Friday, September 29, 2017

Rev. and Major Samuel Moody: Leader of the Resettlement

Portrait in Oils by Joseph Badger
Museum of Art
New Britain, Connecticut
     After the de-commissioning and demolishing of Fort Casco, Major Samuel Moody petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to settle in the abandoned town formerly Casco and to bring with him some of his disbanded soldiers, their wives and children.  On July 20, 1716, the Order was passed as follows:
A memorial presented by Captain Samuel Moody, late Commander of his Majesty's fort, at Casco Bay, praying that he might have liberty to build a small fortification, with stockades, at the town of Falmouth, commonly called Old Casco, about his own house, upon his own land in the said town, and that he may furnish the same with arms and ammunitions at his own charges for himself and the inhabitants there, being in number fifteen men, beside women and children.  Ordered that the prayer of said petition be granted.
THE HISTORY OF PORTLAND, FROM 1632-1864: William Willis, pg. 321

     Thus began the arduous, complicated, albeit exciting, re-birth of the colony that would, in time become Portland, Maine.  The following is a list of some of the men whose names survived and  accompanied Maj. Moody.  All would become new proprietors in time.  They are:
James Doughty     John Gustin     Mark Rounds     Matthew Scales
          William Scales     Ebenezer Hall     Thomas Thomes     John Wass    
           James Mills     Joseph Bean     John Barbour     James Barbour

      William Willis in his chapter called the 'Character of First Settlers' makes an interesting observation and records a rather harsh opinion of the Rev. Thomas Smith, who would be become the first settled pastor of the town, and who was actively recruited and supported by these new proprietors.

The persons who revived the settlement of Falmouth, came from different parts of the country; they were actuated by no common principle, and held together by no common bond, except that of self-preservation.  It was a frontier post, and few persons who were able to live in more secure places, or unless moved by an uncommon spirit of enterprise, would venture their persons and property in so exposed a situation.  The first settlers were consequently poor; many of them were soldiers, "the cankers of a calm world", whom the peace, of 1713, had thrown upon society, and who found a resting place here.

     Willis goes on to request some indulgence of the venerable, and usually sympathetic pastor, whose prejudice against the "early settlers who thronged here to the exclusion of the ancient proprietors, whose cause he seems to have warmly espoused."  One of the major complexities for the rebirth of the settlement was the return of relatives of those people who had previously owned granted land, before the destruction of the town.  How these claims would be reconciled with the designs and rights of the new settlers would be disputed many times causing unrest and hard feelings.  This issue would finally be settled to the satisfaction of both parties, but not until 1732.

     When Major Moody and his band of soldiers arrived, they found that Elisha Ingersoll from Kittery, was already living in his old family homestead near the Fore River.  Apparently, he drowned soon after.  Sometime in 1715, Benjamin Skillings and Zachariah Brackett returned to their fathers' claims on Back Cove and were working on refurbishing the old homesteads.

    The focus of re-building would take place primarily on 'The Neck' because it was more defensible, and closer to the potential sources for industry and commerce.  Major Moody settled at the foot of King Street (India St.), fronting the beach at a spot on the corner of our present Fore and Hancock Streets.  Others in the effort to re-build also settled near Maj. Moody.

     I was particularly interested in the Proprietors map shown above, and outlined a few names of persons who will be discussed as they relate to the East Deering area and my continued research on the East Deering/ Grand Trunk Cemetery.  

     Before continuing further, I want to pass on a fuller picture of Samuel Moody, who some, perhaps rightly, refer to as the 'second founder' of Portland. There is no question, he was the leader and promoter of Portland's revival, and deserves our recognition.

     The following is from the 'Biographical Sketches of the Moody Family by Charles C.P. Moody, published in Boston in 1817:

     As we have done since the beginning of the project:  "Unearthing the Roots of the Back Cove and East Deering Community", a project to recover the East Deering/Grand Trunk Cemetery, we will hold our annual Daffodil Planting Party at the cemetery in October.  Readers and followers of this blog are most welcome, if they live in the area, to join our Portland Girl Scouts and Friends of the Grand Trunk Cemetery in continuing to beautify this little historic cemetery behind the Presumpscot School at 69 Presumpscot Street.