History of Cape Elizabeth, Maine
From
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine

By Geo. J. Varney
Published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill,
Boston 1886




Cape Elizabeth is the most seaward town of Cumberland County. It constitutes a broad peninsula lying between Fore River, Spurwink River and the sea. Scarborough is the adjoining town on the south-west, Westbrook, Deering and Portland, on the north, and around the southern and eastern parts flows the sea. It is separated from Portland by Fore River, and Spurwink River cuts deeply into its south-western side. Its north-eastern projection forms the southern shore of Portland Harbor. The town, including Richmond Island, has an area of 12,881 acres. The soil is various, being in different parts a red, brown, and a black loam, with some sand and clay. Being near so good a market as Portland, the buildings of the rural districts have a neat and thrifty aspect. Great Pond and Small Pond, in the southern part, are the principal bodies of water. Richmond Island, lying a mile from the southern shore, was the first locality occupied by Europeans on this part of the coast. The first settler was Walter Bagnell (called "Great Walt,") who came here in 1628, occupying the island without a title. His principal purpose appears to have been to drive a profitable trade with the Indians, without much scruple about his methods. At length his cupidity drew down upon him their vengeance and they put an end to his life in October, 1631. Two months later, the council of the Plymouth Company granted the Island and certain other territory to Robert Trelawney and Moses Goodyear, merchants of Plymouth, England, who soon made it the centre of their American trade. The island was convenient to the fishing and coasting business, and it soon became a place of much importance. There is a record that, before 1648, large ships took in cargoes tor Europe there. In 1638 a ship of 300 tons was sent here laden with wine, and the same year Mr. Trelawney employed 60 men in the fisheries. In the following year, Johi Winter, the agent of Trelawney, sent to England, in the bark Richmond, 6,000 pipe-staves. After the death of Winter, about 1648, its business declined, and at the breaking out of the first Indian war came entirely to an end. The island contains about 200 acres, and now constitutes a single farm. In 1637, by the aid of the proprietors, Rev. Richard Gibson, an Episcopal minister, was settled on the island, and the necessary appurtenances of worship in the English form were provided. Mr. Gibson removed to Portsmouth in 1640, and in 1642 lie returned to England. Many years ago an earthern pot was exhumed upon the Island, and within was found a number of gold and silver coins of the 17th century, and a heavy gold signet ring, richly chased, and marked by two initials letters. This ring has given the title to an historical novel by Dr. Hsley, the chief action of which is placed upon this Island.

The next residents within the limits of Cape Elizabeth were Richard Tucher and John Cleeves, who located upon Spurwink River in 1630, carrying on together the business of planting, fishing and trading. Two years later they were driven off by the agent of Sir Alexander Rigby, who had become the owner of the Plough, or Lygonia Patent, covering all this section of the coast. They removed to Casco Neck, where in 1632, they built the first house within the limits of Portland. Gibson's successor in l'is religious charge was Rev. Robert Jordan, who married Winter's daughter and succeeded to his estate. In administering upon this, for money due Winter on account of services rendered Trelawney, Jordan obtained an order from the Lygonian government to seize upon all the estate of the latter, and in this manner he acquired a title to a large tract of land, including Cape Elizabeth, which has never been shaken. The first settlers of Porpooduck (that part of Cape Elizabeth which lies upon Fore River), whoever they may have been, were driven off in the first Indian war, in 1675. The first resettlement appears to have been in 1699 by a few families only. When the French and Indians under Beaubarin were foiled in their attempt upon the fort in Scarborough, they turned to Spurwink and Porpooduck. At the former place, inhabited principally by the Messrs. Jordan and their families, 22 persons were killed or taken captive. At the latter place were 9 families unprotected by any fortification, and at the time of attack not a man was at home; and the savages here slaughtered 25, and carried away 8 persons. It is said that the crew of a visiting vessel first discovered these corpses, burying all in one vault at each place. The settlement upon Porpooduck Point commenced forty-four years prior King Philips' war (1675). Among them were several families by the name of Wallace. After its destruction in the third Indian war (1703), there seems to have been no settlement until 1719 or 1720. In 1734 a church was formed, and the Rev. Benj. Allen settled as minister; and in 1752 the inhabitants were formed into a parish. Cape Elizabeth was incorporated as a town in 1765, but only with "District" privileges, which did not allow of a representation entirely its own in the legislature. The town, therefore, joined with Falmouth in the choice of representatives until 1776. It was represented in that year for the first time, the member being James Leach.

Cape Elizabeth is the most interesting of the environs of Portland for its historic associations, its coast scenery, and its industries. It is connected with that city by a ferry at Ferry Village, at the northeastern part of the town. Near this is the breakwater, having a lighthouse at its outer extremity. A short distance east is Cushing's Point Village, beyond which, at Old Spring Point, is the lawn-covered masonry of Fort Preble. The manufactures at these places are marine craft of all sizes, from boats to ships, boots and shoes, medicines, oils, extracts and fountain-syrups, etc. Knightville, on the next point westward, is connected with Portland by a horse, carriage and foot bridge. On the right, looking toward the city, are about 25 acres, occupied with the works of the Portland Dry Dock Company. One ot the docks is 100 by 42 feet, with a depth 20 feet,-said to be the largest in the country. The manufactures of Knightville are meal and flour, boots and shoes, harnesses, tree and plant protectors, etc. The next point west is Turner's Island, whence the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth (Eastern) Railroad crosses to Portland. The Boston and Maine Railroad reaches Cape Elizabeth from Portland by a shorter bridge at the little Village of Ligonia, on a point north-west of the last. Here are the works of the Portland Kerosene Oil Co., occupying 2 acres of ground. The product of this factory is upwards of 4,000,000 gallons of oil annually. The other manufactory at this point is the extensive Rolling-mill of the Ligonia Iron Co. The mill employs about 200 men, and turns out some 14,000 tons of rails annually.

The numerous shade trees along the public ways are a noticeable feature of the town. Most of the roads bear names well-known to the people of the neighboring city, whose gay equipages whirl along their smooth lines toward summer residences, or some of the numerous points of interest. The old Ocean House road, the Hannaford road, Spurwink road, and Cottage road, are the principal ones. The last skirts the eastern shore, and affords charming views of pretty cottages and sail-swept sea. A short ride from Portland Bridge brings the visitor to Cliff Cottage, and then to the fine residence known as "Glen Cove." Passing Willow Cottage, we reach Cape Cottage Hotel, built by the poet, John Neal. Near by is the stone castle-like edifice of the late Col. Goddard; and beyond is Grove Hall. A little further on is Portland Head Light, the oldest on the Maine coast, having been built in 1791. It is 100 feet above the sea-level, and can be seen 17 miles away. On the south-eastern angle of the town, is High Head, with the Cape Light a little to the east. The shore in the vicinity of Portland Head Light is high, rocky and picturesque. After storms many drive out to the Light to see the huge waves dash upon the shore. A few years since two hackmen ventured out upon the rocks too far, and a great wave leaped up and swept them away. Their remains were recovered several days later, but fearfully mangled. The State Reform School, established in 1853, is located in Cape Elizabeth, and its fine building is a well-known land-mark.

Parson Smith, settled over the first parish in Falmouth (Portland) in 1727, preached half the time on the adjacent part of Cape Elizabeth. The second church of Falmouth was the first of Cape Elizabeth, and was organized with 11 members in 1734. Rev. Benj. Allen was installed in November of that year, and remained until his death in 1754. Rev. Ephraim Clark succeeded him, and filled the pastoral office until his death forty-one years later.

Capt. Arthur McLellan, born in this town in 1751, died in Portland in 1833. He was widely known as a successful shipmaster and a wealthy merchant. Other respected citizens have been Col. Charles Hannaford, and Esquires Samuel Haskell, Scott Dyer, Thomas E. Knight, and John Fickett.

The churches at present are four Methodist, two Congregationalist, one Free Baptist and the Welsh Church,-the latter society being chiefly the workmen in the Rolling-mill and their families. Cape Elizabeth has an excellent town-hall, a brick building two stories in height. The town high school occupies a portion of the second story, and above this is the Masonic Hall. The town has fifteen public schoolhouses, valued at $4,000. The valuation of estates in 1870 was $1,784,831. In 1880 it was $1,869,199. The rate of taxation in 1880 was $1.72 on $100. The population of Cape Elizabeth in 1870 was 5,106. The census of 1880 fixes it at 5,315.

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