Winners and Losers: Part 1–The Captains at Fort George


Throughout the 1600s, war between France and Great Britain that had originated first in Europe or on the high seas spilled over into the American colonies. During these conflicts, allies from various Native tribes aided either the French or British, aligning themselves to best benefit their own needs. Lovewell’s War marked the first international war initiated by Native Americans. This time, the Wabanaki combined tribes had fought the British expressly in response to British encroachment on Wabanaki territory.

Main, Nova Scotia, Iraquois Nation

After Lovewell’s War, “Main” met Nova Scotia at Pemaquid. Note the “Country of the Northern Iroquois in the northwest corner of the map. (Other Maps, July 25, 2017.)

In the end, the French lost ground in Maine, while the British continued to push north and east. The Maine Wabanaki also lost ground, but some Canadian tribes received British recognition of their sovereignty over themselves—at least on paper.

Here in Maine, the Gyles, Woodside, Dunning, Harmon, and Jaques families, after having survived three years of fighting, surely must have considered themselves winners.

Or did they?

Capt. Gyles, in possession of his father’s farm in Topsham, and after a decade commanding Fort George, seemed set for permanent residence in the area. But any soldier, even the commander of a fort, is not in charge of his own life. And sometimes, following orders leads to unexpected consequences.

Near the end of the war, in April 1725, Capt. John Gyles was ordered to take some of his men on a ten-day march along the Androscoggin to search for Native encampments. When he returned from his mission, Gyles learned that Natives had killed two soldiers at the fort.

These may have been Robert and Andrew Dunning, who had been killed by Natives hidden on the Brunswick shore of the Androscoggin, near Mason’s Rock. The Natives shot the brothers as they paddled their canoe from Topsham to Brunswick, instantly killing Robert. Andrew was able to paddle back to the Topsham shore, where he lived only a few minutes more. The brothers were buried together just outside the fort, under one gravestone. We’ll never know for sure the year the brothers died because no date could be seen on the shattered headstone when it was unearthed a century later.

The soldiers who died in April 1725 may have sealed the fate of Capt. Gyles. That December he was replaced by Capt. Woodside of Maquoit and sent northeast to Fort St. George near Thomaston.

Woodside, Wm signature Wheelers'

The new commander, Ulster Scot William Woodside, was the son of Rev. James Woodside. You may recall the Reverand had been hired as Brunswick’s minister in 1718, then dismissed the following year. The Woodside family spent considerable time, effort, and money to build a garrison house at Maquoit. This blockhouse saved their own and their neighbors’ lives during the Native attack in 1722. Unfortunately, the Woodside family and their neighbors lost all their livestock and provisions, leaving them scrambling to resupply their food stores. Brunswick and Topsham residents, as well as those of other frontier towns, lived the next three years in their local garrisons. They left only to tend crops and hunt wild game or fowl, always fully armed and accompanied by their dogs to warn of Natives hiding in the brush.

Woodside Wm payment to Indians

Perhaps in retaliation for those years of deprivation, Capt. Woodside seemed to enjoy getting the best of the Natives. In 1726, when Massachusetts governor William Dummer and Judge Samuel Sewall were at Arrowsic to make a treaty with the Wabanaki, the Natives complained to the officials that Woodside cheated them at his trading post. First, they said, he weighed their furs by placing his fist on the scales instead of using a one-pound weight. Then, they said, Woodside sold them brass beads instead of gold ones, and also watered down their rum. The evidence against him was overwhelming. Woodside was found guilty of the charges and was ordered to admit to the charges, promise not to cheat the Natives again, and to pay them what he owed.

Woodside would find himself in court at least twice more in the ensuing years. In 1732 Samuel Boone accused Woodside of stealing several head of cattle at Chebeague Island and Merriconeag Neck. The court found in favor of Woodside and the cattle were turned over to him. Three decades later, John Orr of Mair Point (Mere Point) sued Woodside for cheating the “Indians ‘by selling them brass rings for gold rings.’” Woodside was acquitted once again.

Still, men like Capt. Woodside helped Brunswick to grow. They held town office, continued to protect against Native attack, farmed wheat and turnips for food, hemp and flax for weaving cloth, and harvested and exported logs and lumber to pay for their land. The town expanded away from the safety of Fort George, to Maquoit and New Meadows. The settlers continued their work on the First Parish Meeting House, which had been interrupted by war, officially completing it in 1735. With the house of worship came a new cemetery and the ancient burying ground at the fort was abandoned.

Over the years, Woodside bought some 350 acres of land in the Wharton Point area; he continued to trade with the Native Americans. Perhaps ironically, about the time he was sued by John Orr, Woodside was commissioned as a Cumberland County justice of the peace.

Wm Woodside Esq tombstone

William Woodside, Esquire, lived to see the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He is buried in the old First Parish Cemetery on upper Maine St.

Meanwhile, Capt. John Gyles continued in service to his country, retiring from Fort St. George in Thomaston in 1728, but continuing to serve the Crown as interpreter of Native languages. In 1736 he wrote about his boyhood experiences as a captive of the Maliseet tribe and the French. His only son, Samuel, completed medical studies in Massachusetts and opened a practice in Salisbury. He married his cousin, Elizabeth True. Their children were both born in Salisbury: John, who died at age two, and a daughter, Hannah. By the late 1730s, when his father had returned to Massachusetts, Dr. Gyles appears to have settled in Brunswick, perhaps taking up his father’s two in Brunswick. If he practiced in town, he would have been the town’s first physician.

Unfortunately, he died Feb. 11, 1738/9, at the young age of 32. His death ended Capt. John Gyles’ direct male line.

DSC03243 (1)

Dr. Gyles is also buried in the First Parish Cemetery. After 280 years, part of his hand-carved tombstone still survives in the graveyard on upper Maine St.

Next Blog: Winners and Losers: Part 2—The Rest of the Story


  •, vital records, family histories, family trees, and databases.
  • Owen, Emanuel. Image A New and Accurate Map of New Jersey, Pensilvania, New York and New England…, London, 1747. Osher Maps Permanent URL: Accessed July 25, 2017.
  • Desmarais, Barbara A., Images of Samuel Gyles and William Woodside, Esq. tombstones. First Parish Cemetery, Upper Maine St., Brunswick, Maine, July 20, 2017.
  • Gyles, John. Introduction by Hannay, James. Nine years a captive, or, John Gyles’ experience among the Malicite Indians, from 1689 to 1698. Saint John, N.B.? : s.n. 1875. Internet Archive. Accessed Sept. 3, 2016.
  • Massachusetts General Court. Acts and resolves passed by the General Court, Vol. Resolves 1726-1733. Boston: Secretary of the Commonwealth. Internet Archive. Accessed July 25, 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. (Wheelers’) Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878., accessed July 30, 2016.
  • Woodside, William signature image. Wheelers’.

(c) Copyright 2017 Barbara A. Desmarais


Posted in Brunswick History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Beyond the Grave: Alternative Facts?

Wheeler and McKeen covers

Winners, they say, write history. As the heroes of their own narratives, winners are wont to pick and choose information that supports their worldview and flatters their egos. As their stories are told and retold over generations, the narratives change and expand. Heroes are added. Locations are adjusted. How does the historian know what’s true?

Historians compare conflicting information from various sources within the context of the era in which they were written, while considering the veracity and intent of those sources. Much like the winners, historians sometimes pick and choose information to support a point of view or to smooth the narrative flow. In the fall and winter of 1845-46, Brunswick historian John McKeen gave four lectures on Brunswick’s past (McKeen). Then George and Henry Wheeler used some of this information, combined with stories from local families and their own research, in their own 1878 history of the region (Wheelers’). These two works were my introduction to Brunswick history, but I’ve come to learn that sometimes they conflict with one another or with other sources.

Well, dear Reader, this is your chance to decide what’s true. I’ve included three “facts” from my Love Well, Love War series, along with my sources. Which “fact” will you choose to believe?



Gov. William Dummer courtesy Wikipedia. Public domain. Accessed June 17, 2017.


The 1722-1725 war between British colonials and the combined Wabanaki-Franco forces is often known as the Three Years War. The Wheeler brothers referred to it as Lovewell’s War after New Hampshire militia leader Capt. John Lovewell. Wikipedia lists other names, as well:

  • Dummer’s War after Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts William Dummer, leader of New England military forces;
  • Father Rales’ War after the Jesuit missionary at Norridgewock;
  • Greylock’s War for the Waranoak chief who led the Native forces in western New England;
  • Anglo-Abenaki War after the British and the Abenaki tribe (one of the Eastern Wabanaki tribes)
  • Wabanaki-New England War of 1722-1725 after the Eastern combined tribes and British colonists.

Feel free to choose the name you think best; I chose to use Lovewell’s War for two reasons. First of all, I liked the potential word play of “Love” and “War.” Secondly, Lovewell’s enthusiastic adoption of scalping his dead enemies for bounty seemed to reflect my British ancestors’ sense of entitlement to Native lands, superiority over the “savages,” and disregard for human life other than their own.


Eatons 1790 an

1790 Census, Brunswick and Harpswell, Maine.



Wheelers’ states that Samuel Eaton Jr carried a letter requesting reinforcements from Capt. Gyles at Fort George to Col. John Harmon at Georgetown (Arrowsic Island). William Cutter in Genealogical and Personal Memoirs…Vol. 4. claimed the father, Samuel Sr, was the currier. Both sources agreed that Moses was the letter carrier’s brother.

Two lists of soldiers and early settlers in Wheelers’ offer more information. They show a Sgt. Samuel Eaton in Capt. Gyles’ company in 1723-24 who was promoted to lieutenant in 1724. Then a 1727 list of soldiers in Capt. Woodside’s company records the service of both Lt. Samuel Eaton and Sentinel Samuel Eaton. Finally, the early settlers of Brunswick include Lt. Samuel Eaton, apparently already here in 1717.

If the lieutenant and sentinel were father and son, it would seem that Sr made the arduous journey over land and sea. That is, if the Moses who was killed by Native warriors was Sr’s brother and not his son.

Have you decided between Sr or Jr? Either way, we might take comfort in knowing that the Eaton family all over the United States continues even today to name their boys Samuel and Moses.

Unfortunately for us, Wheelers’ reference to Col. John Harmon as the letter’s recipient is also problematic. That’s because brothers John (1680-1754) and Johnson (c1676-1751) Harmon were both military officers during Lovewell’s War, John as lieutenant and Johnson as captain. This means neither Harmon was a colonel at Arrowsic. Could it be that Col. Thomas Westbrook was the actual leader Capt. Gyles was contacting?

As an aside, researching brothers John and Johnson Harmon can be confusing because of their similar names. Johnson, the elder of the two, was given his mother Deborah’s maiden name. John was named after his father.



Mason’s Rock in center of photo. Image by Barbara A. Desmarais, May 9, 2017.



Did Samuel Mason die at the hands of the Wabanki, at Mason’s Rock near the Brunswick shore of the Androscoggin River? Or was he rescued from drowning there? The source for both alternatives is Wheelers’.

Samuel Mason is listed in Wheelers’ Appendix 1 as having settled on lot 10 in Brunswick about 1717. The list states that he lived there less than three years, so he forfeited his lot. I researched his genealogy and found two Samuel Masons born in Massachusetts in the right timeframe. Family trees on show Samuel, son of Lt. John and Elizabeth (Hammond) Mason, was born in Newton in 1688 and died in 1689, so he can’t be our man. also listed the birth of Samuel, son of John and Sarah Mason, in Boston in 1689. I’ve found no further documentation for him, though there were Samuel Masons of the right age in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. I also looked through York County deeds for a pre-1753 Mason deed, to no avail. It’s possible Samuel moved, but it’s just as likely he died at Mason’s Rock. You choose!

If you’d like to see Samuel Mason’s rock, it’s clearly visible from the unimproved boat launch on Water St. in Brunswick. Just don’t mistake it for a nearby rock of similar size that’s closer to shore and only visible at low tide.

So, dear Reader, did you choose to remember Lovewell’s War or Greylock’s?  Did you untangle the Eaton men? Did you save Samuel Mason at a rock in the Androscoggin River? What story about winners and losers did you choose to tell?

Next Blog: Winners and Losers


  •, vital records, family histories, family trees, and databases.
  • Desmarais, Barbara A., Image of McKeen and Wheelers’ taken at Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick, Maine, June 15, 2017.
  • Harmon, A. C. (Artemas Canfield), The Harmon genealogy, comprising all branches in New England. Gibson Bros., Inc., Washington, DC. 1920. New York Public Library, Call no. b5246557. Accessed May, 2017.
  • McKeen, John. Four Lectures on the History of Brunswick. Brunswick, Curtis Memorial Library, 1985. Call No. 974-191.
  • Millard, James P., Abenaki Indian Chief Grey Lock. Accessed June 13, 2017.
  • Sylvester, Herbert Milton. Indian Wars of New England, Volume 3.Heritage Books, Inc., October 6, 2010. ISBN-10: 0788410792, ISBN-13: 978-0788410796. Accessed May 18, 2017.
  • Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878., accessed April 17, 2017.
  • Wikipedia. Dummer’s War. Updated December 17, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2017.


(c) Copyright 2017, Barbara A. Desmarais



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Love Well, Love War: Part 3: Lovewell’s War

Mason's Rock

Mason’s Rock from Brunswick shore. Image by Barbara A. Desmarais. May 9, 2017.

The latest colonial war raged on several fronts, with battles erupting at the French/English borderlands in Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nova Scotia. In Maine, soldiers trekked constantly between the forts in Brunswick and Richmond, both owned by the Pejepscot Proprietors. Always there was the danger of surprise attack by the Wabanaki and their allies.

Even proximity to the forts was no guarantee of safety. On March 22nd, 1724, Andrew Dunning Jr and his brother Robert were crossing the Androscoggin River, at Mason’s Rock near Fort George, when they were shot and killed. Their bodies were recovered and then buried at the increasingly crowded graveyard alongside the fort.

Rale death

Death of Father Sebastian Rale of the Society of Jesus.Public domain. Accessed May 19, 2017.

The previous winter, English soldiers had tried twice more to capture Sébastien Rale, the French missionary at Norridgewock. Finally, Maine-born cousins, Captains Johnson Harmon and Jeremiah Moulton, led more than 200 men from Fort Richmond to Norridgewock. This time, Wabanaki scouts were unable to warn Rale.

English and French accounts of what happened August 23rd, 1724 differ widely in details, each group twisting the tale to their own political needs:

The English recorded that the captains ordered Rale seized alive. According to Capt. Harmon, the Catholic rabble-rouser was “huddling in his house trying to load his gun” when English lieutenant Richard Jacques ordered him to come out. When Rale replied that he would “neither give quarter nor take it,” Jaques responded by kicking open the door. Then, against Moulton’s orders, Jaques shot Rale in the head. The lieutenant seems to have suffered no punishment for disobeying his superior officer, perhaps because the English were pleased to be rid of Rale, or because Jaques was Capt. Harmon’s son-in-law.

The Jesuits sketch a scene in which Rale went out into the village center, alone, hoping to draw attention away from the Wabanaki so that they might escape. He was “ shot down without mercy at the foot of the giant cross in the middle of the mission.” Though Rale had never intended it, he had become a martyr in the cause of Catholicism.

Both sides agreed that the English disrespected Rale’s body, culminating with his scalping.

That day English soldiers also killed Obomsawin, the Wabanaki leader who had been a thorn in their sides since King William’s War thirty years earlier. They also killed Obomsawin’s immediate family: his wife; as well as their daughter, and her husband, and children.

All told, the English and Ulster Scot soldiers “massacred nearly two dozen women and children.” They also burned the Wabanaki farms, effectively destroying the village. Native survivors moved north to St. Francis (Aroostook County, Maine) or Becancour (Quebec).

Col. Harmon, as had been his practice when he fought at York years earlier, brought physical proof of his successful raid to Boston–four prisoners of war and the scalps of twenty-six dead enemies, including Father Sebastien Rale. The prisoners were valuable to colonial forces for their information and for future use as bargaining chips. The scalps, though, were valuable to Harmon’s company for the bounty paid for each one.

Maine & NH 1839 cr

Map of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut by Burr, David H. Publisher: John Arrowsmith. 1839. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection. Accessed & annotated May 19, 2017. Lovewell Raid 1 in red: Dunstable, NH to White Mountains. Lovewell Raid 2 in blue: Dunstable to Wakefield. Lovewell Raid 3 (Battle of Pequawket): new Fort Ossippee to Fryburg, Maine.

The Mainers’ success at Norridgewock encouraged other English soldiers to collect scalping bounties. One such man was Capt. John Lovewell who led three raids on New Hampshire and Maine Wabanaki. The first two raids were successful, netting the soldiers £1200. They celebrated their win by parading through Boston, led by Lovewell who wore a wig fashioned from some of the scalps.

Lovewell’s third expedition brought him to what is now Fryeburg, Maine, home to the Pequawket tribe. On May 9, 1725, while Lovewell and his men chased a lone Wabanaki through the woods, Pequawket leader Paugus set up an ambush. Ultimately, after a daylong battle, Paugus and Lovewell were both dead and only seventeen English soldiers out of the original forty-six made it back to their fort in Ossipee, New Hampshire.

Maquoit Marsh

Maquoit Marsh. Image by Barbara A. Desmarais. May 9, 2017.

Meanwhile, perhaps thanks to military patrols, Merrymeeting Bay had been quiet for nearly a year. Then, on April 13th, Private James Cochran, who was stationed at Maquoit, went hunting for birds on the nearby marsh. There, two Wabankis captured the young Ulster Scot and took him by canoe to Ten-Mile Falls (Lisbon).

Private Cochran spent the first night tied up, expecting to be killed as soon as Native reinforcements arrived. T he second night, the Wabanaki soldiers untied Cochran, and placed him between them to sleep. As soon as the guards fell asleep, Cochran tried to escape, waking one of his captors. Since each Native kept “his hatchet under his head and his gun by his side,” the terrified Cochran quickly changed his movement, pretending to warm himself. Satisfied, his guard slept once more.

Cochran, heart in his throat, hardly daring to breathe, waited. Once all was quiet, he pulled the hatchet from the newly sleeping man and killed him. When the second guard awoke, Cochran killed him, too. He scalped both men as proof of kill and commandeered their guns and hatchets.

Then he ran for his life.

When he forded a cold river high from spring melt and rain, Cochran lost a gun and the scalp of one Wabanaki soldier. Finally, exhausted, wet, and cold, he arrived on the Topsham bank of the Androscoggin, in view of Fort George. The soldiers, hearing his cry for help, launched a boat to bring him across to the fort.

The fort’s commander, Capt. Gyles, sent out a search party who found the dead men and their canoe up river. They brought the canoe back to Brunswick, but there is no record of whether or not they buried the two Wabanaki soldiers.

Cochran, James headstone

Image of James Cochran (1710-1795) tombstone by D. J. Goldman, 12/16/2009. Accessed April 25, 2017.

James Cochran was “both rewarded for his bravery and promoted in his rank.” Sometime after war’s end, he left for Londonderry, New Hampshire, where he became a farmer, and lived to be eighty-five.

Next Blog: Beyond the Grave: Alternative Facts


  • Charland, Thomas. Rale, Sébastien, Dixtionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2. University of Toronto/Université Laval. 1969, rev. 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.
  • Dummer’s War. Updated December 17, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2017.
  • Lapomarda, Rev. Vincent A., S. J., The Cause of Sebastian Râle (1652-1724): In comemoration of the 275th anniversary of his martyrdom (23 August 1999). © 1999-2006 Accessed May 18, 2017.
  •  Maine An Encyclopedia: Bomazeen. Modified October 8, 2013. Accessed May 18, 2017.
  • McKeen, John. Four Lectures on the History of Brunswick. Brunswick, Curtis Memorial Library, 1985. Call No. 974-191.
  • Sylvester, Herbert Milton. Indian Wars of New England, Volume 3. Heritage Books, Inc., October 6, 2010. ISBN-10: 0788410792, ISBN-13: 978-0788410796. Accessed May 18, 2017.
  • Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878., accessed April 17, 2017.
  • Yale Indian Papers Project: Bomazeen, – 1724. Accessed May 18, 2017.
Posted in Brunswick History | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Love Well, Love War: Part 2: Love to War

Norridgewock 1754 antd

A Plan of Kennebek & Sagadahok Rivers. 1754.

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.

Downtown Brunswick 5.5

Brunswick & Topsham, Maine. Google Maps. May 5, 2017.

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. 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. 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., accessed April 17, 2017.
Posted in Brunswick History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Well, Love War: Part 1: Love God

Norridgewock 1754 antd

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.

Baxter, Joseph deed crpd

Excerpt from deed to Joseph Baxter & Joseph Metcalf for farm on Arrowsic Island. Complete image at

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.

Brunswick Maquoit blockhouse

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.) Accessed Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Johnston, Thomas & Thomas Kitchin. Map: A Plan of Kennebek & Sagadahok Rivers. Commissioned by Pejepscot Proprietors. 1731-1754. 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 from collection newyorkpubliclibrary; american; New York Public Library, Call number b6870121. 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. 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., accessed April 17, 2017.
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Beyond the Grave: A Jury of Her Peers 

As so often happens, my research for the upcoming Love Well, Love War blogs is taking me in unexpected directions. While I find my way, please enjoy meeting one of the colonial women I was reminded of while researching the Location, Location, Location series.

Susanna York Deed ed2

Susanna A Negro Woman. York County, Maine, Deed Register, Book XVII, Fox. 328. p 858,, accessed March 20, 2017.

Though traditional histories of colonial Maine focused on the lives of English men, deeds at the York County courthouse reveal that women were here, too. For instance, two colonial women, “Negro slave” Susannah and “servant” Lydia Felt, testified in support of Capt. John Giles when he laid claim to land at Pemaquid and Pleasant Point. (see This Land WAS My Land)

Two other women, Mistress Jone and Merget Stevens, witnessed the 1672 document from Native sagamores, Sagettawon and Robin Hood, indenturing Merriconeag Neck to Nicholas Cole and John Purinton. That deed wasn’t recorded until 1725, more than fifty years after the fact when John’s daughters, Mary (Purinton) Carr and Elisabeth (Purinton) Conner, needed to prove ownership in order to sell their shares of the land.

Mary and Elisabeth Purinton were my 7th great-aunts. Their grandparents, George and Mary (Pooke) Puddington, left Devon, England in 1634, quite possibly to elude creditors after the family’s woolen mill burned down. They landed in Massachusetts but soon set up as innkeepers at Agamenticus, in the Province of Maine. To make their inn welcoming to locals and travelers alike, they installed a brewing furnace to make ale, and herded cows to supply milk for drinking and cream to churn into butter.

Jury of her peers map

Four hundred years ago, Agamenticus was on the edge of nowhere, a place where English immigrants who were uncomfortable or unwelcome in Puritan society might make a living fishing, trapping, and trading. The small community was far away from the resources of the larger settlements in and around Boston; the nearest neighbors were the Native Wabanakis with whom the English alternately traded and fought. By necessity, the settlers depended on one another both for friendship and for protection. As Mary Puddington could attest, the intimacy of the settlement made secrets exceedingly hard to keep.

Mary, it seems, tried to carry on a clandestine affair. She succeeded at the affair part but failed miserably in the clandestine department. Court records detail the scandal:

…often frequenting the House and company of Mr. George Burdett, minister of Agamenticus aforesaid, privately in his bed-chamber and said Mary was often forewarned thereof, by her said Husband, and the Constable of the said Plantation with divers other; and for abusing her said Husband to the great disturbance and scandal of the said plantation, contrary to the peace of our Sovereign Lord King.

Her paramour, Rev. Burdett, was prosecuted and fined ten pounds for two affairs, one with Mary and another with Ruth Gouch. Mary was ordered to kneel before her husband and apologize to him in public. He, in the meantime, came drunk to her trial, leading to his own court appearance not long after.

Mary’s life on the harsh coast of Maine must have been exceedingly dreary and hopeless for her to continue a forbidden relationship that was known to her husband, as well as her neighbors. Perhaps she believed her lover would take her away from a troubled life, maybe even back to England. What she might not have realized was that Burdett was a charismatic con man. The radical preacher of free love, and disgraced former governor of New Hampshire, still had a wife and family in England.

We’ll never know why Mary consorted with Burdett because no one at the trial asked. That may be because there were no women as either judge or jury; only men had the right to pass legal judgment. In fact, it wouldn’t be until 1975 that all 50 states recognized a woman’s right to serve on juries.

Mary persevered in the Maine wilderness, raising six children in her husband’s household. Another document, George Puddington’s will, hints that for the rest of his life he reminded his wife of her sin by touting his own faithfulness.

Puddington will p2 crpd

Excerpt from will of George Puddington. accessed March 14, 2017.


Excerpt: First as concerning my wife with whome I Coupled my Selfe in ye fear of God refuseing all other women I link my Selfe unto her, living with her in ye Blessed State of Honourable Wedlock, by whom alsoe by the Blessing of God I have now two Sons and three daughters, John & Elias Mary Frances and Rebecca.

Puddington’s will omitted any mention of Sarah, the daughter Mary bore after her affair with Burdett. One wonders if he ignored the girl in the household as well, either pretending she didn’t exist or treating her as a servant. Both Mary and Sarah prevailed in the only way available to them. Widowed Mary took a second husband, John Davis, and Sarah married John Penwell (Pennell).

Though American history often ignores their existence, colonial women were documented in deeds, court records, and wills. While men owned the land, made the laws, and seemingly controlled the lives of their wives and children, somehow these women of the New World managed to reveal themselves as vital individuals worthy of remembrance.

Next Blog: Love Well, Love War


  • Purinton vs Puddington: The surname is spelled in various documents as Puddington, Purrington, Purington, and Purinton. I chose to use the name as spelled in the two documents cited in this blog.
  •  Agamenticus: Agamenticus in the District of Maine was renamed Georgeana, then York.


  •, Maine, Wills and Probate Records, 1584-1999 and George Puddington-Facts. Accessed March 14, 2017.
  • Maine Genealogical Society (1884-) York County Deeds, Register of Deeds, Vol. 15. Originally published 1642 by the Register of Deeds of York County. Printed by E. C. Bowler, Bethel, Maine, 1907.  Online source from collection newyorkpubliclibrary; american; New York Public Library, Call number b6870121. Accessed March 20, 2017.
  • State of Maine York County Deeds, Register of Deeds, Vol. 17. Originally published 1642 by the Register of Deeds of York County. Published for the State by E. C. Bowler, Bethel, Maine, 1909. ibid. Accessed March 20, 2017.
  • Registry of Deeds, York County, Maine. 45 Kennebunk Rd., Alfred, Maine.
  • Taylor v. Louisiana 419 U.S. 522 (1975) re: Louisiana requirement that a woman must register her desire for jury service in order to be selected for same. Accessed March 20, 2017.
  • Thompson, Robert Chandler, 1917-. Gathering in Maine…A Family History, Thompson, Chandler, Freeman, Fields. Sun City, Arizona, 1989.
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Location, Location, Location-Part III

This Land BELONGS to You and Me


Wild blueberry field at Welch Blueberry Farm. Accessed February 11, 2017.

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.


Maquoit Blockhouse, Brunswick, Maine. Adapted from Southicke map by Barbara A. Desmarais, Feb. 2017.

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.


Irish spinner and spinning wheel. County Galway, Ireland. Between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Library of Congress.

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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