Ancient Hallowell, Maine

Category: Kennebec County Published: Sunday, 09 February 2014 Written by Carol Eddleman Print Email
 After many of the coast towns had been settled, the settlement of the interior of Maine was retarded more than a century by the almost constant hostile attitude of the Indians.  The proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase, previously known as the Kennebec Patent, made frequent attempts to have their lands situated on both sides of Kennebec river, settled, but such attempts were for a long time abortive.  Settlers on the lower Kennebec were protected by Fort Richmond, later by Fort Shirley, and still later by Forts Western and Halifax.  Two of these forts were erected by the Plymouth Company in pursuance of their plans for settling their territory, but the inducement of land for a town in the wilderness, practically without cost, was not sufficient for persons in the older towns to jeopardize their lives and the lives of their families.
 
The fall of Quebec in 1759, and the extinction by treaty of French power in America two years later, put a new face upon the matter of settling the interior towns of the state, and within the space of a few years clearings had been commenced on the Kennebec as far north as Norridgewock.  Fort Western was erected in 1754, and the commandant became the first settler in what was ancient Hallowell.  Except James Howard and the small garrison at the fort, no other settlers came until after the conquest of Canada.  The town of Hallowell, as originally laid out and established, was one of the largest in the state, but so much of its territory has been set off to form other towns, that it is now one of the smallest.  The towns set off from Hallowell having been written up separately for this volume, the scope of this article will be limited to the town of Hallowell as it is at the present time.
 
The present town of Hallowell is bounded east by Kennebec river, north by Augusta, west by Manchester, and south by Farmingdale. To distinguish it from the Fort settlement, in early times it wascalled the “Hook,” said to be an abbreviation of Bombahook, [The Indian name of Hallowell was Medumcook, said to mean “a shallow place.” Bombahook may have been an English corruption of this name, which was also given to the brook that enters the Kennebec at Hallowell.] a word of unknown etymology and significance.  The Indians probably had a small village at this place before the country was visited by white men.  In proof of this, when Dr. Amos Wilder was levelling the land near the river, and not far from the place where his oilcloth factory now is, he unearthed a large number of Indian implements of the usual varieties found on the Kennebec, mixed with the bones of animals, and imbedded in earth mixed with cinders and ashes.  Their distribution was limited to some six feet in width, and some 200 feet along the bank of the river.
 
Hallowell is quite hilly, the land bordering on the Kennebec, more especially that where the city proper is situated, having a sharp incline toward the river. Outside of the city proper the land is fertile, quite free from cobbles, and well adapted to purposes of agriculture.  Pine Tree farm, once the property of Governor Bodwell, and Granite Hill farm, the property of William P. Atherton, are among the best in the county.  Orcharding is a leading industry in some parts of Hallowell, but mixed husbandry is the more common practice.  There has not been that strict attention paid to farming as was formerly the case, and many once good and productive farms have deteriorated.  This is largely due to removals from the suburbs into the city, and to emigration from town.
 
The first settler in Hallowell was Deacon Pease Clark, who came from Attleboro, Mass., in May, 1762, in a ship belonging to the province of the Massachusetts Bay, which came to the Kennebec with supplies for Forts Western and Halifax.  What induced Mr. Clark to seek this particular spot upon which to erect a home is unknown at this date.  The Plymouth proprietors were at this time making vigorous efforts to colonize their land on the Kennebec and were making generous offers to first settlers, and no doubt Mr. Clark heard of them and thought this a good opportunity to secure land for himself and his family of stalwart sons.  He was put on shore where Water street now is, with his son, Peter, his wife and one other child, and there then being no building within the present limits of the city of Hallowell, they spent their first night under the body of a cart which they had brought along with them.  Clark constructed a camp of boughs near where the cotton factory now is, and lived there until he could provide a better home.  It is said that his son, Peter, had been on the Kennebec before; had come here as an officer with men to guard the workmen on the forts, and it is also said that Deacon Clark came here to see the country, prior to his moving here.  He received a grant of land from the Plymouth Company of one hundred acres, it being fifty rods wide and a mile long, embracing the central part of the present city of Hallowell.  His son, Peter, had the lot adjoining his father’s on the south, part of the grant to Benjamin Hallowell, of whom or his assigns, he must have purchased it.
 
The first clearing made by Clark was near the present city hall, and here he raised a crop of corn and rye.  This season also he erected a framed house, the timber for which was cut and hewn upon the spot and the boards floated up from Gardiner, where a saw mill had just been erected.  This house, the first built within the limits of Hallowell, stood on the side hill on Academy street, and was two stories in front and one in the rear, after a prevailing fashion of those days.  Here he lived for many years, and his house was headquarters for new settlers as they arrived on their way to their locations.  Pease Clark had six sons, all of whom came to the Kennebec.  Uriah was a cordwainer, and settled on land now in Augusta.  Simeon moved to Belgrade and then to Ohio.  David was a joiner; he obtained a lot in Hallowell, afterward moved to Readfield, but on the death of his father, moved back to Hallowell.  Peter Clark, born in 1735, who came with his father, married Zerviah Sweatland; he became insane, wandered away into the woods a second time and never returned.  Six years after, in 1803, his remains were found in a thicket and buried with leaves, nearly two miles from his home.  They had five children.  Isaac and Jonas settled on Augusta lands; the former removed to Hallowell and built the first two-story house there, on the spot where Mark Means’ bake-house stood, and this was the first tavern in Hallowell.  Jonas was one of the throng which about this time had the “western fever,” and emigrated to Ohio.
 
(Source: Illustrated History of Kennebec County, Maine: eds.: Kingsbury, Deyo, H. W. Blake & Co., 1892: Chapter 19, Hallowell, Me., pp. 488b-516.)
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