Brief Beginnings Of Cornish, Maine
by John Small
When white men first visited this area, it
was found to be occupied by the Sokokis, a tribe of Indians whose chief
dwelt on Indian, now Factory Island, Saco. Their chief stronghold was upon
the south side of the Ossipee, in what is now Cornish.
By 1666 Francis Small of Kittery had established
a trading camp in what is now Cornish Village. Just where it was located
is not certain.
In the summer of 1668, Francis Small sold
goods to the Newichewannock tribe of Indians on credit, for which they were
to pay in furs during the autumn. When the time for payment drew near, the
red men deemed it easier to kill Small than to pay him, and they decided
to fire his house and shoot him when he came out to escape the flames. Captain
Sandy, the chief of the tribe, was friendly to Small and told him what the
Indians were to do; and, as he could not control them in the matter, he
advised Small to flee for his life. Small thought the tale cunningly devised
fable to frighten him away in order to avoid payment; but, when night came
on, thinking it was wise to be on the side of safety, he secreted himself
in some pines on a hill nearby and watched through the long November night.
With the coming of dawn, a flame of fire shoot up from the burning house,
whereupon Small took to his heels with all possible speed, and did not pause
until he reached Kittery.
The chief called by the English Captain Sandy,
followed Small and made good the loss caused by debt and by fire, conveying
to him the entire Ossipee tract.
Probably no deed in the entire territory included
in the present state of Maine has been the cause of so many heart burnings
and lawsuits as this conveyance from the Indians to Francis Small. The original
deed, now over three hundred years old, has been examined by two of the
best experts in Boston and been pronounced a genuine, ancient deed; yet
its validity has been questioned again and again. Its particular value lies
in the fact that five towns in the northwestern part of York County hold
title under it "Cornish, Limington, Limerick, Parsonfield and Newfield.
"Ossipee" is an Indian word meaning "River of Pines".
This area was an unbroken wilderness for the
next hundred years. It was covered with dense growth of forest in which
might be found every tree common to this latitude. In 1772 it was first
surveyed and named Francisborough in honor of Francis Small.
Now Francis Small, from whom most of the Smalls
is this area are descended, was only a boy of twelve when he came with his
father, Edward, from Bideford, England about 1632. Edward Small came under
the auspices of his kinsman Sir Ferdinando Gorges, and founded Piscataqua,
which has since been divided into Kittery, Eliot, South Berwick, and Berwick.
He was a cavalier of high social position and a kinsman of the Champernowns,
the most powerful family in Devonshire and the descendants of the Byzantine
kings. He was also a relative of Sir John and Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir
Walter Rawleigh. One of the Champernown girls married a Gilbert and became
the mother of Sir John and Sir Humphrey Gilbert. After her husbands death,
she married a Rawleigh and became the mother of Sir Walter Rawleigh.
In 1648 Francis Small was in Dover, N.H.,
but by 1657 he was in Falmouth, Maine. In 1659 he established a trading
camp on Sebascodegan, now Great Island in the district of Harpswell, an
island well known for itís sturgeon fishery. The twenty mile square
tract which he received from Capt. Sandy he divided, selling half to Major
Nicholas Shapeigh and giving the other half to his son, Deacon Samuel Small.
Sullivan, in his History of Maine refers to
Francis Small as the "great landowner".
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