Narraguagus Valley Some Account of its Early Settlement and Settlers

History of Narraguagus Valley Maine

Of course there is not much history of the territory included in our sketch outside of the personal history of the people who have inhabited it. The rivers and broods flow now as they did one hundred and thirty years ago; the tides ebb and flow in the river and in the bay as they did then. The surf breaks upon Petit Menan, upon Ship Stern and Baldwin’s Head, just as it did when the first lone white man and woman looked upon them or listened to their distant murmur in the darkness of night. The hills are the same, and the valleys. But the grand old trees that then covered and adorned the land from the banks of the bays and rivers to the summits of the hills have disappeared. Tradition says, and her testimony is confirmed by the old pine stumps yet found in the pastures and among the growing birches, that a growth of pine, tall, straight and beautiful, covered the whole face of the country. The river swarmed with fish in their season — salmon and alewives. Within the memory of some now living, small schooners used to come up as far as Patten’s Creek, and in a few tides get full loads of alewives. Wild sea fowl were abundant in the bays; and such as seek the fresh water came in great numbers to the head of the tide. Moose, deer and other wild game abounded in the forests. Dea. Small in his younger days killed five moose and many smaller animals one season, before Christmas. Indeed it is difficult to imagine how the early settlers here could have lived at all had it not been for the easy facility for procuring food from the forest and the water. They must have been a hardy, brave and persistent people — those men and women who left the older settlements and penetrated these forests to make homes for themselves and their expected children and grandchildren. It is difficult to appreciate the hardships they encountered. There were no roads, no settlement nearer than Gouldsboro, no sawmills or grist-mills — the rivers “flowed unvexed to the sea,” and the wild beast and the wild Indian were their only living neighbors.

That they were all or generally religious people, we may not assume; but that God-fearing and God-trusting men and women were among them, and that such were deferred to and made leaders and advisers all the records and traditions show. We find them making provision for schools and for the preaching of the gospel at an early date after their arrival. That they were superstitious, both the religious and the irreligious, we might safely infer, had tradition brought along to us no instances of their superstitious fears and notions. Many of them had abundant faith in witches and devils. If a horse shoe was not nailed to every doorpost and in the bottom of every hog’s trough, it was because it was harder to get old horse shoes than to fight demons and witches.

The first school was taught by one John Edmunds, an Irishman, in the house of Mr. Isaac Patten, that stood near the Creek.

Though from the first the people did not neglect to assemble themselves together for worship, they made no attempt to settle a minister until about 1795. In that year, Elder James Murphy, a native of Nova Scotia, was employed and settled with some little attempt at formality. He remained until about 1800. In 1796, a considerable revival occurred under his preaching and that of one Elder Young, and a Baptist church was organized, of which John Campbell Todd was the first deacon. Elder Murphy had preached for a while at Moose Island (Eastport) before coming here. He was not a learned or refined man, and tradition tells of him that he was a persistent and successful beggar for himself, for his family, and lastly for the church. After him, Elder Young was here for a time, but whence he came or whither he went, what kind of man he was or how long he remained, I have no means of knowing.

The next settled minister was Elder Robinson. The first meetinghouse was framed and raised in the Patten field, easterly of the Talbot Smith house, and from there it was removed to the old shipyard corner, and after a few years it was moved from there to a spot near where Augustus Allen’s dwelling stands. There it was fitted up and used for some twenty-five years, both as meetinghouse and schoolhouse. After the building of a new meetinghouse in 1826, the old one was somewhat repaired and remodeled by the trustees of Cherryfield Academy, and used for their school until accidentally burned in 1838 or 1839.

The records show that for many years there was a strong attachment felt by the people here for the parent Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and that during the Revolution, they heartily sympathized with, and seconded, according to their ability, the patriotic efforts and sacrifices of the old Commonwealth; and subsequently, when the expediency and necessity for the embargo and the War of 1812 became a matter of discussion and of sharp political division, they were found in hearty accord with the great majority of Massachusetts statesmen and people in opposition to the embargo and the war.

I find in the records the following memorial, evidently the production of the senior John Archer, which I deem of sufficient interest to be embodied in this sketch:

“To His Excellency, the Governor, the Honorable, the Council and the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in General Court assembled: The inhabitants of the Plantation of Cherryfield in the County of Washington, at a legal meeting holden on the Eighteenth day of July, 1812, for the purpose of consulting upon the common good and welfare of our country at this eventful and alarming crisis, unanimously voted that the assessors be a committee of safety and correspondence to lay before Government our situation and sentiments, and to request some pecuniary aid. Therefore we beg leave to state to your Excellency and Honorable Body that though we are few in number and through the means of the embargo restrictions and other embarrassments on us we are reduced to low circumstances in life, yet we trust we are not behind the most opulent in attachment to our Constitutional rights and privileges, the which we are determined to support at the hazard of all that is near and dear to us; and further we beg leave to tender our sincere thanks to the Representatives of this Commonwealth and the minority of Congress and all the friends of Peace, who have advised their constituents and fellow citizens on the subject of the present destructive and ruinous war, proving unto us the inexpediency of it and the destructive consequences attended thereon, of which we are fully sensible, for as our situation in the District of Maine is so contiguous to the British Hues that it exposes us to every distress and calamity, should they attempt it, without any means in our power to prevent any attack on our shores — therefore feeling our inability of defense and not having resources to furnish ourselves at present, we would beg leave to request your Excellency and Honors to take our case into consideration and grant a small supply of arms and ammunition to enable us in case of actual invasion to make a more efficient defense than we now can. The quantum needed is as follows: Ten stand of arms, one-half cwt. of powder, one cwt. of balls or lead, 200 flints and two camp kettles, the which articles so supplied the assessors become responsible for the payment thereof agreeable to the terms and mode as may be directed by Government, and we indulge the hope and confidence that our Government will do all they possibly can to assist our Perilous Situation.

John Archer, Joseph Adams,


In May, 1816, a vote was taken upon the question whether the District of Maine should be separated from Massachusetts and erected into a State, and three votes only were in favor of it, and twenty were against it; and in October, 1819, when the final vote in the State was taken upon the question of separation, the vote here was four in favor and twenty-one against separation.


Milliken, J. A. The Narraguagus Valley: some account of its early settlement and settlers. Covers towns of Steuben, Milbridge, Harrington and Cherryfield. Machias, Maine: 1886; reprinted A. J. Huston, Portland, Maine, 1910.

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