Windham Life and Times – September 13, 2019

Nutfield 300

Settlement of St. Georges Maine

John Dinsmoor in Colonel Thomas Westbrooks’ Letters

The following section is taken from; Steven Edward Sullivan’s; Settlement Expansion on the Northeast Coastal Frontier of Colonial New England: St. Georges, 1719-1759. 1987. (Thesis (M.A.) in History–University of Maine, 1987) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections] Mr. Sullivan’s impeccable research gives a very reliable and detailed account of the early settlement of St. Georges. It shows why John Dinsmore would have been induced to settle there and also the connection of St Georges to Colonel Westbrook.

“Shortly after the formation of the Lincolnshire Company, the Twenty Associates selected a committee to ‘Manage and bring forward the settlements within the patent…to begin with settling two towns on the St Georges River…’ While the administrative and organizational machinery of expansion was now in place and functioning, little had been done in preparing for the planned expansion at St, Georges River in terms of considering the climate of the Maine frontier. The Company and its Committee has very little or no experience in dealing with the conditions of the eastern frontier, and particularly with the native Indians who resided and frequented there. In hindsight, it was lack of consideration of these frontier conditions that led to the success of the Company in expanding and fortifying the Maine to the St Georges River in the summer of 1720, Likewise, the failure of early attempts by the Company to successfully plant two towns there also seems to have resulted at least partly from the failure in Boston to comprehend the practical realities of the Maine frontier at the time, particularly considering the disposition and attitude of the Penobscot Indians toward this new encroachment on their territory. Perhaps because the realities of the Maine frontier were well-known to the people of the Bay Colony, and perhaps also because of the precedent set by the Pejepscot Proprietors at Kennebec, in 1720 and 1721 the Committee of the Lincolnshire Company signed agreements with contacts in Ireland to procure large numbers of Irish or Scotch-Irish families to settle in the proposed settlements at St Georges.”

“In the first attempt, the Committee formalized an agreement with Robert Edwards fo Castleregh, Ireland, and his unnamed associates, called ‘undertakers’ on March 7, 1720. In general, conforming to Leverett’s outlined plan of expansion, Edwards and his undertakers agreed to settle two towns, each containing fifty families and measuring seven and a half miles square on or near the St Georges or Muscongus Rivers. The Committee stipualated that the first fifty families were to be settled during the year 1722…”

“… On April 18, 1720, the Company met and chose a committee to sail with cattle (oxen), mill gear, and workman for Muscongus and St. Georges River in order to view the land, procure confirmation of the title from the Indians, and to begin a settlement. En route, the Company’s sloop took on mill gear, seven millwrights, workmen, and another key associate, Thomas Westbrook of Portsmouth, who was designated to supervise the process of frontier expansion at St Georges. The expedition ascended the St Georges River in whaleboats on May 4, 1720…”

“…On June 4, 1720, the Associates concluded articles of agreement with Thomas Westbrook who would act as the Lincolnshire Company’s representative overseer, military leader, and ‘foreman’ for the undertaking. According to this agreement, Westbrook was to procure 25 families of ‘good, able, active, and substantial people’ who were to each construct and inhabit dwelling-house in a projected township to be situated at the upper end of St. Georges River. Two-thirds of the families were supposed to be at St Georges by the last day of November 1720, and were required to work and improve the lands there for at least three years. The Associates required that Westbrook send the greater part of his time a St. Georges for the next two or three years in order to ‘help encourage and bring forward the settlements there.”

The Lincolnshire Company agreed to grant Westbrook 10,000 acres of land to be disposed of in whatever amounts her felt necessary to encourage families to go and settle there. The ungranted portions were to become his property in compensation for his trouble and expense. The Company also agreed to lease the two sawmills to him for two years, for six cents interest per year, provided that he keep the mills in good repair and furnish the settlers with boards at common mill price, and return the same in good condition at the end of the designated time.”

“The company also agreed to furnish two great guns for a blockhouse. The use of the Company’s sloop to transport settlers was to be provided, freight free. The Company also agreed to provide some assistance and encouragement for a minister to settle there. This agreement was made at a time when the Penobscot Indians had no yet reached a consensus concerning the intended expansion and indicated the determination of the Lincolnshire Company to settle and improve the St. Georges frontier—with or without the approval or sanction of the Indians. Ominously, the planned frontier expansion now included a blockhouse fitted with cannon to protect the mills and settlers.”

St Georges Fort was one of the strongest, most commodious, and strategically situated fortifications to be erected in New England during the colonial period. It was built in several stages by Westbrook and his workmen on behalf of the Lincolnshire Company beginning in June of 1720 and was probably completed in late August of 1721…”

Westbrook and his men successfully completed the construction of the blockhouse or ‘trading house’ by July 19, 1720. The Indians had requested such a trading house at the Treaty of Georgetown in 1717. This trading house or ‘truck house’ measured 30 by 50 feet in size. Building this house was the first stage in the plan for the fort, as the Indians would presumably not object to a truck-house they had requested. Was this a clever contrivance or simply a matter of practical necessity, or both? Truck-houses were constructed along the frontiers by the government for the purpose of trading goods with the Indians and creating material dependence. The truck trade was intended to be economically profitable for the sponsors, to provide the government with intelligence concerning strength, movements and disposition of the French as well as the Indians, and to draw the Indians away from the French influence, while at the same time making them more dependent on English trade for ‘necessities,’ and theoretically at least, to regulate liquor distribution to the Indians. At St. Georges, establishment of the truck-trade served another important function as well. Construction of the truck house at St. Georges River acted s a catalyst for new expansion and was therefore the decisive factor in planning the permanent establishment of the new frontier.”

“Visiting the eastern frontier in Mid-August of 1721, the English minister to the Eastern Indians, Rev. Baxter, observed that the fort at St. Georges was fitted with at least one great gun. He observed that the Company men were busily engaged in attempting to finish a second blockhouse down by the river (Letter “H” in diagram of the fort, p.39), dig trenches between the two blockhouses, and erect stockade walls connecting the two blockhouses, transforming it into an effective fortress. These preparations were undertaken, according to Baxter, to ‘get ye shop in readiness to defend ourselves against ye Indians if they should assault us.’”

“The work of enclosing the area between the blockhouses with a stockade wall proceeded vigorously, if not frantically in the latter weeks of August, 1721. Baxter tells us that, ‘all hands’ were ‘briskly employed’ in the enterprise indicating that the work proceeded with a sense of urgency. The nervous workmen had no doubt heard rumors concerning the changing temper and disposition of the Indians. The work was continuing at an accelerated pace on August 24, but was probably completed within a short time thereafter to appear substantially as the ca 1721-22 draft (p.39) indicates.”

Originally, the Committee of the Lincolnshire Company contracted with Robert Edwards to bring families over from Ireland to settle at St. Georges. However, on November 21, 1721, the Lincolnshire Company authorized the Committee to dispose of 76,000 acres in the Patent to Cornelius Rowan, gentleman, of Cullnady, County Derry, Ireland in return for bringing 160 families to settle in the three towns in the Patent. The agreement was formalized on November 28, 1721, and provisions contained therein resembled greatly Leverett’s blueprint for frontier expansion and the earlier agreement with Edwards.”

Rowan agreed to settle two towns on both sides of the Muscongus or St. Georges River with 160 families in a ‘regular and defensible manner’ as was though best for their mutual defense and interest. The three townships, each seven and a half miles square, were to be located anywhere in the Patent not previously settled. The Company stipulated that the families were to consist of ‘able and substantial’ people who would be able to supply and support themselves with provisions. These settlers were expected to build houses and barns, maintain stocks of cattle, ‘build, inhabit, and improve’ the lands grated them for at least three years. For their part, the Committee agreed to lay out three towns with 1000 acres reserved in each of the first two towns for ministerial and school lots, and further agreed to pay 50 pounds per year for a minister in each of the first two towns for the first two years. The remaining 25,000 acres in each town was to go to Rowan and his associates. Also, the Lincolnshire Company agreed to bear the expense of surveying and laying out of each 25,000 acre plot. Further subdivisions would be undertaken at the charge of Rowan or the settlers.”

“The Lincolnshire Company, no doubt anxious to see the settlement proceed with all possible rapidity, set a timetable for Rowan to comply with which necessarily coincided with the deadlines established by Leverett for the Twenty Associates. Fifty of the families were to be settled by the end of 1722 unless some ‘extraordinary province hinders’ such as restraint of the government, miscarriage at sea, or some other ‘considerable disappointment.’”

John Dinsmore in Colonel Thomas Westbrook’s 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.

 

 

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