Early Kittery

These excerpts make mention of the Frost family and describe life in early Kittery, Maine that the settlers of that area experienced.

At the time of Captain John Smith’s explorations there was a large
Indian population on both banks of the Piscataqua river called New-
ich-e-wan-nacks whose Sachems resided at Quan-pe-gan (now South
Berwick). Prior to the arrival of the Gorges and Mason expedition
a pestilence swept off a larger portion of these Indians, affording an
opportunity and making a convenient place for the landing of the
English settlers. The Piscataqua river extends northerly about
forty miles to Wakefield and is the boundary between Maine and
New Hampshire. At its mouth there is a bay or roadstead about
two miles across, and it was here in this sheltered haven that Gorges
and Mason’s first settlers camped, making a temporary home for
themselves and devoting their time to fishing until about 1623, when
they were reinforced by a large number of arrivals from the mother
country ; and the first house was erected by one Thompson at Little
Harbor, a small arm of the Piscataqua bay near the south-west line
of Portsmouth. The next permanent settlement was at Kittery
where in 1624 a mill was erected.

Immediately after this, followed the settlements of Kittery Point,
New Castle and Dover. The territory on the east side of the river,
from Kittery Point to Lebanon was called Piscataqua and afterwards
changed to Kittery. Gorges and Mason continued their
interest in the Piscataqua plantation under the new patent in 16;il,
until 1634, when they made a division of their property, Mason
taking the western, and Gorges the eastern side of the river, when they
procured separate patents and cultivated their respective portions.
There was some irregularity about the first grants which caused
some litigation ; but the sobrantes were rectified by the new grants.
Point was also the abiding place of Walter Nefl/, tie .resident agent
of Gorges and Mason, who With his iive associates controlled almost
all the different branches of trade in the interests of their principals,
soon made the town one of the most important of the new colony,
and up to 1636, trading with the Indians for furs, fishing, and shipping
lumber, were the chief sources of employment and revenue.

About this time Gorges sent his nephew, Captain William Gorges
to the new colony as its governor. He brought with him the
authority to establish a court of justice. The members were called
commissioners and the first session was held March 21, 1636, at the
house of Captain Richard Bonighton in Saco. Slight memoranda
of this, the first court of Maine, exists; sufficient however to prove to
us, that the early settlers, notwithstanding the smallness of their
numbers, were moved by the same litigious spirit, that often exists
to-day in more populous communities. In addition to the arrival of “
Governor ” Gorges, a large number of families were sent out from
England and Scotland, well supplied with stock, provisions and agricultural
implements. Many of these men were farmers, and among
them was Nicholas Frost and his family, of Devonshire, who subsequently
proved a valuable addition to the colony.

The number of mills steadily increased on the small tributary
branches of the Piscataqua, and lumber of all kinds in large quantities
was floated down the river in rafts and batteaux to Kittery
Point and New Castle, where it was shipped to European, West
Indian and American ports. The fisheries proved lucrative, as the
outfit was not expensive and seldom failed of good returns. These
two principal products of the colonists’ industry met with ready sale
and exchange in foreign and domestic ports, and the settlers were
kept supplied with sugar, tropical produce and dry goods, cordage,
wines, rum and fruits. The settlement on the Piscataqua soon
formed itself into distinct governments, and soon there were three
little republics, Portsmouth, Dover and Piscataqua, the former
two united with Massachusetts, but the latter retained its allegiance
to Maine and in 1647 was incorporated as Kittery and
made a Port of Entry. In 1640, new commissioners were sent from
England to form a General Court, who arrived at Saco on June 25th
and were sworn in together with R. Sanky, provost marshal, Thomas
Elkins, under-marshal, and Roger Garde, register. Nicholas Frost
was appointed constable for Piscataqua, Michael Witten for Casco,
and John Wilkinson for Black Point.

In 1652 Kittery was added to the Massachusetts bay colony, and
it increased more rapidly than any adjoining town, owing to its
accessible position by land or water and its security from attacks of
the Indians. It also had superior facilities for obtaining supplies
from Boston; which materially aided its growth. In 1666, the town
of Kittery paid nearly one-half of the entire tax assessed to the
province. Although constant political changes and civil dissensions
somewhat retarded its growth, its wealth and population rapidly increased
until the disastrous war with King Philip, in 1675. This
war lasted three years, and was attended with the most unheard of,
inhuman murders; tortures and all the atrocities the savage mind
could invent, were of almost daily occurrence. Continued conflagrations
added to the fear of the settlers and caused almost an entire
suspension of business, commerce, manufactures and agriculture.
There had been great reluctance on the part of the Indians to
comply with the terms of the former treaty, and on one pretext and
another they evaded the principal articles. Their range over the
country was now uninterrupted and they had nothing to dread but
a future retribution from the settlers. That so small a number of
Indians (not over 120), should have been able to have committed
so great depredations and outrages on such a long line of settlements,
can be accounted for by supposing the energy and judgment of the
people to have been overcome by panic. It appears from an estimate
that there was about seven hundred militia* in Maine, the
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The first incorporated city in the province, was Gorgeana in 1641
and was situated on the east side of York river, extending seven miles
into the land and three miles on the seaboard. Thomas Gorges was
the city’s first mayor and the first board of aldermen was composed of
Kdward Godfrey, Roger Garde, George Puddington, Bartholomew
Barnett, Edward Johnson, Arthur Bragdon, Henry Simpson and John
Rogers. Mr. Gorges retired from the mayoralty in J643 and was
succeeded by Roger Garde. The city is now known as York. Edward
Godfrey was the first governor chosen by the people of the western
part of the state. He resided in York twenty-four years and died .
in 1661.

Indians never had fighting men to be compared with this number,
and yet they entirely destroyed most, and for three years harrassed
the remainder of the settlements in the province. Madockawando
and Squando* were the most powerful chiefs of the Penobscot
Indians, they had a sort of a prime minister, Megunnaway, commonly
called Mugg, whose associations with the white settlers had
worn off the natural ferociousness of the savage character and made
him an important factor as interpreter and counsellor. He is described
as very unscrupulous, and ” a notorious rogue,” who had led
several attacks upon the colonists. He was a shrewd leader, and
after Sir Edmond Andross, governor of New York, had sent a sufficient
force to awe the Indians in protecting the interests of the Duke
of York in the province, he made proposals for peace. Commissioners
were appointed to treat with them ; Messrs. Shapleigh and Cham-
pernoon of Kittery, and Fryer of Portsmouth, proceeded to Casco
where they met the Indians, and mutually signed articles of peace
on the 12th of April, 1678. By this treaty, the people were to
occupy their habitations without molestation, paying the Indians
annually, one peck of corn for each family, except Major Phillips of
Saco, who having a large estate was required to pay one bushel
annually. The captives were restored and an end was put to this
relentless war, in which whole families were sacrificed, human
nature exposed to detestable cruelties, and property wantonly destroyed.
In 1675, the entire militia of Maine amounted to about seven
hundred men. Of this number Kittery’s quota was 180, York 80,
Wells 100, and Saco 80, the balance was divided between Casco,
Scarborough and Falmoutb. When peace was again restored ship
building was resumed and the settlers returned to their arduous
labors. Foreign merchants had discovered that vessels could be
built cheaper at Piscataqua than elsewhere, and with their orders
Kittery retained this, as her leading industry, even being compelled
to send men to the mouths of adjacent rivers to construct vessels.


About 1715 there was another change in the judicial administration
of the colony. William Pepperell, who had acted as justice of
the peace for several years previous in Kittery, John Wheelwright
of Wells, Charles Frost of Kittery and Abraham Preble of York,
were appointed judges of the new court of Common Pleas.

One thought on “Early Kittery

  1. Where is the historical prove that Kittery was incorporated in 1647? I have never seen any documents listing this date. The Probate court records written about this time even has a footnote saying this date was not offical. Also the “Piscataqua river extends northerly about forty miles to Wakefield” this is not true either. The Piscataqua ends at Dover point, this is were the slamon falls river starts.

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