History of Cape Elizabeth, Maine
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine
By Geo. J. Varney
Published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill,
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.