It’s both shocking and fascinating to see this area mapped by early explorers.
Early Dutch, Spanish, and English maps showed the York River and surrounding area. It was highly probably that there was a Native American village on the east side of the river where the land would have already been cleared and fields set for planting. Mount Sasanoa was the Native American name for the highest point, Mount Agamenticus.
Captain John Smith originally marked this spot “Boston” when he expored and mapped the region in 1614 before there was a wharf built at the end of the Charles River. (4)
On John Smith’s map also appeared the name Plymouth – where the Pilgrams landed a just few years later in 1620 (4) which, similarily enough, was built over the Native American villiage Pawtuxaway.
The Agamenticus plantation was personally established from afar by Ferdinando Gorges whom received an original land charter in 1606. This critical early chater would later be crutial for a court case settled in the Vatican giving the English claim over this land.
In 1620 Gorges, Mason, and other business partners obtained a new charter from King James, and in 1622, obtained the grants for New Hampshire and Maine. See previous articles XXX which discuss the settlements on the New Hampshire side. (This can possibly come out)
Some accounts say that in 1623, in addition to Odiorne, a sister settlement was made at Agamenticus, now York, however, Rufus M Sawyer said “It is not quite certain when civilized men first pitched their tents at Agamenticus. A fertile valley partles intervale from one to two miles wide and heavily wooded with pine and oak. On the eastern bank of the river, near the ocean, was an admirable site for a future city, backed by the knoll of Sentry Hill, from which, inland, could be seen a bird’s eye view of the three-mile-square plantation, which in 1642 was to be enlarged to twenty-one square miles.” (4)
But there is actual evidence of when settlers started building here. Edward Godfrey, who originally came over with David Thompson and lived in the Great House at Odirone in 1623, is said to have built the first house in York in 1630. In 1654 writing:
“Seweth that he hath been a well wisher incourarger and furderer of this Col. of N. E. for 45 years (1609) and above 32 years an adventurer on that design (1621-2), 24 years an inhabitant of this place (1630), the first that ever bylt or settled ther…” (Mass. Arch). The years in brackets added by the author (10).
The Cape Porpoise Grant, made to John Stratton, December 2, 1631 was taken over by Thomas Gorges when he came over to govern for Ferdinando. Twelve hundred acres of land on each side of the Agamenticus (York) River were included in the grant, and these men brought settlers. (9)
The colonists send by Gorges came prepared to clear forests, procure lumber, build mills and ships, and cultivate the ground. They began the embryo city by building cabins on the eastern bank of the Agamenticus (York) River near its mouth.
In 1635 the Council for New England gave up it’s charter and Gorges reclaimed all the land of the original Mason and Gorges grant (from the Piscataqua to the Kennebunk). He renamed that whole area of land New Somersetshire (9). William Gorges, nephew of Ferdinando, was sent over in 1636 and acted as Governor of the Province for two years. (4)
In 1636 an attempt was made to establish the first authorized government by Ferdinando’s nephew William, but it was abandoned a year later. In 1637, King Charles I made Sir Ferdinando govenor of all New England. In 1639 the King of England issued a grant for New Somersetshire but directed that the mainland be called “The Province of of Maine and not by any other name” (2) which was the original name from from the Mason and Gorges land grant in 1622!
Thomas Gorges, a fine, attractive person, a lawyer by profession (9), Ferdinando’s “truly and well beloved cousin” came to the Province in 1640 and was Deputy Governor about 4 years. He built his house at Agamenticus, at what was known as Gorges Point, which lies between the Judicature Creek and the River, about three and one half miles from the sea. It’s just north of Intersate 95.
In 1642 the first official “city” charter was established in America, named Georgiana, after Ferdinando himself. It included twenty-one miles on the north side of the York River, bordering on the coast, and numbered 300 inhabitants. (9)
Trade had already sprung up between Agamenticus, Piscataqua, Saco, St. John, Boston, Pemaquid, Lygonia, Kennebunk, and Nova Scotia. On June 28th 1643 Thomas Gorges wrote aletter to Governor John Winthrop (Mass Bay) stronly urging that decisive measures should be taken to destroy the power of French Govenor d’Aulney, at St. John. (5)
In 1652, after Kittery was forced to join Massachusetts Bay colony, and Georgiana was too, and thus ended Gorges’s decades of work. It was here that the name was changed to York. In 1653, Wells, Cape Elizabeth, and Saco submitted. By 1658 Scarborough and Falmouth gave in.
In 1660 the Bay Colony aquired New Hampshire and Maine, and a committee of English Parliment concluded that the Mason and Gorges claims were well founded and the Bay Colony was forced to surrender New Hampshire.
Court cases and disputes between the Bay Colony and Maine continued to 1677 when they finally agreed to Gorges claim, however, purchased the rights for 1250 pounds.