Jonathan Delesdernier Weston.

The history of Eastport, and vicinity: online

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Online LibraryJonathan Delesdernier WestonThe history of Eastport, and vicinity: → online text (page 1 of 6)
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With the view of rescuing from oblivion, some of the facts
and circumstances relative to, and connected with the early-
history of this town and vicinity, together with the hope of
gratifying a laudable curiosity on the subject, in those who
have been but little acquainted with its history, I have been
induced to collect such as have come within my own observa-
tion, as well as those I could learn from others. Such is the
nature of the subject, that very little aid can be derived from
books and written evidence, and resources are very scanty.
— Unless, indeed, they are soon collected in a more permanent
and tangible form, our early history and the events connected
with it, will soon be lost, or known only by tradition. T have
made careful inquiries, and have had recourse to all the doc-
umentary evidence within my reach ; still, I am by no means
certain of fixing your attention, or interesting you in the de-
tails I am about to give, for they are little susceptible of pol-
ish. The dry detail of dates and references, of facts and
statistics, are, necessarily, less attractive, than a well written
essay, abounding with illustration, or than biography, history,
poetry, or treatises on the sciences, where harmony of period,
melody of style, and the graces and beauties of composidon
add to the pleasure derived from the subject itself, which is
treated of.

Connected with this subject, it may not be irrelevant to ad-
vert to the history of this section of the countr.v, and that of

its boundaries, previous to its actual settlement ; and this I
propose to do, as concisely as practicable, consistently with a
full and distinct understanding of the subject.

At the close of the 16th century, the northern coast of the
American continent had become generally known to the na-
tions of Europe, several parts having been frequently visited
for the purposes of discovery, fishing and traffic. But all
knowledge of the interior country, its geography and resources,
was extremely limited, and all acquaintance with its shores,
rivers, bays and inlets was quite imperfect.

In the several voyages to this continent, we find no account
of any one who visited the waters or shores of Maine, earlier
than 1602, when Bartholomew Gosnold, an English navigator,
is supposed to have fallen in with some part of the coast of
Maine. But in the following year, Martin Pring, in the
Speedwell, a vessel of fifty tons, with a crew of thirty men
and boys, accompanied by another vessel, the Discover-
er, of twenty-six tons, with thirteen men and a boy, sailed
from Milford-Haven, and, on the seventh of June, fell in with
the coast, in the waters since called Penobscot Bay, but by
the French called ' Pentagoet.' Thence he sailed along the
coast to Piscataqua ; thence farther southward, and for home
in August. Pring also made a second voyage in 1606. — The
subsequent voyages of others, added still more to the stock of
knowledge of the country, and to the thirst of gain expected
to be derived from it.

The French, as well as the English, were repeating their
visits to this northern country every year, and making it, at
home, a favorite topic of conversation and inquiry. Purchass,
an early writer, states that one Savelet, an old mariner, had,
before 1609, made no less than forty-two voyages to these
parts. — Both nations were highly elated with ideas of exten-
sive foreign dominions, and the prospect of an abundant com-
merce ; but the means and measures best fitted for their at-
tainment, were unknown, as well to the sage as the speculator.

It was a great misfortune to those nations, and no less to this
country, that they both coveted the same territories, using all
practicable means to establish, in themselves severally, the
most plausible title to their claims. Twenty years before,
Humphrey Gilbert had taken formal possession of Newfound-
land, and the region two hundred leagues about it, in behalf of
Queen Elizabeth ; and the Marquis de la Roche was commis-
sioned by the king of France, to conquer and colonize all the
regions bordering on the St. Lawrence, and unlimited in ex-
tent. The people of both nations were resolved in their pur-
poses ; and, with such objects in view, and with the rival feel-
ings of each towards the other, it might easily be foreseen
that these counter-possessory claims would produce the se-
verest excitements, if not actual war.

By a royal patent of November 8th, 1603, King Henry
IV., of France, granted to Pierre de Gast, Sieure de Monts,
all the American territory between the fortieth and forty-sixth
degrees of north latitude, and appointed him Lieutenant Gen-
eral of this extensive region, with authority to colonize and
rule it according to his discretion, and to subdue and christian-
ize its native inhabitants. The name given in the patent was
'Acadia,' or 'Acadie.' This charter or patent, having no
other boundaries or confines than the degrees of latitude
mentioned, was found to embrace the American coast, be-
tween the island of Cape Breton and the shores below the
mouth of Manhattan, now the Hudson or North river. De
Monts, during the winter, procured and equipped two vessels,
and sailed for America March 7th, 1604, and arrived the
6th of May following, at Cape de la Heve, near Liverpool,
on the southerly side of the peninsula of Nova Scotia. He
was accompanied by his friends, M. de Potrincourt, and Samuel
Champlain, who was his pilot. Leaving la Heve, they sailed
northerly round Cape Sable, and eastwardly along the north-
ern shore of Nova Scotia, entered a spacious basin, and an-
chored in a good harbor. Potrincourt was charmed with

the beauty of the place, and determined to make it his future
residence. He obtained a grant of it from de Monts, which
was afterwards confirmed by the King, and gave it the name of
Port Royal, now Annapolis ; and here his party dwelt for sev-
eral years.

In exploring the Bay of Fundy, de Monts visited the river
St. John, and gave it the name it has ever since borne.
Thence he proceeded into the waters of Passamaquoddy, as-
cended the Schoodic, to a small island, which Champlain se-
lected for a resting place and a fortification, and here they pass-
ed the winter. As Passamaquoddy Bay and the river Schoodic
now form a part of the eastern boundary of this State, a
more particular account of its first discovery and situation,
may not be uninteresting. But as I propose again to recur to
this part of the subject, at a subsequent period of this Address,
I prefer to continue the regular chain of the narrative, unin-

De Monts and his men called the bay ' a sea of salt water ; '
but in ascending the river, found it an inconsiderable one, and
admitting vessels, even on the tide, to no great distance. The
island itself, containing but a few acres, they called St. Croix,
because ten leagues higher, there were brooks, which came
' crosswise, to fall within this large branch of the sea ' — a
circumstance which has given to the Schoodic the same name.
The island is situated just opposite the northeast corner of
Robbinston, just below the Devil's Head : its soil is fertile, and
is usually the residence of one family. It is often call-
ed Neutral Island, and was the property of the late General

L'Escarbot, who was himself with de Monts in this voyage,
and afterwards published a history of it, says, of the island,
' it was half a league in circuit, seated in the midst of the
river ; the ground most excellent, and abundantly fruitful ;
strong by nature and easy of defence, but difficult to be found.
' For,' says he, ' there are so many isles and great bays to pass.

(from the St. John,) before we come to it, I wonder how one
ever pierced so far as to find it. The woods of the main land
are fair and admirably high and well grown, as in hke manner
is the grass. There is right over against the island, fresh water
brooks, very pleasant and agreeable, where divers of M. de
Monts' men transacted their business, and builded certain

The season being far advanced, de Monts concluded to pass
the winter upon the island. Apprehending danger from the
savages, he erected a fortification on the north part of it,
which entirely commanded the river. The fort was sheltered
by trees, which he directed not to be felled ; and within its
walls he planted his cannon, and constructed a chapel, after the
Indian manner of building. ' Hoary snow-father being come,
(as L'Escarbot expresses himself) they were forced to keep
much within the doors of their dwellings, during the winter.
But as there was not plenty of wood, which had been too
prodigally used in building ; and a want of fresh water, which
was found on the banks of the river, strongly enclosed under
locks of ice ; they were under the necessity of procuring both
from the shores, every day.' Some of the savages were oc-
casionally bespoken ; and through fear of surprise or assault
from them, who had a lodgement at the fool of the island,
and appeared to be jealous, de Monts kept a constant watch,
night and day.

The winter was severe, and the sufferings of the people
from the scurvy, very grievous : not one wholly escaped it ;
and thirty-six out of seventy, (Ogilly says ninety-seven,) ac-
tually died before the Spring. At the usual seed-time, they
prepared a piece of ground and sowed it with rye ; and, being
absent in the firsts eason of reaping, they gathered, in the sec-
ond year, a growth of it, in the narrator's words, ' as fair, big,
and weighty as in France.' This being a mere temporary
residence, could never have assumed any considerable im-
portance, had it not been the first pretension of a settlement


in Acadie. L'Escaibot adds, * the people that be from St.
Jolin's river to Kennibeki, wherein are the rivers St. Croix
and Norombegua, are called Etechemins.'

When the survivors of the party had sufficiently recovered
their strength, de Monts put his provisions and arms on board
his pinnace, and about the middle of May, 1605, he and his men
embarked in search of a more convenient station, and a warm-
er climate. In ranging along the coast westwardly, they enter-
ed the bay of Penobscot, which, with the neighboring country,
some European adventurers had previously understood by the
natives, was called Norombegua. At Kennebec, they erected a
cross, and took possession in the name of their King ; and, after
visiting Casco Bay and Saco River, proceeded to Cape Cod.
But unsatisfied with the country, as a place of settlement, they
returned to St. Croix, and soon proceeded to Port Royal.
Here he met M. Dupont, with an accession of forty men, with
fresh supplies, in a ship from France ; and, removing the re-
mainder of his property from the island St. Croix across the
bay, he lodged it with his other stores at the mouth of the river
emptying into the basin of Port Royal. At this place he con-
structed a fort ; and, having made due disposition of his affairs,
sailed for France, leaving Dupont, Champlain and Chauvin to
explore the country and complete the settlement.

The expedition of de Monts drew the attention of the En-
glish to this side of the Atlantic. To avoid the jealousy of
the French, and at the same time to secure the advantages of
prior possession and continual claim, George Weymouth was
despatched on a pretended voyage of discovery of a north-
west passage. He sailed March 31, 1605, and made the
land near Cape Cod, and thence coasted eastwardly as far
as Penobscot. He stopped at a place, called, by him, ' Pente-
cost Harbor,' now George's Island Harbor, at the mouth of
George's River. ' Here,' says the Journalist, ' on the twenty-
second of May, we digged a garden, sowed pease and barley
and garden seeds, which, in sixteen days, grew up eight inch-

es ; although this was but the crust of the ground and much
inferior to the mould we afterwards found on the main.' Wey-
mouth, by treachery and force, seized and carried away a
Sagamore, and three other Indians of rank and influence, and
otherwise ill treated the natives. A forfeiture of trade and
hospitality, hatred of the English name, revenge and cruelties
were the consequences of these and much baser improprieties ;
and more than counterbalanced the fruits of the voyage, and
the possession taken of the country. Such conduct was in
the highest degree impolitic and unjust, though it seemed not
to be much regarded or reprobated at home.

On the 10th of April, 1606, about two years and a half af-
ter the grant to de Monts, a charter was obtained from king
James I. of England, of the vast extent of territory, lying be-
tween the 34th and 46th degrees of north latitude, and from
the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, including all the islands with-
in one hundred miles of the coast. This immense tract was
divided into two colonies ; the first, granted to a London Com-
pany, extended north to the 41st degree of latitude, and was
called South Virginia. The remainder, granted to a company
of adventurers in the town of Plymouth, was called North
Virginia, and covered all but one degree of the previous
French grant to de Monts. Under this charter, the adven-
turers sent out colonists in 1607. The one from Plymouth,
destined to the northern shore, consisted of two ships,
and one hundred men, under the command of Captain
George Popham, as President, and Captain Rawly Gilbert, as
Admiral, sailed on the 31st of May, and arrived at the island
of Monhegan, the 11th of August, and then continued on, to
the Kennebec, where they planted themselves upon an island,
in the mouth of that river. Thence they removed to the
main land, built a commodious house, barn, and a few slender
cabins, erected a fort, block-house, he, which they named
Fort George, (afterwards called Popham's Fort,) and forty-
five of the colonists passed the winter there, the two ships


having sailed for England the 5th of December. This was
subsequently denominated the Sagadahock Colony. But a
succession of peculiarly unfavorable circumstances terminated
the existence and hopes of this colony, the succeeding year,
and the survivors returned to England.

M. Potrincourt, wishing to revive his plantation at Port Roy-
al, which had fallen into decay, procured the King's confirma-
tion of his grant, upon condition of his endeavors to convert
the natives to the Catholic faith. In 1608, he sailed, with
his son, Biencourt, and several families, intending to become
settlers, — and two Jesuits, Biard and Masse. During the pas-
sage, a sharp controversy arose between him and the ecclesi-
astics, in which he boldly told them, ' it was his part to rule
them on earth, and theirs only to guide him to heaven.' Po-
trincourt remained at Port Royal a short time, and, returning
to France, left his son in command. Disdaining to be under
the control of these priests, who assumed the control of the
civil affairs of the plantation, Biencourt threatened them with
corporeal punishment, in return for their spiritual anathemas.
Early in the Spring, therefore, the Jesuits left him and proceed-
ed westward, to an island on the coast of Maine, then called
Mount Mansel, but now called Mount Desert. Here they
constructed and fortified an habitation, planted gardens,
laid out grounds, and dwelt for five years, entering with zeal
and untiring perseverance upon the work of converting the na-
tives to Christianity. Their number was subsequently aug-
mented by the arrival of one Suassaye, with twenty-five colo-
nists, who called the place St. Sauveur. But they did not
long remain unmolested. Disputes had already arisen between
the French and English, respecting the bounds of their res-
pective grants, which, from want of information relating to the
situation of the country, ran with strange perplexity into one
another. The disposition of the French to extend their set-
tlement still farther west, was viewed with alarm by the gov-
ernment established in Virginia ; and, in 1613. Captain Argal,


was sent with eleven vessels, carrying sixty soldiers and four-
teen pieces of cannon, to dislodge them. He seized upon the
fort at Mount Desert, together with a ship and barque or pin-
nace, then in the harbor, broke in pieces the cross erected by
the Jesuits, reared another inscribed with the name of his
King, and, in this way, took formal possession of the place.
Gilbert du Thet, one of the Jesuits, was killed by a musket-
ball during the attack. Proceeding farther eastward, he took
one vessel at St. Croix Island, destroyed what remained of
de Monts' settlement, crossed the Bay of Fundy, and came to
anchor before Port Royal. The French at the time were
mostly absent from the fort. Argal, therefore, lost no time ;
and, in two hours after he had landed his men, he reduced the
entire settlement to ashes. Having accomplished his object,
he carried the ship, pinnace, ordnance, cattle and provisions,
together with part of the prisoners, including the Jesuits, to
Virginia. The French power in this quarter was thus inter-
rupted, and it was a number of years before it recovered from
the disaster. This hostile expedition took place in a time of
profound peace between the two crowns, and the reason as-
signed, was the encroachments of the French upon the terri-
tories of the English.

On the 3d of November, 1620, a new charter was granted
by King James T. to forty noblemen, knights and gentlemen,
collectively denominated ' The Council established at Plym-
outh in the county of Devon, for planting, ruhng and govern-
ing New England in America.' This charter granted, in fee
simple, the whole country situated between the 40th and 48th
degrees of north latitude in breadth ; and in length, by the
same breadth, ' throughout the main land from sea to sea ; '
embracing in fact all the country from Philadelphia to the
Bay of Chaleur. This charter expressly recognizes that of
April 10th, 1606, and premises that this country had lately
experienced, under a visitation from God, an uncommon des-
olation, by a ' destructive plague,' and ' horrible slaughters


and murders among the savages ; ' and that none other than
English subjects had any possessions within that territory. Nay,
' many places for leagues,' it was stated, ' were without native
inhabitants to challenge any interest in the lands.' Under this
charter, which existed upwards of fourteen years, were all the
grants made, which originally divided the country between the
Hudson and Penobscot rivers ; but beyond these bounds the
patent appears to have had no pracucal operation.

Sir F. Gorges, one of the most prominent men in the coun-
cil, foresaw that the French, settled at Quebec, Port Royal,
Mount Desert, Sic, though expelled by Argal, eight years be-
fore, intended to become exclusive possessors of the country,
and that efficient measures ought to be promptly adopted to
thwart their designs. A difficulty, however, arose from a de-
ficiency in the charter itself; for though it extended two de-
grees farther north than the former one, it only embraced the
Bay of Chaleur, and fell short, at least a degree, of the south-
erly bank of the St. Lawrence. To obviate this perplexity,
a conveyance was made by the Council of Plymouth, of a
large portion of their northeastern territory to Sir William
Alexander, who was Secretary of State from Scodand, and
afterwards created Earl Sterling and Viscount of Canada,
which was forthwith confirmed and enlarged by a patent from
King James I. of England, dated September 10th, 1621.

This patent to Sir William Alexander and his heirs, embrac-
ed all the lands of the continent, and islands, reckoning from
Cape Sable in about 43 degrees north latitude, along the sea-
shore to St. Mary's Bay : thence to the north, in a straight line
to the entrance or mouth of the great bay between the coun-
tries of the Souriquois and of the Etechemius, as far as the
river of St. Croix, ' and to the farthest source or spring, which
first comes from the west ; from thence by a straight imaginary
line, crossing the lands, or running towards the north, as far as
the first bay, river or spring, which runs into the great river of
Canada ; ' thence eastward by the shores of the river to the


sea ; and so on, round the peninsula to Cape Sable, and includ-
ing the islands within six leagues of the coast. This tract
was called Nova Scotia or New Scotland. Ii was granted to
Sir William and his heirs in fee simple, and without any con-
dition whatever. Under this charter Sir William sent out sev-
eral vessels, rather to make discoveries than to colonize, 'till
1624, when he transported thither some Scottish settlers, and
' after subduing the French inhabitants, or removing them to
Virginia, planted a colony there himself, and held possession
ten years, before it returned to the French,' by the treaty of
St. Germains, May 29, 1632.

New England being now brought into notice by the respec-
tability of the persons who had engaged in its cause, and es-
pecially by the profits derived from the fish and fur trade, the
intercourse was yearly increasing. Prince, in his Annals,
states that in 1621, ten or twelve ships, from the west of
England, procured full cargoes of fish and fur; in 1622, thir-
ty-five ships; in 1623 forty ships; and in 1624, fifty ships
were engaged in the same trade.

King James died in 1624, and his successor, Charles I.,
married a French Catholic Princess, By the marriage treaty
it was stipulated to recede or resign the jurisdiction of Acadia
to France. This treaty, in view of all Englishmen interested,
cast a deep shade on American affairs, and brought into colli-
sion the rights of the patentees and the engagements of the

After much exertion. Sir William, in 1625, obtained a con-
firmation of his grant, described and sanctioned with much
particularity ; but it availed him very little. His efforts for
settling the country, were feeble and inefficient, and his colo-
nists returned home. Though not yet in possession, the
French King, in 1627, made a grant to Claude St. Etienne de
la Tour, of lands, five leagues on each side of the river St.
John, and two leagues back from the shore. It is said, he al-
so obtained^ from Charles a confirmation of the grant of Sir


William to himself, and from Louis, the French King, a com-
mission, dated February U, 1631, to be Governor of Aca-

By the third article of the treaty of St. Germains, Charles
resigned to the French monarch ' all the places occupied by
British subjects in New France, Acadia, and Canada.' To
this transaction may be traced events, most important to the
northern colonies, and especially to Maine. Chalmers suppos-
es that the cause of the disputes between the colonies and
the mother country, may be traced to this transaction. The
article was artfully drafted ; no boundaries were mentioned, and
the avenues were opened for those unhmited controversies
about lines and limits, which are among the worst of national

Desirous to advance the settlement of his Acadian colony,
the French monarch made several grants. One of the first,
in 1633, was to M. de Razilla, a military officer, who had
been appointed to take the possession and command of the
country, which embraced the river and bay of St. Croix, and
the islands in the vicinity — ' twelve leagues on the sea, and
twenty leagues into the land.' Its eastern boundary probably
adjoined the western line of the patent made before to La
Tour, on the St. John's. The new grant was extensive, yet
it is not ascertained whether it did or did not extend south-
ward of the river St. Croix. Certain it is, that every other
was northward of it, except the dormant one to de Monts.

The patents of the Plymouth Council embraced the whole
seaboard, from Piscataqua to Penobscot ; but they still held,
by their charter, the territory between the Penobscot and St.
Croix, unassigned and unsold.

The new Plymouth colonists, undismayed by a piratical at-
tack by the French, in June 1632, on their trading house at
Penobscot, which was plundered of its contents to the amount
of £500, kept their station, and pursued their traffic for three
years longer, before they were {"breed entirely to abandon the


place. Besides, the next Spring they established at Ma-

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Online LibraryJonathan Delesdernier WestonThe history of Eastport, and vicinity: → online text (page 1 of 6)