The Scotch-Irish on the New England Frontier (2)

Henry Jones Ford
CHAPTER VII (2) Start of Section

Next to Worcester in point of time was probably the Scotch-Irish settlement at Casco Bay, Maine, then belonging to Massachusetts. A company of about 300 persons sailed from Boston in the autumn of 1718 to explore the coast northward for a good place of settlement with a promise from Governor Shute of land grants in any unoccupied territory. Numerous attempts had been made to establish settlements on the Maine coast, but the Indian wars had been particularly violent and desolating in this region, and there was little left of former colonizing ventures at the time Scotch-Irish emigration began. The ship which bore the first company appears to have been the brigantine Robert, which had arrived in Boston from Belfast on the fourth of August, James Ferguson, master. They sailed as far north as Casco Bay, where the ship went into winter quarters. A town was already in existence there, known as Falmouth. From a petition sent to the Government in Boston by John Armstrong and others, it appears that about thirty families landed in November, 1718, and began to build shelters for the winter. They asked allotments of land and supplies of provisions. The latter request was backed up by a petition from the town authorities, desiring that the provincial Government should consider "the deplorable Circumstances of the said Place by reason of the great Number of poor Strangers arrived amongst them and take some speedy & Effectual Care for their supply." In response orders were issued that 100 bushels of corn meal should be forwarded. Some of these settlers eventually went to the Kennebec country, or to Londonderry, New Hampshire, but enough remained to form a settlement in Falmouth township known as Pooporduc, now included in the city of Portland. Among those who remained and founded Portland families were John Armstrong, Thomas Bolton, Robert Means, William Jameson, Joshua Gray, William Gyles, Randal McDonald and Bruce McLellan. Among the Scotch-Irish settlers arriving at a somewhat later period was John Motley from Belfast, from whom descended the historian, John Lothrop Motley.

Andrew and Reuben Gray, sons of the above-mentioned Joshua Gray, took part in the expedition which Governor Pownall of Massachusetts fitted out in 1759 to capture from the French the mouth of the Penobscot River, and the Grays were in the guard of twenty men who accompanied the Governor when he occupied an abandoned French fort and hoisted the King's colors. The place is now known as Castine, on the east side of Penobscot Bay. A strong fort was erected and settlement began in this region, the two Gray brothers being among the first to take up land. Several other brothers followed them, and eventually their old father and mother joined them. The Grays are now in large numbers in the lower Penobscot country, and other Scotch-Irish families abound, such as the Wears, Orrs and Doaks. The town of Belfast now stands on the west shore of Penobscot Bay, opposite Castine, and up the river, about thirty miles north, is Bangor, the State capital. Bangor in Ulster is on the southern shore of Belfast Lough, about twelve miles east of Belfast.

Professor Perry, who has made a careful study of all accessible data, thinks it probable that of the company that sailed up coast on the brigantine Robert a larger number were deposited at or near Wiscasset on the Kennebec than were left at Portland. If this be the case, the Kennebec settlement was the third Scotch-Irish settlement in New England, antedating that at Londonderry, N. H., which also was founded by emigrants belonging to the company on the Robert. Nothing is certainly known as to the extent of the first Kennebec settlement, or the number of the original settlers. The population was soon augmented by the arrival of another company of emigrants. The MacCallum, James Law, master, from Londonderry, Ireland, arrived in Boston on or about September 6, 1718.

The MacCallum was originally bound for New London, Conn., but having had a long passage, Captain Law put in to Boston. In Lechmere's correspondence it is remarked that the MacCallum brought "twenty odd familys." The arrivals at once became the object of colonizing overtures. Captain Robert Temple, who had been an officer in the English army, had come to America with the view of establishing himself as a large landed proprietor, a purpose which naturally excited the interest of those who had lands for sale. It would seem that he was shown the Winthrop holdings at New London, for he had recently returned to Boston from a trip to Connecticut when the MacCallum arrived, and it appears from Lechmere's correspondence that at first he tried to induce the emigrants to settle at New London. But more attractive inducements were offered by the Gentlemen Proprietors of Eastern Lands, a company with holdings in the Kennebec country. Writing to Winthrop about this competition Lechmere said, "The method they go in with the Irish is to sell them so many acres of land for 12 pence an acre and allow them time to pay it in. I know land is more valuable with you, and therefore 'twill be more difficult to agree with them."

The Gentlemen Proprietors succeeded in interesting Captain Temple himself in the Maine lands. Lechmere, writing under date of September 8, 1718, tells Winthrop that Temple had rejected the Connecticut proposals, and had made arrangements by which the MacCallum would take her Scotch-Irish passengers to Merrymeeting Bay, at the mouth of the Androscoggin. These arrangements can have consumed only a few days, as the MacCallum both arrived and cleared at Boston in the week September 1-8, 1718. Temple became an active colonizer of the Kennebec country. Within two years he chartered five ships to bring over families from Ulster, and by 1720 several hundred families were settled on the Kennebec or the Androscoggin which unites with the Kennebec near its mouth. The MacCallum's passengers settled at Merrymeeting Bay in the region now known as Bath, but then called Cork, or Ireland. Many of the settlers brought in by Temple settled in and about Topsham, so named from the Devonshire port from which Temple left England on his first voyage.

The Kennebec settlements were made in such force and had such influential support that their prosperity seemed assured; but Indian wars broke out with disastrous results. A number of settlements were abandoned, some of the people going to Londonderry, N. H., but the greater number removed to Pennsylvania. In 1722 nine families belonging to the Merrymeeting Bay settlement were captured by the Indians. A striking recital of the experience of the settlers is contained in the petition of the Rev. James Woodside to the English Crown in June, 1723. It sets forth:

"That he with 40 Familys, consisting of above 160 Persons, did in the year 1718 embarque on a ship at Derry Lough in Ireland in Order to erect a Colony at Casco Bay, in Your Majesty's Province of Main in New England."

"That being arriv'd they made a settlement at a Place called by the Indians Pegipscot, but by them Brunswick, within 4 miles from Fort George, where (after he had laid out a considerable sum upon a Garrison House, fortify'd with Palisadoes, & two large Bastions, had also made great Improvements, & laid out considerably for the Benefit of that Infant Colony) the Inhabitants were surpris'd by the Indians who in the Month of July, 1722, came down in great Numbers to murder your Majesty's good Subjects there.

"That upon this Surprize the Inhabitants, naked and destitute of Provisions, run for shelter into your House (which is still defended by his sons) where they were kindly receiv'd, provided for, & protected from the rebel Indians.

"That the Sd Indians being happily prevented from murdering Your Majesty's good Subjects (in revenge to your Pet.r) presently kill'd all his Cattel, destroying all the Movables, & Provisions they could come at, & as Your Pet.r had a very considerable Stock of Cattel he & his Family were great sufferers thereby."

Captain Temple, who received a military commission from Governor Shute, remained in the country with many of the people he induced to settle there, and in this region are now found such Scotch-Irish names as McFadden, McGowen, McCoun, Vincent, Hamilton, Johnston, Malcolm, McClellan, Crawford, Graves, Ward, Given, Dunning and Simpson.

After leaving some of her company in Casco Bay and some in the Kennebec, the Robert turned back to the Merrimac and ascended that river as far as the town Haverhill. They did not receive a cordial welcome, as the townspeople were not pleased to see the Irish coming there. But the emigrants learned of a fine tract of land about fifteen miles north called Nutfield, because chestnut, walnut and butternut trees were unusually thick in that region. A party under the lead of James McKeen, grandfather of the first president of Bowdoin College, visited the place and decided that it would be a good site for a settlement. It was doubtless a joyful decision to passengers on the Robert as they had passed the winter in Maine and were anxious to find some place to stay. The settlement at Nutfield was begun in April, 1719, and among those taking part in it were James McKeen, John Barnett, Archibald Clendenin, John Mitchell, James Sterrett, James Anderson, Randall Alexander, James Gregg, James Clark, James Nesmith, Allen Anderson, Robert Weir, John Morrison, Samuel Allison, Thomas Steele and John Stewart, with their families. The settlers at the time supposed the place to be in Massachusetts but it turned out to be in southern New Hampshire. As a frontier post, it was exposed to Indian incursions, and two stone garrison houses were built the first season as places of refuge.

The dwelling houses were of course log cabins, and for the better protection of the community they were placed in a definite order which became known as the Double Range. The houses were on each side of West Running brook, on home lots thirty rods wide, and extending back until they enclosed sixty acres each. Sawmills were built and in a few years good frame houses began to go up, the first one for the Rev. James McGregor, and the second for John McMurphy, who bore a commission as Justice of the Peace, issued in Ireland. The settlement was never attacked by the Indians, and through the influence of Pastor McGregor a valuable resource was discovered through information obtained from the Indians. He was told of a place some nine miles distant where fish were abundant. With the help of his compass the pastor was able to mark a course to Amoskeag Falls, where the city of Manchester now stands. The Merrimac at this point abounded in salmon, and shad at some seasons, and the stores of salted fish laid in by the settlers were an important source of food supply.

The original settlers were soon joined by others, and it appears from a petition for incorporation as a township, subscribed on September 21, 1719, that the inhabitants then numbered seventy families. In June, 1722, Nutfield was incorporated as a town containing ten square miles, laid out so as to extend to the fishing station at Amoskeag Falls, that portion becoming known as Derryfield, and now as Manchester. At its incorporation the town was entitled Londonderry after the famous Ulster city in whose defense some of the settlers had taken part. Pastor McGregor was one of these. He used to tell how he had himself fired a gun from the cathedral tower to announce the approach of the ships up the Foyle to relieve the besieged garrison. After the death of McGregor his pastoral duties were for a time discharged by the Rev. Matthew Clark, then seventy years old, who came direct from Ireland. He wore a black patch over the outer angle of the right eye to cover a wound that refused to heal, received in one of the sallies of the besieged at Londonderry. When he died in January, 1735, at the age of 76, it was in compliance with his deathbed request that his remains were borne to the grave only by those who were survivors of the Londonderry siege.