Maria del Mar May 7 - June 15 1640

The work of a curious fellow
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While waiting passage back to England, Hugh and his crew planned a last supply run from Boston to Richmond Island, planning to put in at Gloucester and Kittery to offload and look for any other cargo or passengers. Ramon and his relatives were sorry to see their time with Hugh end but they never spent any of the money they made, as far as Hugh could tell. So they were, by their standards, wealthy men. Ramon promised to deliver the last payment to Kaylene ‘tHooft on St Kitts, along with her share of the sale price, after the ship was sold.

In Salisbury Richard North had been carrying on a long but fruitless correspondence with George Cleeves of Casco Neck, trying to collect a debt. Richard had helped Cleeves finance a trip back to England where he, Cleeves, got a grant from Ferdinando Gorges of the whole Casco Neck area. Cleeves never denied the debt, he just never got around to paying it. Finally Richard turned to his son-in-law, Thomas Jones. Tom always claimed is aim in life was to be Gloucester’s blacksmith but already, at the age of twenty, he had shown himself to be a sharp business man. On a visit to Salisbury one day his father-in-law spoke to Tom.

“Tom”, said Richard, “I would like you to go up to Casco Neck for me and try to get my money out of that scoundrel George Cleeves.”

Tom and Mary had been part of Richard’s household so he could not very well refuse, but beyond that he remembered that before falling in love with Mary he had wanted to explore America so he was more than willing. In a few days Tom and Mary returned to Gloucester where he hoped to find a ride up the coast.

In due time Tom found a peculiar looking vessel, unloading cargo at the wharf in Gloucester harbor. He went aboard and introduced himself to the captain.

“Which way you sailing Captain?” Tom asked.

“North to Kittery”, Hugh said. “Thence to Richmond Island. From here day after tomorrow.”

“I am trying to get to Casco Neck.”

“Well… Casco Neck is just a healthy spit beyond Richmond Island. I can run you up there with no trouble.”

So Tom got underway on the Maria del Mar with the morning tide on the seventh of May in 1640.

Francis Small arrived home after a three-day halibut fishing trip and walked through the village to the family home. After the usual greetings he said, “Father, there is a vessel coming up from the south. She looked like she was inbound. Do you think we could see if we could finally get the trip to Casco Bay started?”

“Well… It wouldn’t hurt to find out where they are going, and when. We will need a day or two to get ready.”

So Edward and Francis made their way to the waterfront to watch the arrival of the Maria del Mar.

“She looks like a Spaniard of a hundred years ago”, said Francis. “Columbus himself would have been right at home in her.”

“Still, I suspect she is capable of the 50 miles or so up into Casco Bay”, Edward replied. “I think that fellow is the one that does coastwise hauling around here every summer.”

When the Maria del Mar was tied up and offloading cargo, Edward and Francis asked to come aboard. A little fellow motioned them up the gangplank and showed them aft to Captain Hallowell’s quarters.

“Come in gentlemen”, Hugh said. “What can I do for you?”

“I am Edward Small. My son Francis”, indicating the boy. “We have it in mind to go up into Casco Bay to establish a fishing operation there. We would need transport for ourselves and our supplies, a few casks of food stuff, tools and so on. We would need two days to finish preparations for being away all summer.”

“Name’s Hugh Hallowell. This here is Thomas Jones of Gloucester. Thomas is bound for Casco Neck in the bay so I believe I can accommodate you”, said Hugh. “I’ll need a Spanish milled dollar each for you and young Francis here and four bits for the supplies. I am to pick up a fellow from inland somewhere while I am here. We had good sailing so I am ahead of schedule for meeting him. Would a departure three days hence suit you?”

“I believe so”, said Edward. “I will be back before dark to confirm it.”

Back at home Edward and Elizabeth consulted. Edward Godfrey had agreed to manage the business for the family while Edward was away. Elizabeth was more than capable of running the household and minding the younger children so they decided that departure on Friday the eleventh of May would be satisfactory.

In 1638 when Thomas Dustin settled in Northam after his term of service on Richmond Island was over, he became acquainted with Ibrahim Benatar. Ibrahim was a Sephardic Jew from Brazil who immigrated to New England by way of St. Kitts aboard the Maria del Mar, arriving in Kittery in 1638. Thomas was surprised to learn that European Jews has settled in significant numbers in Brazil a hundred years earlier. “I thought we were pioneers”, Thomas remarked.

In sternly religious New England, Ibrahim, who made no effort to hide his heritage, was made uncomfortable by the public piety in the villages so he migrated from Kittery up the Piscataqua River to Northam.

Northam was mostly inhabited by single men like Thomas who had completed the terms of service incurred in reaching America and were trying to make their independent way in the world. They were less inclined to prejudice than more civilized folk, but they were inclined to rowdy, even lawless, behavior. Both Thomas and Ibrahim were among the responsible and law abiding citizens of Northam, which definitely placed them in the minority.

Ibrahim wanted to move on to someplace less risky than Northam and less religious than Kittery. A fellow named George Cleeves had been advertising for settlers in Casco Neck so Ibrahim asked Thomas if he would travel to Casco Neck and sound out this Cleeves about selling property to a Jew, and sort of get a sense of the place.

“I have an idea that it would be better for you to deal with Cleeves for a Jew, rather than for me to arrive announcing that I am a Jew”, said Ibrahim.

Thomas agreed and Ibrahim sent word to his friend Captain Hallowell that passage from Kittery to Casco Neck was required. In due course word came back to Ibrahim that the Maria del Mar would be in Kittery on May the tenth.

After walking to Salmon Falls, Thomas caught a ride down river to Kittery with George Walton. Walton, like Thomas, was an ambitious young fellow who always had two or three enterprises going at once to bring in some cash. At the moment he had a barge load of smooth round stones he had gathered in the vicinity to deliver to his property on Great Island in the mouth of the Piscataqua River.

“What are all the rocks for George?” asked Thomas.

“I don’t rightly know at the moment”, said George. “They are so much alike that I fancy they might be useful someday.”

In Kittery Thomas found the Maria del Mar and Captain Hallowell. The next morning the entire party set sail for Richmond Island with the Maria del Mar’s small boat in tow.

Even with the afternoon breeze out of the southwest it still took all day to reach Richmond Island. There was sufficient time for the passengers and Captain Hallowell to get acquainted. They shared the adventures they had had since coming to America.

“Tell us, Mr. Dustin”, said Edward Small, “In your years fishing in Casco Bay did you notice a likely place for Francis and I to set up camp? We want to clear a little land and build some shelter so that another year we might settle a small fishery there.”

“If it was me I would favor one of the sheltered islands of the bay. There is one the natives call Sebascodegan. I had occasion to stop by there and trade with them a few times. They have the habit of spending summers there and moving inland in the fall. They seem to be a friendly and helpful lot. Do you know it Captain?”

“I know the bay has islands by the score but am not familiar with the native names”, Hugh answered. “Can you sketch a map here in the log?”

So Thomas sketched a chain of three islands that extended out into the bay from the northeast, lying five or six miles east of Casco Neck. The islands increased in size in the order of approach from seaward. The larger, northeast-most island lay nearly up against the mainland, separated only by a narrow channel. It was this island that was Sebascodegan.

“The island has deep water all along its eastern side”, Thomas said. “But it is well protected by the peninsular to its east and other islands out in the bay. There is a small river running down along the eastern side and it is upon this place that the native village is.” Thomas marked a spot in a small cove on the eastern shore. “There is good water along this approach Captain”, said Thomas, drawing a track on the sketch.

Edward Small said, “We thank you Mr. Dustin. I see some advantages of the site in regards to closeness to the fishing grounds. It would be in territory of which Ferdinando Gorges is Lord Proprietor would it not? Our good friend Edward Godfrey is his agent in Kittery.”

“I recommend you petition your friend for a grant when you select a site”, said Thomas Dustin. “A Mr. Cleeves of Casco Neck holds a grant that covers the mainland of Casco Neck and vicinity. I have not met the man but he and my former employer, John Winter, were in constant conflict. I know well the Winter is a hard man and I suppose a man may be judged by his enemies so Cleeves is apt to be difficult.”

Thomas Jones spoke up at this point. “I am on my way to meet with Mr. Cleeves”, he said. “I do not know the man but my wife’s father, who I well respect, called Cleeves a scoundrel, and has sent me to try to collect a debt from the fellow. He is always claiming lack of funds.”

“In fact”, said Thomas Dustin, “I am planning to meet with Mr. Cleeves as well. I have a friend who wants to settle in Casco Neck and has sent me to negotiate with Mr. Cleeves. My friend is Jewish and is uncertain of the reception he might get. If Mr. Cleeves has no problem and if I judge the community to be liberal enough to not harass my friend when he arrives, I am to purchase the land.”

“I have been stopping at Casco Neck since it was three log cabins in the wilderness”, said Hugh. “I think your friend will find it a congenial place. People are too busy building a community to be fussy about the heritage of their neighbors. That comes later when they have more time on their hands. By then he will be one of the old settlers and folks will be accustomed to his ways.”

After a brief lull in the conversation Thomas Jones spoke. “I think I may see an opportunity to ensure that Mr. Cleeves’s everlasting shortage of funds does not frustrate my mission for my father-in law. Mr. Dustin, how would you feel about us facing Mr. Cleeves together? You could introduce me as your advisor and if you are satisfied with Mr. Cleeves deal on the land for your friend, I will make as though to inspect the deed for you and pass it to you with my approval. If you would then hand me the money I will deduct the amount of my father-in law’s debt before passing it to Mr. Cleeves.”

There was laughter from everyone. “That would be sharp practice against a sharp dealer”, said Thomas Dustin. “I like it.” With the plan approved everyone turned in.

The arrival at Richmond Island was uneventful except that Thomas Dustin, who had sworn to never set foot on the island while John Winter lived, chose to remain aboard. Wednesday morning the Maria del Mar got gnderway and by early afternoon was tied up at the village wharf on Casco Neck.

Thomas Dustin and Tom Jones made their way to the offices of George Cleeves. Tom Jones carried a sling bag over his shoulder.

“I understand that you gentlemen are interested in buying some property for the purpose of settling here”, said Mr. Cleeves.

“Actually”, Thomas Dustin said, “I am here with my advisor Mr. Jones on behalf of a certain Ibrahim Benatar, a Jewish man from Northam, who wishes to settle on the land. Are you opposed to Jews at all?”

I am interested in all sorts of people if they can pay in cash”, said George Cleeves. “Are you prepared to do that for this Benatar fellow?”

“Indeed we are”, said Tom Jones hefting the bag. But we would expect to carry the deed away with us. We want ten acres with running water on it and access to the sea.”

Pulling out a map, Cleeves pointed to a tract on Black Point, part of present day Scarborough, Maine.

“That is prime property. I will prepare a deed and send you around the cape by skiff with my man Harry so you can have a look at it. I will meet you here tomorrow morning to close the deal if you can meet my price of 175 Spanish dollars “.

The property was indeed prime but the price was steep. Knowing that Ibrahim could well afford it Thomas decided to let the deal go forward. He checked with Hugh that they would sail before noon and went with Tom Jones back to Cleeves’s office in mid-morning.

“We find the land acceptable”, said Thomas Dustin. “Please let Mr. Jones examine the deed for me.”

Tom Jones did that and passed it to Thomas Dustin. Then he counted out 175 Spanish dollars on the table in two piles, 100 and 75. “Now Mr. Cleeves”, he said. “In addition to Mr. Dustin here, I represent one Richard North of Salisbury. I am authorized to collect from you the 100 Spanish dollars owed to him.” He slid the 100 dollar pile back into the bag. “Here is a receipt signed by Mr. North and your change”. Tom slid the 75 dollar pile across the desk to Cleeves.

Cleeves scowled for a moment and then chuckled. “You tell Richard that I admire his choice in a collection agent. Now take your selves out of my office before I become impoverished.”

So the two returned to the Maria del Mar and got underway to proceed up into Casco Bay to deliver the Smalls to their summer encampment. Before dark they were anchored in the mouth of the stream now called the New Meadows River, close against the Sebascodegan shore. Hugh decided to wait until morning to set the Smalls ashore. Thomas Dustin offered to go along so as to help communicate with the natives since he was known to them.

In the morning of May 18, 1640 Edward and Francis first set foot on Sebascodegan Island. They were advised by Thomas Dustin to bring some gifts to offer the Abenaki clan that summered on the island. They chose a hoe and a whetstone. The small boat from the Maria del Mar rowed to the edge of the native settlement and Thomas hailed the shore.

Men, women and children all gathered as the boat pulled in. Edward and Francis were familiar with the natives that sometimes traveled into the villages from the forest to trade or even to work for cash. There were mostly solitary men or perhaps a pair. This was their first exposure to the native culture. The people recognized Thomas and welcomed the Smalls. The gifts were accepted and admired. In return Edward received a clay pipe and Francis a necklace of carved wooden beads.

After a meal was served, the natives told the Smalls that a sheltered cove behind the point of land where the village was would be a good place to clear some land for planting. So the small boat was rowed around the point to the cove and the Smalls and their belongings were landed. There under a canvas cover hung from the trees, Edward and Francis said goodbye to Thomas and shortly watched the Maria del Mar beat off to the southwest against the wind.

Sebascodegan Sites

small property vicinity

1640 Small Property Vicinity on Sebascodegan

“In a way I’ll be sorry to see this voyage end”, said Hugh to his remaining passengers as they sailed away from Sebascodegan Island. “I have been sailing this vessel up and down the coast of North America for about 5 years now with this good crew. I will have to turn them out and sell her in Boston. I am to leave there for England at my Father’s request soon after I get to that port.”

“What do you expect to get for her?” asked Tom Jones.

“Well… I certainly expect to get more than I paid for her.” Hugh told the story of his acquisition of the Maria del Mar. “If I had time to wait for the right deal I might get a hundred Spanish dollars. As it is I will have to take the first offer.”

“How about if I offer you seventy-five dollars on arrival in Boston. I can wait a while for the best offer in that port while you are on your way to England without delay.”

After a moment consideration Hugh said, “I will take it. You might find that she would go for more than I think depending on the demand for a travel ready vessel but she certainly doesn’t owe me anything.”

“If you like I could try to sell her with crew”, Tom offered.

They conferred with Ramon and decided that the crew did not want to chance a new captain. They would find their way back to St Kitts and a life of relative leisure.

Thomas Dustin was dropped off in Kittery where he found Elizabeth Small and explained the pleasant situation her husband and son had found in Casco Bay. Then he caught a ride back upriver with one of George Walton’s empty stone barges and presented a delighted Ibrahim Benatar with his new deed.

Hugh pulled in for an overnight stop at Gloucester so Tom Jones could leave word with his family for Richard North that he was taking an unauthorized loan of the money he got from Cleeves to try to make a profit on it at Boston.

On the 24 th of May, 1640 the Maria del Mar tied up at Boston. Hugh off loaded his last cargo, paid off the crew and said farewell. Tom began beating the bushes looking for a buyer. It turned out that Hugh had underestimated the vessel value by a bit. On June 15 Tom went back to Gloucester with 170 Spanish dollars. Even after splitting the profit with the good-natured father-in-law, he had enough to build a proper blacksmith shop in Gloucester.

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