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Program 10: The Frontier Wars

Frontier Wars 1675 - 1759 : King George's War

King George's War

After Dummer’s War ended in 1725, Maine experienced major population growth in all communities from Kittery to St. George (Thomaston), and the creation of a whole new inland tier of settlements from the Piscataqua river to the Androscoggin rivers. Local Natives protested this wave of settlement, but with so few in number and minimal French assistance, they were at a great disadvantage. Still, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Jonathon Belcher supported the Native people in 1736 in their effort to force aggressive settlers at Warren (Upper Town at the St. George’s settlement) to retreat back from above the falls (the treaty line) where they had begun settling. This action incensed proprietor Samuel Waldo who joined with merchant and politician William Shirley in an effort to get the British government to replace Belcher. They succeeded, and in the summer of 1741 Shirley became Governor of Massachusetts, which as it turned out, was a bad omen for Maine’s Natives.

By the early 1740s, England and France were moving quickly toward war. The advancement was not not only in Europe, but also in various colonies including important American holdings. When war finally began in America it was played out largely in Acadia, along the St. Lawrence River, and in the trans-Appalachian midlands.

There was one great event in the east during this time: the English capture in 1745 of Louisbourg, a French fort that protected the St. Lawrence River and France’s access to America. The seizure of the fort by colonial forces under the command of Kittery’s William Pepperrell was seen as an astounding accomplishment and colonists throughout Maine and New England felt tremendous pride.

The French, who had been badly stung by the loss of Louisbourg, continued to carry out military actions in Nova Scotia (which included present-day New Brunswick) throughout the rest of the war.

In Maine, the French-English conflict consisted essentially of small Native raids and Anglo expeditions searching for enemy warriors and destroying Native settlements. In contrast to earlier conflicts when major populations fled after attacks, during the later wars Broadbay (today known as Waldoboro) was the only community that was abandoned after a major attack.

Other mid-Maine communities were frequent targets, and the fort and settlements at St. George suffered no less than five raids during the war. While casualties were generally low, both sides were left in a state of anxiety and upheaval until the English and French ceased fighting.

When the conflict finally ended, Mainers, like all New Englanders, were outraged when Louisbourg was returned to the French as part of the peace agreement between France and England. This act was seen as an English betrayal of colonial forces and helped to sway colonial thinking against England. In later years, when the English looked to the colonies for financial support to run its empire, the colonists held up Louisburg as an example of English treachery.

Unfortunately, the new peace did not resolve tensions between Maine’s tribal people and the encroaching English settlers. Commonly, the settlers on the edge of the English communities tended to be less law-abiding and more insensitive to their Native neighbors.

In December 1749, a group of local English marauders killed an Indian and wounded two others near Wiscasset. They were apprehended, but were essentially given a "slap on the wrist" by the judicial system. The next year, in retribution, a number of young Native warriors carried out a series of raids along the Kennebec River, killing one English settler and capturing a substantial number of prisoners, most of whom were later released.

By the next year peace was renewed, yet, the English were busily strengthening defenses across the region. In 1752, the Kennebec Proprietors built Fort Frankfort (to be renamed Fort Shirley two years later) essentially across the river from the previously established Fort Richmond.

Then in 1754, on rumors of French activities and possible construction of a fort somewhere on the Kennebec, Gov. Shirley led a force up the river. He found nothing, but established Fort Halifax at present-day Winslow before returning to Boston.

At the same time, the Kennebec Proprietors built Fort Western at present-day Augusta to serve as a supply depot for Fort Halifax. Shortly after its completion, there were a few raids near the new fort. The next two years also saw a series of minor attacks against Maine’s newer, inland communities at Gorham, Gray, New Marblehead, New Gloucester and Cushing.

While they were nerve-wracking, damage from these incidents was minor. By 1757 and 1758, the number of attacks had declined and any that were attempted were usually aimed at the old nemesis, St. George’s Fort.

During this time, the French were losing battles elsewhere and were no longer able or willing to contribute to the Native cause. This, in turn, significantly dampened Native enthusiasm to continue fighting.

In both the west and north, the English were gradually winning. Then in 1758, Louisbourg fell, this time for good. The following year Quebec was taken by the English and in 1760 the French also lost Montreal. The final treaty was not signed until 1763, but the fighting had ended in Maine many years before. English settlers exploded outward both Down East and inland.

Natives saw their fortunes plummet in almost every way. In fact, by the 1790s, Maine’s tribal people were so imperiled many thought they would soon become extinct. But history has shown Maine's native people to be very resilient and today they number in the thousands.


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