Early Settlers

By O.B. Clason

Published in the History Of Litchfield And An Account Of Its Centennial Celebration, August 1897


Prior to any permanent settlement being made in what is now the town of Litchfield, the place was frequently visited by Andrew Jack, Nathaniel Graves, Thomas Gray, Hugh Mulloy and others, in pursuit of otter, beaver, bear, and other game.  They built shanties by the side of ponds, and spent several months in each year gathering fur.  Paul Hildreth, the first settler of Lewiston, came here frequently, and at one time lived in the vicinity of the ponds for several years.  The first attempt made at a permanent settlement, was in 1772, by Eliphlet Smith and Benjamin Hinkley of New Meadows.  They commenced a clearing that year, but did not move their families there until later.  In 1775, Barnabas Baker, Senior, Barnabas Baker, Junior, Benjamin and Thomas Smith commenced a clearing.  Their families were living in Pownalboro, now Dresden.  In 1776, on account of there being trouble over the boundary lines of their lots, John Merrill, an engineer from Topsham, came there and surveyed out six lots, which were alloted to the above named settlers.

Solomon Tibbetts came to Litchfield from Gardiner in 1774 and located upon land by the side of Cobbossee pond, now owned by Buel L. Merrill, formerly by Henry Lunt.  He brought his family with him.  In September, 1774, Joseph Parker took up a farm upon the neck, and built a log house, which was occupied by him until his death in 1822.  Daniel Ring came from Bath in 1779.  Capt. Nathaniel Berry from Gardiner in 1780, and about this time came the Jewell brothers, Henry and Enos, Calvin and Timothy Hall, Abijah, Joel and Joshua Richardson and others.

Many of the early settlers came from the vicinity of New Meadows, others from York county, Mass., and New Hampshire.  Several had served in the Revolutionary War, and were inured to hardships and privations.  They were industrious and intelligent and had soon excellent farms about them.  They built their first dwellings near the shores of the ponds, as these waters were their principal means of communication to Gardiner and other settlements upon the river.  Aside from the water, there were only paths through the woods to the river, and for years many were compelled to walk eight, ten, twelve and fifteen miles through the woods with a bag of grain upon their backs to Gardiner, wait their turn to have their grist ground, and then wend their way back to their homes.  Upon the arrival of wagons, and laying out and building of roads the early houses near the ponds were supplanted by more commodious dwellings upon the line of the highways.

The town has always been thriving and prosperous.  Great attention has been given to education, and aside from their common schools an academy has flourished for many years at the corner and is now well patronized.

The other addresses printed in this volume enter more fully in detail into the civil, educational, religious and military history of the town.  And what is to be said more of the early settlers will be given in connection with the individual families.