Lt. General Sir William Pepperrell by John Smibert - Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.
THE SOCIETY OF
OUR HISTORICAL HERITAGE
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
|Fort William and Mary - courtesy Maine State Museum|
Queen Anne’s War (third Indian war) left only Kittery, Wells and York
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
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|
French and Indian War (sixth Indian war in Maine–their struggle for
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
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.
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.