until his death in 1679 in New Hampshire to which he had fled when his holdings in Maine were ravaged by Indians.

1642 English Civil War and Execution (1649) of Charles I; this was time of considerable turmoil. Parliament at death of Sir Fernando Gorgas declares his grant invalid; the Massachusetts Puritans increasingly sought to extend their power..

1647 Kittery, settled in 1623 became the first town incorporated in Maine.

1649-1660 Oliver Cromwell and The Commonwealth

1652 Province of Maine comes under Massachusetts jurisdiction despite protests of the
inhabitants

1653 Settlements in southern Maine in the struggle between the Gorgas heirs and the Massachusetts Bay Colony accepted the jurisdiction of the latter. This struggle
would continue until 1692 when the Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay and Maine were combined.

1660 Restoration of the Monarchy with Charles II

1665 Maine restored to the heirs of Sir Ferdinando Gorgas

1667-1670 Treaty of Breda gives France Maine lands east of the Penobscot together with Nova Scotia. Baron de St Castin, French fur trader, at Pentgoet (Castine)

1673 Dutch seize French fort at Pentagoet

1675-1678 King Philip’s War spreads into Maine from Plymouth Colony. Scarborough and Casco destroyed. Dutch seize Pentagoet second time in 1676

1677 The Deed for the Sale of Maine executed for the Gorgas heirs as grantors to a ‘straw man’ representing the Puritan oligarchy of Massachusetts Bay; thereby thwarting wishes of the Crown for an Anglican colony. With some interruptions Maine continued part of Massachusetts until 1820.

1684 Annulment of the Massachusetts Charter due to annoyance to the Crown by
Massachusetts’ independent course and charges of usurped rights in both New Hampshire and Maine.

1686-1689 Dominion of New England created by confiscation of all charters (cf. “Charter Oak” in Connecticut); when news of the Glorious Revolution overthrowing James II reached Boston Sir Edmund Andros was imprisoned and the charter restored

1688 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV which had granted freedom to worship to French Protestants (Huguenot). Fifty-thousand families, being the upper third in education and skills, fled France with many coming to the English colonies thereby greatly advancing all aspects of the arts, manufacturing and culture through their lives and their descendants, e.g. Paul Revere, George Washington, James Bowdoin, the DeLanceys of New York, the Sigourneys of Connecticut, etc.

1688-1699 King William’s War - Baron de Castin responding to English attacks organizes Maine Indians to attack; Andros attacks and sacks Baron de Castin’s Pentagoet--which begins King William’s War Count Frontenac, greatest of the governors of New France, initiated a devilish yet effective system against the advancing English frontier. Bands of Indians led by French officers, often in winter, traveling on snowshoes, would swoop down at midnight with war whoops, burning houses, tomahawking of some, and with savagery forcing of others as prisoners on the long, cold route back to Canada. By 1690 only four settlements remained in Maine. Such raids extending from the Mohawk Valley into Maine spread fear in unsuspecting isolated settlements; in Maine they lasted for a quarter century.

1690 Maine-born Sir William Phipps, the first American knight, captures Port Royal, Nova Scotia; two years later become the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, including the “Colony of Sagadahoc” (formerly Duke of York’s) from the
Penobscot to the St. Croix.


1692 The Rev. George Burroughs, Harvard graduate in 1670, was first the minister at Falmouth (Portland) until in August 1676 church and community were destroyed in King Philips’ War by Indian attack. Along with the other survivors he fled back to Massachusetts where he received a call to the Salem Village congregation– already torn by factions. After three years he resigned and returned to Maine to work in a frontier parish. Accused in the Salem Witch Trials of being a “wizard” he was brought from Maine and hanged at Salem in August. The social turmoil with many refugees from Maine during King William’s War contributed to this hysteria.

1697 Peace of Ryswick for the Province of Massachusetts with its District of Maine established the St. Croix River (French insisted the Penobscot) as its eastern boundary with Acadia/Nova Scotia (subsequently. New Brunswick). This by the Treaty of Paris in 1785 would establish the eastern boundary of the United States of America.

Fort William and Mary - courtesy Maine State Museum
1703-1713 Queen Anne’s War (third Indian war) left only Kittery, Wells and York settled.

1722-1726 Lovewell’s War (fourth Indian war) begins with sudden attacks on southwestern Maine towns, English attack on Norridgewock with death of French priest Sabastian Rasle; ends with Gov. Dummer’s Treaty at Falmouth.

1732-1733 Massachusetts offers Maine land free to entice resettlement of the land.

1740 German settlers establish Waldoboro

1744 War of the Austrian Succession, known in the colonies as King George’s War, was known first (before Boston) on the rocky coast of Cape Breton Island in the Fortresse de Louisbourg, a massive French fortress, garrison town and third busiest western Atlantic port next to Boston and Philadelphia. Taking advantage of this early knowledge of war 600 French troops launched a surprise attack on Canso, a small Nova Scotia fishing village fifty-miles to the west which they burned to the ground and captured 60 English fishermen.. Thus emboldened they headed for Annapolis Royal, the major Nova Scotia settlement, and laid siege to it; before they were able to get reinforcements and supplies from Louisburg help arrived from Boston ending their siege in September. The major result of this aborted foray was to arouse incensed New Englanders to entertain an “impossible” idea: the capture of Louisburg, the massive fortress constructed by Louis XV at the enormous cost of 30,000,000 livres. This fortress endangered sea lanes and the very important fishing banks. A decision to attempt military and naval action was made with the urging of Boston merchants and after the approval of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, by William Shirley, the Royal Governor. This was further supported by information from the recently returned Canso captives of near mutiny and short provisions at Louisburg. Shirley’s choice of commander was William Pepperrell, of Kittery, Maine, who, along with three Royal Navy vessels under Commodore Peter Warren, began the siege in May 1745.

1745 June 16th–perhaps one of the most significant dates in Maine history–the

Fortress of Louisburg surrendered to Lieutenant General William Pepperrell commanding Colonial Troops (3300 from Massachusetts– with over half of those from Maine in the 1st Massachusetts Regiment [Pepperrell’s] Col. John Bradstreet and the 3rd Massachusetts Col. Jeremiah Moulton , 500 each from Connecticut and New Hampshire), together with13 vessels from the New England colonies, and the three Royal Navy vessels maintaining the seaward blockade. William Pepperrell becomes the second New Englander knighted and the first created Baronet; Peter Warren was promoted to Rear Admiral

Why was this so important? First, it was the only British victory during the otherwise dismal War. Second, Colonial Forces had overcome European professionals. Third, in 1748 it was returned to France to the rage and disgust of New Englanders that their triumph was regarded lightly by the King’s ministers (the Pelham brothers) in London; thus, seeding disillusionment with the government in London. The one remaining bond with London was the need for protection from the French power in Canada.

Lt. Gen. Wm. Pepperrell at Siege of Louisburg - Coll. of Joseph William Pepperrell Frost
1754-1763 French and Indian War (sixth Indian war in Maine–their struggle for survival)

1755 Expulsion of Acadians from Nova Scotia to other English colonies; some find refuge in the St. John Valley.

1755 Capt. George Tate, mast agent for the Royal Navy of George II, built the only surviving 18th century house–built in the style of a London town house-- in today’s Portland otherwise burned in 1775 by Capt. Mowatt (cf. The Declaration of Independence). With his wife and four sons (two later as Patriots supporting the American Revolution; two as Loyalists–one of which becoming First Admiral of the Russian Navy) he came to Stroudwater in 1751 in this very prestigious position which was essential for England’s supremacy of the seas–Maine being the then and later the treasure house of pine tree masts. His fortunes waned, his wife murdered; his family dispersed he died in 1794. This is a treasure owned and maintained by the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of Maine

1759 Quebec falls to the English on the Plains of Abraham (Both Gen. Wolfe and Gen. Montcalm killed); Massachusetts takes over Penobscot region

1763 PEACE OF PARIS cedes all of New France to Great Britain; THE THREAT OF FRENCH POWER TO THE NORTH ...THE LAST NEED FOR SUPPORT FROM LONDON IN REMOVED...AND THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE IS OPENED! Population of Maine is about 24,000.

1760s John Adams, future second President of the United States, represented clients before the Royal Court at Pownalborough


1765 The Stamp Act and efforts of the London Parliament to enforce the Molassas Act, the Navigation Act, and similar interventions, and to stop smuggling, and finance the recent war.

1770 March 5th - The Boston Massacre fuels further discontent with London.

1772 Committees of Correspondence organized in 80 towns of Massachusetts and Maine under the leadership of Samuel Adams

1773 December 14th - Boston Tea Party; a similar event at York, Maine, that winter.

1774 September 5th - First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia

1775 April 19th - Battles of Lexington and Concord end the Colonial Period and the focus area of the Society of Colonial Wars.

 

POSTLUDE

Many of those who gave of their talents and their possessions during the colonial period and their descendants continued to serve their country during the American Revolution; others–the Loyalists–felt called to support the Crown. It was both a tragic time and an heroic one; out of it, nevertheless, emerged the ‘special bond’ uniting two great nations whereby there are men eligible for membership throughout the English-speaking world.