A History of the Piscataqua River Region

1633 Sturgeon Creek Village Kittery Eliot

Rough Draft. Coming Soon. Updated Aug-2020

Like other areas around the Piscataqua, there were Native Americans living on the eastern (Maine) side of the river going back possibly 10,000+ years. There will be an accompanying article on Native Americans in York County. One native camp (or settlement) was on the north side of Sturgeon Creek and it was discussed well into the 17th century. I am still looking into this but details are slim.

Like many locations, this small inlet river off the Piscataqua was named after the fish that populated it’s waters. Sitting directly across from Hilton Point/Dover Neck, and accessible by boat or ferry, there was a stretch of land where Kittery was originally settled, later to be called Kittery Upper Parish, but now Eliot, Maine.

William Hilton Sr. was possibly the first person living in this area. He sailed to Plymouth Plantation in 1621, and then again in 1623 along with his wife and two children, Anne and William Jr. In 1624, the family left and sailed to Hilton Point, and possibly moved or tended a cornfield across the Piscataqua on or near Sandy Hill, Eliot, Maine. His brother Edward evidently bought the fields from the local Native Americans. (32)

William Sr. went on to be a founding member of the Piscataqua area. He was awarded by a 1654 court ruling of 160 pounds for the loss of his estate and lands, to be paid by the late John Mason’s wife Ann Mason. (32)

Captin William Hilton Jr went on to become a famous mariner and named Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Somewhere near the cornfield there was a fortified trading post built by John Watts of the Dorchester Company in 1627. It was about 1 mile north of Frankfort Island and is now completely under water due to sea level rise. The Dorchester Company was founded in 1623 by a group of merchants who wanted to establish trade in the New World. They sent 14 fishermen where they established an outpost at Cape Anne Massachusetts called Gloucester. I’m still searching for a connection here.

On Nov. 3rd, 1631, The Council of Plymouth granted Gorges, Mason, Thomas Wannerton, and others a track of land along the eastern side of the Pistacataqua. The first deed on record for this region was one where Walter Neale, agent of the Laconia Company, sold a part of this land to Tomas Cammock in 1633. Thomas lived in Scarborough, Maine and did not live here, and sold this prime real estate to the Shapleigh family a few years later.

So the first actual/confirmed settlers in this region were Thomas Wannerton, Nicholas Frost, Shapleigh, and William Everett. They settled on the plot of land just south of the Sandy Hill Farm area. The early map is as follows:

The Road between 1 and 2 is somewhere near Lane, Eliot. The Road along 4-5-6 is River Road, Eliot.
1- W. M. Everett 1640, WM Leighton 1656
2- Abraham Conley, Thomas Jones
3- Reynold Jenkins
4-Nicholas Frost
5- JNO. Leighton 1690
6- Church

Up the road from this map, in 1638 (or 1635 as I’ve also read), Alexander Shapleigh, (another agent of Ferdinando Gorges) sailed up the Piscataqua on his ship “Benediction.” He built the “Kittry House,” which was named from their manor in England. His family hails from the Dart River, Kittery Point, Kingware Devonshire. In Eliot, their manor house, complete with kitchen, brewhouse, barn, and outbuildings, cellar, garrett, a total of two stories and 10 rooms. (3)

Before Kittery was a town, which was incorporated in 1647, most of the population lived in this area, which was named Sturgeon Creek Villiage. (3)

Shapleigh’s interests were in the trading posts of Maine and New Hampshire, where he found a market for his goods sent over in his ships. His large interests in New England were looked after by the Treworgy family and his son Nicholas, whose transactions in his name, with the depositions of servants, would make it appear that he was here at times when actually he was in England. [8]

Alexander spent most of his time in England and his family here managed his estates. On 2 Apr. 1641 James Treworgy sold all of Alexander’s property in America to Mr. Nicholas Shapleigh, then of Kingsweare, son of Alexander Shapleigh for £1,500. The ordinary, warehouse and a small parcel of land was left in possession of Capt. William Everett who died soon afterwards. In 1652, 67 acres of land was confirmed by the town to Nathan Lord, son-in-law to Capt. Everett. Another 20 acres were confirmed to the heirs of Nicholas Frost. Another 47 acres were granted to others due to overlapping boundaries to other grant holders leaving Maj. Nicholas Shapleigh with about 760 acres of land.

From an article in the “Boston Globe” it seems as though the first cup of tea made in this country was made at Kittery House.[11]

The “E” Frankfort Island and the “F” is Watt’s Fort which is located close to what is now Laurel Lane, Eliot

The William Everett Tavern was located at what is known as Jocelyns Point, and there was a large 3 story house built about 1640. He was licensed to keep a tavern in 1649, along with 3 other local Inns or Taverns: Mavericks, Emerys, and Jenkins.

At Everett’s Tavern, the courts of General Assembly and other town meetings were held. On November 16th 1652 residents of Kittery were effectively bullied into signing a submission to the Massachasetts Bay Colony, to which was later contested by Ferdinando Gorges. There is a plaque commemorating the location on River Road, but it is believed the original location of the site may have been washed away sea level rise.

Just north the map, just before Sandy Hill Farm, is the Kittery House, which is the third house to be built on that spot. John Shapleigh and son Nicholas was attacked by natives along spruce creek, near Kittery Trading Post. Nicholas was killed and John was taken prisoner and ransomed.

Thomas Tricky ran a ferry to Bloody Point in Newington to Hilton Point in Dover, connecting the three areas. He ran the ferry for 25 years and provided service until a bridge was built from Bloddy Point to Hilton Head park. (3)

On November 15, 1648, Anthony Emery or “Emry” from Dover bought from John White, a house, field and great barren marsh just south of Sturgeon Creek and two other marshes. He seems to not have taken possession, however, until the next year, for he served as grand juror in Dover, in 1649. (3)

Anthony Emery was licensed to keep an Inn in 1650 as well as a ferry, which was located at rivers edge. The area known as “Cold Harbor” or sometimes spelt “Coole Harbor” was north of Sturgeon Creek Villiage but just south of Stugeon Creek, and is said to be the first structure in this area, and amoung the first taverns in the State of Maine. “Cold Harbor” is an English reference to Inns without fire. (3)

At the end of Old Cottage Lane, as late of 1910 an old cellar could be seen, as well as the old ferry that use to go across to Dover Point. (3)

During his eleven years’ (1649-1660) residence in Kittery, Anthony Emery was juryman several times, selectman in 1652 and 1659, and constable. He was one of the forty-one inhabitants of Kittery, who acknowledged themselves subject to the government of Massachusetts Bay, Nov. 16, 1652. At four different times he received grants of land from the town. He also bought of Joseph Austin, July 15, 1650, “a little Marsh soe commonly called aboue Sturgeon Cricke, with a little house & upland yrunto belonging, as also one thousand flue hundred foote of boards, for & in Consideration of Two stears Called by ye name of draggon and Benbow, with a weeks worke of him selfe & other two oxen wch is to be done at Cutchecha.”

In 1656, he was fined £5 for mutinous courage in questioning the authority of the court at Kittery, and in 1660, again fined, for enter-taining Quakers, and disfranchised.

May 12, 1660, he and Frances his wife, sold house and land at Cold Harbor to son James for £150 together with all other lands in Kittery, “with all & singular the honseing, harne Garden oarchards Com-mans profetts priviledges fences wood Tvmber appurtenances & Haer-edtaments belonging, or in any way apprtayning therenuto.”

Deprived of the rights and privileges of a freeman in Kittery, he turned his footsteps toward a colony in which greater liberty was allowed, and was received as a free inhabitant of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Sept. 29, 1660 (31)

The Ferry at least passed on to the Morrel Family, and the oldest Morrel cemetary is located in this area on the side of a hill.
John Morrell settled in Cold Harbor in 1676. The land stayed in the family until 1932 and bruned shortly later.

John Morrell was the first to embrace the Friends Religion (Quakers) which many of his descendants embrace to present time. There is little doubt that many a Quaker fleeing from persecution in Boston was carried on the Morrell ferry to safety “down east”.   John Morrell Jr. lived on part of the old homestead and was also a large landowner in the present town of North Berwick. He was a slave owner and a man of wealth and prominence in town. The Morrell’s, Winslow’s, Lowe’s, Peasley’s and Pope’s were all Quakers down to grandfather Paschal Pope Morrell who became a Methodist Minister. He was later a chaplain in the Civil War.  The first Quakers to arrive in America were viewed as dangerous heretics in many of the colonies. They were deported as Witches, imprisoned or hung. (30)


1623 Cocheco Plantation Dover


1641 Wells

1 Comment

  1. Don Cope

    I am writing a family history of the Morrell family starting with John Morrell. I am familiar with “Old Kittery and her Families”. I am looking for info on the burial place for John and John Jr. Also do you know where in England he came from and if he was a Quaker when he left England?
    Don Cope

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