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them was a combat with the giants of the forest. Many of
them were experts in such a contest.

"Deep echoing groaned the thickets brown,
Then rustling, crackling, crashing, thundered down."

His acre per day was not then, as now, a feat for the axe-
man to boast of. A clearing made, shelter for himself and
family must next engage his energies. Although the for-
ests afforded abundant timber, no friendly sawmill was at
hand to cut it into boards. These had to be transported on
a drag made for the purpose, from a distant town, over a
road, of which the construction and repairs consisted mostly
in spotting the trees for the guidance of the teamster. At
length industry and perseverance conquer. A dwelling
deemed comfortable, if not elegant, is ready for the family.
The walls of the house, first occupied by my father, were
made of nicely hewn pine timber, locked together at the
corners. The house was of sufficient size for three rooms be-
low. Above stairs were the dormitories for the bairns and
occasional lodgers, but " the spare-bed " occupied a more de-
sirable situation below. The fire-place and lower part of
the chimney were built of carefully selected stone, and the
continuation sky-ward was constructed of sticks and clay
mortar. This house was occupied as a dwelling until 1809,
and afterward as a workshop, until about 1830, when it was
torn down. At first a rude hovel was all that could be af-
forded for the shelter of gentle " Brindle " and her associates.
■ Clearing up the forest and building rude dwellings were
not all that was required of the pioneer. His increasing
family must be fed, clothed and educated to the extent of his
means, and all was to be done, not by the use of ready capi-
tal, but by his own untiring industry. The soil is hard and
rugged, his implements of husbandry are rude, his flocks
are assailed and diminished by the prowling wolf and bear,



and his harvested grain must be sent to a distant town (Saco),
to prepare it for the skillful hands of the ever-busy house-
wife. If he is so fortunate as to have a surplus of farm
products, they are to be transported to a distant market,
over an almost impassable road intercepted by streams un-
bridged, over rocky hills, and through muddy swamps, and
when the tedious journey is accomplished, he finds but a
pittance remaining for the wants of his family. His chil-
dren for years have no teacher but the parent, and when at
length a change for the better comes, one school, supported
by contribution, suffices for an extended settlement. By
and by, " in revolving years," the first step in the true path
is taken, and the full sum of two hundred dollars is raised
by taxation for the support of the district school.

Among the recreations of that early period, hunting was a
favorite pastime. The black bear and deer were quite plen-
ty, but the noble moose and the cowardly wolf were only
occasional visitors. Owing to his fondness for the settlers'
flocks, the bear was selected by all the best hunters as a fit
subject for their finest skill. Meshach Libby, being on a
tour of observation, came in sight of one honestly taking his
dinner in the boughs of an oak, while an agile deer was
quietly helping herself to the fallen acorns that chanced to
escape the jaws of her clumsy companion above. Mr. Libby
looked kindly on the game under the tree, but to the de-
stroyer of his gentle flocks no mercy was due. Down tum-
lebs bruin, not in the embraces of death, as Mr. Libby had
fondly hoped and expected, but little hurt and undaunted by
the noise of gunpowder or the presence of man, and ready
for the tug of war, — war ao;o;ressive to the fullest extent of
his powers. Mr. Libby at once sought a large tKee near by,
hoping that its branches might afford some means of escape,
but with bruin in such hot pursuit climbing was out of the
question. After many turns about the tree, and having the



advantage of " the inside track," Mr. Libby had a little time
to take breath and, perhaps, to reflect upon the situation.
However this may have been, he did recollect that his gun,
like Chamberlain's in the fight with Paugus, was self-prim-
ing. Acting on this suggestion, but at the same time brisk-
ly keeping up his flight around the tree, he pours the powder
from the ready horn, drops the ball in its place, strikes the
breecli with his hand, turns suddenly, and his pursuer is
stretched on the race course in the agonies of death.

As an incident of the times, it may not be out of place, in
this connection, to mention another encounter of like kind.
A hunter from Parsonsfield, by the name of Kezar, occa-
sionally visited the old hunting grounds of the Pequawkets,
in pursuit of his favorite game, the surly monarch of these
forests. Ordinarily, the black bear is a cowardly brute, and
rarely exhibits any traits of bravery, but let the family cir-
cle be suddenly invaded, the latent ferocity of the mother is
at once aroused to the highest pitch of frenzy. Kezar, in
one of his excursions near the base of Rattlesnake mountain,
unexpectedly found himself confronted by this ferocious an-
imal, and almost in her ugly embraces, before he was aware
of her presence. No time was allowed him for retreat or
preparation. Unfortunately it was lunch time, and his gun
could not at once be grasped. She, erect as himself and
with distended jaws, rushed upon him. In a moment a dar-
ing thought occurred to him and was instantly acted upon.
His hunting knife was thrust through the open jaws into her
throat. Human prowess, guided by intelligence, triumphed,
but Mr. Kezar's lacerated and bleeding arm showed how
dearly bought was the victory.

Generally, no personal danger was apprehended by the
settler from any and all of the hairy denizens of the forest,
but not so as to the reptile tribe. The rattlesnake had made
a lodgment here, and the life of every person was in jeop-



ardy who might incautiously set foot upon, or otherwise mo-
lest, one. Many of these reptiles were killed in all parts of
the plantation, but a large number seemed to seek their win-
ter quarters m the ledges of the hill east of the upper Spec-
tacle pond and in the ledges of the hill known as Rattlesnake
mountain. At a certain time in the fall and spring they
were much more plenty in the vicinity of these hills than
elsewhere. In the spring of 1820 Oliver Stacy and a
neighbor killed eleven in about one hour on Rattlesnake

Although so numerous and their bite generally fatal, no
one within the limits of the town was ever materially in-
jured by them. Ivory Merifield, perhaps a half century ago,
was bitten upon the finger, but he, doubtless, saved his life
by immediate and long continued suction of the wound.
About forty years since, a large one crawled into the entry
of a school-house in the western part of the town. While
the only door to the school-room was thus guarded, the
teacher by chance discovered her unwelcome visitor, and
having helped one of her scholars out of a window, a neigh-
bor at once came to the rescue. This species of reptiles
seems now to be extinct in this town, none having been seen,
to my knowledge, for many years.


Friday, Jan. 19, 1810, has been justly called " The Cold
Friday." A citizen of this county wrote in his diary of that
date : " The Cold Friday. Last evening the weather was
mild, but in the night the wind arose and blew terribly."
Houses and barns were unroofed or completely demolished.
The thermometer at Portland fell to 14° below zero, and in
the country towns still lower. We who have never been
exposed to such an atmosphere, driven onward at a velocity


of fifty or sixty miles an hour, can have no conception of its
life destroying power.

A lady, who distinctly recollects that eventful day, in-
formed me that her father, in repairing some damage done
to his barn doors, had his ears and face badly frozen, al-
though he was exposed to the cold but a few minutes at a
time. To young children, and to the aged and infirm, ex-
posure for much length of time was fatal. One family, hav-
ing their house unroofed, attempted to reach a neighbor's
living at tlie distance of about half a mile. A sleigh was
obtained by the husband and father, but it was useless, the
wind preventing its being of any benefit. The strong man
did all that could be done, but a part only of his dear ones
survived the death-blasts of that memorable day.

" May 19, 1780 was a dark day. The darkness began at
eleven o'clock a.m. and continued until midnight, thirteen
hours. It was so dark at two o'clock that a person could not
be known at the distance of two rods. The night Avas pro-
portionally dark." The above memorandum was made by
my father, who was about twenty years of age at the time.
A recent writer says: "Our parents and grand-parents
told the story of that wonderful day. It never faded from
the memory of the witnesses. The darkness extended over
all New England. In some places it was impossible to read
common print in the open air for several hours together.
Birds sang their evening song, disappeared, and became si-
lent; fowls went to roost; cattle returned to the barn-yard,
and lamps were lighted in the houses." One writer, in de-
scribing the darkness of the night, says that " a sheet of
white paper held within a few inches of the eyes was equally
invisible with the blackest velvet." No satisfactory explana-
tion of this event has ever been given.



extended over New England and a portion of New York
and Pennsylvania, having commenced, it is said, in the West
Indies, and in its northern course destroyed many vessels
before reaching our coast. A large number of buildings in
Boston and neio;hborino; towns were unroofed or blown
down. In Providence, R. I., five hundred buildings were
destroyed and fifty vessels, all that were in the harbor ex-
cept two, the force of the wind and water wrenching them
from their fastenings and driving them, with the accumulat-
ing mass of rubbish, far up the streets of the lower part of
the city. At Stonington, Ct., the tide was seventeen feet
higher than usual. In this vicinity, the damage consisted
mostly in unroofing houses and prostrating trees.

One of our early settlers wrote in his journal that his fam-
ily fled from the house and sought shelter behind some large
pine stumps that were near by, and that the forest trees in
the vicinity were torn up by the acre. A neighbor of his
then lived in his log cabin, but had a new framed house
about ready for occupancy. The family, not fully confiding
in the stability of the old or new structure, sought also a
stump protection. The log cabin withstood the gale, but the
new house was demolished. Our oldest citizens think the
uprooting of trees was the principal damage done by the
gale, in this town. We have no record of any other gale,
from the settlement of the country to the present time, that
will compare with this in severity, power, and extent. The
time of its greatest violence was between the hours of ten
and twelve on the twenty-third day of September, 1815.


For many years our aged citizens spoke of the summer
and fall of 1816 as the cold season. Bevond doubt, at no


time since the settlement of the town has the average
temperature of the season been so low as in 1816. Accord-
ing to a memorandum made by the late Dea. William Went-
worth of Brownfield, " it was cold and windy, with some
snow, on the 6th, 7th, and 8th of June, and there was a
frost on the 30th of June, 9th of July, and 22d of August."
My father's corn, although planted on high land with a
northern slope, was wholly destroyed by the fi*ost in August.
In the western parts of this state, corn, even partially
ripened, was rarely raised by our farmers. In the eastern
portions of the state, thA'e were, on June 6th, six inches of
snow upon the ground, and no corn, that year, grew there to
roasting ears. In some instances rye was not injured by the
frost, but the most of the farm crops were either greatly dam-
aged or whollv destroved bv it.

In 1817, although money was scarce, corn was worth from
$2.50 to $3.00 per bushel, and it was often difficult to obtain
it with ready money at the figures named. Our citizens gen-
erally felt the pressure of these truly hard times, but the
suffering of the poor, for the want of suitable food, was far
greater than in any other year since the settlement of the
town. One family of several persons obtained one bushel
of corn, in the winter of 1816-17, and this was their sole
resource for bread, until a crop of rye was harvested in Au-
o-ust following. One of our farmers was accustomed to tell
the story, that after the small berries had ripened in 1817, he
directed his boys when going to their labor, to work awhile,
then pick berries, and continue thus to do until night. In
this way, he said, the boys did the work without grumbling.
Another family were visited by a traveling preacher ^ who
had been accustomed to make his home with them while he
remained in the settlement. He arrived after the usual
meal time, and requested something to eat. The lady in due
time set upon the table some half-grown, fried potatoes.


She did the best she could. No excuses were made by one
party or fault found by the other.

Since the incorporation of the town, nine persons, Isaac
French, George Coolbroth, James Hartford, John W. and
Georcve W. Ridlon, Samuel Stanley, Nellie Landon, David
L RkUon, and Benjamin Downs, have lost their Hves by
drowning; Benjamin Pearl and Jackson T. Billings, m fell-
ing trees" David Coombs, in rolling logs into the Ossipee
river; James Coolbroth, by faUing from a mill dam; Wil-
liam Bickford, by the accidental discharge of his gun ; John
Stimpson, by the premature discharge of a cannon ; William
Brown, bv falling from a frame; Samuel Brooks and Relief
Libby, by being burned; Oliver Stacy, jr., and John Doug-
las, by being thrown from their carriages, and, July 8,
1869, Charleys William Day, by lightning, the only instance
of death from this cause in the town since its settlement.
We have had, also, three cases of suicide and one of fratri-
cide, the brothers having been residents and natives of York
county. Since the first settlement, no unusually fatal dis-
ease has been prevalent in town.

Had our fathers known the worth of our forest trees, they
would have left in these a legacy far exceeding in value all
other property transmitted by them to us. The white pine
^yas everywhere abundant, and by them treated as inex-
haustible and of but little account; but even during their
lifetime, some trees that had, by chance, escaped the general
destruction of their fellows, were bought, as they stood in
the forest, by ship builders for fifty dollars each. One pme
grew on the farm now owned by Oilman J. Norton, meas-


uring six feet in diameter at the height of three feet from
the ground. This tree was cut down and left to decay upon
the ground where it fell. Oak, both red and white, of ex-
cellent quality, was also abundant, particularly in the south-
ern portion of the plantation.


The first church (Congregational), composed of members
residing in the northern portion of Porterfield and in the
town of Brownfield, was organized in October, 180J:. The
Rev. Jacob Rice from Henniker, N. H., was installed as
pastor at the same time. His salary, as agreed upon, was
one bushel of wheat per year from each member of his par-
ish or other citizen who might be able and disposed to con-
tribute to his support. He continued his ministerial labors
here until his decease, Feb. 1, 1824, at the age of eighty-
three years. For more than fourscore years his health had
been unusually good. Upon that Sabbath morning, while
preaching in a school-house, the church of the times, he sud-
denly faltered, and in a few hours passed from his terrestrial
to his celestial home. Mr. Rice was a graduate of Harvard
college, a good man and acceptable preacher.

A Baptist church was formed in the southern part of the
plantation in 1806 or 1807, during the missionary labors of
the Rev. Lemuel Rich of Machias. No record of this
church has been preserved, but the following named persons
were members at the time of its formation or soon after :
David Moulton and wife Dorothy, Meshach Libby, Daniel
Knowles and wife Mary, Charles Nutter, Simeon Libby and
wife Hannah, Mary Libby, wife of Stephen, James Libby,
John Libby, Misses Mary, Jemima, and Sally Libby, Try-
phene Mason, wife of John, Miss Nancy Elkins, Jemima
Fox, wife of Elijah, Deborah Fox, wife of John, Miss Deb-


orali Fox, Olive Fox, wife of Edward, and Miss Abigail
Fox. They had no settled minister, but were frequently
visited by the pastors of other churches. Among this num-
ber were the Revs- Mr. Rich, Mr. Locke. of Hollis, and Mr.
Kinsman of Limerick. Their meetings were well attended
and had a salutary influence upon society.

A Free Will Baptist church was also early formed in this
part of the plantation by Elder John Buzzell of Parsonsfield.
The following ai'e the names of some of its members at or
about the time of its formation : William French and wife
Kezia, John French and wife Sally, Jacob French and wife
Mary, William Stanley and wife Susan, Bethany, wife of
Samuel Hodsdon, Joseph Stanley and wife Eunice, Ruth,
Avife of John Stacy, Henry Tibbetts and wife Hannah,
Misses Lucy and Betsey Brooks, Catharine, wife of Joseph
Pearl, and Betsey, wife of John Mason, 2d. This church
for many years was without a settled minister, but the mem-
bers held their meetings upon the recurring Sabbath, and
often listened to the fathers of the church, either at their
own place of worship, or at North Parsonsfield. Among
these were Elders Benjamin Randall, Jolm Buzzell, Aaron
Buzzell, and John Colby. The yearly meetings were held
in the spacious old meeting-house at North Parsonsfield,
when every neighborhood for miles around was well repre-
sented. The amount of good accomplished by this body of
Christians was not lessened by the want of a gorgeous church
"or other tinsel gilding of modern times. The Methodist
Episcopal Church here was formed at a more recent period.



In February, 1807, "An act to incorporate a part of the
Plantation of Porterfield into a town by the name of Porter,"
passed both branches of the Legislature of Massachusetts, and
was duly signed by Gov. Strong, on the twentieth day of that
month. By this act the boundaries of the town are thus
defined : " Beginning on the north bank of Great Ossipee
river, on the line between the State of New Hampshire and
the District of Maine, thence northwardly by New Hamp-
shire line one thousand and nine hundred and seventy rods
to a stake and stones ; thence south eighty-three degrees east
one thousand and three hundred rods to a stake and stones
on the east line of the Plantation of said Porterfield ; thence
southwardly by said Porterfield line to Great Ossipee river ;
thence up in the middle of said river to New Hampshire line,
the place begun at." Its southwestern corner is upon an
island in the Great Ossipee river, an island unknown to
fame, but of sufficient importance to be a portion of four
towns, three counties, and two states of " The Great Amer-
ican Republic."

The southern boundary of the new town, the Great Ossi-
pee river, is in 43° 43' north latitude, its western boundary,
6° east longitude from Washington, and its distance from the
Baldwin depot on the P. & 0. R. R. is five miles.



The first town meeting under the act of incorporation was
held March 20, 1807, at the dwelling-house of James Coffin,
for the purpose of choosing town officers. At this meeting
James Coffin was chosen moderator ; Hanson Libby, clerk ;
David Moulton, James Coffin, and Hezekiah Bickford, select-
men and assessors; John Stacy, treasurer; and William
French, constable and collector. The next day a warrant
was issued by the selectmen to the constable, requiring him
"in the name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to
warn the male inhabitants of said Porter, of twenty-one
years of age and upward, having a freehold estate within
the Commonwealth of the annual income of three pounds, or
any estate to the value of sixty pounds, to meet at James
Coffin's old house, on the county road, on the sixth day of
April next, at ten o'clock a.m., to give in their votes for gov-
ernor, heutenant-governor, and two senators." At this
meetincp James Sullivan had twentv- three votes and Caleb
Strong two, for governor. Levi Lincoln had twenty-one,
Andrew Fernald, one, and Edward H. Robbins, one, for
lieutenant-governor. For the office of senator, John Wood-
man had twenty-four votes, Joseph Storer twenty-three, Jo-
seph Leland three, and Andrew Fernald two.

At the second annual town meeting, held in April, 1808,
$200 were raised to defray town expenses, |100 for the sup-
port of schools, and $500 in labor and materials for repair of
highways. At this meeting the town officers for the preced-
ing year presented their accounts for services. The three
selectmen charged $38.07, the clerk 11.60, the collector
$9.20, the treasurer $2.00; total $50.77. In 1877, the
town officers, including the overseer of the town form,
charged for their services $583.20. An article inserted in
the warrant for calling a town meeting Feb. 18, 1809, was
" To see if the town will vote that all the town charges and


all the services done in and for said town, shall be paid in
produce or some other article short of the money." The
subject was referred to the next annual meeting, but was not
then acted upon.

The first requisition for a juror from this town was made
in May, 1816. On the 20th of that month WilUam French
was drawn to attend the United States court held at Port-
land. On the same day a vote for separation from Massa-
chusetts was passed, yeas 46, nays none. In September
following the vote was again taken, and the result was yeas
37, nays 8. This was strictly a party vote, the federalists
being opposed to the measure.

From an examination of the records it appears that the
town meetings were held in the house or barn of James
Coffin until Nov. 2, 1812, when first a meeting was held at
the school house in the first school district ; and the meet-
ings continued to be held therein, generally, until Nov. 1,
1824, when the north meeting house became the town house,
and was then for the first time occupied as such. At a
meeting held Sept. 20, 1819, William Towle was chosen a
delegate to the convention held at Portland to draft a state
constitution, and on the 6th of December following a .vote
was taken by the town on its ratification. The vote was
thirty-six to ratify " the constitution of the new state of
Maine " to one in opposition. April 5,1824, it was voted
to raise $400.00 for the purpose of finishing the north meet-
ing house and to secure to the town the right of holding
therein its future town meetings. It was also voted at the
same meeting " to give Elder James Sawyer" (then a Free
Will Baptist minister) " a call to preach the gospel." A com-
mittee of five was raised " to report an agreement how the
town should agree with said Sawyer." The committee re-
ported " that the town should give him the use of the lot of
land Gideon Mason lives on, and the interest of the ministe-



rial and parsonage lots of land in said town that were sold
last summer, with his " giving an acquittance of his right to
the land," (320 acres) "he might hold by being the first settled
minister in said town." Mr. Sawyer accepted the terms.
After the ministerial labors of Mr. Sawyer were finished,
the town, by a resolve of the legislature, was authorized to
hold in trust the fund arising from the sales of the reserved
ministerial and school lands, and required to appropriate
yearly its interest for the support of our public schools. In
1827, 1828, 1829, and 1830 13,000.00 in labor and ma-
terials were raised to build the county road from the line of
Freedom to that of Hiram. Each man was allowed twelve
and one-half cents per hour for himself and the same for a
yoke of oxen.

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Online LibraryThomas MoultonPorter, as a portion of Maine: its settlement, etc. (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 6)