Thursday, August 4, 2022

Proposed Roads, Circa 1817

 

Click for larger map

This survey of existing and proposed roads is from about 1817. The proposed roads are in a slightly lighter brown dotted line.  It is interesting to note the proposed new road from Mark Fernald's house over the Eliot line in Kittery to the intersection of what is now Beech Road.  This became the long stretch of State Road that goes past the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.  Before this new stretch of road existed everyone travelled on what is today Leach Road to Bolt Hill Road, to Main Street and Moses Gerrish Farmer Road to get from Kittery to the where the center of Eliot is today.  Also notice the proposed road that would have existed just north of where Hanscom Road is today and come out around Fernald Lane continuing across to Littlebrook Lane and on to the sharp corner of Goodwin Road at Frost Hill.  The last two things to note are Beech Road is named New Road, and the section of State Road between the Grange Hall and the end of Fore Road does not exist and wasn't even proposed at this time.

The notes included with this drawing indicate that these new roads were being proposed as a way to reduce the travel distance between Rice's Ferry in Kittery up to the South Berwick Landing.  This was most likely an appeal to the State to build these roads to make commercial transportation between these two hubs more efficient.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Sunset Hill Gravel 1911

 

Sunset Hill Gravel Pit circa 1916


Remains of stone foundation
A walk through the woods on the northern side of Sunset Hill reveals the remains of a stone cellar.  A building of some kind that was abandoned long ago.  It sits in a cut of land that rises steeply to Sunset Hill on the south.  Today tree growth partially obscures the fact that this was once a productive gravel pit abandoned one hundred years ago.  What was this gravel pit and why was it here?  The short answer is this gravel pit was owned by William Augustus Shapleigh (1859-1932) who owned the large old home that his father Samuel built which is now 196 Fore Road.  In October 1911 construction began on a branch of the Atlantic Shore Line Railway to bring rail cars to the gravel pit.  This branch line can be seen on the 1916 USGS map.

1916 USGS map



Eliot has not had a shortage of gravel operations, both in the past and continuing today.  The reason for this is the location of many glacial outwash features that make up Eliot's landscape.  Eliot features many glacial drumlins that are basically the result of receding glaciers dumping the enormous amount of rocky debris that had accumulated in the ice at certain spots on the surface of the land as they melted and receded north 16,000 years ago. 

Eliot drumlins in terrain view

Many of these drumlins have been further eroded by the ocean waters that poured in while the bedrock was still compressed from the weight of the glaciers.  The drumlins are the various hills that we see around Eliot.  They are mostly elongated, often teardrop-shaped and point in the direction of the glacier's retreat.  The drumlins contain much of the gravel material sought for construction projects.  Sunset Hill was one of these.

Contour map of Sunset Hill


In September 1912 a railcar loaded with gravel from the Sunset Hill gravel pit derailed causing disruption to normal rail transportation between Eliot and Dover, NH for several hours.  Rail worker Perley Dame of South Eliot was injured in the accident.

By 1919 the gravel pit was deeded to William's son Henry who seems to have used to it to secure mortgages that were eventually settled in 1930 by signing the land over to the York County Trust Company.


The land today is mostly overgrown.  Most people, unless they live near the site, have probably never heard of it or have seen the remains of the gravel operation.  It is one of the historical treasures that are fun to come across while taking a leisurely walk through the woods.  A reminder of a time long ago.
In 1940 all of this land was acquired by Edward and Minnie Gleason who in turn deeded it to Melvin and Alice Stadig in 1942.  The Stadig's owned it until 1977 when they sold it to Robert Levesque Sr. who then deeded it to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland, who held it until selling to the present owners in 1996.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Lost Houses, Lost History

John Frost House in 1910 Brixham Road


Eliot folks are a fortunate group of people.  We live in an area that has largely remained rural and undeveloped for centuries.  People first started building houses here in 1633, and some of our modern property lines still run along the original boundaries that were laid out 380 years ago.  Early colonial settlements and farms that were part of the original Massachusetts Bay Colony were largely bulldozed over due to the pressures of suburban Boston planning over the last century and a half.  If people want to see original colonial-era houses that are still standing, they can see many by driving north into New Hampshire and Maine.  Many of these old homes were built with thick, sturdy timbers from nearby forests.  I know many people trying to keep 20th century homes from falling apart.  Sadly this is a losing battle in my opinion.  The construction of many modern houses was never meant to last centuries.  We will not have homes built in the 20th century standing in the 23rd century the way we have 18th century homes still standing in Eliot today, which is why it is all the more tragic when we lose one of these historic marvels to the bulldozer or the ravages of time. 

I also understand that these homes have not survived on their own.  They survive because they have had centuries of careful owners and caretakers.  We owe a debt of gratitude to those that buy or inherit an old house and care for it and give it life.  I do not know all of the old houses of Eliot that we have lost over the past century.  I just know the ones that we have lost since I first came to Eliot 25 years ago.  

1740s John Frost House lost 2013
The John Frost house on Brixham Road was one that awakened me to the reality that all of these old houses may not remain forever.  I didn't even know it was going to be demolished.  This house is featured in the "Images of America" book on Eliot produced by Margaret Elliott and the Eliot Historical Society in 2005.  One day in 2013 I was driving up Brixham Road and noticed that the old house that always greeted you as you rounded the gentle corner was suddenly gone.  

Clover Farm circa 1910 w/ Arthur Lee Hanscom
Our most recent loss is the 1750 Hanscom house which was better known as "Clover Farm" on Main
Street.  After the loss of the John Frost house a few of us asked the town of Eliot if they would provide us notice when an old property is going to be demolished so that we may try to contact the owner or developer to attempt a last recording of the structural, architectural, and family history of a property that will soon cease to exist in our town.  Not long after we took pictures of what remained of Clover Farm, the property was bulldozed to make way for a new development.  I personally don't understand it.  I love old houses.  I would love to see new developments retain some of the old structures and property features if it is feasible.  I would much rather live in a place that had preserved real history, than anywhere where history was sterilized and paved over, or worse, invented.  I have to believe I am not alone.

Clover Farm lost 2021
Even an 18th century house will not survive forever without a caretaker who has the means to perform expensive repairs and maintenance.  Some of these old houses are small in an era when buyers are looking for large open-concept houses.  It takes a special kind of buyer.  A buyer that appreciates the history of a house, the stories of the families that have lived in that house, and a desire to preserve that past while carrying on the long caretaker tradition of that house.  One day their time spent living in and caring for the old house will also be part of the history of the house.

There is a favorite poem of mine by the poet Joyce Kilmer.  It is called "The House With Nobody In It".  I reproduce it here because it speaks of the soul of an old house and the sadness when its days are done.

The House With Nobody In It
by Joyce Kilmer

Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.

I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.

This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.

If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.

Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.

But a house that has done what a house should do,
 a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.

So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.


Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Frost Garrisons

 


1738 Frost Garrison 


When learning about Eliot history we hear a lot about "The Frost Garrisons".  Not to be confused with "The Frost Garrison".  How many can locate it or really know what it is?  What is the difference between "The Frost Garrisons" and "The Frost Garrison"?  There are currently three locations in Eliot that are on the National Register of Historic Places.  The William Fogg Library, the Paul Family Farm, and the Frost Garrison and House.  

2014 Clean Up

I will admit that for a long time after I started researching Eliot history I still did not know much about the Frost Garrisons.  I had never even seen the site until I volunteered on a work crew in 2014 to provide much needed clean-up and brush clearing around the old structures.



What and Where is it?

The Frost Garrisons are three structures all built within a few years of each other starting in 1733 by Colonel John Frost (b. 1709)  The three structures are located at 23 Garrison Drive in Eliot.  The original land on which the garrisons stand encompassed about 140 acres and was known as Stony Brook Farm.  The Town of Kittery granted this land to Charles Frost in 1660.  Stony Brook was one of the ancient names for the York River.

Frost Hill today
  The Stony Brook land was given to Charles's second son John Frost (b. 1681) in his will after he died at Ambush Rock in 1697.  John Frost was residing at Newcastle, NH and had no immediate need for the land, but did apparently build a house and barn here in which a tenant lived.  In 1730 (York Deeds Book 14 Folio 59) he sold this Stony Brook property to his son Colonel John Frost for 1,000 pounds.

1736 Powder House


Colonel John Frost quickly set to work building his homestead upon Frost Hill.  The main house was constructed about 1735 and finished in 1736.  The smaller garrison structure which became known as the "Powder house" was probably constructed next, followed by the larger garrison house constructed in 1738.  Why were these garrison structures built at this time?  Colonel John Frost was building his homestead in a fairly isolated part of Kittery.  And his family was very familiar with the dangers posed by the historically bad relations with the Native populations.  By 1730, most of the Wabenaki Confederacy had abandoned their coastal settlements and pulled back further inland and north to Canada, but there were still skirmishes related to the ongoing wars on the frontiers.  Colonel John Frost had lost his grandfather Charles to an Indian attack 33 years earlier.  Building garrisons as a precaution was still a prudent measure in 1730.  

1736 Frost House
 
The application for acceptance of the Frost Garrison property into the National Register of Historic Places mentions that the original Frost house was destroyed in 1760 and rebuilt in 1778,  I have not found any evidence of this.  In fact a descendant of Colonel John Frost who was living in the house in 1836, Joseph W. Frost provided a written certification that he discovered a record of the building of his house that stated the chimneys were finished in 1736.  I believe at the time of this application to the NRHP there was confusion between the Colonel John Frost Garrison and the Major Charles Frost Garrison which actually was destroyed in 1760.  The Charles Frost Garrison stood just south of the sharp bend on Goodwin Road and will be the subject of a future blog article.

The description as part of the NRHP application mentions there was once a tunnel that led from the main house to the smaller garrison house as a means to evacuate the house for the safety of the garrison in the event of an attack.  It would be interesting to find evidence of this tunnel.

Were there Indian attacks?

Joseph W. Frost cites 1736 document


It is also mentioned in the history of the Frost Garrison site submitted to the NRHP that there is evidence of arrow and bullet attacks upon the garrison.  I have not found any evidence that any Indian attacks occurred within the boundaries of the Town of Kittery after 1730.  Most of the ongoing battles at this time occurred much further inland.  The most known battle was the 1725 Battle of Pequawket fought at the site of present-day Fryeburg, Maine as part of the end of "Dummer's War".

20th Century

1984 Subdivision
The Frost Garrisons known for many years as the Frost Farm at Frost Hill remained in the Frost Family for 287 years until 1947.  The property was eventually sold in 1969 to Joseph Parsons who was the owner when the application was approved for the National Register of Historic Places.

By 1984 the 100 acre property went through a subdivision.  So today the Frost Garrisons lie on a 4.7 acre lot surrounded by a modern residential development.

I have mentioned a couple of examples of how the John Frost Garrisons is often confused with the original Frost Garrison of Charles Frost.  If you look up the Frost Garrisons on the Internet you will see the repeated mistake that it is the ancestral home of the poet Robert Frost.  The Charles Frost Garrison is the ancestral home of Robert Frost, not the Colonel John Frost Garrisons.  

Today 

Author & Son 2014
People sometimes ask the Eliot Historical Society if the Frost Garrisons is a publicly accessible site and can it be visited freely.  The answer right now is no.  The property has always been privately owned.  So any visit should be with the property-owner's permission.  There is an easement with the property that any work proposed on either of the three buildings requires an opinion from the Maine Historical Preservation Commission.  It would be a tragedy to lose such a historical treasure which is why a number of us gathered in a cold steady rain in 2014 to cut away vegetation that was overtaking the structures.  The nature of the property as a private residence means future generations rely on owners who have a passion for preserving the history of their property.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Hammonds of Old Road


Old Road circa 1910


On a frigid Thursday morning on the last day of January in 1952, Edgar A. Hammond, a man who lived all of his life on his Old Road farm, died at a nursing home in Eliot.  He was a month into his 81st year and with his death came an end to 253 continuous years in which men with the Hammond name would be associated with that part of Joseph Hammond's original Bay Lands estate along the "Old Road".  Edgar was the last of the line as he was unmarried, and all his male cousins had moved away from the ancestral lands.  The Hammond girls married into other local families and also moved away, their Hammond roots becoming intertwined with other old families of Eliot and beyond.

Bay Lands 1699
First Generation (1699 - 1722)

Joseph Hammond (born 1647) acquired these lands in 1699.  Joseph Hammond was an important early figure in the history of Kittery's "Upper Parish".  He was already established in a large estate located where the Eliot Boat Basin is today.  It was his grandsons Joseph Hammond, and George Hammond who were born in 1701 and 1704 who first settled on these lands in the 1720's.  George would settle on the upper portion that included a part of the Great Heathy Marsh, while Joseph settled on the lower portion closest to the Piscataqua River along Old Road.

The house or house site of Joseph Hammond is pictured at the top of this article.  The current address is 152 Old Road.  This house may have been a rebuild of the original.  More research would need to be done to determine this.  But it is likely this was the original site of Joseph Hammond's Old Road homestead.  In 1753 Joseph's father Joseph died and left him the property on which he was currently residing.


Will of Joseph Hammond 1751
1722 - 1779

Joseph Hammond who established the homestead on Old Road married Mary Adams in 1722.  They had a large family of 3 daughters and 5 sons but only two sons lived past childhood, Thomas, born in 1737 and Christopher, born in 1740.  Thomas served as a Lieutenant in the American Revolution in Captain Elisha Shapleigh's Company attached to Colonel Joseph Storer's Regiment that was part of the Saratoga Campaign in 1777.

Surrender of Burgoyne 1777

Joseph Hammond divided his land between Thomas and Christopher in his will of 1772.  Christopher sold his share in 1790 and moved north to Berwick and Thomas kept his half of the  Old Road homestead after his father died in 1779.  William Fogg writes about 1850 that Thomas lived in the house where his grandson Daniel was living in 1850.  This would be the house currently at 162 Old Road.  Thomas married Mary Rogers, the daughter of the Reverend John Rogers in 1763.  They had a small family, a daughter Mary born in 1764 and a son Joseph born in 1768.  Mary married William Jones of Portsmouth in 1784.  Mary and William built a house down the road which is the house at 170 Old Road.

1784 House & Old Acre circa 1910

 1780 - 1820

Mary and William had a son, born in their new Old Road home, named William, but after a few years relocated to Portsmouth.  Their son William would become a successful merchant and have a daughter Elizabeth who married Alexander Hamilton Ladd   and lived in the Moffat-Ladd house in Portsmouth.   Mary and William sold their house to her younger brother Joseph.

Joseph married Mary Staples in 1789. Joseph and Mary had a large family and four of their sons settled on the Old Road homestead.  The oldest son Daniel Rogers, was born in 1791.  Capt. Pierpont Hammond in 1793 died at the age of 42 in 1835, Joseph was born in 1796, and Thomas was born in 1803. 

1820 - 1860
1856 Map of Old Road


Daniel Rogers Hammond

 Daniel R. Hammond married Sally Remick in 1817 and lived in his grandfather's house with his own family.  They had three girls, Mary, Susan, and Eliza, born in 1821, 1824, and 1830. They lived at the house at 162 Old Road.

Joseph Hammond

Joseph Hammond married Sarah Frost in 1820 and lived in the original home of his great grandfather at 152 Old Road.  This home originally was owned by his brother Capt. Pierpont Hammond who died tragically in New Orleans in 1835.  Joseph and Mary had 6 children, three boys and three girls.  All of their children left the family homestead.

Thomas Hammond

Thomas Hammond married Rosanna Goodwin in 1825.  They had 8 children, but only one, Daniel Goodwin Hammond stayed on the Old Road homestead.  They lived in the 1784 Hammond house at 170 Old Road.  Thomas went to California briefly during the 1849 Gold Rush.

1860 - 1952

170 Old Road "1784 House"

Daniel G. Hammond

Daniel Hammond
Daniel Hammond, the son of Thomas and Rosanna built a fourth Hammond house just to the west of his father's house.  He was married twice and in his second marriage had a son, Edgar.  Daniel's father Thomas died in 1871.  Around 1880 he sold his house to Sylvester Staples who had it moved by an oxen team to his property on Beech Road.  Daniel and his family continued to live in the 1784 house at 170 Old Road, and the old cellar hole remains where his house once stood.  Daniel died in 1899, and left the farm to his son Edgar who lived here mostly by himself for the next 53 years.


Mary & Susan Hammond 

162 Old Road "Old Acre"
Mary and Susan Hammond were two daughters of Daniel R. Hammond who continued to live in their father's house at 162 Old Road after their father died in 1872 and their mother in 1881.  They both seem to have remained unmarried and both died in 1904.  Their house came into possession of Marietta Hammond, Edgar's stepsister, who died in 1930 and in her will left the house to the First Congregational Society.  The house became known as "Old Acre" and remained the property of the Congregational Church until 1962.


Joseph & Sarah Hammond

 

152 Old Road
Joseph Hammond and his wife Sarah lived out their days alone in their home, the original homestead.  Joseph died in 1863 and Sarah lived alone for the next two decades until she died in 1885.  The house most likely fell to their son Pierpont Hammond who seems to have sold it to Dr. John L. M. Willis in 1888.  Dr. Willis sold it to his daughter and her husband, Gail and Albert E. Libbey in 1918 and it has stayed in the Willis family ever since.




There is more research to be done, for example I recently discovered that Christopher Hammond sold his home in 1790 and moved north to Berwick, but where was this home?  The Indexbook for the York County Registry offers an interesting clue:


John Fogg is said to have purchased the house which became the home of Dr. John L. M. Willis in 1775 from a "Mr. Dixon".  This story is first recorded in "Old Kittery and Her Families" by Everett Stackpole.  But I find no evidence of a deed from 1775 to John Fogg.  This 1790 deed from Christopher Hammond to John Fogg is the closest I can find.  I am intrigued and will research this further, and provide an update. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Connections: The Emery Pioneers of Kittery, Maine and Monroe, NH



I grew up in a small dairy farm town along the curve of the Connecticut River above the White Mountains in New Hampshire, called Monroe.  It was named for James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States as the town was incorporated in 1854 when it split from the mother town of Lyman after being known since 1761 as West Lyman.  The Gardner Mountain range divided the two halves of Lyman and it made sense to split into two separate towns.  I lived in Monroe for 10 years between the ages of 5 and 15 so it holds a special place in my heart and my memory.  It was there that I first developed a love of history and an interest in knowing about the people who once walked along the same paths I found myself walking.  I developed this interest in many ways from my interactions with my grandfather who was, himself, an amateur historian who submitted many historical tales of early 20th century farm life to the Green Mountain Folklore Society for publication. 

We lived on a winding country road originally named Coppermine Hill Road, and eventually shortened to Coppermine Road for there were purported to be copper mines in this area in the 1800's.  We lived on a portion of my Grandfather's property and just down the road, within shouting distance, lived my best friend.  His family lived in a house that was built by the brother of the man who built my grandfather's house.  We knew this from reading the wonderful "History of Monroe New Hampshire" published in 1955 by Frances Ann Johnson as part of Monroe's Centennial celebration.  

These two brothers were named Edward and Horace Emery.  My friend and I sought out and visited the brothers' graves in the North Monroe Cemetery.  This was not the normal pastime of most kids but it is still a cherished memory of mine.

So how does this tale of childhood memories relate to Eliot history?  Well, those familiar with the history of Eliot and Kittery will recognize the Emery name.  In Monroe, or more accurately West Lyman, the first Emery settler was the father of Edward and Horace, Caleb Emery.  Caleb was born in 1776 in Dunbarton, NH and settled in West Lyman in 1804.  He seems to have brought along his father Amos and uncle Caleb both soldiers of the American Revolution in Capt. Samuel McConnell's Company out of Pembroke, NH who marched to Bennington, VT.  Much of the settlement of this part of New England along the Connecticut River occurred later than settlements along the coast mainly due to hostilities with native tribes which continued until the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763.  

Caleb's farm encompassed both my Grandfather's property and the property of my friend's family.  When Caleb settled here he built a log cabin near the brook that divided the two properties.  My friend and I looked many times for evidence of this log cabin but never found any, or at least none that our young eyes would have recognized.  

The paternal line of Caleb Emery of West Lyman, NH leads back to John Emery of Romsey, England who was born in 1598 and came to America aboard the "James" in 1635 bound for Boston and eventually Newbury, Massachusetts.  John Emery of Romsey is the brother of Anthony Emery of Romsey who was also aboard the "James".  

Anthony Emery was an early settler of Dover, NH in 1640 and Kittery, Maine in 1649.  All of the Emery name from the Kittery area originate from Anthony through his son James.  Anthony was said to be a large man of 300 pounds.  Physically large and also large in importance of that early settlement.  He was one of the signers of the Submission of Maine to Massachusetts in 1652.  His time in both Dover and Kittery was full of controversy and court decisions, mostly involving alcohol and his ability to sell it.  But they also involved Anthony being overly friendly with Quakers which was not allowed in the strict Puritan environment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  

By 1660 Anthony had had enough of the Puritans of Kittery and moved south to Portsmouth, Rhode Island where he lived out his remaining days.  His son James and his grandchildren continued to live in Kittery and the Berwicks.

The tale of two Emery brothers from Romsey, England and how they played a historical role in two places I have called home does not end there.  For through my other hobby of genealogy, and much to my surprise, I discovered a genealogical line to these Kittery Emerys.  Anthony Emery of Kittery was my 9th Great Grandfather.  So I was the 9th Great Grandchild of Anthony Emery who settled a few miles down the road from where I now live, and I grew up on the ancestral farm of my distant cousin Caleb.  Such is the magic of modern genealogy combined with local historical research, and the web that connects us all to the history of those varied places we call home.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Why is Eliot Named "Eliot"?

 


    There are two traditions in the history of Eliot regarding the naming of the town.  The first is that Eliot was named for a Robert Eliot, and the second tradition states that Eliot was named for the Reverend Dr. John Eliot of Boston.  So which of these is correct and who were these potential namesakes?  Unfortunately there is still no overwhelming evidence for either of these traditions but I will provide what information is available and share what I did 11 years ago in an attempt to solve this mystery.  I will also weigh in with my own opinion.

Who was Robert Eliot?  This is the first mention in any publication of a Robert Eliot for whom the Town of Eliot gets its name:


Leighton Genealogy, Tristram Frost Jordan 1885

This implies that this Robert Eliot Jr. graduate of Harvard, 1701 is the person for whom Eliot is named.  This was repeated in an April 1899 volume of Old Eliot submitted by another person named Jordan:

Old Eliot April 1899

I believe this J.F. Jordan got this fact from the Leighton Genealogy.  Robert Eliot Sr. had almost no connection to Kittery or Eliot.  He was a Portsmouth man.  Living in what would become Newcastle, NH.  His son Robert Eliot Jr., Harvard graduate, actually died at sea around 1715:

Harvard Quinquennial Catalogue 1880

While Robert Sr. may have been a man of importance in Portsmouth and Newcastle, his son who died in 1715 barely achieves any historical mention.  I do not find any compelling evidence that these men would have been held in any great esteem among inhabitants of the Upper Parish at the time of Eliot's Incorporation in 1810.  Or at least not enough to have them bestowed with the honor of naming the town after them.  Tristram Frost Jordan wrote two genealogical volumes covering his father's family and his mother's family (Leighton).  He knew all the old family names and probably decided that Eliot must have been named for this Robert Eliot who he found in his research of old families of the Piscataqua Plantations, whose daughters married into many promininent families including the Frosts and Leighton families of whom he was researching.


Second Meeting House at Crams Corner
The second tradition of Eliot's naming states that the Reverend Dr. John Eliot of Boston promised to provide a bell for the meeting house if they would name the new town after him.  The meeting house in use at that time did not have a belfry, and so the bell was never provided.  Dr. Eliot was said to be a close friend of General Andrew Pepperell Fernald who was the person largely responsible for the movement to separate from the Town of Kittery.  He was chosen as the agent charged with presenting the petition for separation to the General Court in Boston.

John Eliot, D.D. 1780

So who was the Reverend Dr. John Eliot?  He was the son of the Reverend Andrew Eliot, who was the Congregational minister of the New North Church in Boston.  He succeeded his father as the pastor of the New North Church after his father's death in 1778.  In 1790 he helped found the Massachusetts Historical Society along with the Rev. Dr. Jeremy Belknap, formerly of Dover, NH, and a few other distinguished persons.   He married a Portsmouth, NH woman named Ann Treadwell and raised his family in Boston.  He died in 1813 just three years after the Incorporation of Eliot, Maine.  


Mass. Historical Society

Could the story of the promise of a bell be true?  It is hard to prove.  But it is possible.  In 2009 ahead of the Bicentennial celebration of the Incorporation of Eliot, I wrote to the Massachusetts Historical Society and asked if I could come to their library to read through Dr. Eliot's diary which was part of the Eliot papers left in the care of the MHS.  They offered to have two college interns perform the investigation.  I asked them to look for any reference to Kittery, Maine, the Incorporation, or Andrew P. Fernald in the 1809-1810 time period.  After a number of weeks they responded that the interns found no reference to the Incorporation of Eliot, and no reference to Andrew P. Fernald.  Their professional research staff double checked the intern's work and also found no references in Dr. Eliot's diary.  



I am unaware of the existence of any evidence that proves that either of these two traditions is true or false.  But I am more inclined to believe the story of the Rev. John Eliot and the gift of a bell.  I believe that Dr. Eliot would have been well informed of the happenings at the General Court regarding the petition of the Upper Parish to separate from Kittery.  He was a man who understood history and understood his time would soon be under the gaze of the historian.  I have no reason to doubt that Andrew P. Fernald was well acquainted with Dr. Eliot even if he does not appear in any of his diary entries.  They were both great men and contemporaries of one another and most likely socialized in the same circles when together in Boston.  Though, until more evidence appears, we must give equal consideration to both traditions for the naming of Eliot.  I will continue to seek answers to this question.




Proposed Roads, Circa 1817

  Click for larger map This survey of existing and proposed roads is from about 1817. The proposed roads are in a slightly lighter brown dot...