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The Siege of Cedar Island 1896


In 1896 Moses Stevens of Newburyport and a group of armed men stormed the island of Cedar at the Isles of Shoals. Their job was to lay siege to the tiny rock and kick off Clarence Caswell whose family had lived there since the Revolution. It is a story few Shoalers know as reported here in the Boston Globe.




Clarence Caswell Tried in Vain to Land on Cedar Island

Stevens’ Men in Possession While Banished Lord is on Smutty Nose, Armed with Rifle and in Ugly Mood Over Eviction

READ ALSO: When the Caswells Ruled Gosport 

Boston Globe
March 12, 1892

PORTSMOUTH, NH – March 11, Moses Stevens, the retired Newburyport fish merchant, and his men still hold the fort on Cedar Island, one of the Isles of Shoals group, which they seized Saturday in the absence of Clarence Caswell, the permanent resident.

It is apparent that Mr Stevens intends to retain possession of the island at all odds. His party is fully armed, and nobody is permitted to land.

cedarpic01.jpgThe tug Howell went out to the island this morning with a Globe reporter and artist on board. While preparations were going forward for making a landing in a dory one of the men on the island launched a skiff, rowing off to the tug, warned all hangs against attempting to land.

"It won’t go," he shouted. "It’s no use for you to try. We won’t let you land."

The fact that Clarence Caswell was on board the tug may have had some effect on the party on the island. Caswell wanted to get to Smutty Nose island to look after his property there, and he secured passage on the Globe tug, as he could not row out to "the Shoals" against the heavy northeast breeze.

Caswell has a bag of corn with him for his hens , and a gun. He said he was going to shoot birds with the gun, but when it was suggested that the gun was a rifle, and that it was less than rifle range from Smutty Nose to Cedar island, he measured the distance with his eye and said nothing. He is not in a pleasant mood over the eviction.

"Somebody’ll have to smart for this," he said, "if there is any law, and I guess there is."

Cedar Island forms the seaward side of Gosport harbor, which is formed by Appledore, Smutty Nose, Star and Cedar islands. It is small, low, rocky, and can hardly be called more than a barren rock.

Appledore Island was for years the home of Celia Thaxter, the poet, and Smutty Nose will always be remembered as the scene of the Wagner murders. The house in which the fiendish fisherman killed his two women victims still stands, black and silent. On Appledore the Thaxter cottage is deserted and on Star Island the remains of the once thriving town of Gosport, with its little stone church, are still and uninhabited.

CONTINUE Cedar Island  1896

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