Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
December 1, 1892
GLIMPSES OF THE PAST
Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.
We shall not attempt to discuss in this article the causes which led to the war of the American Revolution, further than to account to some extent for the attitude of the Machias men, who arrayed themselves so determinedly against the kings forces, and kept up a guerilla warfare upon such parts of Nova Scotia as were exposed to their incursions, making Passamaquoddy at times an outpost for that purpose.
The insurrectionary party in New England, (for it is a mistake to suppose that the people were unanimous in their opposition to British rule,) could point to many grievances-some of them, no doubt, real enough; but to the inhabitants of eastern Maine, whose welfare was wholly dependent upon their newly developed lumber trade, the forest laws must have seemed to be particularly oppressive.
It might have been better for both the lumbermen and the farmers of New England to-day if salutary forest laws had been well enforced up to the present time, and the products of the unoccupied lands protected in the interest of crown and commonwealth; for the fertility of their soil, the waters of their streams, and even the salubrity of their climate, are disappearing with their forests. They have squandered in a century natural resources which countless years may hardly restore; and yet have realized from their reckless havoc but a fraction of the direct benefit which the same forests might have yielded under stricter forest laws.
But it is not to be denied that the aestrictions placed upon the lumbermen were in some respects very unreasonable; and little to be wondered at that the men of New England, and especially those of the district of Maine, when they saw valuable timber within their reach which the law forbade them to touch, should fail to see that in its protection the interests of the crown and of the commonwealth were one. The laws, if enforced at all, were enforced in the kings name; if they were resisted or evaded, the plea was made that they interfered with the rights of individuals. In the conflict between royal prerogative on the one side and personal liberty on the other, the true interest of the commonwealth was apparently forgotten; and in the name of the liberties of the people it was claimed that public property in the form of forest trees belonged of right to the first man who could seize and appropriate it. If, then, to the lumbermen of the colonies, the surveyors of the kings woods were generally unwelcome visitors, they were especially so in Maine; for there their legal authority was questioned, and all the territorial rights involved were said to be vested in the government of Massachusetts Bay instead of in the British crown.
Naturally, then, the lumbermen of Machias, who had brought with them from their former homes all the bitterness which forest laws and other grievances aroused, disliked the kings officers and all who upheld them; and, when news of the affair at Lexington reached them, were ready to spring to arms in defiance of an authority which they had learned to hate and which they had long been accustomed to disregard.
Their action at this time, though hasty and ill-advised, is an important one in view of subsequent events. Placed, as they were, between the law-abiding people of the Penobscot and those of Nova Scotia, it seems strange that they should have been able to hold their position throughout the struggle; but their persistence had a considerable influence both in the conduct of the war and in the negotiations which led to the final acknowledgement of the independence of the United States.
The capture of the armed schooner Margaretta, (or Margranetto,) the first overt act at Machias, is notable also as the first sea fight in the Revolutionary war.
The unsettled state of public affairs in 1774 having destroyed their business, the inhabitants of the little town were in a great measure destitute. Capt. Ichabod Jones had commenced loading two sloops with lumber for Boston, when the news of the battle of Lexington, arrived in April, 1775, intending to return when he had disposed of it, and bring back a supply of provisions.
Jones was suspected of being loyal. When he returned in June, therefore, under convey of the Margaretta, and before landing his goods asked permission to load again with lumber, it was generally believed that the lumber was wanted for barracks for the royal troops in Boston.
A secret meeting was held, at which it was decided to take possession of the sloops and their escort; and an unsuccessful attempt was made to carry out this plan on Sunday, the 11th of June.
Next day the attempt was renewed.
Capt. Moore, who commanded the Margaretta, desirous of avoiding a collision, left his anchorage and started for the open sea. His schooner was a good sailer, but, owing to an accident, she was overtaken by the pursuers and boarded. A sharp conflict took place, in which Capt. Moore was mortally wounded and four of his men killed. Of the attacking party, one man, named McNeill, was killed, and four others wounded. The battle ended with the fall of Capt. Moore. The schooner was taken back to Machias as a prize, and her crew held as prisoners of war.
The first of the Machias men to board the Margaretta is said to have been John OBrien; the second Joseph Getchell. Among the boarding party was Jonathan Knight, afterwards one of the first settlers of Calais.
Attention having been thus drawn to Machias, it was at once recognized as an important military point. In the following year steps were taken to secure the friendship of the Indians, and the village was made a place of rendezvous for attacks upon the loyal inhabitants of the province of Nova Scotia.
The following corrections and additions are needed:-
Article ii.-In the third foot-note it is stated that the carved stone found at Lake Utopia is in St. John. Since the article appeared in print the stone has been sent to the Smithsonian Institution.
Article xxxviii.-In eighth line of third paragraph, for Eastport, read West Pembroke.
Article xl.-At the end of second paragraph add:-The Burton grantees were known as The Canada Company, and Perkins island, which was included in this grant, was Indian Island. When they retired, in 1775, they left James Chaffey in possession, and he claimed the island as his own. His title, however, was questionable; but after his death it was confirmed by a regrant to his heirs and assigns.
Corrections: Article XLVI contains the following corrections to this one: "In Article xliv., the first word in the second line of fourth paragraph should be restrictions. In the third line of the ninth paragraph, convey should be convoy."
"The note at the end of Article xliv. concerning the carved stone of Lake Utopia is incorrect; the stone is still in the museum of the Natural History Society, in St. John."