This Land BELONGS to You and Me
In the late summer and fall of 1718, the newly arrived Ulster Scots worked hard to settle in before winter snow blanketed Brunswick and Topsham. Mothers and daughters gathered medicinal herbs in the alder swamp between the fort and Maquoit. On the plains, children picked whatever fruits the Natives had left behind on the blueberry plains, and carried home burnt or half-rotted beech limbs for hearth fires. Fathers and sons built cabins from boards sailed up Merrymeeting Bay aboard the sloop Pejepscot.
Perhaps their food stores were supplemented by barter with the Native people, who grew corn on the charred plains and trapped wild animals, or from Boston supplies stowed by the Proprietors in their newly built storehouse at Maquoit. The new arrivals must have hunted deer, game birds, and rabbits by gun, bow, and snares. They must also have fished the plentiful rivers and streams. Perhaps in January or February, some laboriously cut a hole in the ice near the Androscoggin’s shore to gain access to the fish below. Imported rum might have made the task more pleasant.
For the next four years, these Ulster Scot immigrants joined with the English soldiers and Proprietors to build a new community among the Native people of mid-coast Maine. The Proprietors built sawmills at Bunganuck in Brunswick and on Cathance stream in Topsham, for, though there were only small copses of pines on the plains, there were still forests of old growth trees nearby.
Immigrant Andrew Dunning set up his blacksmith shop not far from the fort, supplying his neighbors with strap hinges for doors and shutters; hearth hooks, fire pokers, and cooking kettles; gun fittings and animal traps. Later, when the settlers could afford horses for farm work and transportation, Dunning would hammer out horseshoes, harness rings, and wagon wheels, building the new town as well as his own wealth. Two of Andrew and Susan’s sons joined Capt. Gyles and Sgt. Eaton, soldiering at Fort George.
Newly hired Ulster Scot minister, Rev. James Woodside, settled four miles down the road at Maquoit, where he and his adult son, William, built a house and a trading post, and herded their cattle. William signed on at the fort. Perhaps at his advice, they added two bastions and palisades to their home, transforming it into a blockhouse to protect their family and neighbors against invaders.
Even as more Ulster Scots settled the mid-coast, English settlers returned here from their wartime exile in Massachusetts, many from Cape Cod. They created their own enclave, opting for land away from the Ulster Scots, across the river in Topsham or along the New Meadows River in Brunswick.
Come spring, the English and “Irish” alike cleared and plowed their fields as soon as they could, planting hardy wheat and rye for flour, Indian corn for meal, perhaps flax to spin into thread and yarn for clothing, and hemp for rope.
The English, who considered themselves “natives” after having lived in the New World for several generations, remarked that the immigrants worked very hard for the necessities of life and .dressed simply. The English found it curious that these people never fully opened their doors to visitors without peeking through a seam in a shutter or the narrow opening of cracked door, and identifying the visitor.
Soon the English “natives” learned the wisdom of the Ulster Scots’ cautious behavior.
Next Blog: Beyond the Grave: A Jury of Her Peers
To be followed by: Love Well, Love War
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- Cat’s Blog. Image, Wild blueberry field at Welch Blueberry Farm. https://perkblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/maine_2012_welchblueberryfarm14.jpg. Accessed February 11, 2017.
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- Swenson, Ben. Hemp & Flax in Colonial America. Colonial Williamsburg, https://history.org/foundation/journal/Winter15/hemp.cfm, accessed February 4, 2017.
- Unknown. Irish spinner and spinning wheel. County Galway, Ireland. Between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsc.09892. Accessed February 4, 2017.
- Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878. http://community.curtislibrary.com/CML/wheeler/index.html, accessed July 30, 2016.