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tending about seven miles. This being the shire-town of the county is accommodated with a court-house and gaol. There are two inlets or harbours for vessels in this place, one called York, and the other Cape Neddic; at four miles distance from each other. York River is principally salt water, which flows up six or seven miles from the sea, in a north-western direction; in which vessels of two or three hundred tons burthen may enter, but the entrance being narrow and crooked, renders it rather difficult of access to strangers. This harbour is five or six miles north-east of Piscataqua.
Cape Neddic is navigable but a mile, or less, from the sea, and at full tide only, for vessels of any considerable bulk, it having a bar of sand at its mouth; indeed at an hour before and after low water, this rivulet is generally so shallow, as to be fordable within a few rods of the sea.
There is another small inlet between this town and Kittery, and which makes the boundary at the sea, called Brave Boat harbour. This is a salt water creek, which shallops and small boats only ever make use of; it adjoins Cutt's island in Kittery (formerly called Champernoons) at the north-east end. When the tides are full, at the top of the tide, there is a communication from this inlet on the north-west side of the island, to the river Piscataqua, sufficient for floating canoes, - small boats and gondolas.
Cape Neddic, and Bald Head, are the head lands; the former is a little to the south-west of Cape Neddic river, and makes one side of long Sands Bay. At the end of this neck of land, is a small hillock called the Nubble, this is the nearest land, on the main, to a small island of rocks eight or nine miles distant south-east, called Boon island.
Bald Head makes the south-west part of what is called Well's Bay; between Cape Neddic harbour and Well's Bay are several coves, where small vessels in a smooth time, and when a westerly wind prevails, haul ashore, and are loaded with wood in the course of a tide, with ease and safety.
The Long Sands are about three quarters of a mile in length, covered every tide by the flowing of the sea, when the tide is down, it is in a manner as smooth and hard as a corn-floor; and affords an agreeable place for riding in a carriage or on horse-back.
Fish of various kinds frequent the rivers and shores of the sea contiguous. In a calm season, in the summer, one may stand on the rocks of the shore, and catch them in the sea, with a line, or even with - an angling rod, and a fathom or two of line: The salt water at such seasons being clear, you may discover a contention, almost, among the small fish, which shall first seize the bait.
The ponds of any consequence, are Cape Neddic pond at the head or source of Cape Neddic river: And York pond, the principal source of what fresh water runs into York river; though York pond lies almost wholly in the town of Kittery.
A corner boundary between York, Kittery, and Wells, is a fine spring of water, called Baker's Spring. This name to the spring is said to
have originated from the residence of a person, who concealed himself near it, by the name of Baker; and was supposed to have been active in the bringing of king Charles the first to the block.
The settlements began in this place about the year 1630; the name by which it was first known and called is Agamenticus, from a mountain in the north-westerly part of it, in latitude 43° 16′ north, and 70° 39′ west from the meridian of Greenwich.
Sir Ferdinando Gorges, soon after obtaining his charter or patent from king Charles the first of the Province of Maine, intending, as is supposed, this place for the seat of government, incorporated a considerable part of it into a city by the name of GORGIANA, appointing a mayor and aldermen. In consequence of this incorporation, the place was sometimes called Gorgiana as well as Agamenticus, until the year 1652, when Massachusetts colony claimed the jurisdiction, as lying within the limits of their charter to Sir Henry Rosewell and others, (anno 1628) according to the construction they made of its boundaries, and assumed the government by the assent of the inhabitants, calling it YORK, which name it has ever since retained.
This place, at various times, has suffered in loss of lives and property,. by the Indians. On the 5th day of February, 1692, new stile, it was in a manner destroyed by them. They with some French came upon snowshoes and surprised the unwary inhabitants early on Monday morning, killing about seventy-five and captivating as many more, burning all the houses and property on the north-east side of the river, where the principal settlements and improvements then were; four garrisonhouses, viz. Alcock's, Prebble's, Harman's, and Norton's, only excepted. After this calamity, the few remaining settlers had serious thoughts of abandoning the place altogether; but a number determined to remain. Such was their reduced and indigent situation, by this destruction of persons and property, that a year or two after, the town, in their corporate capacity, by their agents, contracted with a person at Portsmouth, to come and erect a mill for grinding their corn into meal, and besides, granting him a mill-stream, a considerable quantity of land in fee, and particular privilege of cutting timber. It was agreed, "that they, and all the inhabitants should always afterwards carry their corn and grain to that mill, while it should be kept up for that purpose." What numbers the inhabitants amounted to, at the time the town was destroyed in 1692, has never been ascertained; but they were so considerable as to have had a settled minister, several years preceding, viz. the Rev. Shubael Dummer, who was that Monday morning shot down, and found dead, near his own door. Supposing the numbers remaining, and such as returned from captivity, were one hundred and fifty; this number, agreeable to the usual increase, in new plantations, by doubling in twenty years, would now have amounted to four thousand and eight hundred. But from the enumeration taken in 1791, they scarcely amounted to three thousand, from whence it may be inferred that many more have emigrated from the place than have come into it from other parts since that period. In 1764, the inhabitants, from an ac
count then taken, amounted to two thousand two hundred and ninetyeight, including twenty-one French neutrals, and fifty-six blacks. From that time to 1791, a space of twenty-seven years, the increase was but about seven hundred, a further evidence of large emigrations, as no remarkable mortality prevailed during that period. The climate is healthy, many living to between ninety and one hundred years; from computations for a series of years, (thirty or forty past) one in six or seven of the deaths have been of persons of upwards of seventy years of age.
The soil is rocky and very hard of cultivation, especially on the seacoast, and the northerly parts of the town. Indeed a large proportion of it, perhaps two-thirds, is incapable of any other cultivation, than what spontaneously arises. The principal settlements and improvements are within a mile and a quarter of the largest inlet, and upon each side thereof. There are in the town several saw-mills and corn-mills, which are rather convenient and necessary, than any profit
to the owners.
The principal employment of the inhabitants is agriculture, many of whom must be frugal and industrious to obtain a subsistence. Wood and timber have been carried from, hence to market; but there is not now more than a sufficiency for the inhabitants. Indian corn and barley are the principal grains cultivated; wheat and rye succeed but poorly. Potatoes of an excellent quality, and inconsiderable quantities, are produced. Various parts of the town have acquired, from one incident or other, particular names; as Scotland, a part of the second parish, from some person of Scottish extract that first sat down upon it. Ground-root-hill, from roots of that kind spontaneously growing there. Birch hill, Beach ridge, from the qualities of the wood formerly growing upon them. But there is a particular place of small dimensions that still retains the name of the Devil's Invention, which originated from the following occurrence. A man in the town, on some account or other being affronted with his neighbour. determined to resent it, and avenge himself, by depriving him of his two inoffensive sons, (between six and nine years of age) by famine. He accordingly, in a solitary place, at some miles distant from the then, inhabited part of the town, built up against some high perpendicular rocks, a kind of pound with logs jutting inwards in such a manner that when a person had once got within it, he was confined as safely as in prison. Having accomplished this, he decoyed the children into the woods, under pretence of looking after birds and birds' nests, and some how got them into this pound, and there left them to perish. The children, after various trials to get out, at length by digging with their hands the earth under one of the bottom logs, effected their escape; and after wandering in the woods the space of three days, by following the noise of the sea (from whence their prison was distant about three or four miles) got to the sea shore, where they were found. During the three days the town was alarmed, and its inhabitants were searching the woods after the children.
The judgment of the court of associates upon the culprit on this occasion (July, 1679) was to this purpose: "The court having considered your inhuman and barbarous offence, against the life of the children, and great disturbance to the country, do sentence you to have thirty stripes well laid on, to pay to the father of the said children five pounds money to the treasury of the county ten pounds; out of which the charge of postage and search of the town, is to be discharged; and to pay the charges and fees of the prison, and to remain close prisoner during the court's pleasure and further order."
Soon after this in the same month a recognizance of one hundred pounds was entered into before two of the judges of the court, to send the offender within a fortnight, or twenty-one days, out of the jurisdiction.
Near the head of York river is a quantity of salt marsh, which was probably the inducement of persons setting down near it, at a pretty early period there was formerly something considerable of navigation, for such a place; but it was nearly all destroyed and lost, during the American contest with Great Britain. Since the peace there is a small traffick to the West-Indies, some coasting vessels, and some fishermen; the place is well calculated for carrying on the cod fishery, were there persons of sufficient ability and enterprise to enter into it with spirit.
The first settled minister was Shubael Dummer, who was killed by the Indians in 1692. How long he was settled before his death, there are no records extant to ascertain; but it is generally agreed to have been several years. To him succeeded the Rev. Samuel Moody, whose fame equalled any gentleman of the clergy of that day. He was settled about the year 1700, and died in 1748. To him succeeded the Rev. Isaac Lyman, about the close of the year 1749, the present minister of the first parish. A second parish was erected in the town about the year 1730, and the Rev. Joseph Moody, (son of the Rev. Samuel Moody) settled in it in 1732. This gentleman fell into a gloomy state of mind, which rendered him unable to discharge the pastoral functions, and the Rev. Samuel Chandler was settled in his place, who after remaining several years, went, and was settled at Gloucester in the county of Essex. To Mr. Chandler, succeeded the present minister, the Rev. Samuel Lankton.
The second parish is supposed to contain about one third part of the number of the first. The religious profession, or persuasion of the inhabitants, is of the Congregational kind, with scarce a dissenter of any other denomination. There is no academy in this place; but there is usually kept a grammar school during the year; and in the summer season several schools for the instruction of children and youth, in reading, writing, and arithmetick, in various parts of the town, at the common expense.
There are five foot companies of militia, and one of artillery in the town. Upon the alarm, in April, 1775, by the Lexington battle, which
pervaded the state, and even the continent, like a shock of electricity, the first company from the county that passed Piscataqua river, was from York; although no minute men had been formed previous to that period; upon the intelligence arriving at nine o'clock in the evening, the inhabitants assembled early the next morning and enlisted upwards of sixty, fixed them out with arms, ammunition, and haversacks, with provisions for some days, and they actually marched on the same day fifteen miles, besides passing Piscataqua river, under the command of JOHNSON MOULTON, Esq. the present sheriff of the county. There is a wooden bridge over York river, about a mile from the sea, built in 1761, the first of the kind in America. It stands upon
piles driven into the bed of the river, is twenty-five feet wide, and about two hundred and seventy feet in length, exclusive of the wharves at each end of it; and which reach to the channel. It stands on thirteen piers of four piles, or posts, in a pier. The model of framing and method of driving the piles into the bed of the river was invented by Major Samuel Sewall, an ingenious mechanick, a native of the town. The model of this bridge afforded that of Charles River Bridge, built under said Sewall's direction in 1785 and 1786; and the same model has been used in Malden and Beverly Bridges, and has since been communicated to Ireland by Mr. Cox.
The clamshells that appear in many places near the river, upon turning up the soil for cultivation, indicate that it was a place frequently resorted unto by the Indians, prior to its settlement by the English.
APPENDIX, RELATIVE TO AGAMENTICUS. BY DR. Belknap.
AGAMENTICUS is a mountain of considerable elevation, distant about six miles from Baldhead, and eight from York harbour. It is a noted land mark for seamen, and is a good directory for the entrance of Piscataqua harbour, as it lies very nearly on the same meridian with it, and with Pigeon-hill on Cape Ann. The mountain is covered with wood and shrubs, and affords pasture up to its summit. From this elevation there is a most enchanting prospect. The cultivated parts of the country, especially on the south and south-west, appears as a beautiful garden, intersected by the majestick river Piscataqua, its bays and branches. The immense ranges of mountains on the north and northwest afford a sublime spectacle; and on the sea-side the various indentings of the coast from Cape Ann to Cape Elizabeth are plainly in view in a clear day; and the wide Atlantick stretches to the east as far as the power of vision extends.
At this spot the bearing of the following objects were taken with a good surveying instrument, October 11th, 1780.