Early Settlement of Fryeburg, Maine
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A grant of the township of Fryeburg was made to Gen. Joseph Frye by the General Court of Massachusetts for his valiant services in the expedition against Louisburg, and as commander of a regiment at Fort William Henry on Lake George, in 1757. This grant made Mar. 3, 1762, gave Gen. Frye the privilege of selecting a township six miles square, lying on either side of the Saco river between the Great Ossipee and the White Mountains. The territory selected is comprised mainly within the present town. The northwest corner proved to be within the State of New Hampshire, and when this discovery was made the General Court made good the loss by granting an equal number of acres (4,147) on the north, called “Fryeburg Addition,” now the southern half of the town of Stow. A tract was annexed from Brownfield Plantation in 1802, as shown in the following chapter.
Title to the lands was scarcely secured when preparations were made for immediate settlement. This same year pioneers came in with their cattle from Concord, N. H., and commenced a clearing and erected log cabins where the village now stands. On the natural meadows here they found an abundance of hay for their cattle. Upon the approach of winter the married men returned, leaving the stock in the care of Nathaniel Merrill, John Stevens and one “Limbo,” a Negro. Other herdsmen from Falmouth and Gorham also passed the winter near by with about 200 head of cattle.
In the summer of 1763, Nathaniel Smith moved in with his family, thus becoming the first permanent settler of the earliest town in the White Mountain region. Among the other arrivals this year were the owners of the “Seven Lots,” so called. These were Capt. Timothy Walker, Samuel Osgood, David Page, Moses Ames, Nathaniel Merrill and John and David Evans. These men came from Concord, and were said to have owned the site of the village of Fryeburg in equal shares, from which fact this was early known as the “Seven Lots.” Mr. Smith was granted a lease of one-half lot, jointly with his wife, Ruth, free of rent for their natural lives for the friendship Gen. Frye bore them. His lot proved to be over the state line and is now within Conway. Captain Walker built the first mills in town at the outlet of Walker’s Pond; he was also an extensive farmer as shown by Rev. Paul Coffin’s journal. Under date of 1768, he wrote: “Capt. Walker had forty acres of corn, grass and english grain, which all are rich.” Other prominent settlers of this name were Joseph Walker; Lieut. John Walker, who was a man of abnormal size and strength. He was an old forest ranger, and served at Fort William Henry and at the fall of Quebec. Ezekiel Walker was the first licensed tavern keeper in Fryeburg: he lived near Ber pond. Lieut. Isaac Walker and Samuel Walker came with others in 1767. Lieut. Jas. Walker lived at the “Island.” Most of these men raised up large families and their descendants are numerous and respected. Maj. Samuel Osgood is said to have led the pioneer party of 1763. He settled on the site of the old Oxford house which was erected in 1800, by his son Lieut. Jas. t Osgood. He was the ancestor of many notable men and women including Rev. Samuel Osgood, D. D., Col. Joshua B. Osgood, Jas. R. Osgood, the Boston publisher, and his sister Irate Putnam Osgood. “Squire” Moses Ames was an early ;selectman and representative and one of the first board of trustees of Fryeburg Academy. Col. David Page became a magistrate and a leading man. “Squire” Nath’1 Merrill was not married until 7 765; he was a competent surveyor; lived oil lot opposite the Academy. John and David Evans were brothers. Capt. Wm., son of John, was the first white male child born in town, April 19, 1765.
General Frye the proprietor, also settled in town near the centre. Here he erected a frame house 40 x 60 feet in 1768 or ’69. At the out break of the Revolution he was called to Cambridge to assemble and organize the patriot recruits. He was made a brigadier by the provincial congress, then promoted to major general and stationed at Falmouth. The following year he left the service; it was rumored that some difference with Gen. Washington caused him to resign his commission. His son, Joseph, was a captain and Nathaniel was a lieutenant in the service, the latter losing his hearing at the battle of Monmouth. Col. John M. Frye, grandson of General Frye, was an early manufacturer at Lewiston, one of its leading men, and the father of the Hon. Wm. P. Frye, the distinguished U. S. Senator. Dea. Simon Frye, a nephew of General Joseph, was the first representative to the General Court, and for many years judge of the District Court, and an honored deacon of the church. Chaplain Jona. Frye of the Pequawket expedition was a second cousin to the General; he was a graduate of Harvard, 1723, died at 21, after the battle.
Jedediah Spring came here in 1763. His daughter, Betty, was the first white child born in town Sept. 24, 1764. He later removed into Conway. Lieut. Caleb Swan a graduate of Harvard College, who distinguished himself in the class, came in 1766 from Andover, Mass. He pitched his house at the “rapids” now Swan’s Falls. His wife was Dorothy Frye, a sister to General Frye.
Henry Young Brown, the proprietor of Brownfield township, had a house which Rev. Paul Coffin deemed elegant enough to call a “Hall,” where he was entertained in 1768. This stood very near the “Seven Lots” settlement west of the river and was made a part of this township in 1802. This house is now standing on Main street to which place it was removed. Capt. Brown was one of the most prominent men of this part of the state. He held large estates which were hired by his four grandchildren, Henry Y. B. Osgood, Joshua B. Osgood, Mary Sherburne, m Rev. Samuel Osgood, D. D., and Eliza L., m Jas. Osgood, Esq., from whom came many of the land titles.
Deacon Richard Eastman maintained an early ferry across the Saco near his house. He was an early moderator at town meetings. Ezra Carter settled across the river from Mr. Swan. Lieut. Stephen Farrington was one of the earliest settlers at West Fryeburg. Here also was Capt. Nathaniel Hutchins, an officer in the French and Indian Wars. Hezekiah Asten settled here on the bank of the old river. Wm. Russell located just north of Frye’s Hill.
Isaac Abbott of Andover, Mass., raised the second framed barn in town at the Centre. In this house or barn were held many early religious town meetings. This old house is still standing. Wm. Eaton and Abraham Bradley were located toward North Fryeburg, and farther up were Benj. Wiley, John Stevens, Dea. John Charles and others. In 1775, Rev. Wm. Fessenden was settled the town pastor and resided near the early church at the Centre.
Others of the pioneers were Nathaniel Merrill, Ebenezer Burbank, Job Eastman, Stephen Knight, Richard Kimball, Eben and Moses Day, Jona. Dresser, Jos. Kilgore, Henry Gordon, John Bolt Miller, Jas. Parker, Hugh Gordon, Abner Charles, Stephen Dresser and Aaron Abbott, all of whom were here as early as 1778, together with others whose names we cannot give here.
Many of the pioneers of Fryeburg were veterans of either the Revolution or the earlier French and Indian Wars where many of them had gained titles for their gallantry. Neither were they ignorant men, for of this number Paul Langdon, the first principal of the Academy; Wm. Russell, Caleb Swan, Henry Y. B. Osgood, Rev. Wm. Fessenden and Dr. Jos. Emery, the first physician, who came in 1768, were all graduates of Harvard, and Capt. Joseph Frye attended there two years.
In 1776, during the troublous times of the Revolution, application was made for incorporation as a town and the following year this act was granted.