Piscataqua Plantations

A History of the Piscataqua River Region

Category: 1630s

1630 Strawberry Banke Portsmouth

Coming Soon. Rough Draft.

Tracking the history of this area is complicated and confusing, as the geographical area of Pannaway (Odiorne), Great Island (Newcastle), and Strawberry Bank were at points settled, abandoned, moved, and then resettled.

Captain Walter Neale was hired by Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason to lead a group establish a fishing and trading post and to look for gold. This was a Laconia Company operation. He arrived with a group of soldiers at Pannaway (Odiorne) in Rye, which was at that point “mostly abandoned” after the death of David Thompson. They then moved two miles east to a spot more near the entrance of the Piscataqua, earlier identified on John Smith’s map.

In all, forty-eight men and twenty-two women were paid and sent over on behalf of Mason and Gorges. These trips spanned a few years. Two ships, the Warwick,  and Pide-Cowe were Portsmouth’s version of the Mayflower.

Humphrey Charbourne built the “Great House” which would be the center of the settlement. “[It] would be larger than the house at Panaway. It would be built of pine, with a stone foundation and chimney. Stone and pine were ready at hand, and Strawberry Banke became all at once a bustle of activity. In short order, a storehouse had been built, small houses for the tenants, a shelter for cows and sheep…wells had been dug, a blacksmith shop was in prospect…and on the edge of the woods was a sawmill and along the shore, platforms for drying the fish. (6)

As the story goes, the first men called the area Strawberry Banke after a patch of wild strawberries that grew near the Pistacaqua. This story is disputed by some, as this was also the name of an estate back in England (I have this story somewhere). Portsmouth was the name of John Mason’s estate back in England, as was Kettry (Kittery) named after the Shapleigh’s estate.

Mason’s relationship with his settlers was a slow tug of war with long months lagging between each transatlantic conversation. Mason’s agent usually begged for more goods made in England – shoes, nails, beer,  Mason, in return, promised to send more supplies as soon as the colonists could produce something he could sell in England to pay back his investors. While furs and fish came from the settlement in South Berwick, the Great House here produced very little. Strawberry Bank and Pannaway were, initially, failed investments.  In 1635 as he was outfitting a ship to visit his colony for the first time, John Mason died. The Laconia Company folded soon after that, abandoning the New Hampshire colonists to fend for themselves. Puritan businessmen from England quickly took over at Strawberry Bank. (11)

Despite the constant complaints from the early residents of the Great House, life was better here than the early years at Jamestown or Plymouth, where half the new colonists died. A precise and extended inventory of all three plantations made after John Mason’s death offers a look inside the great houses where everything belonged to the proprietor. The inventory shows scores of items, including: guns (161), swords (61), shirts (80), pairs of stockings (204), iron kettles (23), rugs (40), musical instruments (17), sugar (610 lbs), corn (140 bushels), pine planks (1,151), livestock (155 head), and bibles (1). Clearly Portsmouth was not founded for religious freedom. (7)

No written description of the Great House at Strawberry Bank survives, but a look inside a 1640-era manor at Cape Elizabeth offers clues. Plantation owner John Winter described his manor there as 40 by 18 feet with a large fireplace, an attached room near the kitchen, storage for twenty tons of casks, a steward’s room, and a sizeable eating area. Each room had doors and locks. Of the two large chambers, one was big enough to sleep all the men working at what is still called Richmond Island. (7)

More likely, the Great House was a post-in-ground structure like the mid-1600s Humphrey Chadbourne site excavated by Emerson Baker in South Berwick. Baker also excavated a 1636 site in York, Maine. Data accumulated from these modern scientific digs, Candee points out, give us more detail from which we can speculate about Portsmouth’s first houses. We are fairly certain where that the Great House stood on the crest of a hill that sloped down to the sea and to the tidal inlet or “cove” that gave Puddle Dock neighborhood its name. The cove, now filled in, was an attraction to the early settlers. (7)

One of its old chimneys and the southern wall of the Great House were reportedly still standing in 1695. Historians generally agree that the Great House, the first European-built structure in Portsmouth, sat near what is now the southeast corner of Court and Marcy streets (formerly Pitt and Water streets). That puts it across from the modern entrance to the Memorial Bridge end of Prescott Park. Strawbery Banke Museum today is literally in the “back yard” of the original Great House. The area that is the museum may once have been used as an orchard. The Laconia Company’s original thousand-acre grant to John Mason included much of what is currently downtown Portsmouth. (7)

Garrison House in York Maine is probably similar to the one built in Portsmouth as well.

Life was relatively peaceful for this settlement and trading with the Natives was commonplace. It wasn’t until King Philips War in 1675 that hostilities occured. Nethertheless, a small fort was built called “The Castle” in what is now New Castle, NH. A history of the Fort will be told on a seperate page.

1630 Quamphegan Newichawannock South Berwick

In May, 1630, the barke Warwick found its way up the Piscataqua and Newichawannock rivers. On board were Ambrose Gibbons, Roger Knight and probably Thomas Spencer. Their wives came the following year. It is reasonable to assume that there were a few other servants of Capt. John Mason in this first ship’s company. Anchor was cast at the foot of Little Johns Falls, where even at low tide the water is deep. The neighboring shore on the eastern side of the Newichawannock river soon came to be called the Lower Landing, or Pipe Stave Landing. The adventurers came to plant a colony, to carry on trade with the Indians and to obtain lumber. They meant also to explore a large region, hoping to find various mines (12).

The leader, Ambrose Gibbons, must have been somewhat acquainted with the river and his landing place. He was not sailing in the dark to a wholly unknown destination. Probably he had been there before and consulted with Sagamore Rowles at Quamphegan, giving some presents for a piece of land on which to establish a trading post. As early as 1621 the Council of New England at old Plymouth, Devonshire authorized Ambrose Gibbons to deliver to Capt. Mason possession of Cape Anne. For eight years he had been Mason’s factor at Cape Anne, where he built houses, brought cattle and set up the trade of fishery. In 1630 “the Massachusetts Colony violently seized upon that part the Province . . . “and turned the servants and tenants of John Mason out of their possessions.” (N.H. Prov. Papers, XVII, 534) The advantages of trade, the water powers the forest of pine, and the abundance of salmon and sturgeon determined his choice of this locality for a permanent settlement (12).

This original settlement at “Newichawannock” was built and fortified with a palisade and was used as a “trading post” until it burned and nothing remains of this settlement except the site of the old “well” which Ambrose Gibbons dug to accommodate the Newichawsannock settlers.

William Chadbourne, father of Humphrey Chadbourne built

1631 Frank’s Fort Eliot

“Frank’s Fort” or “Frankfort Island” as known to Google Maps is now an island and is perhaps the first structure built in what is now Eliot Maine, located in Mast Cove close to the Eliot Boat Basin. During the 1630’s the land was still connected, steep but flat on top. Sea level rise and the fast moving waters of the Piscataqua erroded the land and it’s now an island. The island is now private property owned by James Austin of Kittery Point.

1665 Map – The “E” represents Frank’s Fort and “F” Watt’s Fort

Built in the summer of 1631, Frank’s Fort, an ancient name, is named after Francis Williams overseer of the Laconia Company. The company failed, but more about the Laconia Company can be read about here (coming soon).

Franks Fort, and about one mile north “Watts Fort”, also called Darby’s Fort used to be stops for French Laconia Company men traveling along the Piscataqua. They were never actually fortifications and no structures can be seen today. Watts Fort is completely under water

From “Old Kittery and Her Families

During the American Revolution, rebels attacked the British Fort William and Mary at New Castle, and hid powder on Franksfort. It then made it’s way out of the Piscataqua and was used at the battle of Bunker Hill in Boston.

From Google Maps

1631 The Castle Fort William and Mary New Castle

1634 Nicholas Frost Eliot

(More coming)

Born in 1585, Nicholas Frost and his decendants were major pioneers of the Piscataqua area and still own land here today. From Tiverton, England, he probably first built a house at Sturgeon Creek in Eliot, and then moved two miles inland, sailing up the creek to the very bottom of what was known as Frost’s Hill. This second residence was built towards the back end of 617 Goodwin Road.

The First house at Sturgeon Creek is said to be the first residence in Eliot Maine. The land was given to him by Thomas Wannerton, though evidentally not legally, and became neighbors of Alexander Shapleigh and James Treworgy.


http://w3.salemstate.edu/~ebaker/chadweb/coffeweb.htm

1634 Sturgeon Creek Villiage Eliot

Coming Soon. Notes

Native American name for fish? Native camp on the north side

The William Everett Tavern was located at what is known as Jocelyns Point, and later Leighton’s Point, which was a large 3 story house built about 1640. He was licensed to keep a tavern in 1649, and at that time there were 3 other Inns or Taverns, Mavericks, Emerys, and Jenkins. It was here at Everetts Tavern, that he 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 Machassuets Bay Authoriy, to which was later contested by Gorges. While there is a plaque commemorating the historic event, it is believed the original location of the site may have been washed away by the Piscataqua.

In 1638 Alexander Shapleigh built the “Kittry House” which name was transfered from their manor in England. They lived on the Dart River, Devon County and this became their manor house, complete with kitchen, brewhouse, barn, and outbuildings, cellar, garrett, a total of two stories and 10 rooms. Before Kittery was a town incorporated in 1647, most of the population lived in this area.

His interests were in the trading posts of Maine and New Hampshire where he found a market for his goods sent over in his ships and he also acted as an agent for Sir Ferdinando Gorges. His large interests in New England were looked after by the Treworgys 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 William Everett Tavern was located at what is known as Jocelyns Point, and later Leighton’s Point, which was a large 3 story house built about 1640. He was licensed to keep a tavern in 1649, and at that time there were 3 other Inns or Taverns, Mavericks, Emerys, and Jenkins. It was here at Everetts Tavern, that he 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 Machassuets Bay Authoriy, to which was later contested by Gorges. While there is a plaque commemorating the historic event, it is believed the original location of the site may have been washed away by the Piscataqua.

Just north, were Sandy Hill Farm is, was part of the Shapleigh family and River Road used to be called Sandy Hill. John Shapleigh and son Nicholas was attacked by natives along spruce creek, near the Kittery Trading Post. Nicholas was killed and John was taken prisoner and ransomed.

The first house was built in Kittery Point but became more of an Inn (Champerone?)

“F” Represents Watt’s Fort, which was still attached to the land.
The Road between 1 and 2 is Varney Lane in 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

1630 Agamenticus Gorgeana York

Early Dutch, Spanish, and English maps showed the Agamenticaus 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.

Captain John Smith originally marked the spot “Boston” when he expored and mapped the region in 1614, originally named the area “Agamenticus” which was the Native American name for the York River. York was later changed (on the map) to “Boston” 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 was built over the Native American villiage Pawtuxaway.

The Agamenticus plantation was personally established by Ferdinando Gorges whom received an original land charter in 1606. This 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 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 (now?) 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. 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.

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