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

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.

 

 

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.”