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Scarborough: They Called It Owascoag

Historical Overview

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Conflict/Abandonment/Resettlement (1675-1702)

Garrison Cove Marker on Black Point Road in Scarborough
Garrison Cove Marker on Black Point Road in Scarborough

Item Contributed by
Scarborough Historical Society & Museum

The first Indian attack occurred September 1675 in the upper part of Blue Point at the home of Robert Nichols and his wife. The Nichols were murdered and their house burned. The following month Indians attacked the Algers' garrison house in Dunstan and, failing to capture it, burned empty houses and killed both Alger brothers. Scarborough, a town of three settlements of over one hundred houses and 1,000 cattle, had been destroyed.

In 1676 Mogg Heigon and about one hundred followers made an unsuccessful attack on the Black Point garrison. Mogg proposed to Jocelyn that if the garrison were surrendered, the settlers could leave safely. By the time Jocelyn returned to the garrison, all but his own family had left in boats. Jocelyn surrendered the garrison and was briefly held captive.

Most of the inhabitants returned in early 1677. The Black Point garrison, which had not been destroyed, was under the command of Lieutenant Tippen. In May Mogg Heigon and his men returned and began an assault on the garrison. Mogg was killed and his men withdrew, only to return the next month to avenge their leader's death. A group of nearly one hundred men led by Captain Benjamin Swett and Lieutenant Richardson were drawn into ambush and a bloody battle ensued in the vicinity of Moore's Brook, about two miles from the garrison. Swett and Richardson were killed and less then a half dozen men returned to the garrison without injury. There was a peace treaty with the Indians the next year, but the settlers were aware that an outbreak of hostilities could occur at any moment.

In 1681 a second garrison was erected at Black Point about a half mile north of Great Pond (later known as Massacre Pond), because the "neck" was too far away to be accessible to the settlers in time of trouble. Troubled peace broke into open hostility again in 1690 when the French in eastern Maine joined forces with the Indians and destroyed the settlement of Falmouth. Anticipating enemy advance on Scarborough, the settlers fled to Portsmouth and beyond and town records were taken to Boston, where they remained until 1720. It would be twelve years before settlers returned to Scarborough.

The Eighteenth Century

Resettlement occurred in the fall of 1702 when eight men, likely accompanied by their families, sailed from Lynn to Black Point. While a new fort was built at the western side of Garrison Cove, the settlers lived aboard their ship. The following August they were besieged by five hundred French and their Indian allies led by Beaubasin. The settlers refused to surrender the garrison, so the French tried to undermine it by tunneling underneath from the bank below. Heavy rain caused the soil to give way and the exposed workers abandoned their effort under fire from the men in the garrison. Despite continued skirmishes with the Indians, the second settlement continued to grow.

After resettlement, the center of activity shifted from Black Point to Dunstan. Until the mid-1800s, Dunstan was an important shipping and trade port. It was here that Richard King settled in 1746 and Dr. Robert Southgate in 1771. King was a distinguished citizen, merchant, farmer, and ship builder. Three of his children became major public figures. Rufus represented New York in the United States Senate; and as a senator, worked on the Missouri Compromise that permitted Maine to enter the Union as a free state. Cyrus, a jurist and orator, served two terms in Congress and William led the movement to separate Maine from Massachusetts, subsequently becoming Maine's first governor.

Southgate Mansion, Scarborough, ca. 1900
Southgate Mansion, Scarborough, ca. 1900

Item Contributed by
Scarborough Historical Society & Museum

Per family tradition, Dr. Southgate rode into Dunstan on horseback, with all of his possessions in his saddlebags. Two years later he married Mary King, daughter of Richard King. Trained as a physician, Dr. Southgate left the practice of medicine to become a lawyer, judge and gentleman farmer. The large home he built overlooking the marsh on what is now Route 1 still stands.

When the British attacked Lexington in April 1775, the Provincial Congress issued a call for 13,600 men; militia from Scarborough and neighboring towns immediately responded. Two months later what is presumed the first naval battle of the Revolution occurred in Machias when townspeople fired on the British schooner Margaretta, killing the commander and forcing its surrender. Many townspeople were former Scarborough residents who discovered the area in 1762 while searching for grass for their animals following severe drought. Although Scarborough never suffered a direct attack from the British, many from the town played an active role in the struggle for independence.

After the Revolution, Maine was again the new frontier. While some veterans used government-backed grants to claim land elsewhere in the state, others remained and pushed outward to North Scarborough. Shipbuilding, farming, fisheries and sawmills offered opportunities.

The Nineteenth Century

Seavey's Stage Coach and Four, Scarborough, ca. 1900
Seavey's Stage Coach and Four, Scarborough, ca. 1900

Item Contributed by
Scarborough Historical Society & Museum

Well into the early 1900s salt hay was a source of income for owners of marsh acreage. To increase yield and thus profits, large-scale diking was introduced and by the late 1800s five different diking companies had become involved. However, diking and development of roads and rail lines across the marsh negatively impacted the marsh, destroying soils and natural vegetation. As haying on the marsh declined, cleared inland pastures supplied that need.

A lack of good overland routes resulted in Scarborough remaining a town of separate villages, each with its own church and school. Dunstan and Portland were connected by a road inland from the marsh that went up a steep incline and over Scottow's Hill, but the hill was so steep horses had to be switched at the top to complete the journey. In 1802 the Scarborough Turnpike Corporation, headed by Robert Southgate and brothers William and Cyrus King, built the Cumberland Turnpike, the first turnpike in New England. It crossed the marsh between Dunstan and Oak Hill, the current path of Route 1, and was funded by toll rates, eight cents for a horse and twenty-five cents for a stagecoach. Objecting to the twenty-five cent tariff to cross the marsh, stagecoach owner Josiah Paine laid out a direct road from Dunstan to Stroudwater. This is the Payne Road of today.

The War of 1812 served as an impetus toward Maine's path to statehood. Opposing President Madison's declaration of war on Great Britain, Governor Strong would not allow the Massachusetts militia to leave the state and refused to contribute funds to pay them. Maine was left vulnerable with unprotected seaports. Madison nationalized part of the Massachusetts militia and put it under the command of William King. Hearing of King's command, many from Maine volunteered for service under him. Defense of local coastlines and communities was left to town militias. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war in December 1814, but the action (or inaction) of Governor Strong alienated Mainers who began to call for separation from Massachusetts. Maine finally achieved statehood in 1820, in part through efforts of Rufus and William King.

Travel was mainly by foot, horseback, boat or stagecoach until the mid-1800 arrival of trains. In 1842 the Eastern Railroad built a line connecting Boston and Portland, passing through Scarborough; and in 1853 the Grand Trunk Railroad was completed, linking Montreal to Portland. Improvements in transportation not only benefited townspeople by bringing trade and jobs to Scarborough, but also spawned the tourism industry. By the 1870s, sixty-five trains a day transported passengers and freight in and out of Portland and through Scarborough.