Maine Historical Society.

Collections of the Maine historical society (Volume 25) online

. (page 1 of 34)
Online LibraryMaine Historical SocietyCollections of the Maine historical society (Volume 25) → online text (page 1 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook











Capture of the Margaretta. By George F. Talbot, . . . i

John Johnston Carruthers, d.d. By Rev. Ephraim C. Cuninilngs, ly
The Voice of Maine as heard in tlie Genesis ol' our XatiimaliLy.

By George F. Emery, . . . . . . 51

Proceedings, May 25, 1883, .83

Description of the Society's Seal, ..... 83
Testimonials to Hon. Israel Wasliburu, . . . .86

Letters of Joseph Wheaton, one of the Heroes of the Margaretta, 109

Historical Review of Literature in Maine. By Joseph Williamson, 113

Brunsvsrick Convention of 1816. By William Allen, . I^y

Captain Bartholomew Gosnold's Voyage, .... 143
Letters from General Peleg Wadsworth to William D. Williamson,

1812, ... . . . 1.53

James Loring Child. By James ^Y. Bradbury, . . . 163

Proceedings. 1883, 1884, 1885, . . . . . . 167

Persons taxed in North Parish of Kittery. 1783, . . . . 213

Resident Members, . . . . . . . 215

Captain Herrick's Journal. 1757, ..... 219

Waymouth's Voyage to the Coast of Maine, 1005. By Henry S.

Burrage, d.d. . . . . . . . 225

Traces of the Northmen. By Joseph Williamson, . . 251

The Beginnings of Maine. By James P. Baxter, . . . 273

Memoir of Judge David Sewall. By Edward P. Burnham, . 301

The Sewall Family of New England. By Rufus K. Sewall, . 306
Biographical Data and Letters of the Hon. David Sewall of York.

By Frank Sewall, . . . . . . . 30y

The Division of the 12,000 Acres among the Pattentees at Aganien-

ticus. By William M. Sargent, ..... 319

Proceedings. 1885, 1886, ...... 328

An Interesting Historical Document, ..... 332

A Moravian Colony in Maine, ..... 333

Biographical Data of David Sewall. By Rufus K. Sewall, . . 334

John Appleton. By George F. Emery, . . . • 337

A Lost Manuscript. By James P. Baxter, .... 345

William Allen. By Charles F. Allen, d.d., ... 377
Bibliographic Memorandum of the Laws of Maine. By Josiali H.

Drummond, ....".. 391
Sir John Moore at Castine during the Revolution. By Joseph

Williamson, ....... 403


Extracts from the Letters of the Jesuit Missionary in Maine,
Father P. Biard, 1612-162(). Translated by Professor Fred.
M. Warren. Introduction by John Marshall Brown, . 411

Proceedings. 1886, . . . . . . . .429

Order given at Fort Charles at Pemaquid. 1618, . . 434

The Frye Family. Communicated by William B. Lai)ham, . 435

Commissioners Proceedings at Mount Desert, 1808. Communi-
cated by William B. Lapham, ..... 439


John Johnston Carruthers, D.D.








Read before the Maine Historical Society^ June 10^ 1887.


The British attempt to apply military coercion to
the American colonies aronsed a feeling of resistance
at Machias, just as it did at Lexington, Concord and
Bunker Hill. The people of Machias of 1775, were
Yankees of the Yankees. They belonged to Massa-
chusetts and believed in Massachusetts politics and
Massachusetts religion, just as they have till today.
They entered enthusiastically and unanimously into
the quarrel of their native state, and if Massachusetts
was going to war with George III, they were going to
war with him without one thought of. the chances and
without waiting to know whether another colony or
another man was likely to back them.

When the American revolution broke out about
eighty families made their home in the old town
of Machias. With them the first consideration had
been, not that proximity so convenient for schools, for
social visiting and the easy communication which roads
and sidewalks afford, but a good site and plenty of
land, which should give a homestead for themselves
and their posterity. So with their two hundred and
fifty acre first division lots they occupied both banks
of the river, from the sea and its branches, East, West

Vol. II. 2


and Middle rivers. The sixteen seven-acre lots of the
first mill-owners made the nucleus of the village.

A lumbering community Avork energetically at
stated seasons, but have many hours and days of idle-
ness. We can fancy these first settlers, following a
habit tlieir children have never lost, gathered along
the mill brow on the north bank of the river and sit-
ting upon the great prostrate pines that here and there
skirted it, talking over the affairs of the nation. Two
coasters have lately got in from Boston. Captain Icha-
bod Jones, the prosperous merchant, who owns the
vessels and a store, is too busy, perhaps too proud a
man, to spend much time with the loafers who are
whittling in their shirt sleeves. But the captain of
the Polly, Jones' second trading sloop, is too full of
intelligence to lose the opportunity of opening his
budget before a crowd of excited listeners. It is dif-
ficult to exaggerate the importance of the captain of
a coaster in those days. He was the newspaper, the
mail and the telegraph, all combined. He brought to
the people the news, the fashions and the opinions, as
well as the hats and shoes they wore, and the bread,
pork, fish, and beans they subsisted upon. His advent
to the settlement, only a few times a year, must have
been an event important enough to draw together
from their scattered lots all the men of the colony.
They came to trade for goods, for which they were
always waiting, and to hear how the Boston people
were getting along in their quarrel with the king.
Getting along badly enough, they learned from the
sloop's captain. From resisting the Stamp Act and


throwing overboard the taxed tea it had come to actual
war. A thousand men had been marched into the
interior as far as Concord, when the farmers of the
back towns gathered at the bridge and began to fire
upon them. The regulars retreated, and militiamen,
coming up from all the country round, chased them all
da}^ to Charlestown, killing and wounding hundreds of
them. Perhaps the Polly's captain was at Charles-
town, and saw the bleeding, haggard and dusty red-
coats straggling in under shelter of the ships. Per-
haps he was in Boston the next day and saw the
wounded and stark corpses of the slain taken out of
the boats. It was great news to hear and great news
to tell ; let us believe he told it well.

It has been too much taken for granted by the local
historians that Captain Jones sided with the Tories in
the struggle for independence. If he did, it is difficult
to understand why Judge Jones, his nephew, who was
admitted into all his counsels, was such a zealous pa-
triot and republican. Captain Joaes probably felt as
merchants generally do when war, that interrupts all
their commerce and threatens destruction to all their
fortunes, impends. The difficulties with the home gov-
ernment he believed and hoped would be settled. Be-
side, he was in the enemy's power and had to make
the best terms he could. He wanted to extricate his
family and household effects, as well as his vessels,
from Boston, then in possession of the king's forces
under strict military law, and he could only do so by
agreeing to take back in his vessels cargoes of lumber
to be used in constructing barracks for the English


troops, for which he was to be fully paid. That he
stood well with the promoters of the revolution is ev-
ident from the fact tliat the selectmen of Boston fur-
nished him with a petition to the people of Machias,
desiring them not to hinder him in his enterprise. He
seems to have proceeded with the prudence character-
istic of his calling ; for before opening his hatches and
offering his goods for sale he exacted from the people
a stipulation that they, on their part, would not molest
him. He tried to get an obligation generally signed
by the citizens by which they were to bind themselves
to allow him to carry lumber to Boston and protect
him and his property. But this many of the people
refused to sign, and then, at his desire, a town meet-
ing was called, Avhich must have been somewhat stormy.
At last a vote, not unanimous, was obtained to permit
the vessels to load and sail, and Jones began to open
his hatches and retail his goods to his old customers.
But it is said he made a discrimination, refusing credit
to those who had been prominent in obstructing his
wishes, so that on the whole there was more exaspera-
tion of feeling than hearty accord produced by the
vote of the town extorted under such circumstances.
But it is probable that the permission granted in the
vote would have been carried out in good faith had
not the captain of the Margaretta unnecessarily pro-
voked a quarrel with the inhabitants.

The Machias people had received notice in some
way through the proclamation of the Provincial Con-
gress that hostilities had commenced by an invasion into
the very heart of Massachusetts and by the slaughter


of its citizensjwlio had resisted the evident attempt of the
British government to deprive them of the liberty and
right of self-government they had enjoyed ever since
their colonial charters. The Machias settlers re-
sponded to this proclamation with zeal and unan-
imity, and raised a liberty pole to stand as a
symbol of their patriotism. Captain Moor, of the
Margaretta, when he learned that the liberty pole
had been erected and what it signified, ordered
it to be taken down, under the threat of firing upon
the town. A town meeting was held and voted with
great spirit that the liberty pole should stand, but even
then Jones induced Captain Moor to withhold hostili-
ties until a fuller and larger town meeting, which he
promised should be held on the fourteenth of June, and
which should take final action in the matter. In the
meantime the leading patriots, knowing that the town
would never yield the point, looked round to see what
means they had for defense and resistance.

There was then living at East River a sort of patri-
arch of the settlement, Benjamin Foster, the father of
a numerous family, and a man, through his long life,
of great consideration in both state and church affairs.
The sixteen settlers of 1763 had brought his brother,
Wooden Foster, with them to be their blacksmith —
an artisan indispensable in an isolated lumbering com-
munity. He himself came in 1765, and, being a man
of substance and enterprise, took up a lot at East River
and built the first sawmill there. At the time of the
event I am now reciting he was about fifty years of
age, and having been present as a soldier at the first cap-


tiirc of Louisburg in 1745, and having served under Gen-
eral Abercrombie in the French and Indian war ten
years later, he was probably the man of the largest
military experience in the whole settlement. As such
he was made lieutenant of the first militia company in
1769, Judge Jones being its captain. Foster was the
most prominent man in planning and organizing the
expedition that led to the capture of the Margaretta.
The sons of Morris O'Brien, six in number — one of
them. Colonel Jeremiah, the leader — won the re-
nown of the actual capture.

Their counsels were divided. Foster was in favor
of taking possession of the now partlj^ laden sloops
of Captain Jones and making prisoners of the officers
and men of the Margaretta, their convoy. More
timid men must have urged that the town had
voted to let the sloops be loaded and depart, and it
was only on that condition that they had procured
their supplies, and it was only by performing their
promise that they could expect to be kept from star-
vation thereafter. But the coolness of Foster and the
impetuosity of the O'Briens overwhelmed all calcu-
lations of prudence. Foster, weary of the debate,
crossed a brook near which they were standing and
called out to all who favored the capture of the Mar-
garetta and the two sloops to follow him, and ulti-
mately every man stood by his side. This was Sundaj^,
the eleventh of June, 1775. Foster was a devout man,
but no doubt he believed himself to be engaged in the
Lord's business on that day.

A plan of attack was immediately agreed upon. The


English officers would be at meeting that morning. A
rude building, twenty-five by forty feet, had been built
on the site of the present town hall and used for
public worship. It had benches arranged on each
side of a central aisle. It was decided to at-
tempt to surround the church and seize the officers
during service. Part of the company remained
under Foster to do this at the proper conjuncture, and
the rest dispersed, attending church as worshipers,
though perhaps giving less heed than usual to the ser-
vices. They had brought their guns and secreted them
outside the building. John O'Brien says he hid his
gun under a board and took his seat on a bench behind
Captain Moor, ready to seize him at the first alarm.
The day was warm and fine and the windows of the
little tabernacle were wide open. A singular accident
disclosed the danger of overlooking the negro element.
In our late great war we suffered everywhere delay,
disaster, and defeat by not taking the negro into our
counsels. Just so it happened to the Machias patriots.
I have no doubt Parson Lyon was fully possessed of
the plot his flock was engaged in. The able, highly
educated and eccentric Parson Lyon was called as the
first settled minister at Machias, from Nova Scotia, and
like many other people of that province who after-
ward fled to the States, was a zealous Whig. There
were warlike sentiments in the old familiar psalms he
might have selected that morning without exciting the
suspicion of the English officers in their gay uniforms
and decorous demeanor. But London Atus, the ances-
tor of all the Atuses, the colored servant of Mr. Lyon,


had not been taken into the confidence of the military
leaders. In some perch of a negro pew, with a better
outdoor view than the body of the congregation, he
got sight of armed men — Foster's band — crossing a foot
bridge that connected two islands on the falls, and giv-
ing an outcry, leaped out of the window. The Eng-
lish officers followed his example, and by the time
Foster's force had reached the meeting-house they had
reached their vessel and Jones, who was to have been
made a prisoner, had fled and secreted himself in the
woods. Captain Moor weighed anchor at once and
proceeded down the river. The excited public fol-
lowed on each bank of the river, keeping up a harass-
ing musketry fire but at too long range to be danger-
ous, and shots were fired from the cutter. Foster
and O'Brien then determined to seize Jones' sloops
and pursue the cutter. One of these — the Polly —
could not have been in a condition to be available.
Perhaps she was already too heavily laden, but the
O'Brien's took possession of the Unity, Jones' other
sloop, and during the rest of Sunday mustered a
crew of volunteers, numbering in all about forty
men, and Foster went to the East River to get a
schooner there and a volunteer crew to join in the

Early the next morning they proceeded down the
river from both villages. The East River vessel got
a-ground and had no share in the battle. Of the party
on board the Unity only half had muskets and for
these there were only three rounds of ammunition-
The rest had armed themselves with pitchforks and nar-


row axes. So sudden and impulsive had been the expedi-
tion that up to this time it had been an unorganized
mob. But as, with a favoring wind, they sailed down
the river they had leisure to complete their plans.
Jeremiah O'Brien, the oldest of the brothers, was made
captain, and Edmund Stevens, lieutenant, and know-
ing they had no powder to waste in long shots they
determined to bear down on the enemy's ship, board
her and decide the contest at once upon her deck.

Nothing can be more beautiful than the aspects in
summer time of the trebly branching river and of the
estuary inclosed between sheltering islands and steep
and rocky cliffs that make its port. How much more
beautiful it must have been before the ax had thinned
the forest, and fires had bared the shores and islands,
not only of the ancient forest, but of the soil that
supported it, and left the blanched, bleak rock to be
reflected upon the quiet surface of the sea, where the
inverted woods once spread their margin of green !
Little eye had those stalwart youths for all that beauty ;
the splendor of their heroism has fairly outshone it alb
beautiful as it may have been.

Where was the East River schooner and its brave
commander ? These daring volunteers did not know ;
they did not wait for her. Forty undisciplined men
are in chase of a vessel armed with sixteen swivels
and four four-pounders, with a complement of men,
without any thought of the peril of their adventure.
The bravery at Lexington and Concord, where several
hundred militiamen fired upon retreating regulars
from behind trees, fences, and stone walls, or on Bunk-


er Hill, where, mainly behind earthworks sheltered
from shot, well-armed men resisted three successive
assaults of a line of battle, was certainly not greater
than that. I do not know of any feat in all the war,
or of any war, that for daring and desperate courage
can be compared with it.

As the sloop opened out into the broad river below
Machiasport village the enemy they were in pursuit of
came in sight and soon within hailing distance. Moor
hailed the sloop and told her to keep oE or he would
fire. O'Brien shouted back a demand for surrender,
and Stevens an emphatic defiance. Moor withheld his
fire, and the breeze strengthening set all his sails and
tried to escape. It is easy to see that Captain Moor
owed the loss of his vessel and his life to his own hes-
itation — I cannot think to his cowardice.

When he stood out to sea again the sloop was close
upon him and a collision had become unavoidable. So
he opened fire and killed one man on board the sloop.
The sloop answered with a volley of shot, and soon
afterward the vessels came together and John O'Brien
leaped on board the cutter. Then the vessels swung
apart, leaving O'Brien alone on the quarter-deck of
the enemy. lie says seven muskets were fired at him
without effect, and when the English marines charged
upon him with bayonets he jumped over the rail and
swam to the sloop. Captain O'Brien next ran the
bowsprit of the sloop through the mainsail of the cut-
ter, and twenty of his men armed with pitchforks
rushed upon her deck. While in contact or at very
close range musket shots had been exchanged, the


assailants using all their ammunition. One man was
killed, one mortally and one seriously wounded upon
the sloop. Five were killed or mortally wounded on
board the Margaretta — Captain Moor, who was shot
through by two musket balls early in the action ;
the man at the helm; Captain Robert Avery, and two
sailors or marines. When the man at the helm fell,
the cutter broached to and was thus run into. Captain
Robert Avery was the skipper of an American coas-
ter lying in Holmes Bay and had been forcibly seized
by Captain Moor and taken on board the cutter to act
as pilot out of the river. The number wounded is not
known. John O'Brien* says the American vessel had
four killed and eight or nine wounded, and the British
ten killed and ten wound 3d. But he says himself that
he does not remember the number, but gives it upon
the authority of a letter of Captain Joseph Wheaton,
written to O'Brien, in which he claims to have been
present as one of the sloop's crew. Mr. Smith in his
history, gives the name of John Wheaton as one of
the heroes, mistaking the christian name which should
have been Joseph. I have followed Mr. Smith's state-
ment of the number of killed and wounded as more
probably correct and more nearly agreeing with local

* John O'Brien, who lived in Brunswick, Maine, the third
brother in rank of age in this famous familj^, in May, 1831, Avhen
he was eighty-one years old, gave a detailed account of the taking
of the Margaretta and of the exploits of the O'Briens in the Rev-
olutionary war. This account was taken down in writing and is
published in Yol. 11 of the Maine Historical Society's collections,
page 242.


The error by wliicli Ciiptain Moor forfeited his
vessel and his Hfe was in not using his heavy guns
while the sloop was at long range and had no effective
means of returning the fire. . When the vessels were
in contact his superior armament had become unavail-
able. The firinii: of the Americans had been close and
murderous, and when Moor fell, the midshipman Still-
ingfleet, next in command was panic-stricken and fled
below and gave up the ship. The English officers did
not know that the ammunition of their enemy had
been exhausted, and the assault was too fierce and hot
for the reloading of empty muskets. In a hand-to-
hand contest a pitchfork — not the slender and elastic
implement our factories now turn out, but such a stout
and rude double spear as Wooden Foster would forge
upon his anvil, set in a long ash pole — was a formid-
able weapon in the hands of a man who Knew tiow to
use it. The very novelty of the weapon, against
which their tactics and drill had taught them no effec-
tive guard, may have dismayed the marines. At any
rate the boarding of the cutter seems to have been the
end of the strife, and there was nothing else to do but
take care of the wounded, secure their prize, and
return to the settlement to electrify their friends with
the news of their success. They had purchased their
victory by the death of two men — Coolbroth and
McNeil. John Berry received a severe wound in his
head, for which he afterward received a pension, and
Isaac Taft and Joseph Cole were slightly wounded.
John O'Brien relates that as soon as his brother Jere-
miah was elected captain he gave leave to all who


were afraid to join in the attack to leave <mcl offered
them a boat, and that three men availed themselves of
his offer. He also says that the whole six of the
O'Brien brothers — Jeremiah, Gideon, John, William,
Dennis, and Joseph — participated in the action, and
that Morris O'Brien his father was only prevented
from accompanying them by the remonstrances of his

Beside these, let ns carefully recapitulate among
the heroes every name that tradition has preserved.
There was Edmund Stevens of Addison, who shouted
back defiance when Moor threatened to fire ; Samuel
Watts, ancestor, I think, of the Englishman's Eiver
Wattses ; Jonathan Knight, one of the first settlers of
Calais, and who has descendants there ; Steele and
Merritt from Pleasant River (the name is still preserved
in that region) ; Josiah Weston, forefather of the
Jonesboro Westons ; John Berry, Isaac Taft and James
Cole, who were wounded ; Nathaniel Crediforth, Josiah
Libby, Joseph Wheaton, William Fenderson, Ezekiel
Foster, son or grandson of Isaiah, brother of Benjamin
called the colonel) Simeon Brown, Samuel Whiting,
Elias Hoyt and Joseph Getchell, ancestor of those
well-esteemed people who have chiefly made their
home at Marshfield (he always claimed to have stepped
on the Margaretta's deck foot to foot with John
Brien), and, last of all, Richard Earle, colored ser-
vant of Colonel Jeremiah O'Brien, making good by
his courasre the indiscretion of his race that had
defeated the bloodless enterprise of the day before.

Great must have been the exultation at Machias


when the Unity and her prize came up with the
returning tide to West Falls, sobered somewhat by
grief for the slain and the general respect and regret,
whicli was felt for the untimely death of the young
English captain. As a part of the preparations of
Sunday a messenger had been dispatched to Chandler's
River to procure powder and ball, and as the men of
that settlement were all absent at Machias — many of
them, as we have seen in the expedition — two women,
Hannah and Rebecca Weston, nineteen and seventeen
years old, procured thirty or forty pounds of powder
and balls and brought them to Machias through the
woods, following a line of blazed trees, and arriving

Online LibraryMaine Historical SocietyCollections of the Maine historical society (Volume 25) → online text (page 1 of 34)