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Freeman, Welch Cemeteries, Stover Perkins and the Willie Webber Assault

Saturday, March 16, was a great day to be out with the History Search Party. Organized by Nate Losier, we went up to the Freeman cemetery, lot #110, off Logging Road. There, my fourth grand uncle, [Deacon] Nathaniel Freeman rests below his slate stone among his numerous relatives whose headstones are missing; stolen. Some foundations remain but the stones are no place to be found. There are also, several field stones marking graves but of whom we do not know. The entire lot is about 30 feet by 40 feet. 

Thankfully, a family member, Elizabeth P. Keniston, visited the graveyard in the 1930’s and copied the in-scripted names from the then existing headstones. She wrote the following…

Great Grandfather ([Deacon] Nathaniel Freeman)

Great Grandmother (Hannah Foster Freeman)

Grandfather Edward

Grandmother Mehitable (Wilson Freeman)

Hannah F.

Martha C.F.

Edward Going F.

Lowell Mason. F.

Nathaniel F.

Mary M. F.

Regardless of the vandals ill intention we are able to have a partial account of those who are buried here. Perhaps, in the future, a monument can be placed here to better memorialize those listed above.

Freeman Cemetery Lot #110

As much as I love visiting this graveyard, and enjoyed visiting the Welch cemetery, lot #123, the highlight, for me, was to visit the Perkins cemetery, lot #121. I have been searching for the burial place of my great great-grandfather, Stover Perkins, for several years, only recently finding out where he lived. On a visit to lot #121 about 10 years ago I thought and was quite certain I read ‘Stover Perkins‘ on a headstone. More recently, however, I referred to York Vital Records to confirm this and to my surprise, Stover was not listed. I had a hunch that the Vital Records was in error and today it was proven. This is a good lesson in not being certain of trusted sources.  

The reason that Stover has recently peaked my curiosity is that I came across an article about him in the York Courant. The bigger story is about how his providing alcohol led to a scandalous event in the neighborhood. The Webbers, Perkins, Welches lived within yelling distance to each other during the beginning of the previous century. Stover’s son, Charles was the victim of a stabbing by Willie Webber. We found both Stover and Charles today in lot #121.

Perkins Cemetery #121
Stover Perkins headstone
Charles F. Perkins headstone and victim of stabbing

I have posted the clippings below. This is a very colorful account of life in Cape Neddick as inhabitants transitioned into the 20th century. I am not proud of their actions but am delighted to have found such a colorful account of those who I have wondered so much about. See Webber Assault Case below.

Old York Transcript, published in York, Maine on Thursday, January 25, 1900. Larger size image can be seen here, https://drive.google.com/file/d/11WabyYSyhuPhjEMI8k8OXePItTX86bbl/view?usp=sharing
Old York Transcript, published in York, Maine on Thursday, February 1, 1900
Old York Transcript, published in York, Maine on Thursday, February 1, 1900
Old York Transcript and Courant, published in York, Maine on Friday, January 27, 1905

The discovery of these articles is made possible by the York Public Library and the newly digitized collection of York newspapers that are available on their website. Newspaper repository click here.

It is exciting to live in a community that shares so much interest in local history, whether walking, reading, attending community events or sharing our latest discoveries, York is full of pride and enthusiasm and the effects are inspiring. Thanks to all who support this Town’s rich history!

History Search Party assembled in front of the ”Old Freeman Farm.“

Unknown Cellar Hole East of Bell Marsh


Ron Nowell and I took a walk along Old Bell Marsh Road, yesterday, looking for a Shaw cellar hole that we did not find. Jack Parsons told Ron of another cellar hole near a fresh cut by the York Land Trust. We found this cellar hole, quite small but very characteristic to others in the area. It appears to be on what is known as the Davis-McIntire Property, though a search through the registry of deeds reveals no names. It doesn’t appear on the 1872 cadastral map of York. If you have any information please let us know.

Ron Nowell observing Bell Marsh Reservoir from near Old Bell Marsh Road
Unknown cellar hole revealed along path with partial debris covering

The Devil’s Invention

This is the tragic story of a kidnapping in Colonial York, Maine. The below can be found in Cider Hill Annals and Miscellaneous Sketches, by Angevine W. Gowen. He hand wrote what appears to be a court document. The source of this document is currently unknown. A copy of Gowen’s book can be seen at Old York Historical Society’s Archive.

Several members of York History Group joined together to transcribe the above account, as follows…

“If history affords evidence of a crime of deeper [dye?] than this we have not yet met with it, and this wicked and infamous man receives only the punishment thus summoned by the court. James Adams: the court has considered your infamous and barbarous offenses against the life of the children before the court, and great disturbance to the county, and so sentences you to have thirty stripes well laid on; £ pay the father of the children, Henry Simpson, five pounds in money; to the treasurer of the county ten pounds, and remain close prisoner during the courts pleasure.” The thirty stripes were laid on by the brawny arm of John Smith, the executioner and let us hope they were well laid on. Bourne again comments: “Any punishment which human ingenuity could have devised would not have exceeded the merits of this barbarity, thirty stripes, well laid on, a fine of fifteen pounds, and imprisonment, during the pleasure of the court, from which he might at any moment escape, or from which the court might at any moment release him, were no punishment for his iniquity. For very small offences in this age men were brought to the gallows, and this man should have been added to his home in the earth, on which, he was unworthy to walk.” A crowd draws up on Jail Hill, where now the old common peacefully rests, its broad [?] [?] deeply wreathed with ivy and woodline covering the spot where in 1680 stood its implements of punishment, of that day, the whipping past, and stocks. And here amid the howls and jeers of his townsmen, withers the body of James Adams, as the [?] lash “well laid on” out and stacked, amid his howls and cries and shrieks for mercy, and here let us leave him hoping that from that time on, he was both a sadder and wiser man.” 

Thanks to Juanita Trafton Reed, Kathy Cawrse, Racheal Bottino, Danny Bottino, Joanne Weiss Curran, for assisting with this transcription. Juanita commented on the Facebook post…My transposition matches most of what you have here (above), with these few exceptions… I believe it is “strikes” not stripes./ Whipping post. (instead of “past”) Instead of common — I think it is “cannon”. / lash “well laid on” cut and slashed ( rather than cut and stacked) and where you have the £ sign I read it as “to”…”to the father”

Contributed to York History Group by Karl Hanson. Unknown Newspaper and unknown date.

York in American History: Fate of Ensign Henry Simpson

Notes: During the late 17th Century, life in early colonial York was daunting, short, often brutish, terrifying and unpredictable. Based on research from original documents, such as court records, James Kences paints just such a portrait in this essay.

This story is published on Seacoast Online and provides additional information on the Simpson Family of York.

By James Kences

One of the final events in the life of Ensign Henry Simpson was his participation at a court of sessions of the peace on Dec. 29, 1691. Within a month, he would be among the victims of a Native American raid upon the town. Simpson and his wife were presumed to have been killed, and two of their sons, Henry and Jabez, were taken into captivity.

Simpson was married to Abigail Moulton, sister to Joseph Moulton, who on the day of the attack also perished with his wife. Their son Joseph was captured. Jeremiah Moulton, who was only three or four years of age in 1692, was to become one of the military and political leaders of 18th Century York.

The reconstructed list of casualties from the raid, included in total number, three other married couples: in addition to Simpson and Moulton, Nathaniel Masterson and his wife, Elizabeth; Philip Cooper, and his wife, Anne; Thomas Paine and his wife, Elizabeth. In each of the three instances, some of their children were taken prisoners and accompanied the raiding party upon its return to Canada

And what of the fates of those children? Masterson’s daughter Abiel, Mary Cooper, and Bethiah Paine, eventually returned, but only after a period of years. Mary Cooper was redeemed in 1695, together with Henry Simpson and seven other persons. Three years later, Bethia Paine was brought back. A decade had passed, Jabez Simpson was apparently still inside French Canada.

The documentary sources are quite spare, and often only names have survived, but with effort a deeper dimension to the slight details is possible. Ensign Henry Simpson can be profiled more richly than the others. The story begins with his childhood. He was about four when his father, afflicted by illness drafted his will in March of 1647. An only child at the time, a portion of the estate was apportioned to him.

Shortly after his father’s death in the summer of 1648, Simpson’s mother remarried, and became the wife of Nicholas Bond. In May of 1650, Henry Simpson, only six years old, testified at the trial of Robert Collins, who was charged with assault upon his mother. The man he knew as “fat Robert,” had attacked her at night inside their house.

“She being in her house, her children in bed, she was making a cake for them against the next day to leave them,” she recounted at the trial. It was midnight, and she required some firewood, and was at the door when Collins forced his way in. The testimony is somewhat confusing, but it described multiple incidents that involved Collins. In one confrontation, she declared to him, “leave my company and meddle not with me, if not I will make you a shame to all New England!”

Jane Bond acknowledged, “she could not save herself,” her husband at the moment, was absent “to the East.”  The jury found Collins guilty of the crime. He was “to receive forty stripes save one, and fined ten pounds,” as punishment. As a glimpse into life here in the early period, the trial is of considerable value. The five witnesses had included Henry Norton, who was not only a close neighbor, but also a relative. Norton had heard Henry Simpson’s mother call for him, “Cousin Norton!” “Cousin Norton!” but he failed to respond.

The Norton family were prominent and well connected. Henry Simpson’s grandfather was the veteran soldier Walter Norton who was killed by the Native Americans in Connecticut in 1634. His grandmother upon his death married William Hooke, who belonged to a family of merchants at Bristol, a city in the southwest of England. This town for a brief period was named Bristol, and the influence of the Hookes was expressed through the choice of the name.

Henry Simpson could claim high social standing as kindred to the two families. He was elected to various town offices, constable, and served as a selectman. He held a military rank, and was frequently a member of juries, and as mentioned, was part of the grand jury only weeks before the raid in 1692.

Whatever provoked James Adams to kidnap and imprison Simpson’s children inside an improvised enclosure that was to be known henceforth as “The Devil’s Invention,” is unfortunately lost to history. But the record has survived for the court session of July 1679. For the “barbarous offense against the life of the children,” Adams received a sentence of a severe whipping, “thirty stripes well laid on,” and was also to pay Simpson, “the father of the said children,” five pounds in damages.

The site of the notorious structure, was according to Charles Banks, “in the region of Scituate, easterly from the main highway through that settlement.” Philip and Nathaniel Adams, the father and brother of James, appear to have been among the victims of the 1692 raid.

Devil‘s Invention article in the Biddeford Saco Journal July 18, 1893

The Cannon Foundations Found

by Michael Dow

Two cannon foundations found

Cannon Foundation at the York Town Hall offices
Todd Frederick photo – used with permission

A number of years ago when I started to research York’s war monuments, Old York Historic Librarian Emeritus Ginny Spiller (RIP) told me that somewhere she had seen a picture of two large canons, sitting left and right of the Town Hall’s south facing front walk. She explained that these cannons looked like the cannon on Gaol Hill. Much time had passed and Ginny could not remember where she had seen that picture and its whereabouts remains a mystery to this day. 

I learned never to discount anything Ginny said and so eyes have always been open for evidence concerning any mention of old artillery mounted by the town hall. Others were informed about this nagging interest, with Selectman and First Parish Cemetery Director Todd Frederick being one. 

In the midst of last week’s excavations in the front of the old town hall, I received a picture from Todd of an old, large masonry block made from what the on-site archeologist referred to as loose stone held together by a “lime-based mortar.” Todd said two of these blocks had just been dug up! I quickly drove down and sure enough, there were the foundation blocks for two granite cannon mounts or “carriages” as they were called and another big score for Ginny Spiller’s memory!    

A September 5th, 1942 Portland Press article explains how three big Civil War cannons came to York;

“Before the erection of the building on the Kittery Navy Yard where in 1905 the famous treaty between Russia and Japan was signed there were several of these old cannon that had mounted the place in strategic points around the Navy Yard. The room they took up was needed. Members of the Grand Army of the Republic in adjacent towns were notified that these cannon might be theirs for the asking. The Town of York, through it’s post fell heir to three of the cannon. One was placed on a triangle in the center of the square in York Village, where it remained until GAR veterans wished to use that particular spot on which to erect a Civil War memorial. The other two mounted on granite carriages, were placed either side of the entrance to the town Hall, where they the delight of small boys on the glorious fourth as they attempted to shoot off crackers through the mouth of the cannon, until the holes were cemented.” 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists both “cannon” and “cannons” as the plural forms of the noun “cannon,” which is a good point to remember when researching artillery.

The building referred to in the article was known as the General Stores Building and it was built in 1903. This building is now known as the Main Administration Building. We have two newspaper articles from two different papers and a very credible book published by Old York Historic indicating these three cannons were in York by 1899. The former custodian of the National Registry of Known Surviving Civil War Artillery had recorded that three 100-pdr Navy Parrot Rifles were donated in 1897 to “village selectmen” in York, Maine. 

For York and other towns that did not have enough Civil War veterans to warrant a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) post, an alternative was employed. The York Village Veterans and Sons of Veterans Association was the group the article speaks of. The Soldiers’ Monument was erected and dedicated on Memorial Day, June 30, 1906 with none other than Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain being the key note speaker. Chamberlain was the officer leading the 20th Maine in their pivotal victory on Little Round Top at the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the same year our one remaining cannon was made. General Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, a four-time governor of the state of Maine, president of Bowdoin College and a not infrequent visitor to York. 

Although we do not know the exact date when the two cannons were mounted in front of the town hall, evidence indicates by 1900 both were in place. We also do not know when they were taken down and moved to the pine knoll, just to the left rear of the brick Receiving Tomb in back of the First Parish Cemetery. There they sat until the 1942 scrap drive when they were taken to be melted down for use in another war. 

The two granite mounts or carriages were later sold (without permission) to Fort McClary. However, they proved to be unsuitable for that facilities’ different styled cannons so they were used as ends for a rough pine bench. Found by this researcher in July of 2016, they were repurchased by the First Parish Cemetery and now rest on Ceremonial Circle. 

In the spring of 1905, the single 6.4” Parrott Rifle Naval cannon #206 and its granite carriage were moved to the side of that ever-shrinking grass triangle and the Soldiers’ Monument was erected on the same spot the cannon formerly occupied. In all likelihood, #206 had a similar loose stone and lime-based mortar foundation which was most likely broadened to accommodate the larger footprint of the Soldiers’ Monument. This would explain the observed degradation of that Monument’s lower base and the necessity to move the monument onto a more stable foundation.

Later in 1906, our one remaining cannon was moved to its present location on Gaol Hill. Where #206 served during the Civil War remains a mystery as are the serial numbers of the two, town hall/scrap drive cannons.   

c. Michael Dow July 15, 2023