Early History Of Litchfield


An Indian Campsite At The "Rips" On Cobbossee Stream

An Indian Campsite At The "Rips" On Cobbossee Stream


Drawing by Winifred E. Brown, courtesy of the Gardiner Public Library


Long before the white man's arrival the braves of the Abenaki tribes returned each spring to favorite fishing stations near river falls and rapids.  One such station, used by the Sturgeon (Cabassa) families of the Kennebec Indians, was located above the Gardiner falls on Cobboseecontee ("Land where the sturgeon are taken") Stream.  There the men came, accompanied by a few squaws to cook meals and smoke the fat salmon and sturgeon speared as they leaped over the falls on their way upstream to spawn.

Cobbossee Stream is "the key to the entire lake system of Kennebec County."  It was part of an Indian trail running from Gardiner on the Kennebec to Moosehead Lake.  The last tribal trip down from Canada to the sea was made in 1796, perhaps by way of the old "aboriginal highway" through Cobossee Stream and Pond.

Young John Smith was only six years old in 1777 when his father Eliphalet brought his family to make the first settlement in what is now Litchfield.  The trip, made overland from Topsham in January took two days with four two-ox teams.  Seventy-one years later John wrote a long letter describing life in the new settlement.

That letter has been preserved, and in 1975 Abbott Smith of Boothbay, great-great-grandson of Eliphalet, gave a copy to the Litchfield Bicentennial Committee.  Smith also attended the Settlers Day celebration on July 25, 1975.

John wrote that the Benjamin Hinkley family came two days later than theirs, and in the next several years the Tibbets, Baker, Lord, Dennis, Sawyer, Knowlton, Hutchinson, Johnson and Jewell families joined the settlement.  The first school, John wrote, was a private one taught by James Shurtleff in the southern part of the town.  The "hardships, privations and sufferings" of the earliest settlers remained clear in John's memory until the end of his days.

source: Litchfield Yesterdays