Windham Life and Times – October 4, 2019

Nutfield 300

A Maine Indian from the Norridgewock tribe with a scalp.

Jamie Cochran Indian Captive

The first section below is taken from the History of Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell, Maine, by George Wheeler.  The next accounts are from John Gyles and John Wentworth concerning the exploits of James Cochran and are contemporaneous with his captivity by the Eastern Indians. It is important to remember that Cochran was just sixteen years old at the time of his captivity. His mother had a dream that he was killed and scalped by the Indians prior to his being taken. Scalping was practiced by both the Indians who used them as proof in order to receive their bounty from the French and the English, in order to receive their bounty from the government in Massachusetts. Bounties on scalps were quite large, making the practice quite worth the gruesome effort.  “This attack upon the settlement at Brunswick is supposed to have been specially in in retaliation for that upon Norridgewock, the preceding year, by Colonel Westbrook.” (He had killed and captured several Indians there and burned the village and church to the ground.)

“No further fighting is known to have occurred in this vicinity until 1725. On April 13th of that year two Indians captured a man belonging to the garrison at Maquoit, named James Cochran, about eighteen years of age. He was on the marshes in pursuit of fowl when he was surprised by two Indians. He was pinioned, taken to the carrying-place, put in a canoe, and carried up to Ten-Mile Falls. There the Indians made their arrangements for the night. A fire was made and supper prepared. Cochran expected all this time he would be killed when the savages met some of their companions, and determined, in consequence, to make his escape, if possible. The second night his bonds were removed and he was placed between the two Indians to sleep. Each of the savages slept with his hatchet under his head and his gun by his side. Cochran feigned sleep, while in reality he watched every movement. As soon as he found his captors asleep he rose up. This movement awakened one of them, who, seeing their prisoner suffering from cold and endeavoring to warm himself went to sleep again. When all was again quiet, Cochran took the hatchet from under the head of the one who had waked, and killed him instantly. He killed the other as he was getting up. He then scalped them both, took both, took their guns and hatchets, and went down the river in great haste, fearing lest he should meet their companions. In fording the river on the way, he lost a gun and one of the scalps. When he arrived opposite the fort, he shouted, and a boat was sent across for him. He narrated his adventure to Captain Gyles, and some men were sent up river, who found the bodies of the dead Indians, and also their canoe which they brought back. He was rewarded for his bravery and promoted in rank.

 

Letter from Co John Wentworth.

Fre. Portsmouth April 21th, 1725.

“Yesterday was with me a young man, who is a Soulder in Your Servis by Cocharain An Ireish lad, Two Indians Took him at Maquoite and carried him up Abroscogen river a Day & a halfe Journy. The Second Night, this Cocharam (sic. Cochran) found The Indians fast asleep, went around em feeling for a hatchet, at length found one with which he Dispachrd em boath & has brought away there Scalps, but makes the Story more Manly, this Cocharam lost one of his Scalps in his March home so that when he came to Our Garrison he got three men more of his minde and went up to the place which they Judge Neer forty Miles from Mequoite, and there found the Indians as he had Saide, So they Took Another part of his Scalp and brings with, I Sent them Down Yesterday in Order to get a passage to Boston, where I hope You will See him this Evening. It was a Manly Action and doubt not but You will reward Accordingly, but in these cases our hands are Tied up, which is very greaveious to me. I think Such actions should be bountifully rewarded, it would Animate our Captives and put em upon Desperate attempts which would Discourage our Enemies…”

 

May it Pleas your Honour,

April 15, 1725. This Day a soldiar taken from Maquaitt Made his Escape to this Garrison, who informs me yet he was taken by two Indians ye 13 Currant, one spake good English & asked him many questions Particuler Concarning myself & this fort, he being well acquainted & told him he kil’d Moses Eaton & a negro & an English Man at Black Point, & he tould him yet six Indians wear now gon towards falmouth to kill & take, and yet our Gentlemen Commitionars wear Return’d from Canaday and yet ye Indians wear Resolved for war, & yet many Indians & Mohewks would be Down this summer to Destroy ye English & their Cattle, and now their wear 50 or 60 Indians with a friar at Narangawock, & several Indians at a Village up this River (Part of his Discours I take to be french Aier, tho My humble opinion is as I mention in my mean Lines to your Honour, December 12: 1724 Date) the second night after ye Presonar was taken, ye about said 2 Indians after hunting & killing several beauer & authers* in ye Evening they being tir’d, then, Camp* about 15 or 20 mile up this River above our fort, and when found on sleep, ye youth James Cochron ye Prisonar Rise & nockt them bouth in ye head, & took of their sculpt, one he brought to this Garrison, ye other Lost by yr way, and a fm gun in a small River Palling over. I adis’d ye Presonar to give a full accompt of to ye Colenel by ye furst — he being now much tired, I have also Rate again to ye Cololonel of affears since ye Presonar Came in, I thought also to send to Captian Heath for Men, to go up & secure ye Canew & anthers. Left with ye Corps of, but it being Difucult sending to Ritchmond, I thought it Proper to mustar a few hands of my Little number & from maquaitt, to Prevent ye anther Indians  getting ye Plunder. April 18th  this Day our People Went up ye River to Vew ye Indians Corps & bring of ye Plunder, and if any further Discovery.

April 17″‘, then Return’d, but no furthir Discoury; they brought of ye anther gun hatchets, knives & stone; ye Canew brought ye auther sculp, skins etc. in all to ye Value of 6 or 8 Pounds. I have often Prayed for a Reinforcement of men to this Garrison to scout & ambush this River & anther Places Which Depending on anthers for it. I now renew my humble Request for your Honours feauer to this Garrison.

Fort George.

April 16th 1725.

I am your honours, Most Dutyfull servant John Gyles.

 

Windham Life and Times – September 27, 2019

Nutfield 300

Jamie Cochran: The Indian Captive

This week I am presenting the poem, “Jamie Cochran: The Indian Captive” by Robert Dinsmoor, The Rustic Bard. Next week, I will follow up with the actual accounts of his exploits, for Colonel Westbrook’s Letters, which were recorded at the time that this event happened. This line of the Cochran family left Maine and settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire, among the Scotch-Irish community there.

Give ear, my friends, and let me here relate
A tale which now appears of ancient date.
The hero of my tale is Indian Jamie,
His history I’ll give lest you should blame me.
In Ulster Province, Erin’s northern strand,
Five shiploads joined to leave that far off land.
They had their ministers to pray and preach
These twenty families embarked in each.
Here I would note and have it understood,
Those emigrants were not Hibernian blood,
But sturdy Scotsmen true, whose fathers fled
From Argyleshire, where Protestants had bled
In days of Stuart Charles and James second,
Where persecution was a virtue reckoned.
They found a shelter on the Irish shore
In Ulster, not a century before.
Four of those ships at Boston harbor landed;
The fifth, by chance, at Casco Bay was stranded.

*A tale of 1728; occurrences of 170 years ago, and
narrated by the “Rustic Bard” Feb. 28, 1833, 105 years
after they took place

But there those stout old Scotsmen knelt and sang
Jehovah’s praise till sea and desert rang.
There they gave up, in one united prayer,
Themselves and children to th’ Almighty’s care.
In seventeen hundred eighteen, August fourth,
Our ancestors received their freedom’s birth.
Some came to Nutfield, since called Londonderry,
The others chose just where they were to tarry.
And one of them was of the Cochran name,
Of no small note, who with those settlers came.
On the main land this father settled down,
The place is now called Brunswick of renown.
From Bowdoin College, a few rods is seen
The caved-in cellar where his house had been.
Where famed McKeen* his pupils led,
And by his lore profound made science spread.
The Cochran’s eldest son was James,
But eight years old, which now our notice claims.
When Jamie’s blood had felt the heat
Of sixteen summers, high his pulses beat.
He then from bears could guard his father’s corn,
Armed with his gun, shot-bag, and powder horn.
The howling wolf that he was wont to hear
And catamount made music to his ear.

* Rev. Joseph McKeen, D. D., of Londonderry, N. H.,
an old schoolmaster of Robert Dinsmoor, as early as
1775 (see “The Sleepy Shepherd”), who first presided as
President over Bowdoin College, at Brunswick, Maine,
which stood only a few rods from ” the caved-in cellar”
of the old Cochran home of 1728.

The sly marauding bear at dead of night
Came like a thief who likes to shun the light;
The thrifty hills he levelled with his paw,
Then stretching down, soon filled his hungry maw.
Jamie discerned the beast, as moping there,
He hobbled off to loiter in his den.
His proper course not far from Jamie led,
Whose gun was leveled at the felon’s head,
Then sprung the lock his father oft had fired;
The shot was fatal, and the thief expired.
As deeds of valor add to courage strength,
So this young hero proved it out at length.
Like that young Hebrew stripling, when he slew
A bear and lion — more courageous grew
And fearless, fought and killed Goliath too.
When stretched upon his bed of straw
He, in his dream, an awful vision saw:
A forest wild, extending far and wide,
Where beasts of all descriptions seek to hide;
And now and then upon his ear there fell
A shriek terrific and a hideous yell.
But all at once, to close the scene,
A fiend, like man of dark and ghastly mien,
Armed with a hatchet, and a knife and gun,
Ten more, armed like him, followed on the run.
Swiftly they sped their way, and passed him by,
“But oh! Alas! He heard an infant cry.
Horror now seized our youth, and in his dream
He surely thought he heard his mother scream.
Her bitter cries he could distinctly hear,
“My Jamie’s lost, my Jamie’s lost, I fear.”
At this he woke, for all did real seem,
And found the whole a fleeting dream.
Then to their labor all by order went,
But Jamie was on special errand sent,
O’er hills and fens he ne’er had seen before,
With musket armed and ammunition store;
His mother placed a knapsack on his back,
With things convenient, not a cumbrous pack.
He through the marshes sought his destined creek
Of which he’d heard the Indian hunters speak.
At length he found the little rolling river,
Which, when he forded, scarcely made him shiver,
And soon Magusit bay began to quiver.
A flock of ducks, through the thick air above,
With whistling wings, all lighted in a cove
Within short distance; Jamie cocked his gun
And made towards his game upon the run.
His fire was true, and plainly he could tell
Some lay dead, and others wounded fell.
He left his musket on the shore,
His powder horn, shot-bag, and all his store;
With ducks and drakes his knapsack soon was filled,
No matter then, how many he had killed.
With success flushed he turned toward the shore
And lo! He saw an armed Sagamore
Take up his gun, powder horn, and shot;
Ten Indian warriors stood there on the spot.
Our hero, now advancing near the shore,
Could recognize the ancient Sagamore,
The very phiz he’d often seen before
When hunger drove him to his father’s door.
James reverently approached him from the strand,
Bowed, called him father, offered him his hand,
And humbly asked him to give back his gun.
He frowned ; “Me no your father, you no be my son.”
In vain he plead, and urged his parent’s sorrow,
Said he’d go back, and come again tomorrow.
” No, me no trust you,” was the short reply,
” You no come back, you white men all will lie.
You shoot our bears, the Indians want their grease,
You shoot our ducks, and carry off our geese;
You kill our moose and deer, no heed our speeches,
Eat up their flesh and wear their skins for breeches;
You take our fish, and carry off our clams,
Indian no cross great water to catch your lambs;
You no be here again, you great pappoose,
To shoot our ducks and carry off our goose,
You be our captive now, yourself the cause,
Your life be forfeit, by our Indian laws;
We take you Canada*, and there you sell,

* The Indians, often took the colonists to the French in
Canada, who would buy the captives, or pay for the
scalps of the English colonists, as France was often at war with England.

But we no know, your scalp may do as well.”
Our hero, fixed as Indian captives are
Whom they take prisoners in a time of war,
Was placed between two warriors armed as guard,
Who both seemed proud that they this honor shared.
The old grey Sachem, Tested with command,
Gave order, “March to Canada,” offhand,
But bade all “steer for the great waterfall,
For at the Wigwam there we all must call,
Who knows but there we’ll have more English boys
To make us rich and to increase our joys.”
Now Jamie tried his masters to obey,
Nor made the least attempt to run away.
He seemed to place his life in their protection,
And by hypocrisy gained their affection.
As they grew intimate, he seemed contented ;
They lived like brothers when they got acquainted.
But, faithful to their charge, kept him in sight,
And made him sleep between them every night.
Such confidence they in their prisoner put,
He access had to all within their hut ;
To keep their guns and ammunition dry,
He careful was to set or lay them by.
And Jamie’s mind absorbed in deep reflection,
Besought his father’s God for his protection.
And then he thought on his prophetic dream,
Where, ominous, he heard his mother scream ;
In desert wild, of all his friends forsaken,
He was the infant that was taken.
like bees attracted to their wonted hive,
Straight as a line they to their hut arrive.
They gathered sticks and soon struck up a fire,
And fixed the wigwam as they did desire.
But Jamie’s mind on his escape was bent,
That to accomplish was his whole intent.
While here and there the busy Indians run,
They mind him not, till he secures each gun ;
And while he did their other weapons hide
He placed a hatchet slyly by his side.
It was his part to give the fire fuel,
Nor did they think that Jamie’s heart was cruel.
What Sachem told him he remembered still,
” We take you Canada, and there you sell,
But we no know, your scalp may do as well.”
“ My God,” said Jamie, ” must this be my doom
Unless that I an awful act assume ?
I am compelled the adage old to try,
“To desperate cases, desperate means apply.*
The hour is come, defenseless now they lie,
The blows I strike must kill them or I die.”
When rising up to give the fatal stroke,
By accident a small dry stick he broke.
And when it snapped, one of the Indians woke,
And asked him, what he wanted. Jamie said,
‘*’ The fire wants fuel “; the stick he on it laid,
Then down he laid as if to rest the better.
The Indian thought that nothing was the matter,
And fell asleep more soundly than before,
And soon they both began to wheeze and snore.
Again he rose while they were sleeping sound,
And at one blow killed one upon the ground;
Then for the other drew a stroke far bolder,
But missed his head, and hit him on the shoulder.
The Indian then arising to his feet
In fearful rage did Jamie’s hatchet meet,
Which soon dispatched him, there he fell
Nor knew not then who hurt him nor could tell.
Our hero then soon left this dire abode
And frantic ran some miles, nor sought a road;
How far he’d gotten from the Indian hut,
He could not tell, as he was light of foot.
His mind, still frenzied, sometimes reasoned well;
He said, “I die, sure as those Indians fell,
I cannot live, deprived of all subsistence,
What means have I to keep me in existence?
What have I gained, if I must die of hunger?
I must go back, I’ll think upon’t no longer.
There’s guns and hatchets, and some good provision
Placed in my knapsack, with some ammunition.”
Then back he went, as fast as he could go,
And found some light, although the fire was low,
He roused it up. There the two Indians lay ;
He scalped them both, and bore their spoil away.
A load for him packed up as Indians do,
And homeward then he did his course pursue.
But a small river running cross his way
Caused him to stop and make a short delay.
Then on the river’s brink he soon espied
A tall slim pine, to which he soon applied
The Indian’s hatchet to its body well,
Full soon the tree across the water fell.
With cautious hands and feet on it he crossed,
But there by chance an Indian gun he lost.
He marked the place it in the water fell,
Went back and got it, some the story tell.
But scarcely had he gotten safely o’er
He saw the Indians on the other shore.
The forest hid him from their savage sight,
And they despaired to catch him in the night.
Soon Jamie found the Androscoggin’s tide*,
Which led him, safely as a faithful guide,
To George’s fort , near which his father dwelt,
And oh ! what joy to see’t our hero felt.
But when he hailed it, this poor Scottish boy
Was taken for an Indian false decoy.
In quest of food, he had no need to roam,
His pack supplied him to his father’s home,
Where parents mourned as dead their favorite boy.
There they embraced him with ecstatic joy.

* Androscoggin river.

Gladly they saw the trophies he had won,
While he returned the knapsack and the gun.
The Indian scalps proved Jamie’s victory grand,
As did Goliath’s head in David’s hand.

Windham Life and Times – September 20, 2019

Nutfield 300

The Indians who took John Dinsmoor Captive

It is interesting that family oral history can hold up as truth for over three hundred years. Robert Dinsmoor stated that John Dinsmoor had been taken captive by the Penobscot Indians and Colonel Westhbrook’s letters prove that this was actually the case. We know that he was held captive in a village with a fort on “Indian Island” located in the middle of the Penobscot River, across from Old Town, Maine; a place that remains an Indian reservation to this day.

“William Williamson in his History of Maine says, “The fourth Indian war, begun in 1722, and since denominated the Three year’s or Lovewell’s war, was carried on by the natives themselves, principally, against the provincials of New Hampshire, Maine, and Nova-Scotia. As there was at this period a well settled peace, between the English and French crowns, the Canadians durst not take any open part in the controversy, through fear of being charged with violating the treaty. But, they affected to represent the Indians as an independent people, and secretly incited them to drive the English settlers from the frontiers and the reviving plantations. By acts and pleas of exclusive friendship, they had enchained the confidence of the savages, in bonds not easily broken; while the basest passions still lay at the bottom. Stripped of the disguise, the dark designs appeared in bold relief and deformity. Old prejudices and ill will towards the English, were only sleeping embers, even in the calms of peace. The French, having been in possession of the country eastward of the Penobscot, were fully determined either to recover it, or to keep the settlements in perpetual check. By a kind of magic, the rulers of Canada artfully moved the springs behind the curtain; and Rale, la Chase, le Masse, and other Jesuit missionaries, gave ample proof of their skill in political intrigue, as well as that of multiplying converts.”

The eastern tribes were manifestly in a sad dilemma. They were situated between the Colonics of two European nations, often at war with each other, and seldom under the influence of mutual fellowship. In their frequent negotiations, and individual parleys and conversations with the English, they were frank to open their whole hearts. They knew themselves to be ignorant and needy, and to be viewed as a savage race of men. But why, one enquired of them, ‘are you so strongly attached to the French, from whom you can never receive so much benefit as from the English?’ A sachem gravely answered, ‘because the French have taught us to pray unto God, which Englishmen never did.’ A Summary of thoughts and expressions dropped by Indians, at different times, will shew their views.— ‘Frenchmen speak and act in our behalf. They feed us with the good things we need; and they make us presents. They never take away our lands. No, but their kind missionaries come and tell us how to pray, and how to worship the Great Spirit. When the day is darkened by clouds, our French brothers give us counsel. In trade with them, we have good articles, full weight, and free measure.”

In his History of Norridgewock, William Allen states, “… and a comparison of the policy pursued by the French settlers with that of the English colonists, will account for the discrepancy in the statements. The English writers of that day describe the Indians of Maine as ‘the very outcasts of creation, discovering no footsteps of religion, but merely diabolical,’ ‘the veriest ruins of mankind,’ ‘the most sordid and contemptible part of the human species.’ On the other hand, the French Jesuits, who insinuated themselves among the Indians at about the same time, describe them as ‘docile and friendly,’ ‘accessible to the precepts of religion,’ ‘strong in their attachments to their friends, and submissive to the rites and ceremonies of the Catholic faith.’ ” Certainly, John Dinsmoor, would have said that “Captain John,” the mysterious chief who held him captive, was compassionate in releasing him, even though the Penobscot’s and other tribes had slaughtered many of his fellow English settlers. As with most conflict, there were old scores to be settled on both sides, and the English practice of paying large sums for Indian scalps added to the incentive for violence.

“A writer on the Abenaki gives a lucid account of this in, Above the Village, at the head of the rapids of the Kennebec, was a chapel dedicated to the most holy virgin, in which her image in relief demanded the prayers of the savages as they passed upward to the chase; and below, where the waters rested on their quiet level, another chapel stood, dedicated to the guardian angel of the tribe. The women contended with a holy emulation in the embellishment of their sanctuary by all the finery they possessed, and the chapels and the church were illumined by brilliant lights from the wax of the bayberries gathered upon the islands of the sea. Forty youths in cassocks and surplices officiated in performing the solemn functions around the altar. Such was the machinery of the holy office among the rude people of Nanrantsouak; and multitudinous processions, symbolical images, paintings, and mysterious rites were combined to catch the fancy and arrest the eye of the savage neophytes. Every day was introduced by the performance of mass, and the evening was ushered in by prayer in their native tongue, in which their zeal was excited by the chanting and recitation in which they took part, while the frequent exhortations of the father allowed no distraction of their attention, no suspicion of their piety, and no backslidings in their faith.” This evocative image of Indian life with the French was totally wiped out at Norridgewock and Penobscot by the English commanded by Colonial Westbrook.

“The expedition to Penobscot River was revived, and the conduct of it entrusted to that commander. “He left Kennebeck, Feb. 11, at the head of 230 men, and with small vessels and whale-boats, ranged the coast as far eastward as Mount Desert. On their return, they proceeded up Penobscot River; and, March 4, came to anchor, probably in Marsh Bay. From this place, they set out to find the fort; and after five days’ march through the woods; they arrived abreast of several Islands, where the pilot supposed the fort must be. ‘Being obliged here,’ says the Colonel, ‘to make four canoes to ferry from Island to Island; I dispatched 50 men upon discovery, who sent me word on the 9th, that they had found the fort and waited my arrival. I left a guard of 100 men with the provisions and tents, and proceeded with the rest to join the scouting party. On ferrying over, the Indian fort appeared in full view; yet we could not come to it by reason of a swift river, and because the ice at the heads of the islands would not permit the canoes to come around; therefore, we were obliged to make two more, which we ferried over. We left a guard of 40 men on the west side of the river, to facilitate our return, and arrived at the fort, by 6 of the clock in the evening.

This was the place John Dinsmoor was held for a time in captivity and where he was forced to participate in the building of the Indian fort. “It appeared to have been deserted, in the autumn preceding, when the enemy carried away every article and thing, except a few papers. The fort was 70 yards in length, and 50 in breadth, walled with stockades 14 feet in height, and enclosed twenty-three ” well finished wigwams, or as another calls them, ‘houses built regular.’ On the south side, was their chapel, in compass 60 feet by 30, handsomely and well finished, both within and on the outside. A little farther south, was the dwelling house of the priest, which was very commodious.— We set fire to them all, and by sunrise next morning, they were in ashes. We then returned to our nearest guards, thence to our tents; and on our arrival at our transports, we concluded we must have ascended the river about 32 miles. We reached the fort at St. George on the 20th, with the loss of only four men, Rev. Benjamin Gibson and three others, whose bodies after our arrival here, we interred in usual form.’”

I have been really amazed at finding the references to John Dinsmoor in Maine, in the early 1720’s. As a stone mason he may have built stone houses in and around the area of St George. Tantalizing possibilities exist including the stone house built in the 18th century on Mosquito Island. In an e-mail, Leith Smith of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission stated that, “We have done some work on Allen Island (owned by the Wyeth family, outer mouth of the St. George River) and I am convinced that the early house out there was a stone structure as well, dating to the early to mid-18th century.” I also stumbled across a reference to an early stone house known as the “Campbell house” in the St George area that was also constructed of stone. Of course proof of whether John Dinsmoor was involved must be left for further research. At this point, I am truly content and pleased, to have found the proof of John Dinsmoor’s time as an early pioneer in Maine. “Daddy” Dinsmoor is now more than just a legend.

Sources:

  1. Letters of Colonel Thomas Westbrook, and Others, Relative to Indian Affairs in Maine, 1722-26. Communicated by William Blake Trask, A.M., or Dorchester. George Littlefield, Boston Mass.: 1901 https://archive.org/details/lettersofcolonel00tras
  2. Penhallow’s Indian Wars. Samuel Penhallow. Boston 1726 https://archive.org/details/penhallowsindian00penh
  3. The history of the state of Maine : from its first discovery, A.D. 1602, to the separation, D. 1820, inclusive by Williamson, William D. (William Durkee), 1779-1846 https://archive.org/details/historyofstateof02will
  4. The History of Norridewock by William Allen, 1849 https://archive.org/details/historyofnorridg00alle
  5. Journal of Several Visits to the Indians of the Kennebec River, By the Rev. Joseph Baxter, of Medfield Mass., 1717. https://archive.org/details/cihm_23407
  6. Indian Wars of New England, By Herbert Milton Sylvester, Vol. III https://archive.org/details/indianwarsofnewe03sylvuoft/page/n8
  7. Annals of the Town of Warren; With the Early History of St George’s Broad Bay, And Neighboring Settlements on the Waldo Patent. Cyrus Eaton, A.M. 1851 https://archive.org/details/annalsoftownofwa00lceato/page/n6
  8. Properties of Empire, Indians, Colonists, and Land Speculators on the New England Frontier. Ian Saxine, New York University Press, New York. 2019

Windham Life and Times – September 13, 2019

Nutfield 300

John Dinsmoor in Colonel Thomas Westbrooks’ Letters

Muster Roll showing John Dinsmore as a “pilot” or scout.

During 1722, the Indians of Maine, at the instigation of the French, attacked many of the English settlements there. In June, the settlement of St. Georges was attacked and 5 men were taken captive by the Indians. From Colonel Thomas Westbrook’s letters we now know with certainty that one of the men taken captive was John Dinsmoor.

LETTERS OF COLONEL THOMAS WESTBROOK, AND OTHERS,

RELATIVE TO INDIAN AFFAIRS IN MAINE, 1722-26

COMMUNICATED BY WILLIAM BLAKE TRASK, A.M., OF DORCHESTER

From the New England Historical and Genealogical Register

For the Year 1890.

VOULUME XLIV

Page 23-32

“Thomas Westbrook of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was perhaps the son of Thomas Westbrook, for many years a member of the state council of New Hampshire, who died in 1736. Captain Westbrook, subsequently promoted to the office of Colonel, was ordered by the Massachusetts government to range through the country from Kennebeck to Penobscot, and prosecute, as had been expressed, ‘the Eastern Indians for their many breaches of covenant’ with our people. Some of the details of these expeditions, and the military movements attending them, are interestingly, and, we doubt not, correctly related, in the letters before us, from the fall of the year 1722 to 1726. The Westbrook letters, written, probably by dictation, have the autograph signatures of the Colonel. He was afterwards engaged as an agent in obtaining masts for the royal navy. His speculations in Eastern lands commenced, as we have been informed, as early as the year 1719, and were continued, notwithstanding the unsettled condition of the times, some nine or ten years. In August 1727, he became a citizen of Falmouth, and soon after built a house at Stroudtwater in that town. He was considered and important and honorable member of the place where he lived. His death occurred, February 11, 1744. The maiden name of his wife, who died his widow, at Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, aged 75 years was Mary Sherburne. Col. Westbrook left no male issue. His daughter Elizabeth married Richard Waldron , the well-known Secretary of New Hampshire, a grandson of the noted Richard Waldron, killed by the Indians in 1689.”

“The town of Westbrook, in Maine, six miles from the city of Portland, was, in the year 1815, named in honor of the Colonel. It was taken from the town of Falmouth, and included the village of Stroudtwater. In 1880, it had about 4,000 inhabitants. The late Hon. William Willis, at the close of a brief notice of Col. Westbrook (History of Portland, page 355), says: ‘The town in which he lived justly perpetuates his name, and is the only memorial of him which remains.’ It gives us pleasure, therefore, to be enabled to publish the following muster rolls and letters, as well as his journal, which is purposed, hereafter, to print, With the exception of a few extracts, and a communication or two to an eastern paper, it is believed they are now for the first time made public, presenting thereby a standing ‘memorial’ to the name and patriotic services of Thomas Westbrook.”

“See ‘Journal of the Rev. Joseph Baxter,’ 1717 Register xxi. 54-59. Also, same volume, page 348. Maine Historical and Genealogical Register.

Letter of Colonel Westbrook:

Falmouth September 23, 1722.

May it Please your Excellency,

I take this opportunity to inform you that I arrived at Piscataqua at 10 o’clock in ye morning the 15th instant and immediately waited on ye Lt. Governour [Dummer] of home I received a confirmation that there was 5 or 6 hundred Indians at Arrowsick upon which I immediately returned to ye sloops in order to sail but the wind proving contrary I was obliged to stay til ye next morning 3 of ye clock and then proceeded to Arrowsick where I came to anchor at on a clock on Monday morning. I waited upon Col. Walton who told me ye Indians were withdrawn & that he intended to march that day with 180 men to way lay the Indians in their carrying places and desired our company. But in as much as the Indians were withdrawn I was willing to make my way to St. Georges fearing ye enemy might attack it. Tuesday about 5 a clock we came to sail & came to the mouth of St. Georges River Wednesday morning and not having fair wind went up in five whaleboats to the fort which I found in good order the Indians having attacked it ye 24th of August and killed 5 men yet were out of the garrison. They continued their assault 12 days & nights furiously only now and  then under a flag of truce they would have persuaded them to yield of the Garrison promising them to give them good quarters and send them to Boston. The defenders answers were that they wanted no quarters at their hands. Daring them continually to come on and told them it was King George’s lands and that they would not yield them up but with their last drops of blood. The Indians were headed by ye friar who talked with them under a flag of truce and likewise by two French men, as they judged them to be. They brought with them five captives yet they took at St Georges 15th June last and kept them during the siege. But upon their breaking up sent Mr. John Dunsmore of the said captives to ye fort to know whether they would redeem them or no. Our people made answer they had no order so to do, neither could they do it. Upon which Mr. Dunsmore returned to the Indians and they carried the captives back to Penobscutt Bay, and then frankly released three of them Vizt. Mr. John Dunsmore, Mr. Thomas Foster and Mr. William Ligett. One Joshua Rose yet was taken at aforesaid time and place and whom the Indians had left behind at Penobscutt Fort made his escape & after six days travel arrived at ye fort ye second day after the siege began being obliged to make his way through the body of ye Indians to get to the fort and was taken in at one of the ports. I now detain the four captives aforesaid to be pilots to Penobscutt Fort until I know you Excelleny’s pleasure about them. They inform me that the Indians have rebuilt their fort at Penobscutt since the 15th of June obliging them to work on it. It contains about 12 rod square enclosed with stockado’s of 12 foot high. It has 2 flankers on the east the other on ye west and 3 gates not at that time hung, they have likewise 2 swivel guns. It is situated on an island in a fresh water river twelve miles from ye salt water. The captive’s judge there is no way of getting to the island but by canoes or flat bottom boats & it is impossible to carry up whale boats by reason ye falls are 8 or 9 miles long & [      ] is very swift and full or rocks. The captive Foster & [              ] affirm that they saw 12 or 13 barrels of gun powder brought to the fort by the Indians as they said from Canada about the middle of July. They have a meeting house within a rod or thereabouts on ye outside of ye south wall of the fort it being 60 foot long and 30 wide and 12 foot stud with a bell in it which they ring morning and evening. The said Rose informs me they had a considerable quantity of corn standing when he made his escape. After I had viewed the garrison I returned in about an hour & ½ to my sloop lying in ye mouth of the river and sent up one of them with a few hands upon deck as to carry up stones to the fort and sailed with the other sloop for Arrowsick full of men to induce the Indians spies to believe that we had entirely left the place and that there was no design against Penobscutt, and likewise to inform Col. Walton of ye state of affairs, not knowing but that he might have orders to make an attack upon them. This being all that is material I make bold to subscribe myself your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant,

Thomas Westbrook.

Col. Walton desired me to come along with him to this place to see what forces that he could draw, which I did accordingly, and brought Mr. Dunsmore and Rose along with me. The garrison at St George has expended most of their ammunition during ye late siege and I desire your Excellency to send pray ye first opportunity 4 or 5 barrels of gun powder with ball, swan shot and flints answerable, for ye Indians are resolved to take ye fort if possible. If there be no opportunity of sending it to St. Georges please order it to Arrowsick, and I will fetch it in my whale boats.

P.S. The captives informed me that ye most part of ye Indians food during ye time of ye siege was seals which they caught daily keeping out a party of men for that purpose. They also inform us & do assert that there are great quantities of sturgeon, bass and eels to be caught even close by ye island where the Penobscutt Fort is.

 

 

Windham Life and Times – September 6, 2019

John “Daddy” Dinsmoor: Maine Pioneer

John Dinsmoor grave marker on the Cemetery on the Hill, Windham NH

On the Cemetery on the Hill, in Windham, you can find the grave of John “Daddy” Dinsmoor who was the first of the family to come to America. There is an impressive granite monument there to mark the spot, placed there by a descendant, James Dinsmoor in 1902. While a generous gift, not everything etched in stone is necessarily true. The inscription unfortunately conveys misinformation about the timing of John Dinsmoor’s arrival in America which was much earlier than 1724.

Over the past several weeks, I have been mucking about in ancient Maine history, and I have stumbled upon the documentary, written proof, that John Dinsmoor was in Maine, and was indeed taken as a captive of the Indians, at St. Georges, Maine, in June of 1722. This proves that Daddy Dinsmore was definitely in Maine prior to 1722. The entire event is described in detail in a letter from Colonel Thomas Westbrook, an English commander, dated September 23, 1722. John Dinsmore’s name, clear as day, was in the Index of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register Vol. 44.  As it turns out, John Dinsmoor was made a captive by the Penobscot Indians, and taken to what is now “Indian Island” in the middle of the Penobscot River exactly as was related in the very detailed and eloquent, family oral tradition given by Robert Dinsmoor.

I also have to fall back on Rev. A.L. Perry, the Professor of History and Political Economy at Williams College, who states emphatically in The Scotch-Irish in New England that the Dinsmores were part of the 1718 migration from Northern Ireland: “Besides Mr. Boyd, who had stayed the summer in Boston, where he found already settled a few scattered and peeled of his own race and faith, there were three Presbyterian ministers on board, —Mr. McGregor, of blessed memory, Mr. Cornwell, and Mr. Holmes. Those best off of all the passengers were the McKeens, the Cargills, the Nesmiths, the Cochrans, the Dinsmores, the Mooars, and some other families— were natives of Scotland, whose heads had passed over into Ulster during the short reign of James II…” As one of the wealthiest immigrants, Dinsmore could have had the means to purchase a large estate or tract of land in Maine, especially considering the fact the many of the land speculators were giving land away for free or on a payment plan in order to induce settlement in this wild frontier, which was under constant threat of Indian attack, even after the 1717 “peace treaty” with the Eastern Indians.

        I also reread the grant of land to John Dinsmoor in Londonderry from the proprietor’s records of 1724-5. This dating would verify that John Dinsmoor stayed in Maine many months after his captivity in 1722. We now know that he was detained as a “Pliot” or scout for Colonel Westbrook after being released by the Indians. The land was “bestowed” as a gift to him and the grant was conditional that he or his son “settle this place in the space of a year after the peace is Concluded and if so be that he or his son does not settle said place against a perfixt time yet then and at yet time said land Shall fall to the town or said grantees…”  What peace? The only war raging in New England at that time was the Indian War in Maine, so it must be alluding to that and additionally to the fact of John Dinsmoor’s preference, which if possible, was to return to his holdings in Maine. What was so special about his home in Maine that he wanted to return to it when tranquil Londonderry beckoned?

Was it possible that his home was more than a hastily constructed cabin in the woods? Could it rather have been a stone house constructed with his own hands at some place in the vicinity of St Georges?  John Dinsmoor was a stone mason and he may have been employed in construction at the settlement of St. Georges. When he came to Londonderry he built himself a stone house and also built many stone houses in the area. The construction of stone houses in 18th century (the 1700’s) New England is very rare.  The vast majority of homes are of wood frame construction. Could it have been that he had also built himself a stone house in the St. Georges area that he wanted to return to and what would be the rare chance that it could still exist? Unfortunately, land titles were pretty much non-existent at that time in Maine, and many of the Scotch-Irish pioneers in Maine had to petition the government later in the century with sworn affidavits to prove they had occupied their land.

So let’s begin again with the account of John Dinsmoor in Maine, by Robert Dinsmoor in his introduction to his book of poetry: “My father’s grandfather, John Dinsmoor, was the oldest son of this Scotchman, who came to America about the time the first settlers of Londonderry came (1718). He is yet remembered by many of the old people, and very respectfully called Daddy Dinsmoor. But, whether from accident, I know not, he was landed at a place called Georges, where there was an English fort, in the district of Maine. There he built a house, and the Indians which traversed those woods, (I believe they were of the Penobscot tribe,) became very familiar with him, calling him and themselves all one brother. This was about the commencement of the war between Great Britain and France.”

One day, when Daddy Dinsmore was shingling his house, the Indians surrounded it with a war-hoop, ordered him down saying, ‘no longer one brother, you go to Canada.’ He was taken and kept with them three months. The Chief’s name was John, and Daddy Dinsmoor became his waiter, and ‘found grace in his sight.’ On a certain day, Captain John was called to attend a council of war, and in his absence, Old Daddy was accused by two squaws, of being on a certain point of land near the shore, in conference with some Englishmen, and although in the absence of the chief, he was condemned to be burnt. He was accordingly bound to the tree, and the fatal pile made around him, and that instant to be set on fire, when providentially, the captain returned, and commanded his execution be delayed until inquiry should be made with respect to the truth of the charge, alleging if it was true, their tracks could be seen, as the place was a very sandy point.” (My father tells me that his father told him that John was involved in a little hanky-panky with the Captain’s women, however, George Dinsmore Sr. was known for telling tall tales and then watching the reaction of his incredulous listeners, so I have to believe that this is merely a family legend.)

The charge was soon proved to be false, and he was reprieved. The last three days he was with them, they traveled almost night and day, a great part of the time at a ‘dog trot,’ carrying their canoes with them. When they had a river to cross, as soon as the captain was seated in the Bark, it was Daddy Dinsmoor’s office to push it off and jump in after; and having performed this duty at a certain river, the captain being resolved to set him at liberty, forbade him to step in. He plead for leave to get in, but the chief replied ‘No, you much honest man, John—you walk Boston.’ Daddy answered, ‘The Indians will kill me.’ The captain then told him how, and where he could find a cave in a rock, where he must lie three days, and in that time the Indians would all be past.  He gave him some bear’s grease and a few nuts, saying ‘Indians and French have this land, you walk Boston, John, then take English canoe, walk your own country—you much honest man John.”

My father’s grandfather, then took his solitary way, and found the rock as the captain had told him. When he lay there three days and nights, he saw the Indians pass tribe after tribe, until they were all passed. Then he arose from his cave, and thought he must dies of hunger; but by chance, or by providence, rather, he found some cranberries, which supported him until he arrived at Fort George. From thence, he got his passage to Boston, and from thence he visited his old friends and countrymen in Nutfield, now Londonderry. They had all been acquainted with Daddy Dinsmoor, in Ireland. For the respect they had for the man, and perhaps moved by the narrative of his sufferings, which no one doubted, the proprietors of Londonderry, made a gift of one hundred acres of excellent land and confirmed by deed, to him and his heirs forever…Daddy Dinsmoor lived ten years after my father was born. He and his son being both masons. They built a number of stone houses in town, which served as garrisons in the Indian war. (And I really believe, that his once being an Indian captive, was his inducement to build a stone house on his own land, in Londonderry) The remains of many of those houses are to be seen at this day; and a great many stone chimneys, as no brick could be had. His name was ever held in honor by all who knew him.”

Windham Life and Times – August 30, 2019

Nutfield 300

A Very Smart Dog, a Very Brave Boy and an Old Indian Chief

The following story of a boy and a dog is related about Fort George. “In account of the manners and customs of life at this period belongs to another chapter, but one tradition is here given to show the expedients to which those in the fort, during the raids of the Indians, were often obliged to resort. It is said that at one time, when the inhabitants were obliged to seek refuge in Fort George, they had no neighbors nearer than at Bath, then called “The Reach.” This place was a distant fifteen miles by water, which was the only safe way of communicating between the two posts. In Fort George was a dog which had been taught to carry letters and which would take one to Bath in about two hours time. On arriving there he would howl until he gained admission to the fort at that place, and would receive an answer, which he would as speedily fetch back to Brunswick. At last he was killed by an Indian. The garrisons were now deprived of this means of communication. An active and zealous youth undertook, however, to take the place of the four-footed messenger. “I,” said he, ” will carry your messages by water.” For two successive summers this brave youth went between the two posts, swimming a great part of the way. He went chiefly in the night-time, resting by day in the rushes that grew around the shores of Merrymeeting Bay. At length he was captured by the Indians and carried to Canada. From the latter country he soon, however, made his escape, and returned to Fort George, where he soon ” resumed his swimming mail route.” He was afterwards captured a second time by the famous Indian chief, Sabattis. What further became of him’ is unknown.”

Speaking of Chief Sabattis there is an interesting account of his meeting later in life with one of his captives. “Shortly after this event John Malcolm and Daniel Eaton were going to Maquoit for salt hay, or were returning with some, when they were waylaid by some Indians. Malcom escaped, but Eaton received a bullet in his wrist, was captured, and was carried to Canada, where he remained about a year. He was the son of Moses Eaton who was killed at Pleasant Point in 1722. According to another account, he was the son of Samuel Eaton, of Salisbury, Mass. Eaton was captured by the famous Indian chief, Sabattis, who sold him for four dollars. The only food they had to eat, on their way to Canada, was a partridge which Sabattis shot, and of which he gave Eaton all the better part, reserving for himself only the head and entrails, which he ate with apparent relish. Years after (about 1800), Sabattis passed through Brunswick, and while there entered the store of John Perry, which was on the site of the store now occupied by Barton Jordan. Quite a crowd of villagers collected to see the old chief, and Dean Swift, then a lad of eight years, was sent to inform Daniel Eaton, who was then an old man, that Sabattis was in the store. Eaton, who was at work piling shingles for Colonel William Stanwood in what is now the yard of the estate of the late A. C. Robbins, Esq., came to the store, and was at once recognized by Sabattis, who seemed to be really glad to see him. At the request of some of those in the store, Eaton drew up his sleeve to show the buckshot in his arm, which were fired by Sabattis at the time of Eaton’s capture. Sabattis looked at the arm with reluctance, saying, “That long time ago; war time too. “After a short but friendly chat with Eaton, Sabattis shook hands and left the store and went on his way! The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine.