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Land Titles in Old Pittston

Gardiner, Me., Historical Series. — Number One

Land Titles in Old Pittston







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By "Old Pittston" is here meant the town as it existed at
the time of its incorporation. It comprised the territory now
lying- in Pittston, Randolph, Gardiner, most of West Gardi-
ner, and part of Farmingdale.

Pittston was the fortieth town incorporated by the General
Court of Massachusetts in Maine, and the last established by
that commonwealth while acting under its royal charter.

The act of incorporation was passed February 4, 1779. It
was entitled "An Act for incorporating the Plantation called
Gardinerston, in the County of Lincoln into a town by the
name of Pittston, and for annexing- certain lands in the said
County to the town of Bowdoinham." It defined the limits
of the new town as ' 'beginning- at the north line of the Town
of Pownalborough at Kennebeck River, and to run an East
South East Course on the said North line five miles from the
said River; from thence to run Northerly about seven miles,
more or less, to the south easterly corner of the town of
Hallowell, and from thence to run West North West on the
south line of the said Hallowell, to the said Kennebec River,
and across said River, and running a West North West
course on the south line of the said Hallowell, five or six
miles to Cobbisconte stream on the west side of the said
Kennebeck River; fiom thence to run southerly down the
said stream, and as the stream runs to the first Pond, and
on said Pond or a stream to the north line of a large lot
number ten granted by the Proprietors of Kennebeck pur-
chase to the late William Bowdoin, Esq., deceased, from
thence to run an East South East course on the said north
line of the said lot, to the said Kennebeck River, and from
thence southerly down the said River to the North line of
Pownalboough aforesaid."


Lincoln County was divided in 1799, and Pittston came
within the part then incorporated as Kennebec County. In
1820 the District of Maine, until then a part of Massachu-
setts, became a separate state.

Pittston has undergone several territorial changes. The
most considerable was in 1803, when all of its territory lying
west of the Kennebec River was incorporated as the town of
Gardiner. In 1844 a tract measuring fifty rods on the river
and extending easterly one mile was annexed to it from the
town of Hallowell, and in 1855 the farm of John Barker was
set off from the town of Chelsea. Finally, by the acts of
March 4, and March 17, 1887, all of it lying north of the
south line of the Worromontogus stream became the town of

The population of Pittston according to the U. S. Census
has been as follows: 1790, 605; 1800, 1408; 1810, 1018;
1820, 1337; 1830, 1800; 1840, 2460; 1850, 2823; 1860, 2619;
1870, 2353; 1880,2458; 1890,1281; 1900, 1177; 1910,954.


The nations principally concerned in the discovery and
colonization of the New World were Spain, France and Eng-
land. Each of these at one time or another claimed to own
the soil which was afterwards to constitute Old Pittston.
Such claim was based on the right of discovery.

Spain, as the original discoverer, was disposed to extend
her sovereignty over the whole continent. But when it be-
came recognized as a principle of international law that dis-
covery, in order to create a valid title, must be followed by
occupation and settlement, she was not prepared to colonize
or defend the whole; and finding the treasures of Mexico
and Peru more alluring than the regions farther north, she
soon abandoned all of North America east of the Mississippi
except a strip along the southern border and the peninsula
of Florida.

France at first claimed all of the coast which had not been
pre-empted by Spain, and in 1603 her sovereign granted to
De Monts the territory between the 40th and 46th degrees of
north latitude, which would include most of New England


and the Middle States. But by 1713 her pretensions had so
far shrunk that she recognized the Kennebec River as her
western boundary. Her principal settlements were on the
St. Lawrence, but she had posts at Castine and Mount De-
sert, both of which have retained their French names, and
Jesuit missions were supported by her at Norridgewock and
at Cushnoc, now Augusta. The land from the Kennebec to
the St. John was long a debatable ground between the
French and the English. But by the Treaty of Paris, in
1763, France surrendered to England all of her possessions
in North America except the Island of Orleans.

The English were late comers, but atoned for their lag-
gardness by the vigor and extent of their operations. Re-
viving the story of early explorations by Cabot and others,
they also based their claims on the right of discovery, and
their supremacy on the sea made their argument a valid one.
The settlement of Jamestown and Plymouth, the seizure of
New Amsterdam from the Dutch, and the conquest of Can-
ada were only a few of the events which made England mis-
tress of all North America east of- the Mississippi, with the
exception of the Spanish possessions-in the south. When,
therefore, Pittston was incorporated in 1779, it consisted of
territory to which England had possessed an undisputed
title previous to the declaration of American independence.
It is accordingly to English grants that we must look for the
original source of land titles in Old Pittston.


Under the English constitution the power of alienating-
territory belonging to the realm was vested in the crown.
This resulted from certain principles of feudal law which we
need not stop to examine. The instruments by which such
transference of title was effected were called grants, patents,
or charters. These names appear to have been used without
any essential difference of meaning.

Previous to the reign of James I., English sovereigns had
made grants of land in North America; but as such grants
were limited in duration, or lapsed for non- performance of
their conditions, or were merged in later ones, they need not


now be considered. We may also pass over the first Vir-
ginia charter, given by James himself in 1606, for the reason
that, so far as our subject is concerned, it was superseded by
the Great Patent of November 3-13, 1620.

On that date, James I., "by the Grace of God, King of
England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the
Faith, &c.," "by the Advice of the Lords and others of our
Privy Council," granted to forty lords, knights and mer-
chants of England, all of North America between the 40th
and 48th degrees of north latitude, which would be approxi-
mately from the latitude of Quebec to that of Philadelphia,
and "from sea to sea." Subsequent clauses gave the name
of New England to this vast territory, and made the grantees
a corporate body under the title of "the Councell established
att Plymouth, in the County of Devon, for the planting, rul-
ing and governing of New England in America." In future
references to this corporation it will be called the Plymouth
Council. The land was to be held "in free and common
Soccage," which was the most liberal form of conveyance
then known to the English law. This grant, or patent, is the
fountain head of land titles in Old Pittston. This patent is
printed in full in the Collections of the Maine Historical
Society, Documentary History, Second Series, Vol. VII,
Page 20.

The grantees were not expected to betake themselves in
person to the lands of which their patent made them the
owners. But they were under obligations to provide for their
colonization, and for this purpose they proceeded to convey
certain— or in some cases uncertain — tracts or parcels to
such other persons or companies as were bold and enterpris-
ing enough to undertake their settlement.


In 1620 a company for colonization was formed in England
in which commercial and religious elements were strangely
blended. It consisted in part of "Merchant adventurers,"
who were to remain at home and share in the profits but not
the toils of the enterprise; in part of a band of religious
zealots who had already gained the name of Pilgrims by flee-


ingf from their country to Holland for the purpose of practis-
ing a form of worship not permitted on English soil. The
latter, numbering: with their wives and children one hundred
persons, set sail in the Mayflower from the port of Plymouth,
England, in September, 1620. They intended to land near
the mouth of the Hudson River, but they were carried from
their course, and were compelled by the rigors of the season
and the obduracy of the ship's captain to disembark at a
place near Cape Cod to which Captain John Smith had years
before given the name of Plymouth. There they landed
December 11-21, 1620, and began the first permanent settle-
ment in New England. The following year they received
from the Plymouth Council a grant of the land which they
occupied. The relations of the colonists with the foreign
members of the company did not prove entirely satisfactory;
so in 1627 they negotiated for the purchase of all the foreign
stock, to be paid for in instalments. The last payment was
made in 1633.


In 1625 the Plymouth colonists, then numbering about
three hundred, sent a boat load of corn to some place on the
Kennebec River to be exchanged with the Indians for furs.
The venture proved so profitable that it was repeated the
following year. A thriving trade soon grew up, and to corn
were added other articles of barter. This awakened in the
thrifty Pilgrims a desire for some land on the Kennebec for
the erection of a permanent trading post, and doubtless for
such other purposes of traffic and settlement as future devel-
opments might offer. Negotiations were entered into with
the Plymouth Council, and resulted in a new grant or char-
ter which is dated January 13-23, 1629-30. By this instru-
ment the Council confirmed to "W™ Bradford his heires as-
sociates and assignes" all their Plymouth lands, to which
more definite boundaries were assigned, and further con-
veyed to them "all that Tract of Land or part of New Eng-
land in America afores*^ which lyeth within or betweene and
Extendeth it Selfe from the utmost of Cobestcont alias Com-
asecont Which adjoyneth to the Riuer Kenibeck alias Kene-


beckick towards the Westerne Ocean and a place called the
falls of Nequamkick in America aforesaid and the Space of
fifteen English miles on Each Side of the said Riuer Com-
only called Kenebeck Riuer and all the said Riuer Called
Kenebeck that Lyes within the said Limitts and Bounds
Eastward Westward Northward and Southward Last afore
mentioned," tog-ether with "Egress & regress with Shipps
Shallops and other Vessels from the Sea Commonly Called
the Westerne Ocean to y*^ s'^ Riuer called Kenebeck and from
the Riuer to the said Westerne Ocean," &c. The full text
of the chatter may be found in the Collections of the Maine
Historical Society, Second Series, Vol. VII, Page 108.

March 2-12, 1640-41, Governor Bradford and his associates
assigned all of their rights under the patent to the freemen
of the Plymouth Colony. lb., Page 256.

The Plymouth colonists were careful to strengthen and
and extend their title by Indian deeds. The most important
of these in its actual results was one which they obtained in
1648 from Munguin alias Matahameada, which was "con-
sented unto by Essemenosque Agadodemagus & Tassuck
Chief men of ye place and proprietors thereof." The con-
sideration for this deed was "two Hogsheads of provisions,
one of Bread, and one of pease two Coats of Cloth, two Gal-
lons of Wine, and a bottle of strong waters." It conveyed
to the colony the land on both sides of the Kennebec from
Cushena (Cushnoc) to the Weserunscut (Wesserunsett) , a
small stream which empties into the Kennebec a little below
the village of Norridgewock. It will be seen that this deed
had much to do vvith fixing the northern boundary of the
Kennebec Purchase.

The Pilgrims established a trading post at Cushnoc, now
Augusta, and used the river and adjacent territory for traffic
and fishing. Shad, sturgeon and salmon are mentioned as
among the fish taken there. It was largely from the income
deiived from this source that the colonists were enabled to
discharge their obligations to their English creditors. No
efforts were made towards a permanent settlement.

In course of time the enterprise became less profitable,
and by 1661 the colonists decided to sell all their possessions
on the Kennebec, and they were sold for 400 pounds to
Antipas Boyes, Edward Tyng, Thomas Brattle and John


Winslow, merchants, of Boston. The deed was dated Oct.
27, 1661, but was not "Signed Sealed & Delivered" until
June 15, 1665. The description follows that of the earlier
grant, but "Cobestcont" in the former deed becomes "Cob-
basecontee" in the latter, which is nearer to the modern
form. Special mention is made of the Indian deed referred
to above. This deed to Boj^es and his associates is printed
in York Deeds, Vol. IX, folios 226-228, and also in the
volume of Historical Collections already referred to, page


In 1675 began the first of a series of Indian wars in Maine,
which not only checked the tide of emigration to that state,
but laid waste several flourishing settlements already estab-
lished within its borders. In consequence of these distur-
bances, the new proprietors and their heirs neglected their
lands on the Kennebec, or, like their predecessors, used
them only for fishing and trading, until 1749. In September
of that year a meeting was held in Boston of persons in-
terested in the patent either by descent or purchase ; and in
June, 1753, a corporation consisting of such persons was
formed under a law just passed by the General Court of
Massachusetts. It was called "The Proprietors of the Ken-
nebec Purchase from the late Colony of New Plimouth", but
is generally known as the Kennebec or Plymouth Company.
A list of its members in 1756 is extant, and contains among
others the names of William Brattle, Silvester Gardiner,
Florentius Vassall, Benjamin Hallowell, Charles Apthorp,
Thomas Hancock, James Bowdoin, James Pitts, Edward
Tyng, William Bowdoin, Samuel Goodwin, William Vassall,
Robert Temple and John Winslow.

The organization of the Kennebec Proprietors was fol-
lowed by a long dispute over boundaries. The source of the
difficulty may he understood from the following quotations.
"In no other section of New England were so many grants
conferred by the Great Council as within the limits of Maine,
where from ignorance, or reckless disregard of geography,
the Company issued, in quick succession, patents whose over-


lapping- boundaries caused Ions: and bitter controversies.""
(Mary F. Farnham, Collections of Maine Historical Society,
wSecond Series, Vol. VII, Page XVI.) "Grants, indefinite in
their limits, were made to individuals or to companies, were
revoked and reissued with varying- boundaries, as interest or
favor could obtain them, and from carelessness or ignorance
the same territory was covered by more than one grant.
Many tracts were also held under Indian deeds." (R. H,
Gardiner, Collections of Maine Historical Society, Vol. II,
Page 272)

The Kennebec Company claimed at first to own to the sea,
but probably without the expectation that so preposterous a
claim would be recognized. East of the Kennebec they were
antagonized by Clark and Lake, whose Indian deeds, if held
valid, would have carried them as far north as Ticonic Falls.
West of the river, the owners of the Pejepscot Patent main-
tained that the Kennebec tract did not extend south of the
Cobbossee, or at farthest of a point opposite Nahumkeag
stream, the "Nequamquick" of the original grant. There
were also disputes of minor importance with the Wiscasset
and the Pemaquid proprietors.

It was finally determined, partly by commissioners ap-
pointed by the Superior Count of Massachusetts and partly
by compromise, that the Kennebec Purchase extended from
the north lines of Woolwich and Topsham to a point one
league north of the mouth of the Wesserunsett. The south-
ern boundary was fixed by locating "the bend of the river
Cobbesseecontee which is nearest the western ocean", while
the north line "was determined by deed obtained of the
Sagamores, A. D. 1648, by the Plymouth Colony, and
another A. D. 1653, of all lands from Cushnoc to Wessarun-
set ; and by the surveys and plans of Johnson, Bane and
Bradbury, and the depositions of old men." (Williamson's-
History of Maine, vol. I, Page 236, note.) These bounds
were confirmed by a deed from the State of Massachusetts
in 1789. Finally, in 1816, it was decided that the east and
west lines were not straight, but corresponded with the bend-
ings of the river, and were everywhere fifteen miles distant
therefrom. As thus defined the entire tract was estimated
to contain 1,500,000 acres.

The Kennebec Company continued in existence until 1816,


when it sold at auction all of its lands which it had not pre-
viously disposed of and wound up its affairs. Its records
and papers, filling: many volumes, are in the possession of
the Maine Historical Society. Miss Farnham, in one of the
volumes prepared by her for that Society, says that these
papers, as well as those of the Pejepscot Company, have been
carefully indexed; but unfortunately the statement is true
only as to the Pejepscot papers.


The first efforts of the proprietors to attract settlers to
their lands were not successful. In March, 1752, they voted
to grant a tract five miles square, above the Cobbossee Con-
tee River, to three persons, on condition that one hundred
persons should be introduced within three years, but nothing:
was done towards complying with the terms. Another offer
of 21,000 acres made the following year met with the same
result. Down to 1754, the offers of seven townships had
successively failed, because the grantees in each case were
unable or unwilling to perform the conditions.

The great obstacle to settlement was undoubtedly the fear
of Indian attacks. Most of these proceeded from the north,
and as early as 1751 the proprietors had requested that Fort
Richmond be moved in that direction. In 1754 the provin-
cial governor, William Shirley, addressed a letter to the
proprietors in which he proposed that, if they would build
a fort at Cushnoc, the province would undertake the erection
of one at Ticonic. The proposition was gladly accepted,
and both forts were completed before the close of the year.
The site of the provincial fort, called Fort Halifax, is marked
by a block-house still standing in the town of Winslow. The
main building of the other fort, which was named Fort
Western, is now standing in Augusta, on the east bank of
the river, a little below the Kennebec bridge. It has been
degraded to a tenement house, but is still known as the Old
Fort. The Company also, the same year, built another fort,
called Fort Shirley, on the eastern shore of the Kennebec,
about a mile above the head of Swan Island. As a conse-
quence of the security thus afforded, the land in the neigh-


borhood of the forts was soon taken by settlers, but the terri-
tory around the Cobbossee remained still unoccupied.

A partial survey and allotment of the Kennebec Com-
pany's land were made as early as 1751. Among" the lots
then laid out were eleven west of the Kennebec River, each
measuring- one mile on the river and extending westerlj^ five
miles. They beg"an at Abdagusset Point, ten miles below
the south line of Pittston, and were numbered from south to
north. Lot No. 10 was the Bowdoin Lot, the north line of
which was made the south line of the town. No. 11 was
therefore the only one of these lots which came within the
limits of Old Pittston.

Lot No. 11 was conveyed by the Kennebec Proprietors to
Thomas Hancock, Esq., of Boston, in accordance with a vote
passed January 14, 1756, although the deed was not ac-
knowledged until March 13, 1761. It is described as
beginning at the E. S. E. end of the northerly line of a
highway eight poles wide between Lots 10 and 11, where
said line strikes Kennebec River, thence by said highway W.
N. W. five miles, thence northerly one mile, thence E. S. E.
five miles to said river, thence southerly to the boundary
line first mentioned, "and is a tract of land of five miles in
Length and one Mile in Breadth ; upon Condition that he the
said Thomas Hancock Esquire, build a House, not less than
twenty Feet Square, and settles a Family thereon, within
one Year if not prevented by a War ; Reserving to this
Proprietee, all the lands petitioned for by any Person or
persons, together with all the Actual and Seperate Improv-
ments made on the Premises, provided said lands petitioned
for, and said Improvements be granted by this proprietee,
within Three Years from the Date hereof."

May 7, 1763, Thomas Hancock deeded a part of this lot
to Jonathan Bowman "beginning upon Kennebec River at
the North line of my Thirty two hundred acre lot called No.
11 and at a Tree Marked (standing on the Bank) 11 opposite
to Nehumkeag Island," thence running on said North line
W. N. W. one mile, thence S. S. W. one hundred poles,
thence E. S. E. to said river, thence up said river northerly
to the first mentioned bounds. The remainder passed by
will to Ebenezer Hancock, who deeded it, July 16, 1772,
to "John Hancock, Merchant, of Boston, Esquire," except-


ing- the two hundred acres belonging- to Jonathan Bowman.
A part of the land is said still to be held by the Hancock

North of No. 11 was an irregnlar lot called A B. It was
triangular in shape, measured about five miles on the Ken-
nebec, and terminated twenty rods north of the Cobbossee-
contee River. It was conveyed to Silvester Gardiner by the
following deed:

To all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting —
Whereas his late Majesty King James the first for the ad-
vancement of a Colony and Plantation in New England in
America, by his highness's Letters Patents under the great
Seal of England, bearing date at Westminster the third Day
of November in the Eighteenth year of his highness's Reign
of England &c, did grant unto the Right Flonorable Lodo-
wick late Lord Duke of Lenox, George late Lord Marquiss
of Buckingham, James Marquiss of Hamilton, Thomas Earl
of Arundle, Robert Earl of Warwick, Sir Ferdinando Gorges
Knt. and divers others whose names are expressed in the
said Letters Patents and their successors, that they should be
one Body politick & corporate, perpetually consisting- of forty
persons, and that they should have perpetual succession and
one common Seal to serve for the said Body, and that they
and their successors should be incorporated called and known
by the Name cf the Council established at Plimouth in the
County of Devon, for the planting, ruling, Ordering- & gov-
erning of New England in America: and further also did
grant unto the said President and Council & their Successors
forever, under the Reservations in the said letters Patents
expressed; all that part and portion of the said Country now
called New England, in America, situate lying and being in
Bredth from forty Degrees of Northerly Latitude from the
Equinoctial Line to forty Eight Degrees of the said Latitude
inclusively and of Length of and in all the Breadth aforesaid
throughout the main Lands from Sea to Sea, together also,
with all the firm Lands, Soils, Grounds, Creeks, Inletts, Ha-
vens, Ports, Seas, Rivers, Islands, Waters, Fishing-s, Mines,
Minerals, precious Stones, Quarries, and all and singular
the Commodities and Jurisdictions, both within the said
Tract of land lying upon the main as also within the said
Islands and Seas adjoining: To have, hold possess and enjoy
the same unto the said Council and their Successors and As-
signs forever; to be holden of his Majesty his heirs and suc-

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