A Little Sedgwick History


Hancock County, Maine

Before the first white settlers arrived in the Sedgwick area, "there were Indian villages on the shores of Walkers Pond and Probably at Byard's Point or The Punch Bowl also. Somewhere in the sands of the quiet little cove at The Punch Bowl, lies the oaken keel of a trading vessel captured and burned before the coming of the English settlers. Not one of the crew of the ill-fated craft escaped to tell the tale; the only knowledge of the event being derived from the traditions of the Indians themselves and from the mouldering timbers, which remained mute witnesses of the tragedy, long after settlers had claimed the land."(1)

Although the first permanent white settlement in Sedgwick was established in 1763, surveyors sent out by Governor Edmund Andros in 1688 found two French families of eight people living at Naskeag, a beautiful point of land at the eastern end of what is now Brooklin. As late as 1910, traces still remained of old fortifications, presumably built by the French as protection against English incursions.

This scenic spot became the home for the families of John and Abigail (Watson) Black, Shadrach Watson and his wife, and Robert and Abigail (Glover) Byard. Robert Linn, lived on the Point for a year or two, but moved to Deer Isle in 1765.

The area attracted many new settlers. Within a year of his arrival, Shadrach Watson erected a store at Naskeag, which served the rapidly growing population. Other early residents include John and Hannah (Farrar) Billings, William Reed, Joseph Freethy, Samuel Cousins, and the three Herrick brothers: John, Samuel and Ebenezer, with their cousin Joshua and Huldah (Brown) Herrick.

Sedgwick was incorporated on 13 January 1789. The Articles of Incorporation comprise the first page of the Town Records, and were signed by Theodore Sedgwick, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and approved by John Hancock, President of the Senate.

The residents of Sedgwick held their first annual Town Meeting on April 6, 1789 at the home of Moses Eaton. John Billings was chosen Moderator. The purpose of the meeting was to choose town officers to serve the community. Thus, the following persons were selected:

Town Clerk - Joshua Snow
Appraisers and Selectmen  - John Billings, Joseph Freathy, and Enoch Blaisdell (spelled Blasdel in the records)
Constables  - Silas Bunker and Solomon Billings
Wardens  - Ebenezer Herrick, Ebenezer Eaton, Joshua Trussel, Benjamin York, Robert Byard, John Black  and Simeon Parker

At the same meeting, it was voted to have the Selectmen receive the votes for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Senator.

For Governor, there were no votes.
His Excellency John Hancock, Esq., for Governor-in-Chief, 74 votes
The Honorable Samuel Adams, Esq, Lieutenant Governor, 76 votes
Daniel Coney, Esq, of Hallowell, Senator, 69 votes.

The original of the voting returns was signed by Joshua Snow, Town Clerk(2)

Religion in Sedgwick

Many early town meetings and probably religious meetings also, were held at the Meeting House on the Benjamin River. But in 1790, it was decided to construct two meeting houses in this town. One meeting house to stand on the Southern side of land now owned by Mr. John Lee of Penobscot...about fifty rods from Gray Pond. The other meeting house to stand on land now the property of Mr. Jonah Dodge, where there was some land cleared for that purpose heretofore.(3)

In 1791, the town first voted on whether to raise 100 £ to build the meeting houses, but the measure failed to pass. In the fall, however, residents decided to "disanull all votes concerning the meeting house or meeting houses passed heretofore." Instead, they preferred "to have one meeting house as near the center of this town as the land will admit, and to choose a committee to go and see where the center of the town is and to say where the meeting house shall be built."(4) The committee consisted of David Carelton, Jr., Solomon Billings, Ebenezer Herrick, John Walker, and Samuel Hale.

1998 photo of 
Sedgwick Meeting House

But making the decision to build a meeting house and actually completing it were two different things altogether. In 1794, they were still having difficulties getting the job done. A special meeting was held whose sole purpose was to agree on some method to finish the Meeting House. Money seemed to be the biggest obstacle to its completion, so it was voted to sell a number of pews in the Meeting House and that the moneys arising from the sale of the aforesaid pews be appropriated towards finishing the Meeting House.(5) The pews were to be constructed within the following fifteen months. They also voted to raise £22 to pay for the clearing of the land upon which the building was to stand. The town records after this date do not mention further problems with the construction of the church, so it may be assumed that the building was completed withing the next year or two.

In the late 1700's, ministers in Sedgwick were hired by the town and were paid by means of a special tax instituted for that purpose and assessed upon residents of the town, a practice which caused considerable turmoil a few years later.

The first minister of Sedgwick, after its incorporation as a town, was the Reverend Mr. Cleveland. At a town meeting in October 1789, the residents voted to pay the Reverend Mr. Cleveland half of his salary that fall, to finish constructing his home, and to clear his land. However, Mr. Cleveland did not remain the town minister very long. By April 1791, he seems to have been replaced in the pulpit by Mr. Daniel Merrill, whose interesting career in Sedgwick deserves to be the subject of an entire chapter of town history.

On April 4, 1791, the residents voted to appoint the three Sedgwick selectmen to provide a minister for a period of four months during the summer. The selectmen invited Daniel Merrill to preach. He was well received, and in July his contract was extended for an additional six Sabbaths. By September of that year, the town issued a call to Mr. Daniel Merrill to serve as Sedgwick's minister. A committee consisting of Ebenezer Eaton, Abel Billings, and Joshua Snow "was chosen to agree with Mr. Daniel Merrill according to the call we have given him to settle with us in the Gospel Ministry."

The conditions of his employment and recompense were specified in detail. "He must expect to preach in the year annually four days at the one end of town, and four days at the other, as the town define it; that Mr. Merrill settle with us as a Congregational minister; that Mr. Merrill have four weeks annually to visit his friends at the West Ward, or else where, the same being reduced out of his salary."

He was to be paid a sum of £ 50 per year for the first three years of his employ, after which he was to receive £ 75 each year, his salary to be paid every six months, "so long as he personally supplies our pulpit."

As part of his compensation, the residents voted to "clear four acres of land fit to sow with grain next fall for Mr. Merrill"(6) and to construct a house for him. The dimensions of the house were specified exactly:

"The house is to be 36 feet long, 28 feet wide, to board the same, finish one half of said house, and dig and stone a cellar under the same, the aforesaid house to be seven feet tall, with a gambrel roof." Two weeks later, the town modified the description of the home to include instructions that "the said house to be finished comparable with the common Western houses, with the cellar and arch under the chimney. The aforesaid house to be handsomely underpinned to the height of twelve inches." They further committed to "finish what was voted above concerning Mr. Merrill's house within eighteen months from the date hereof (September 5, 1791.)"

After preaching for two years, "At a meeting of the Freeholders and other inhabitants of the town of Sedgwick on July ye 15th 1793, agreeable to notification acted as follows: Voted that Mr. Daniel Merrill be ordained in this town."(7)

But not everyone in town agreed with Mr. Merrill's preaching. Additionally, it was difficult to get his house completed as agreed in the contract. As late as April 1796, the house was not yet finished.

To complicate matters still further, in about 1808, Mr. Merrill became converted to the Baptist faith, taking a number of his congregation with him. At which point, the town residents protested. In February of that year, it was voted to "Choose a committee to request Elder Daniel Merrill to take a dismission from the town , and upon what conditions."(8) He remained in town and retained a number of loyal followers, many of whom named their children in his honor.  The records show that Reverend Merrill continued to preach in Sedgwick for many years after that. But there were to be some procedural changes.

In January 1828, there were congregations of Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalists whose members were listed in the town records according to the profession of their faith. These lists enabled the town to apportion moneys to the various churches the revenues from the ministerial taxes according to the number of members in each congregation.

By the end of the year 1828, this system was no longer satisfactory. In the fall, the residents descended upon the town clerk in droves, demanding that they no longer be taxed to support a minister. In the town records of November 1, 1828 is this statement: "The following persons have made known to me that they wish to be exempted from paying a parochial tax in this town in the future." The list included most of the town residents. Then again on March 9, 1829 the same statement listed an additional 24 people. About this time, it appears that the tax was dropped, and that ministers were supported by direct donations from their members.

  1. Register of the Towns of Sedgwick Brooklin, Deer Isle, Stonington, and Isle Au Haut, Chatto and Turner, Friend Memorial Public Library, Brooklin, 1910, p. 15.
  2. Ibid., April 6, 1789, pp 5-6.
  3. Ibid., May 25, 1790, p. ___
  4. Ibid., 5 September 1791, p. 32.
  5. Ibid., June 19, 1794, p. 37.
  6. Ibid., September 5, 1791, p. 32.
  7. Ibid., July 15, 1793, p. 59.
  8. Ibid., February 18, 1808, p. 192

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