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History of Fryeburg, Maine

Fryeburg is an old and interesting town in Oxford County, situated between Bridgton, in Cumberland County, and the New Hampshire line. These are its eastern and western boundaries; on the north lie Stowe, Lovell and Sweden, on the south-east is Denmark, and on the south, Brownfield. As originally incorporated in 1777, the town was 2,172 rods square. A triangle of 4,147 acres was taken from its south-west corner, when the dividing line between Maine and New Hampshire was run; and a tract was subsequently annexed to the north part, and another on the south—the latter taken from Brownfleld. That on the north was known as Fryeburg Addition. It included the valley of Cold River, and in 1833 was set off and incorporated as Stowe. The extreme length of the town, north and south, is 12 miles, and the extreme width, east and west, about 7 miles. The surface is much varied with hills, plains, ponds and streams. The Saco River forms in the town an immense bow with its curve toward the north, absorbing 31 miles of its length. There is a connection with the sides of this bow through the middle of the town by means of a canal, pond and bog. The river receives the outlets of four large ponds and several small ones, lying wholly or partially within the town. Of these, the largest are Lovell's (area, 2 square miles), Kezar and Kimball ponds, the first in the southern, the second in the eastern, and the latter in the north-western part of the town. Other ponds hear the names of Pleasant, Bog, Charles, Clay, Horseshoe, Cat, Round, Black, Haley and Davis. Kezar River is a considerable stream that comes in on the north-east—the outlet of ponds in Waterford and Sweden. Bog Pond lies in the centre of the town; and between the south-eastern part and Saco River stands the solitary “Mount Zion.” Between the head of Lovell Pond and Saco River, on the west, lies Frveburg Village; and on the river, west of the village, is Pine Hill. The Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad approaches the village from the southeast and turns away toward the south-west, passing between a southern bend of the Saco and Stark’s Hill on the south. Stark’s Hill is 500 feet in height, and is succeeded southward by Long Hill and Bald Peak. Three-fourths of a mile north-east of the village is Jockey Cap cliff, and a mile and a half north of this, on the eastern bank of the west side of the Saco bow, is Martha's Grove Camp Ground. In the western part of the town, on the south-eastern shore of Kimball’s Pond, is Birch Hill. On the north end of Lovell’s Pond, on the eastern side, comes in Fight Brook, upon the meadow, at the mouth of which occurred the famous Lovewell’s Fight, from which the pond and brook take their names. North Fryeburg and Fryeburg Centre are small villages; and these, with Fryeburg Village (Fryeburg post-office), and East Fryeburg, are the post-offices. The principal water-powers of this town are on Kezar River, Ballard and Evans brooks, and at the beautiful Swan’s Falls on the Saco River, within a mile of Fryeburg Village. The manufactures of the town consist of leather, harnesses, carriages, lumber in its various forms, tin ware, cheese, canned vegetables, etc. There are four water-mills and two steammills.

The Fryeburg intervals are noted for their richness and beauty, containing nearly 10,000 acres which are frequently overflowed and fertilized by the Saco. There is the usual variety of trees, with large tracts of pine and oak. Fryeburg, the principal centre of business in the town, is a pretty village on a broad level plain, slightly elevated above the intervals of the Saco. Many from the cities every summer find rest in its pleasant hotels and boarding-houses. The views to the west are very mountainous.

This town is celebrated for the fight to which allusion has already been made. Capt. John Lovewell, the son of an ensign in Cromwell’s Puritan army, was an able partisan officer of the colonies. In April, 1725, he led 46 men from the frontier Massachusetts towns by a long and arduous march into the heart of the Pequaket country. After marching over 100 miles they reached Saco (now Lovell’s) Pond, with 34 men, and here they encamped over night near the chief village of the Indians. In the morning, Saturday, May 8, while they were assembled around the chaplain on the western side of the pond, and ere the morning devotions had been finished, a gun was heard, and an Indian was seen on the opposite side. They at once commenced a circuit of the northern end of the pond; leaving their packs on a small plain among the brakes in the shade of tall pines, and continued on around the eastern side of the pond in search of the Indian. They soon met him returning to the village. Shots were exchanged and he fell. Meantime, a party of savages about three times as strong as Lovewell’s, led by Paugus and Wahwa, had discovered the packs half-hidden among the brakes. Paugus ordered his warriors to fire over the heads of the English, then make them prisoners. As Love. well led his men back to the little plain by the brook, the savages rose before them, front and flank, and rushed toward them, presenting their guns and holding out ropes, and demanding if they would have quarter. “Only at the muzzle of our guns” replied the brave captain. The forces met with a volley, and several indians fell. Three more rounds were fired at close quarters, and Lovewell was mortally wounded, and 8 of his men were killed. The English retired, fightiug, to a position among the pines with the pond in their rear, Fight Brook on one side and Rocky Point on the other. This sheltered position they maintained for eight hours against continued assaults; and at sunset the Indians retired, leaving 39 of their warriors killed and wounded, including Paugus. The fight had continued so long that some of their guns became foul with so much firing, and John Chamberlain went down to the water to wash his Piece. Just then a warrior, supposed to be Paugus, came down for the same purpose, only a short distance off. They watched each other’s movements, and finished the cleaning at the same time, then commenced to load.

“Quick me kill you now,” exeiaimed the Indian.

“May be not,” answered Chamberlain, thumping the breech of his gun heavily on the ground. His old flintlock primed itself, and a moment later his bullet crashed through the brain of the huge savage, whose bullet whistled harmlessly through the air. Throughout the long day, the yells of the Indians, the cheers of the English, and the reports of the muskets resounded through the forests; while chaplain Frye, mortally wounded, was often heard praying for victory. About midnight the English retreated, leaving 15 of their number dead and dying on the field, while 10 of the remaining 19 were wounded. This battle broke the strength of the Pequakets and filled the neighboring clans with fear; so that most of them removed to Canada.

The larger part of Fryeburg was granted by Massachusetts in 1762 to General Joseph Frye, who had been at the siege of Louisburg, and commanded a regiment at Fort William Henry, on Lake George, in 1757. In the same year a grant was made to some persons in Concord, N.H., who came with their cattle and commenced clearings, and the next year (1763) came in with their families. Of these, Nathaniel Smith with his family were the first settlers, followed in November by Samuel Osgood, Moses Ames, John Evans, and Jedediah Spring, with their families. In 1766, Lieut. Caleb Swan and his brother James came in. The year 1766 was a period of great suffering from lack of food, and the settlers were obliged to send men to Concord, 80 miles through the wilderness with handsieds, for provisions.

A Congregational church was organized in 1775, and Rev. William Fessenden ordained as pastor. He was time ancestor of the noted family of his nane. Fryeburg Academy was incorporated in 1792, and has ever maintained high rank. Paul Langdon, son of the presisident of Harvard University, was the first preceptor. He was succeeded in 1802 by Daniel Webster, then “a youth unknhwn to fame" The new building was erected in 1852. The first lawyer in Fryehurg, and in what is now Oxford County, was Judah Dana, who came to Fryeburg in 1798. The town was first represented in the General Court in 1781, by Simon Frye, many years a senator and judge of the Court of Common Pleas. At North Fryeburg there is a Universalist church; and in other parts are a Congregational, a Methodist, and a New Jerusalem church. It has sixteen school-houses, valued at $6,000. The valuation of estates in 1870 was $670,383. In 1880 it was $796,322. The population in 1870 was 1,507. In 1880 it was 1,633.

Return to HOME PAGE           From the Maine State Gazetteer     By Geo Varney    Published B.B Russell


John Stuart Barrows, Fryeburg Maine 1938; Pequawket Press

The First Settlers 

The first white people to pass a winter in Pequawket were John Stevens, Nathaniel Merrill and Limbo, a Negro slave, who in the winter of 1762 pastured cattle on the great meadows, feeding them on the hay which they cut and stacked the summer before. At the beginning of winter they drove 105 cattle and 11 horses from Gorham to Pequawket, and camped with them on the high land and fed them all winter. Much hay was cut on the meadows near where Capt. Brown built his house, in what was first  to be Brownfield, now East Conway. 

These men lived on hasty-pudding
(a pudding made of corn moistened with water and boiled, or of milk and flour boiled), cream and maple sugar. Having many cows they had milk in profusion, enough so that they said of it, "it ran down hill." Merrill is said to have made his breakfast on two quarts of milk, thickened with fifteen partridge eggs. 

The first settlers began to come in 1763, more followed in 1764. They came on horses and in ox-carts and afoot, driving their stock before them. They forded the small streams, and the larger ones they crossed in ferry-boats and on rafts. Colonel David Page and Timothy Walker built a ferry-boat at the crossing of the Great Ossipee, near where is now the bridge between Cornish and Hiram. This was the line of travel from Phillipstown (Sanford) to Francesborough (Cornish), across the Ossipee to the falls in Hiram, then through what is now Brownfield, to Pequawket. 

In 1763 came Nathaniel Smith and his wife (Betty Fitzgerald), who settled in what is now East Conway. He was a mill-wright, and built the mill on the outlet of Walker's Pond, in what was called, "Sodom". Late that fall came Samuel Osgood, Jedediah Spring, David Evans, Nathaniel Merrill, John Evans, Moses Ames, most of them with families. Their route was by Berwick and York, then to the crossing of the Ossipee, where they camped, November 20, when they had to use snow-shoes and hand-sleds. They crossed the river in turn, using "a tall horse." The women rode astride, or as Mrs. Evans said, "We rode the strongest way." James McMillan came at the same time, and helped the party. By that time a foot of snow had fallen, but they pushed on the other seventeen miles, and when they reached Pequawket the snow was two feet deep. There was one log house, which they occupied until they could build houses for the families. They suffered, but endured the privations of that winter and until they could start their first crops.

Probably the conditions of daily life of the settlers of Pequawket were no different from those of any of the pioneers of this country. The privations were greater when they came to the settlement than later, and the living was in proportion to the supplies they brought with them. As travel conditions were so poor, transportation resolved itself into carrying into the wilderness the absolute necessities for the immediate needs. The gun and the axe were the principal requirements of the man, while the housewife had to get along with a kettle and a frying-pan, until they had a house over their heads and a place to keep the articles they could bring from their former homes. All their provisions other than what forests and streams provided were brought from Phillipstown, Me., or Concord, N. H. The trails were poor, marked only by spotted trees. The means of transportation other than “shanks mare” [i.e. walking] were horses, which could carry on their backs but a limited quantity of supplies of any kind. In the winter men went from Pequawket to Concord, 70 miles, on snow-shoes, and dragged hand-sleds, on which they brought back sometimes 400 pounds of supplies, more or less. 

Indian meal porridge was the chief staple food. This was made more appetizing with moose and bear meat, peas and sometimes beans. In the spring they had sap porridge thickened with meal; occasionally they had fish and pork which they brought from Saco. The customary drink was water unless they had a cow. Tea was taken on Sunday mornings but only the older women drank coffee. A great luxury was a broiled beaver's tail; it was fat and juicy. Doughnuts were fried in moose suet and bears' grease. For vegetables they boiled the roots of the bracken. Mrs. John Evans brought with her a quantity of potato eyes for planting. Onions and other vegetables were planted as soon as they had gardens. 

The next year from Concord, N. H., came Aaron Abbott, who has the distinction of being the only first settler to become one of the first members of church. A number of pioneers came that year (1764) from Andover, Mass., among them being Simon Frye, a nephew of Colonel Frye, [sometimes called “General” Frye], Isaac Abbott, Daniel Farrington, John Farrington, and William", Howard; these last two families went to Stow. 
In 1766 Caleb Swan and William Wiley came from Andover [Mass.] Wiley by way of Newburyport to Saco. He crossed the Ossipee or a raft. He took a grant on the West side of the township. The families that came later that year from Andover, Bradford, Atkinson and Crawford crossed the Ossipee at Waterboro. Joseph Knight and a dozen more families came in 1767. 

Lieutenant Caleb Swan, above mentioned, was a graduate of Harvard College, a classmate of John Adams, second President of the United States. Having served in the French and Indian Wars he settled at the Falls, having first drawn a lot at the northern part of the township, but could not reach it for the high water. Caleb came with three cows, a yoke of oxen and a horse. Naamah, his daughter, died in April, 1770, and the snow was so deep that it was necessary to use a hand-sled to move her body. 

In 1767 the settlers used batteaux to bring grain from Saco. These boats could carry eight or nine barrels. The supplies were, paid for with beaver and sable skins. 

It was told that after Thanksgiving that year five men went to Saco by boats for supplies. They were gone longer than they expected, and their anxious families were quite alarmed at the delay. One evening when they were gathered at the house of one of the families, it was proposed that they go to Lovewell's Pond to see if there was any sign of the voyagers. While waiting on the beach they heard the sound of oars and paddles, and so anxious were some of the women, that they ran along the shore to meet them. It was said the men's shoulders were almost worn to the bone from their labors in making the numerous carrys. 

In 1768 Rev. Paul Coffin of Buxton visited the settlement. He made a friendly visit, preaching and baptizing among the people. There were then, in addition to the names of settlers already given, John Webster, Stephen Knight, Moses Day, Capt. Henry Y. Brown, the grantee of Brownfield, Joseph Walker, Supply Walker, Ezekiel Walker, Asa Buck and Jonathan Drew. 

Joseph Emery, M.D., the first physician in the town, came in 1768 from Andover, and built his home on the "Drift Road" . 
Some idea may be obtained of the life in the township at this time, from a bill in Colonel Frye's handwriting: 
[amounts owed]
To [for] my Battow (batteau) £3
 ( Batteau: a very long canoe-like boat built for stability and cargo. )
For mending pair of shoes and making moccasins, 1, 9, 0.
July 1769, For five days battowing 15.
For One Hundred thirty-seven pounds Moose meat 
For one Journey to Saco, for myself and oxen 1, 18, 4. 
For my oxen to Parsonstown 
For battowing [batteauing] for James Osgood, 10 days 
For battowing &c &c 14 days 
Conway September the 16, 1766. 
This day reckoned with James Osgood and ballanced 
all accounts, and is due me Thurty Eight Pounds--Old Tenor. 
Fryeburg, October 1766. Colonel Frye 
For carrying a hide to Saco, and ploughing irons, 
For 3 1/2 bush, of Salt, 2, 2, O. 
For battowing half a barrel of Molasses. 10, O. 
For going to Phillipstown with your team, nine days, 1, 16. 7.
June 1767 for journey to Steep Falls a battowing 4 days, 16. 
For my battow to Steep Falls 4. 
Two Journeys to Parsonstown 

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