Rufus Sewall & Moses Davis Narratives
Narrative by Rufus Sewall
Edgecomb, spelt Edgecumbe in the act of incorporation, was settled about the year 1744 or 45 and incorporated March 5, 1774. It was so called in honor of Lord Edgecumbe. It was also called Freetown before its incorporation because as it is said a lawyer in Boston agreed with the inhabitants to defend them against the claims of all the proprietors and in consequence of this agreement they were free from the vexations suits with which their neighbors were harassed. It is not known that it was ever called by any Indian name. Since its incorporation its name has not been changed or the town divided. Its length on the main is about four miles & its breadth nearly the same. It is bounded northerly by Newcastle, Easterly by Damariscotta River which separates it from Bristol, Southerly by Boothbay & westerly the main is bounded by Sheepscot River which separates it from Jeremy Squam Island and Wiscasset. Said Island belonging to Edgecombe is bounded southerly by Mocks & Mountswig Bays, which separated from Georgetown, Woolwich & Wiscasset. It contains 15460 acres. There is no unsettled land & no woods excepting what has been reserved by individuals for woodland.
The land in general is rocky & broken by ledges as is generally the case near the sea. There is however considerable good land suitable for tillage & cultivation. The soil in general is a loam. There is but a small proportion of the clayey soil and light sandy land free from stones of an excellent quality is frequent. The town records commence the 14th day of May 1774. The first meeting for the organization of the town was called by Thomas Rice Esq. of Pownalborough May 31, 1774. There is but one county road which passes through the town from Wiscasset to Boothbay about five or six miles in length. The town raises from 800 to 1000 dollars per year to repair the highways. There is only one fresh water Pond upon the main in town, about half a mile in length of an oval form. There are two Islands belonging to this town Viz. Jeremy Squam & the Folly* the former is 11 miles in length & forms nearly one third part of the town. The latter lies opposite to Wiscasset & contains 95 acres and is the site of the U.S. fort on Sheepscot river. The first settlers went on to their farms and held them by possession. The time when generally Surveyed I cannot certainly ascertain but it appears to have been at a very early period. The price of improved lands will vary from five to fifteen & twenty dollars per acre according to quality and cultivation and woodland is still more valuable & the price will vary from ten to twenty five dollars per acre. There are four or five stores in town, twelve hundred tons of vessels, five mills, one carding machine, one fulling mill, & no bridges of consequence. Orcharding has been much neglected until lately although the land is well adapted to it and apple trees with proper culture thrive well. Wheat is not so much cultivated as formerly. Farmers generally prefer barley it being less liable to mildew or rust. On some farms however, wheat does tolerably well but in general yields but an indifferent crop. There are six paupers supported by the town. There are two meeting houses built by the town one on the main and the other on the island. The Congregationalists about comprise nearly one third of the inhabitants of the town. The other two thirds are Freewill Baptists and those who do not attach themselves to any religious sect.
Page 4 and 5 missing.
Agriculture was formly much neglected but since the lumber has grown in service much more attention is paid to the farms. The inhabitants of Jeremy Squam Island are principally fishermen and from this advantageous situation are enabled to prosecute the business to very great advantage. The only monuments or relics of the ancient indians in this neighborhood are a few banks of clam shells. As this town was situated upon a neck of land between Sheepscot and Damariscotta rivers & as settlements were made above it at an early period, the indians were prevented from committing such depredations & Massacres here as were committed in Woolwich, Wiscasset, Newcastle & Bristol. In times of war the first settlers were apprised of their approach & retired to the Garrisons for safety.
It appears from the testimony of a number of the aged with whom I have conversed upon the Subject that from the scarcity of provisions, the hostility and cruelty of the savages the privations and sufferings of the first settlers in this vicinity were almost incredible.
I have taken considerable pains to ascertain respecting the indian tribe originally inhabiting this section of Maine but hear of none excepting the Penobscot and Norridgecoock tribes—I have conversed with persons from 80 to 87 years of age who were born and have resided in this vicinity from their childhood to the present time and who appear very intelligent on other subjects but find them perfectly ignorant on this. Mr. John Young aged 85 years & born in Wiscasset where he has ever since lived says that Edgecomb was first settled by Mr. Samuel Trask that a remarkable blazing star was seen the fall afterwards which was in 1744. That the next spring a new French war raged & that Cape Briton was taken the next year 1745 & with this statement all the aged people agree with whom I have conversed. He further States that the Island was settled nearly at the same time by John Dorrs & Joseph Whittum. That he new of no tribe of indians excepting the Norridwocks & Penobscots in this vicintiy & never heard there was any other—That about 120 or 130 years ago as he supposes the Dutch made a settlement at sheepscot falls in Newcastle & were driven off or massacred by the savages. That not far from the time Edgecomb was settled the inhabitants of Wiscasset were attacked in the morning by the villians who killed 19 head of their cattle, took Mr. Jonathan Williamson prisoner, carried him to Canada & detained him about six months & that the few settlers endured incredible privations and sufferings not only from the savages but also from the difficulties & hardships attendant on begining a settlement in a wilderness. I might perhaps if I had time collect a few anecdotes which would be interesting but as this town from its local situation was not the scene of indian wars & massacres I must go beyond my limits to find them. I must apologize for the imperfect manner in which I have made my communication & for doing it at so late a period. I was called from home several months during the winter & since I returned in the spring have been so much pressed by my business that it has been extremely difficult for me to find time to collect facts and write. I shall include a sketch written by Moses Davis Esq. Knowing him to be intimately acquainted with the history of the town since he has resided in it I requested him to write a statement at his leisure and he has taken considerable pains. I think it best to enclose it. You will find some facts stated by him which I have omitted & in one or two instances he is incorrect which I shall note. The early records of the town are not so perfect as could be wished which renders our history rather obscure. I have endeavored to be as exact in the statement of every fact as to dates as the nature of the case would admit and believe them to be authentic. I intended to have made a plan of the town & enclosed it with this but have not time. Edgecombe July 4, 1822 Your obident servant Rufus Sewall
P.S. If you wish for a plan I can make one from an actual survey taken by S. Parsons Esq. which I beleive to be correct. Please to write if you wish for it & I will attend to it with pleasure as soon as I can get leisure.
*So called because some person at a very early period began to build a house upon it which was not finished but left to rot down, hence the name of the Island Jeremy Squam, I have been informed is the manner in which the English pronounced the Indian name of the Island which was similar & more difficult for the English to articulate.
-From Early Edgecomb, Vol 1, p.61, by Katherine Chase Owen
Narrative by Moses Davis
The Subscriber being requested to give an account of the first settlement and Incorporation of the Town of Edgcumbe now in the State of Maine & County of Lincoln, and also of a number of matters & things which have taken place since the first settlers came to live on the land now called Edgcumbe, he makes the statements following viz: The first settlers a few in number came on said land about the year 1750 and sat down in several different places—in or about the year 1754—there came three men from Boston who said they owned the land, and that they had an Indian deed of it and could it hold, they then began at the upper end of said land & surveyed down by Sheepscott River twelve or thirteen one hundred acre lots as they called them, about forty rods wide and marked & numbered said lots on trees standing by the river, but since that they have done nothing to gain a settlement, they finding that their Deed had neither butts nor bounds which could be found they give up their claim & have never done anything about said business since in the Town on the maine land—some Proprietors have made a claim of the land on Jeremisquam Island which belongs to said Town and the Inhabitants have settled with them for it—this land on the maine was called & known by the name of Freetown, until it was Incorporated—the Inhabitants of this town Petitioned the General Court of the Common Wealth of Massachusetts to Incorporate the land leying on the Maine beginning at the south line of the town of Newcastle, thence running Northwardley to the north line of the Town of Boothbay, together with the Iland of Jeremisquam, and left the name to be given by said Court Accordingly on the fifth day of March, 1774 the town was Incorporated by the name of Edgcumbe, in Honour of Lord Edgcumbe who was one of our American best friends at the beginning of the contest betwixt Great Britain & America, — the land on the Maine in said Town has always been held by Possesion until the year 1816, when the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, passed an Act that the towns of Boothbay, Edgcumbe, Newcastle & Jefferson should have their land surveyd and a plan made of each lot & the contents of the Acres of the several lots or farms placed on each farm as surveyed & that the owners of said farms pay to the use of said Commonwealth thirteen & a half cents pr Acre agreeable to said Plan accordingly each of said Towns performed the business assigned them by said Act.—and the said Commonwealth appointed Jeremiah Bailey & Benjamin Orr Esquires, as Agents to call upon the several Towns and Inhabitants thereof to meet them at a time & place appointed by them to pay the above said sum, and receive Deeds from said Commonwealth to defend them from any other claims or demands from said Commonwealth accordingly the several Inhabitants of said Towns attended, & took their Deeds as above said—the reason of the said General Court taking the above business upon them is as follows—there was an Ancient claimer—came to the Town of Bristol in said County, adjoining Damarascotte river not more than two miles from the town of Edgcumbe & Boothbay and they shew an old Deed of 80 or 90 years standing which said Inhabitants of Bristol never heard of before, and some of the settlers had been on their land 60 or 70 years. They said they would not pay the claimers anything but would risque their lives first, and so much threatening and difficulty happened about the business, that said Inhabitants, Petitioned the General Court to assist them & help them out of their trouble therefore the said Court gave said claimers some new land at the East ward to satisfy them & took the above method to get their pay back and so the business was settled. The first church of Christ embodied in the Town of Edgcumbe was done on the twenty fourth day of June 1783.
The first settled Minister was the Rev'd. Benjamin Chapman who was enstaled in said Town March 4th 1801. he died July 13th 1804 he was settled as a Congregational Calvanist Minister —the next settled Minister was the Rev. Samuel Sewall a Calvanist their salleries were $333.33 pr Year.—about the same time that our first Calvanist Minister was settled There was a man belonging to said town by the name of Timothy Cuningham who was a free will Baptist and was made an elder of that society, and has eversince been considered their Minister the free will Baptist are about two thirds of the Inhabitants of said Town of Edgcumbe. The number of Rateable polls in said town is 230* the whole number of Inhabitants I cannot tell Mr. Moses Davis who is the subscriber to this information was the first Representative chosen in said Town of Edgcumbe to attend the General Court on July 7th 1775 which was holden at Watertown, because the British forces were in possession of Boston at that time, Capt William Patterson was next chosen in May 1805 & also for 1808. Mr. Stephen Parsons was next chosen in May 1809, Mr. Stephen Parsons & Capt William Patterson were both chosen May 1810. Mr. Thomas Cuningham Representative May 1811 & also 1812 & 1813. Capt William Patterson chosen do May 1814, Mr. Stephen Parsons chosen do May 1817 also for 1818. Stephen Parsons, Esq. chosen a Deligate to go to Portland for the State of Maine September 20th 1819. Stephen Parsons Esqr. was chosen Representative to go to Portland Sept. 10, 1821.
Moses Davis the subscriber was chosen a Deligate to go to Boston to Accept or reject the Constitution of the United States, & voted to accept it. Moses Davis the subscriber was born in Hampton falls in New hamshire State the 23 day of September 1743—and at about five years of age was carried to Boston & there went to school until 14 years of age, & then was put an apprentice to Capt Onesiphorus Tileston to learn the trade of a housewright, where he lived until twenty one years of age, and soon after went to Newbury Port, and was there the chief part of the term of four years—there he Married Mrs. Sarah Rolfe & in the year 1770 moved his family down to Freetown then so called but now Edgcumbe 52 years the 12 day of April 1822 and he will be 79 years old the 23d day of September 1822.
Edgcumbe April 20th 1822
From Early Edgecomb, Vol 1, p.62, by Katherine Chase Owen