Edward and Elizabeth 1640-1665

The work of a curious fellow
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At Sebascodegan the Natives called themselves “the abandoned people”, or more precisely, “those who were left behind”. They helped Edward Small and his son, Francis, establish a camp. The Smalls worked through the summer of 1640 building a dwelling and clearing some land. When the native people packed up their belongings in October and migrated inland, Edward and Francis crossed to the mainland, walked to Casco Neck and caught a ride back to Kittery with vessel from Penobscot Bay carrying a load of cut granite for gravestones.

Back in Kittery they rejoined Elizabeth and the other children for the winter and with the help of Thomas Dustin, built a shallop with which to continue their summer visits to Sebascodegan.

In the summer of 1641 Edward and Francis again spent the year improving the Sebascodegan property and started fishing in Casco Bay, selling their catch back in Kittery. By 1645, the whole family was spending summers on the island.

In 1650 Edward had been leasing land to aspiring farmers for over a decade. Usually they paid their rent promptly. In two instances the tenants prospered to the extent that they were able to purchase the property, which Edward encouraged. A new lot had been cleared and a man named Russell Wilson, approached Edward about leasing the property.

“Mr. Small,” said Wilson, “I admire that piece on the south bank of Sturgeon Creek. I have a little money saved up. What would you take for a year’s lease – no make that a two-year lease so I can see if I can make a go of it?”

Edward named a price and Wilson agreed, paying six months in advance with the promise to pay every six months. In due course Wilson built a barn down by the water’s edge. That was the end of it. No house, no ploughing, no livestock. Wilson was hardly ever seen around town.

Six months later he came by Edward’s place and paid another six months on the lease. By then the wagon tracks made during the barn construction were pretty much overgrown so there was no obvious way to access the barn from the town.

Edward was curious but he was well aware of the thriving business that had grown out of the British policy of “salutary neglect”. It cost the Crown four times as much to use the British navy to collect duties on regulated goods as the value of the duties, so smuggling contraband was a way of life in the colonies. Technically it was illegal but the colonists thought nothing of doing it as long as they did not flaunt it in the face of authority.

As the land owner Edward certainly did not want to know what Wilson was doing with the property so he never asked. He did however hear a rumor that Wilson’s barn was stacked with bales of something not hay. Also that when the wind was out of the north, most of Great Bay smelled of tea. Wilson failed to renew the lease after the first year so Edward checked the barn and found it empty. No one could explain how contraband tea was transported from a ship at sea into Wilson’s barn and from there to his customers. As far as was known none of the tea ever showed up locally. All in all Mr. Wilson was a smooth operator.

In one case where salutary neglect was breeched and a vessel was boarded and men arrested by Captain Bursack of the Speedwell, a British revenue cutter. The captain of the smugglers was not aboard when this happened, but he made his feelings known in a letter to Captain Bursack:

Sir: Damn thee and God damn thy two purblind eyes thou bugger, thou death-looking son of a bitch. O, that I had been there (with my company) for thy sake when thou tookest them men of mine on board the Speedwell cutter on Monday, the 14th of December. I would drove thee and thy gang to Hell where thou belongest, thou Devil incarnet. Go down, thou Hell Hound, unto they kennel below and bathe thyself in that sulphurous lake that has been so long prepared for such as thee, for it is time the world was rid of such a monster. Thou art no man but a devil, thou fiend. O Lucifer, I hope thou will soon fall into Hell like a star from the sky, there to lie unpitied and unrelented of any for ever and ever, which God grant of his infinite mercy. Amen.


In 1653 Francis Small, who had settled permanently on the island, brought a nineteen-year old girl from Casco Neck, Elizabeth Leighton, and their young son Edward back to meet the grandparents Edward and Elizabeth. Francis and Elizabeth were married in Kittery and returned to take up residence on the Sebascodegan property.

In 1655 Edward purchased a pit saw and had it shipped from England, hired a sawyer and a pitman and began ripping the timber he cut into boards. This turned out to be a very profitable venture. So much so that he had another saw and crew in operation by the start of 1656.

Pit Saw Arrangements

The port of Portsmouth was growing and lumber was a big part of that growth. Exporting cut lumber was much preferable to carrying the raw logs. The lumber stacked better and was less susceptible shifting in transit than the logs. Also lumber was heavier per unit volume due to the lack of air space so there was room to carry lighter goods with the lumber and still have the ship fully loaded by weight.

Many of the seventeenth and eighteenth century houses on the Caribbean Islands contained lumber that originated on the shores of the Piscataqua River and other New England streams.

After twenty years of hard use the shallop, Lady Elizabeth, that Edward built with Thomas Dustin, was pretty well used up. She creaked and leaked when under sail and generally looked sort of disreputable. Edward set out to trade her for something useful. His expectations were low but in spite of being one of the wealthiest men in Kittery he hated to throw anything away.

William Jakes lived in Portsmouth. He was a merchant handling many of the goods brought from England on the ships returning from carrying lumber to the mother country. Among the commodities brought back was coal that he sold to blacksmiths up and down the coast. His coal came in by the shipload and went out by the bushel.

The Jakes coal pile was already taking up a good bit of his property when another ship arrived with a load of coal. William tried to turn the ship away but the vessel was to pick up lumber at Portsmouth and rather than get under way to try Boston or New London only to have to return to Portsmouth, the Captain offered him a price he could not refuse. So William Jakes found himself awash in coal.

William’s son Mathias was a frequent visitor to Edward and Elizabeth’s home because he was courting their daughter Mary. So Edward heard about the coal glut in Portsmouth and Mathias, to impress his hopefully future in-laws, spoke proudly of the price his father paid.

Edward sailed the shallop across the harbor and tied up at the Jakes dock.

“Ahoy William,” Edward hailed as he approached along the pier. “How’s things on this side of the harbor?”

“Never better,” said William. “I don’t see as much of my boy Mathias as I did. You have any idea why that might be?”

Edward laughed. “Perhaps it’s because I see a lot more of him than I used to. He and Mary seem to be getting along well.”

“I think the boy is pretty far gone with love of the girl. How does it seem with her?”

“Pretty much the same. I like Mathias. I’d be pleased to see Mary settled with him.”

The two men puffed on their pipes for a few moments in silence.

“I hear you might have some coal to sell,” said Edward.

“Well I might. Do you want coal? It’s the blacksmiths that are my usual customers.”

“Well I think if I modify my grates a bit I could burn coal in the house. I’d like to try anyway. Now I can see the top of your coal pile from here so maybe I can get a break from you smithy price. What you say to tuppence the bushel?”

“I would say Mathias was too loose in the tongue.”

“Well I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If you sell me eighty bushels at tuppence, I’ll throw in yonder shallop. I don’t use it much any more.”

“I can see why you don’t use her much,” said William. “But I’ll take the deal for an old friend, who certainly wouldn’t advertise the details of our agreement.”

So Edward enjoyed the convenience of burning coal rather than wood and William used the Lady Elizabeth around the harbor, never venturing far from shore. In 1663 she was rammed in the fog by an outbound vessel and sank in Hart's Cove where she was abandoned.

Elizabeth wished to see England again before her death and in 1664 she traveled back to Bideford accompanied by her youngest son William. Edward's health prevented him making the journey. Elizabeth died suddenly in Bideford on 2/10/1665 and on the same day in Kittery Edward passed away. The coincidence of dates was not known until William's return in the spring.

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