The English continued their unrelenting northward colonization in Maine, invading Wabanaki territory along the Kennebec and Androscoggin River valleys with settlements and forts. They viewed the French mission in Norridgewock as their main impediment to expansion. The Wabanaki, naturally, were angered by the unrelenting English invasion of their land.
The English suspected that Catholic missionary Sébastien Rale of Norridgewock was encouraging the Wabanaki to attack English settlements. In January 1722, Massachusett’s Gov. Shute dispatched Col. Thomas Westbrook from the fort at St. George to attack the Catholic mission and, in particular, to capture Rale.
Before the English could attack, Native scouts warned Rale of the impending raid. He fled into the forest, leaving behind his few possessions. These, unfortunately, included his strongbox containing letters, which did, indeed, support the Wabanaki use of French-supplied arms against the English. Westbrook’s soldiers took away the letters, as well as Rale’s life work, his Wabanaki-French lexicon.
In retaliation of the unprovoked attack on Norridgewock, the normally peaceful Pejepscot-area Wabanaki and their allies set about punishing the English/Irish settlers of Merrymeeting Bay.
On Saturday, June 13th, sixty Indians in twenty canoes landed on the north side of the bay not far from Pleasant Point in Topsham. There they captured nine families and subsequently released all but five men who were to be exchanged for four Natives imprisoned by the English in Boston.
The following month, David Dunning and another soldier were on the blueberry plains when they heard an unusual noise about where First Parish Church is now. Through the brush surrounding Sgt. Thomas Tregoweth’s house, the soldiers observed “a large number” of Natives moving toward the fort. Dunning ran to his nearby home, a blockhouse on the corner of today’s Maine and Pleasant Sts. The other soldier ran north to Fort George, sounding the alarm as he went, dodging rifle shots. Thomas Tregoweth was never seen again.
Wabanaki soldiers continued their mission, killing or capturing English settlers, and ransacking, then burning houses in the settlement. The English and Ulster Scots who managed to escape their homes fled to the fort or to the Woodsides’ blockhouse at Maquoit. When the Natives were unable to breach that fortified garrison, they killed all of the Woodsides’ livestock.
Planning on settling in for the night, Wabanaki soldiers seized a house at Fish House Hill. Capt. Gyles ordered the Fort George cannons to bombard the house, even though the Natives held English and Ulster Scot prisoners there. When at least one cannon ball found its mark, partially destroying the home, the Natives fled to Pleasant Point with their prisoners.
The fire and smoke from the Brunswick blaze was visible for miles.
Early in the attack on Brunswick, Capt. Gyles had dispatched Samuel Eaton to the fort at Arrowsic with a letter requesting reinforcements from Col. Johnson Harmon. The letter was wrapped in waterproof eel skin and hidden in Eaton’s hair. The colonel, meanwhile, had seen the smoke from the devastation of the town. That night, before Eaton’s arrival, Harmon and Major Moody had their men row two whaleboats quietly up Merrymeeting Bay. The English soldiers, guided by the sleeping Natives’ campfires, landed noiselessly nearby.
The soldiers from Arrowsic surrounded their slumbering enemy and shot into them, killing about a dozen and a half men, and capturing some. Natives who had been on the outskirts of the encampment fired back without hitting their targets.
When the English soldiers returned to their boats, they discovered the body of one of their own, Moses Eaton, Samuel’s brother. Moses had become separated from the rest of the group and was captured by the Natives on guard duty. Moses did not die easily: the Wabanaki soldiers had tortured and partially dismembered him before finally killing him. The English troops buried their fallen comrade where they had found him.
It would be two years before Moses was avenged.
Next Blog: Love Well, Love War: Part 3: Lovewell’s War
- Charland, Thomas. Rale, Sébastien, Dixtionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2. University of Toronto/Université Laval. 1969, rev. 1982. www.biographi.ca/enbio/rale_sebastien_2E.html. Accessed Dec. 1, 2016
- Chmielewski, Laura M. The spice of popery: converging Christianities on an early American frontier. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, c2012. Maine State Library. Call number 277.41 C544s 2012.
- 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.
- McKeen, John. Four Lectures on the History of Brunswick. Brunswick, Curtis Memorial Library, 1985. Call No. 974-191.
- 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.