Francis and Elizabeth 1645–1714

The work of a curious fellow
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Francis Small at age 20 moved permanently to the family summer home on Sebascodegan Island. He had his own small shallop by then and brought goods to trade with the Abenaki. He became fluent enough in the Algonquin language to exchange stories with his friends “the abandoned people”. They called themselves that because a generation earlier over 75% of their friends and relatives had died of an epidemic in 1617 that had swept through southern Maine, possibly cholera brought ashore by European fishermen,

Francis did not spend all his time on the island. He traveled inland with the natives in the fall and explored and mapped the territory west between the Atlantic and the foothills of the White Mountains and south beyond the Saco River.

In 1651 Francis wintered over in Casco Neck and made the acquaintance of Elizabeth Leighton of that town. Her parents, Thomas and Joanna, emigrated from Scotland about 1633 and settled in Casco Neck. Francis captured the heart of the seventeen year old Elizabeth and she moved with him to Sebascodegan in the spring of 1652. In February of 1653, again back in Casco Neck, Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, a boy named Edward. Later that year they traveled to Kittery and were married.

On returning to the island in 1654 Francis and Elizabeth found that the usual contingent of natives were absent. They were greeted by one man who told them that there were bands of Iroquois warriors coming down the Penobscot and Kennebec Rivers and no one knew what was going to happen. He advised them to stay away until the trouble was resolved. Francis took his friend’s advice and he and Elizabeth returned to Kittery, stopping at Casco Neck to let the people there know what they heard.

The Iroquois nation was beginning its major expansion in those days. It would be another 40 years before they controlled much of the territory that would become the eastern United States and eastern Canada from Maryland to Ohio to Quebec. The Abenaki in Maine were aware of this warlike confederation of tribes and had good cause to be nervous.

After stopping at Kittery for a while, Francis and Elizabeth, with young Edward set sail for Cape Cod where Francis planned to establish another homestead for his brother Edmond so that Edmond might have success in the fishing business. They stopped at Provincetown where Elizabeth gave birth to their son David.

Francis spent 1655 clearing land and building a house with Edmond in the town of Truro just down the cape from Provincetown. There in 1656 Francis and Elizabeth had a daughter, Mary. In the spring of 1658 they returned to Sebascodegan.

There they found that the Abenaki had become permanent residents. The Iroquois incursion had not penetrated as deeply as they feared. In fact being forest natives the Iroquois generally avoided the coastal areas even in territory they controlled. So the peaceful Abenaki had moved to their seasonal habitation on the coast.

Francis and Elizabeth, with their growing family took up residence in their island homestead among the new neighbors. There in the summer of 1658 Elizabeth had the first white child born on Sebascodegan Island, Francis Small Jr.

One of the new neighbors was an Abenaki medicine woman of indeterminate age whose Algonquin name was Ole Lambo. She had the appearance of a tortoise, being misshapen by a hunched back and having a small head on a long neck that stuck out nearly horizontally before her. Her skill at healing was legendary among the Abenaki.

When Francis and Elizabeth’s daughter sickened with a fever she was attended by Ole Lambo and quickly recovered. Elizabeth later got the story of Ole Lambo from one of the younger Abenaki women.

The story was that in her youth Ole Lambo had been the most beautiful woman among the Abenaki people. She was so beautiful that young men avoided her, assuming she would not be interested in them. Fearing that she was destined to never marry she prayed to Manitou Kennebec, the guiding spirit of her people, to become a medicine woman.

Manitou Kennebec appeared to her in the form of a crow and told her that she was too beautiful to be a medicine woman. The people would not take her seriously. He could only grant he request if he made her appearance repulsive. Ole Lambo agreed and the crow laid its head on hers. The next morning she woke, bent and grotesque, with the knowledge of healing.

Manitou Kennebec returned to her in one year to see how things were going. Ole Lambo said she was doing pretty well but wanted more skill to match the large change in her appearance. Manitou Kennebec agreed the she should become the greatest medicine woman of the nation. He taught her how to breath water and to extract powerful medicine from the plants and animals beneath the sea.

For several years Francis and Elizabeth made the island their headquarters, sometimes sailing to Falmouth, formerly known as Casco Neck, to Kittery or to Truro on business or to visit family. During a stay in Kittery, a son Samuel was born in 1664. In 1665 Francis’s father and mother Edward and Elizabeth both died on the same day on opposite sides of the Atlantic and later that year during a stay in Truro Francis and Elizabeth had their son Benjamin.

In all the children were:
Edward Small 1652, Falmouth, ME
Daniel Small 1654 Provincetown MA
Mary Small 1656 Truro, MA
Francis Small 1658, Sebascodegan Island, Falmouth, ME
Samuel Small 1664, Kittery, ME
Benjamin Small 1665, Truro, MA

In 1666 Francis, together with his friend Richard Shapleigh, established a trading post on the upper Saco River, west of Sebago Lake. In the summer of 1668 he traded goods to the western Sokokis branch of the Abenaki people in exchange for their promise to bring furs in the fall. The Sokokis thought it would be more convenient to kill Francis than to pay their debt.

At that time there was a Abenaki sachem, Wesumbe, known to the English as Captain Sandy. He was fluent in English and traveled among the tribes and the English settlements working out compromises and generally promoting peaceful coexistence. He heard of the scheme to kill Francis and since he could not talk the western Sokokis out of their plan he visited Francis at the trading post in late September, 1668.

Captain Sandy’s activities and Francis’ often overlapped so the two men were acquainted, even friendly.

“Hello Captain,” said Francis. “What brings you this far up the Saco?”

“Strangely enough, you do,” Captain Sandy answered. “You have extended credit to people not credit worthy. I have learned of a plan to kill you the night of the full moon in October, that would be the 19th of the month, to avoid paying you the promised furs. They intend to set fire to this building near twilight and shoot you when you come out. I recommend taking precautions, perhaps not being in this vicinity at all in October might be best.”

“Captain I thank you for your concern. I will be on the lookout. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“I could use a pouch of tobacco,” said Captain Sandy.

So Francis emptied his tobacco bin into a shoulder bag and sent Captain Sandy on his way with about thirty pounds of valuable shredded pipe tobacco.

The precaution that Francis took was to hide in the woods on the night of the full moon and watch his trading post building from a little rise south of the post. He was not convinced that the attack would happen. Shortly after sunset he saw the first wisps of smoke rising over his roof. He set out at a run directly south and ran, walked and stumbled the roughly fifty miles through rough country to Kittery in about nineteen hours.

He found Captain Sandy in Portsmouth the next day and told him of his adventure.

“I am ashamed for the behavior of my people,” said Captain Sandy.

“They ain’t your people Captain. You are as fair a man as I ever came across.”

“Yet you have lost your trading post. I will make amends.”

So after Francis pressed upon him sundry goods in some measure of recompense, Captain Sandy sat down and wrote out a deed, in favor of Francis, to the entire Ossipee tract, about 400 square miles of prime forest land, streams and ponds. It was a magnificent gesture but to claim and hold such a piece of land would require an army. Francis knew that but he deeded half of the tract to his partner in the trading post, Richard Shapleigh. The other half he left to his son Samuel in his will. None of the beneficiaries tried to enforce the deed.

Captain Sandy Deed

In 1675 their Abenaki neighbors again warned Francis of impending trouble. It was the beginning of the six wars between the natives and the English that would cover all of New England and last for 85 years killing thousands of settlers and tens of thousands of natives.

Francis moved his family permanently to Truro where its location on Cape Cod made it both hard to get to and easy to defend. There Francis and Elizabeth’s children grew up, married and spread descendants out over Massachusetts. It would be 76 years before the family would permanently move back to Sebascodegan. In 1712 Elizabeth died in Truro as Francis did in 1714.

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