Bowdoinham Historical Society

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Tom DeForeest
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Lancaster-Bishop Srchive & Research Room - Tuesdays 10am-12pm & 2-5pm
Jellerson School, restored by the Historical Society, 2012

Photo: The Jellerson School, restored by the Bowdoinham Historical Society: Bowdoinham's last one-room schoolhouse, and home of the Merrymeeting Bay Museum.



by Frank Connors


Six Cathance Neck men were cutting hay on the bay shore one hot, August day in 1775, when English seamen from a marauding British warship entered Merrymeeting Bay, spotted the helpless and outnumbered farmers and took them captive.


The six: Robert Fulton, John and William Patten, Thomas Howard, Joseph Berry and David Fuller, were hauled to England as enemies of the Crown. Fulton and William Patten died in England in prison, and were probably Bowdoinham's first victims of the American Revolution. The other four men managed to survive their prison ordeal, and returned to Bowdoinham after the war.


But our town was committed to the revolution even before that kidnapping on Merrymeeting.


It was May, 1775, when voters argued through a special town meeting at their new town-house on the west bank of the Abagadassett River in East Bowdoinham. At that meeting, townsmen voted to elect a committee of correspondence, and voted to purchase and store a supply of gunpowder for the town's defense.


Elihu Getchell, John Patten and George Thomas were named to the committee of correspondence; and Getchell, whose home commanded a sweeping view of the Kennebec and Swan Island, was appointed custodian of the powder.


But we find in early records that not every citizen favored the revolution and, sometime between the May meeting and June 21, 1775, someone set the town's meeting house on fire. It burned flat. Local patriots always claimed that loyalists to the king torched the building, and no one would ever prove them to be wrong.


That first meeting house was started in 1765, high above the Abagadassett River on a bluff perhaps a half mile beyond the old Dunlap Farm. Adams says that Massachusetts Governor Shirley gave the glass for the windows of the meeting house, and that in 1775 at the time of its destruction, the building was one of several town halls in the region.


On Jan. 9, 1775, Bowdoinham town clerk Abraham Preble issued the following warrant: "All the inhabitants of this town liable to bear arms in defense of their country against an enemy [are] to assemble . . . and to consider the recent resolves of congress . . ."


At that meeting, townsmen voted to abide by the resolves of congress, and then voted to elect the following as officers of the town's militia: Abraham Preble, captain; Robert Patten, lieutenant; George Thomas, ensign, and Zacheus Beals, clerk.


A militia meeting was conducted Jan. 23, 1775, to vote on war measures and captain Abraham Preble issued the following charge: "Gentlemen, all of you fit to bear arms are desired to appear . . . to choose the rest of our militia officers and to have something of a training." All of this, it is important to point out, took place months before hostilities opened at that "rude bridge" in Concord.


In May of 1776, townsmen voted to raise 10 pounds to buy more ammunition, and in February, 1778, the town voted "to pay compensation to those persons that went into the continental army . . . ," and $400 was appropriated for that purpose.


Adams' History of Bowdoinham lists two dozen revolutionary war veterans who "lived in and served from Bowdoinham." He suggests that many others may have served who are now forgotten, because "our people were thoroughly aroused and full of enthusiasm, and did all in their power to assist in the overthrow of the English government in this country. "


Bowdoinham Advertiser


February 1977


Frank Connors, Editor


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