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Agamenticus and Passaconaway


Stories of York Maine by Sophie Swett (Continued)

The part of the territory of Maine which had been annexed to Massachusetts was called the county of Yorkshire, and Agamenticus, the late city of Gorgeana, received the name of York. But while York continued to keep peace with its neighboring Indians, the bands of savages that roamed, plundering and slaughtering, through the country often swooped down upon it; and in February, 1692, while it was still only a little village scattered along the bank of the Agamenticus River, it was entirely destroyed, except the garrison houses, by a company of nearly three hundred French and Indians, who had come through the wilderness from Canada on snowshoes. In half an hour they had killed seventyfive of the inhabitants, and taken more than a hundred prisoners.

[NOTE: Here the author neglects the background and reasons for the Indian wars of this era because there was little available research in the 19th century that offered reasons why the uprisings occurred.]

Many of the prisoners were severely wounded, and were carried away, in the bitter cold of the winter, by the ruthless savages, and very few of them ever saw home or friends again. But the little town arose from its ashes. At the close of the dreadful King William's War, which was the second Indian war and lasted ten years, while King Philip's War, bloody and devastating as it was, had lasted but three, the destitution and suffering in Maine were extreme.

" No mills, no inclosures, no roads, but, on the contrary, dilapidated habitations, wide, wasted fields, and melancholy ruins." But the people of York were not wholly discouraged. Among other things, they wanted a gristmill. The united resources of the town were not sufficient to build one; so they offered to a man in Portsmouth a lot of land to build a mill upon, liberty to cut all the timber that he needed, and their pledge to carry all their corn to his mill, so long as he kept it in order. They could not live without the mill, and they suffered great suspense for a time, lest their offer should not be accepted. What had been Sir Ferdinando's proud city now depended upon a gristmill, or the hope of one, for its continued existence.

The mill was built, and gradually the scattered people returned and rebuilt their little log houses. But there was no peace for the plucky pioneers. The first disturbance originated in a report that the settlers were organizing for a war of extermination upon the savages. The Indians were frightened, and began to withdraw from the settlements. Even Passaconaway's peaceful tribes took alarm, and their departure led the inhabitants to believe that they were to join a general uprising of the tribes.

The militia was ordered out, and well-armed soldiers patrolled the town of York, every night, from nine until morning. The townspeople listened, doubtless with heart-sickening dread, for the war whoop that should mean more than a demand for Goodman Hilton's ferryboat. But this time the horrors of bloodshed were averted. Governor Dudley arranged a council with the sagamores of the eastern tribes at Falmouth, the 2Oth of June, 1703.

Knowing that the Indians were greatly impressed by pomp and ceremony, the governor came to the council with an imposing retinue. But the splendor of the Indians altogether eclipsed that of their white brethren. There were eleven sagamores, and they entered Portland harbor with a fleet of sixty-five canoes, containing two hundred and fifty warriors, decorated with plumes and war paint, and wearing garments gorgeous with fringes and beaded embroidery.

Governor Dudley had brought a great tent, in which were gathered his suite and all the Indian chiefs. He made a speech to the Indians, in which he declared that it was his wish to reconcile every difficulty that had arisen since the last treaty, and that he would esteem them all as brothers and friends. Simms of the Penobscots was the Indian orator of the occasion, and he bore himself with much dignity.

"We thank you, good brother, for coming so far to talk with us," he said. "It is a great favor. The clouds gather and darken the sky. But we still sing with love the songs of peace. Believe my words. So far as the sun is above the earth, so far are our thoughts from war or from the least desire of a rupture between us."

Peace was ratified and presents exchanged, after the Indian fashion. There were professions of strong friendship on either side, and the hearts of the people rejoiced. Those who had been ready to depart to safer regions remained, and there was even a little emigration to the Maine shores, where land was cheap, valuable timber abundant, the soil rich, and the fisheries .increasinyly profitable. But only two months after this encouraging peace was made, a company of five hundred French and Indians swooped down upon the shore towns, Cape Porpoise, Wells, York, Saco, and Casco. Few details remain to us, but it is evident that the slaughter and destruction were terrific, and, except the garrison houses, scarcely a building remained in those towns.

In 1707, the six English settlements which were all that survived in Maine were those of Wells, Berwick, Kitttry, Casco, Winter Harbor, and York. The settlers continued to suffer constantly from the prowling savages. In the summer of 1712 twenty-six of the English were killed or carried into captivity in the neighborhood of York, Kittery, and Wells. They could not venture into the fields without danger of being murdered. Children playing upon the doorsteps would be dragged off by the savages before their mothers' eyes.

One of the scouting parties which were continually on the march for the defense of the settlements was surprised, between York and Cape Neddick, on the I4th of May, 1712, by a company of thirty Indians.

The leader of the scouting party, Sergeant Nalton, was instantly killed, and seven others, probably wounded, were captured. The survivors fled for their lives, and succeeded in reaching the garrison. A Mr. Pickernel, hearing of the Indian assault, had left his house, with his family, to take refuge in the garrison, when an ambushed Indian shot him dead. His wife was wounded, and his little child was scalped. The child, left for dead, eventually recovered from the frightful wound,— which was very unusual for a victim of the Indians' scalping.



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