When the Pejepscot Proprietors invited Ulster Scot James Woodside to become minister at Brunswick, they expected him to be equal parts community religious leader, cultural monitor, and anti-Catholic Wabanaki missionary. Woodside was to replace Harvard-trained Joseph Baxter, seemingly a fair-to-middling Puritan minister of fair intentions, but middling influence and means.
Baxter should have been an easy act to follow.
The Massachusetts Assembly had agreed to pay Baxter for each Wabanaki child who attended his religious school. To that end, he attempted to learn their language, but found the task beyond his ability. Instead, he tried using an Algonquin bible, which the Wabanakis didn’t understand. Finally, he enticed Native children to lessons with gifts and had Capt. John Gyles translate his sermons.
Perhaps Baxter’s greatest impediment to gathering new converts was French Catholic missionary Sebastien Râle of Norridgewock. Râle had spent decades living with the Wabanakis of the upper Kennebec. In contrast to Baxter, he learned both their language and their ways. He even wrote a Wabanaki lexicon that greatly aided other French missionaries in their work. Râle’s influence was so great that Wabanaki leader Obasawin, languishing in a Boston jail after King William’s War, declared that Jesus Christ was a Frenchman; his mother, the Virgin Mary, was a French Lady; and that the English murdered Christ.
Even with such strong feelings against the English, if Baxter had understood the Wabanakis’ political pragmatism, he might still have converted acceptable numbers, even if only temporarily. In the end, though, Baxter was only a middling success at fulfilling the multiple roles of a frontier missionary. He did succeed, however, in improving his own family’s influence and financial circumstances, through land given him by the Pejepscot Proprietors and business investments he made during his year in the wilderness.
Now, six months after Baxter returned to his parish in Medfield, Rev. James Woodside was called from Falmouth to replace him. Though Woodside had received several settlement invitations, he chose Brunswick as the right place to improve his family’s circumstances.
Capt. Gyles arranged transportation for Woodside and his family from Falmouth to Brunswick and readied Baxter’s former house near Fort George for the new arrivals.
Woodside, his wife, and their son William, settled in nicely. William became a soldier under Capt. Gyles, commissioned as a lieutenant. The family settled four miles south of the fort, at Maquoit, where they kept a large herd of cattle and built a good-sized block house for protection against the local Wabanakis. The Woodsides seemed to get along well with the local Natives, though. William, in fact, ran a trading post and conducted a profitable business with them.
All in all, Rev. James Woodside, a man used to straddling two worlds in his Ulster homeland, seemed perfectly suited to creating a bridge between the Wabanaki and English colonials, as well as between the Ulster Scot settlers and Puritan soldiers at the fort.
Alas, it may be that the witty and gregarious Woodside got along too well with the Wabanki or that, as contemporary Cotton Mather observed, he was not puritanical enough. Whatever the reason, after just six months, the town fathers voted to renew his contract for only another half year, and that only so long as Woodside deported himself acceptably. The reverend only lasted four months. It’s possible that Capt. Gyles, who understood the political uses of religion with and against the Wabanaki, convinced others that Woodside’s joie de vivre didn’t further the goal of English domination. In September 1719, the men of Brunswick dismissed him as their minister.
In January, Rev. Woodside headed to Boston. William stayed in Brunswick.
The reverend, however, continued to invest in Brunswick, and in May 1722 he bought part of the meadowland where their cattle roamed.
By that July, Woodside’s investment would be worth next to nothing: all his livestock were slaughtered, his outbuildings were burned to the ground, and the garrison house was filled with his desperate and destitute neighbors.
Lovewell’s War had begun.
Next Blog: Love Well, Love War: Part 2: Love to War
- Baxter, Rev. Joseph. “Journal of the Rev. Joseph Baxter,” in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database: org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2013.) https://www.americanancestors.org/databases/new-england-historical-and-genealogical-register/image/?volumeId=11581&filterQuery=databasename:register. Accessed Dec. 1, 2016.
- Johnston, Thomas & Thomas Kitchin. Map: A Plan of Kennebek & Sagadahok Rivers. Commissioned by Pejepscot Proprietors. 1731-1754. http://www.oshermaps.org/map/7404.0013. Accessed April 17, 2017.
- Maine Genealogical Society (1884-) York County Deeds, Register of Deeds, Vol. 12 part 1. Originally published 1642 by the Register of Deeds of York County. Printed by E. C. Bowler, Bethel, Maine, 1903. Online source Archive.org from collection newyorkpubliclibrary; american; New York Public Library, Call number b6870121. archive.org/details/yorkdeeds12main. Accessed April 20, 2017.
- McKeen, John. Four Lectures on the History of Brunswick. Brunswick, Curtis Memorial Library, 1985. Call No. 974-191.
- Southicke, Cyprian. Map: The Harbour of Casco Bay and Islands Adjacent. Richard Mount Thomas Page and Company, London, 1720. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. http://maps.bpl.org/id/17665. Accessed Oct. 10, 2016.
- 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 April 17, 2017.