Saturday, March 19, 2011

Colonial Research Trip in Maine

Me in front of lobster traps on the pier.
One of the highlights of my long Maine winter was my recent research trip to the Kittery, Maine area. The trip included attending the Dressing a Colonial Lady presentation in S. Berwick in the evening. But during the day I enjoyed a fascinating time traversing around the southern tip of Maine with the companionship of my mother. The area boasts some of the oldest towns in the state, as the area was first settled in the early 1600's by some of our ancestors. I had long desired to explore the area for research for my family history which also includes writing research as I hope to someday tell the fascinating tales of some of my prominent ancestors.

If not for the Dressing a Colonial Lady event by the Old Berwick
Historical Society I doubt that I would have even thought of exploring a Maine coastal area in the dead of winter. It's just not something you do.  Although Maine in the summer is blossoming with tourists and many attractions, most places are shut up tight from October until June. But the peculiar timing of our trip did provide an interesting perspective of the quiet trails and pretty shores of the state which was once part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Here is a slide show of the first part of our journey in Kittery Point, Maine. This is the area that my ancestors who first came to the province of Maine sailed into and settled. I was so impressed with the rich 17th and 18th century history of the area. . .and the houses! Two colonial mansions you will see I was quite impressed with and would have loved to been able to tour. The Sir William Pepperell House and Lady Pepperrell House. Several of my ancestors married into the Pepperrell family and may in fact have been married in either of these homes.  Most of the photos are mine, but I've include a few extras to show the lighthouses, fort, and original homes for reference. The maps (click to enlarge) will give you an idea the coastline area that we visited.

To see information on the photos please click here.
You may also enlarge for full screen viewing and click in the upper right corner
for the historical information about these places. 

Much anticipated was our next stomping ground - the town of Eliot, ME, once part of Kittery and originally called Sturgeon Creek of Pisquataqua Plantation. This was the place that my ancestors Nicholas and son Charles Frost came to in 1636. I have a great interest in Charles as he was a very significant member of this early settlement in the Province of Maine. He was Major and Commander-in-Chief of the Maine militia, a judge of the common pleas court, justice of the peace, and more.  This Charles Frost is the father of my ninth great-grandmother, Lydia, whose tale I would like to tell someday, including her perspective of her father's great feats. Poets Robert Frost and John Whittier Greenleaf both mentioned this ancestor of theirs in their writing as well.

Maj. Charles Frost and the Indians held a great rivalry through the years commencing when his mother and sister were taken captive and murdered. He was 16 years old at the time and killed two Indians including a chief in the battle to rescue them. There were many more encounters with his enemy through the years, and he became known as the Great Indian Fighter. He was hated by the Indians for the capture of some of them which resulted in their being sold into slavery in Barbados. On July 4, 1697, 47 years later to the day, the Indians got their final revenge when they ambushed him while he was on his way home from church with his family and others.  The place of his murder is marked at "Ambush Rock".  I really wanted to see this place, get a sense of where my ancestors lived, and to find the historic marker. But, being Maine in February it was completely covered in snow. 

The area is called Frost's Hill and there were two Frost garrison houses there.  One belonged to Maj. Frost an is now gone, and another was built by his son, Lt. Charles Frost. All the garrisons there were connected by pathways through the woods. Lt. Frost's garrison  was commissioned by the town to be built in the early 1700's and this is the one that we discovered on his homestead. This Lt. Frost, the brother of my grandmother Lydia, was married to Sir. William Pepperell's niece.  I cannot describe how thrilled I was to step on the same ground where my ancestors treaded.  I was literally up to my thighs in snow as I tromped around the old garrison taking photographs.

Next we proceeded to S. Berwick where the presentation was held. We'll have to wait until spring for our next field trip to learn about the Jewett family of S. Berwick, as in Maine author Sarah Orne Jewett whose grandfather is a shared ancestor. The beautiful family homes are open to the public, but, lo, not in the winter.
After all of our gallivanting around, our excursion brought us to Fogarty's Restaurant for lobster before we proceeded to our evening event which was the perfect ending to our day. Oh! Almost forgot to mention the cheesecake for dessert!

Lobster Stew (That's mine!)
Lobster Roll with Sweet Potatoe Fries

Thankful for such a successful research trip on a mild winter day, we returned back to my mom's where I'd spend the night and then continue north. The next morning I awoke to another blizzard and I had to dig out before I could go home the following day. (The snow plow guy did most of the work, but I still had my fair share!)  Even with the long winters, with all of the history here I'm so glad to live in Maine!

Thanks for reading this lengthy post, half the fun is in the sharing!


  1. Dearest Carla,
    What a lovely and informative post! Adam and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and were so glad you came to our DRESSING A COLONIAL LADY presentation, and we could meet you and your mom~
    Adam too has family that settled here in 1636, and it was wonderful to hear YOUR story.
    Oh, and I am now sitting here drooling, with my stomach growling, looking at that lobster stew! We will have to try Fogarty's, (perhaps when we go to do our program again for Wells/Ogunquit Historical Society in May!) I wish I had a long New England history like you do!

  2. What a fabulous trip, scenes and telling. Thank you for sharing! I'd gladly have relished that soup alongside you, too :)


  3. Hi Carla,
    I have relatives who live just outside Portsmouth, NH. My cousin was actually married in Kittery Main this summer. It was beautiful. His parents have a house built in 1792.

    Thanks for sharing. How interesting to be able to trace your relative back so far.

  4. Carla, you wrote this post so well and used such lovely pictures, I think you should do travel writing as well as novels. :-) My mouth is watering for those lobster dishes.

    Mostly, though, I love the rich history of your family. I look forward to reading the fictionalized version some day!

  5. What fun!!!! LOVE research trips. And Maine ... what a beautiful place to research :)

  6. What great info and pictures! Sounds like you had a great day. Glad you shared with us. :)

  7. Hi Carla -

    Now that's dedication - research in Maine during the winter!

    Thanks for a glimpse into your family's history. Robert Frost was an ancestor? Those are some serious writing genes.

    Susan :)


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