A History of the Town of Fryeburg (Pequawket)
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:
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