« PreviousContinue »
their families were cut off by the savages, and their dwellings burnt. Not suspecting any evil from the Indians, with whom they had lived on good terms, Mr. and Mrs. Giles were in the field, the woman gathering beans, and the man topping his corn, when they were both shot down, and their children captivated. All these were redeemed by the officer of the garrison at Georges, except the oldest, a son of Mr. Giles, whom they retained for three years, when he made his escape, and for some years after was commandant of the garrison at Brunswick. This is the best account I can obtain of the unhappy lot of the first Europeans who resided within the limits of what is since called Topsham. After these families were killed and captivated by the natives, there was no settlement attempted for a number of years. The peculiar exposure of the situation, and the hostile disposition of the savages, rendered the attempt too hazardous, till about the year 1730, when some ventured to set down in Topsham. From this period, a habitancy has been maintained, though for many years, with much peril and danger. The inhabitants never felt wholly secure from the natives, till after the peace of Versailles, 1763.
So many discouraging circumstances attended the settlement of this town, that the inhabitants increased but slowly. Many lives, compared with the whole number, were lost. Those, who were not killed nor captivated, were exceedingly harassed and perplexed. Fear was on every side. Their houses, which on an alarm they deserted, were burnt often their cattle were killed. In the year 1750, there were only eighteen families in the town, and seventeen of those were Scottish Hibernians. From this time, by population and new adventurers, the number of inhabitants gradually increased. In 1764 the town was incorporated; and when the last census was taken, it contained eight hundred and twenty-six souls. The town constitutes but one parish, in which is a meeting-house, built by the proprietors, about thirty-five years ago. In 1789 they settled their first minister.
The inhabitants are in general under easy circumstances. The town were never at any expense in supporting the poor; and none ever solicited help. In this instance they are singular from any town of equal date, with which I am acquainted in New England.
The latitude of Topsham is very near 44° N. The longitude is 70° W. It is the first town in the county of Lincoln, proceeding from the west, easterly. It is bounded on the N. W. by Little river, which divides it from a gore of land unincorporated; N. by Bowdoin and Bowdoinham; E. by Cathance and Merry Meeting bay; S. and S. W. by Amarascoggin, by which it is separated from Brunswick in the county of Cumberland.
The town contains a good proportion of arable, pasture, and meadow; with very little waste land. A part, however, of the sandy soil is not very productive. For a general description, we may consider Topsham as containing equal parts of clayey, sandy, and loamy soil;
some hills, but no mountains; broken with gullies, where it is clayey; about five eighths under improvement.
The water-falls in the rivers afford a number of excellent stands, which are occupied with saw, grist, and fulling mills. At the saw mills, on a moderate computation, there are cut, communibus annis, four million feet of boards, plank, joist, &c.
The rivers afford a variety of fish, which are taken in considerable quantities; such as salmon, shad, alewives, and bass; and on their margins is gathered a forage, superiour in quality to that which generally comes under the denomination of meadow hay.
You will see, by the rough draught* which accompanies this, that Topsham is a peninsula. It is about thirty-two miles in circumference,' and more than twenty-five miles are washed with water.
The plan is not laid down by any survey, but is sketched as it exists in my mind. It is pretty accurate as to the relative situation of land and water and I believe it will give no very incorrect idea, as to the proportion of its parts. It might have had ornament, had I more leisure. Such as it is, with what I have written, are submitted to your candour, by,
Sir, your most obedient,
The Hon. JAMES SULLIVAN, Esq.
I HERE subjoin the number of Births, and a Bill of Mortality for Topsham, within the term of four years and seven months, or from September 16, 1789, to the present time.
Births, one hundred and fifteen. Deaths, fifty-three.
Under the age of one year
Eleven have died with the consumption; seven with fevers; four, with the general decay of nature, unattended with any particular complaint; one, small pox; one, apoplexy; one, colick; one, tickets; seven, drowned; one, the accidental discharge of a gun. I assign no special cause for the death of those under one year; nor am I able to point out the particular disease of which the others died. I am accurate as to the number of deaths; but it is probable that there have been more births than have come to my knowledge.
Our climate may be considered as friendly to the life of man, though I think our habit of living is not. The great quantity of ardent spirits, that is drank in this country, has an unhappy influence over the man. They impair the natural vigour of the constitution, lead to many needless exposures, and facilitate the progress of decay, as well as implant the seeds of disease.
My meteorological observations, though daily made, are, for want of proper apparatus, too incorrect for the inspection of any other than myself,
I am, Sir,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
Topsham, April 25, 1794.
MACHIAS, April 7, 1794.
TAKE the liberty to send you the following Description of Machias, with a few remarks that equally apply to the county at large. If it comes within the views of the Historical Society, and you deem it worthy a place in their Collections, it may be presented with my respects.
I am, dear Sir,
With affectionate esteem,
A TOPOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION OF MACHIAS, IN THE COUNTY OF WASHINGTON. BY JOHN COOPER, ESQ. SHERIFF OF THE COUN
ACHIAS, the shire town of Washington county, is the furthest from the capital, of any in the commonwealth. Its distance by water, is nearly one hundred leagues; by land, it is computed at four hundred miles.
BOUNDS AND NAME.] The town is bounded on the south and west, by townships, Nos. 22 and 23, on the north and east, by Nos. 18, 13, and 12; containing ten by eight miles square, The name of
the town is altered from the Indian name, Mechisses, given to the river, and so called in the oldest maps: Its signification we are unacquainted with.
FIRST SETTLEMENT.] Governour Winthrop mentions in his Journal, a Mr. Allerton, of Plymouth, who in 1633, set up a trading wigwam at Machias, which consisted of five men; and a quantity of merchandize. The whole was taken the same year, by order of Governour La Tour. In 1744, a small settlement was made by a few French people at the east falls, on account of the alewive fishery, but was broke up the following year. Since then, we have no account of any other attempts for a settlement, until May, 1763, at which time fifteen persons of both sexes, from Scarborough, in the county of Cumberland, came to Machias, and began a settlement at the west falls. They erected a double saw mill, and in August following, the remainder of their families arrived. The year after, they were joined by many others. During the five succeeding years, their numbers continuing to increase, several applications were made to the legislature of Massachusetts, for a grant of land; and in April, 1770, a tract of land in the county of Lincoln was, by an act of the general assembly, granted to Ichabod Jones and seventy-nine others, his associates, under certain conditions therein mentioned; which being fulfilled on their part, the general court by an act, passed June 23, 1784, confirmed their grant, and incorporated said tract, with the inhabitants, into a town by the name of Machias.
SITUATION.] The principal settlements in the town, are at East and West falls, and at Middle river. Machias river, after running a north course, six miles distance from Cross Island (which forms its entrance) separates at a place called the Rim. One branch taking a N. E. direction, runs in length two miles and an half, with a width of thirty rods, to the head of the tide, where are two double saw mills, and one grist mill. The main branch runs a N. W. course for nearly three miles in length, and seventy rods wide, to the head of the tide, where are two double and one single saw mills, and two grist mills. Middle river separates from the main branch, three quarters of a mile below the falls, and runs nearly two miles north, to the head of the tide. The chief settlement is at the West falls, the county courts being held and the jail erected there. The buildings also in general are more decent and compact. The main channel takes its course to these falls, which, though crooked and narrow, admits burthensome vessels to receive their loading at wharves within fifty rods of the mills. This advantage no other part of the town can enjoy.
SCHOOLS AND MINISTER.] The town is divided into four districts, for the support of schools, in which are taught reading, writing, and arithmetick; and into two districts for the convenience of publick worship. The Rev. James Lyon officiates at the West and East falls alternately. He received and accepted his call in 1772; and is the first minister regularly settled to the eastward of St. George's.
ACADEMY.] The general court, by an act passed in March, 1792, established an academy at Machias, by the name of Washington Academy, incorporated a number of gentlemen as trustees, and gave for its support a township of land. This generous donation has enabled the trustees to realize a permanent fund for the academy's use; and measures are pursuing, for carrying into complete effect the benevolent object of the legislature.
POPULATION.] Agreeable to the census taken in 1790, the town contained about eight hundred inhabitants. Since that time, its popu- . lation has rapidly increased.
EXPORTS.] The exports of Machias consists principally of lumber; such as boards, shingles, clapboards, laths, and various kinds of hewed timber. The cod fishery might be carried on to advantage, though it has been neglected. In 1793, between seventy and eighty tons only were employed in the fishery; and not above five hundred quintals were exported. The mill saws, of which there are seventeen, cut on an average, three million feet of boards yearly. A great proportion of the lumber is usually shipped in British vessels. The total amount of exports annually exceeds fifteen thousand dollars.
SOIL AND PRODUCE.] The soil nearest the river, and such as bears only in its natural state the spruce, fir, and hemlock, is commonly a stiff clay, not fit for tillage, though good for pasturing; but the land in general is well calculated for most purposes of husbandry, and produces in its original state the various species of maple, beech, birch, ash, &c. Barley, pease, beans, and oats, afford the most certain crops. Wheat, rye, flax, and Indian corn, yield a good increase, wen duly attended to; and vegetables of various kinds, and of the best quality, may be obtained in plenty, with common cultivation. The white pine is a native of the soil; but Machias has been much indebted to the surrounding townships for its chief supply of timber. The inhabitants derive a great advantage from the meadows and salt marshes, which are generally rich, and pretty equally distributed through the township. The river contains a plenty of salmon, shad, alewives, and herring. These are commonly taken in the months of May, June, and September; and prove a certain support to the poorer people during the winter season.
REMARKS.] The people of Machias, and the townships adjoining, during the late war, were remarkable for their intrepidity and publick spirit. In 1777, when an expedition was planned by the general court, against some parts of Nova Scotia, Machias was appointed the rendezvous. The enemy receiving intelligence of the design, previous to the troops being collected, Sir John Collier, with a ship of forty-four guns, three frigates, and an armed brig, were sent to destroy the town. On this occasion, the invaders were completely repulsed and defeated, having a considerable number killed and wounded, with the loss of only one man killed, and one wounded, on the part of the