PLAISTOW – It is October 1775, Falmouth, Mass Bay Colony (now Maine, and just 82 miles away from the hamlet of Plaistow). It was growing colder and windier with each passing day: the leaves are falling fast, the landscape was stark, bare, and foreboding. Our early New England brothers and sisters were in preparation for the coming snow and winter. And the threat from the British Captain Henry Mowatt to bomb Falmouth was real indeed.
According to some historians, a small contingent from Falmouth (now Portland, Maine) rowed out to the Command ship Canceaux to plead with Captain Henry Mowatt, who replied for them to give up their arms, and he would see what could be done. The Falmouth townsfolk brought forth some muskets to appease Captain Mowatt - a half-hearted attempt at best. Captain Mowatt was eager for payback time and the muskets did nothing to sway his course. The townsfolk all left in a panic including Nathaniel, Mary, and Joseph just a year and a half old and baby Polly, just seven months old along with the rest of their relatives that lived along India Street. They fled in horror taking only what they could, by wagon and wheelbarrow running inland and away from shore.
The bombing of Falmouth begins; it was at 9:40 a.m., on October 18th that the warships Canceaux, Symmetry, Spitfire, and Halifax commenced firing incendiary shot, an iron frame canvas bag ignited by its content of pitch, tallow, and turpentine with the intent to burn wooden structures. Some say the shots were high to allow time for residents to get out. This was followed with Grape Shot that resembled grapes; its intent was to kill inhabitants and followed by shot of every size.
The ships ceased fire at 6:00 p.m. Not satisfied with the destruction, Mowatt then sent a contingent ashore to burn what was still standing. When darkness fell the shoreline was ablaze in orange flames, smoke clouds billowing as far as one could see. After 8 or more hours of bombing and burning amazingly, no one was killed on either side. To make matters worse, as folks returned to scavenge remaining belongings, a cold torrential rain ensued causing flooding and further damage to what was left of Falmouth. The word was received by General Washington of such a cowardly act that it gave a strong measure of resolve to fight even harder against a tyrant King. Parts of Falmouth away from the village were large wooded areas indeed and encompassed land called “Saccarappa” at the falls along the Presumpscott River later re-named Westbrook, after Colonel Thomas Westbrook, a commander in the Wabanaki - New England war 1722 -1725.
The legislature, then Massachusetts Bay Colony, assessed the value of what was lost by inhabitants. Nathaniel’s home, land and belongings were valued at 30 pounds according to the book “A History of Portland” by William Willis. Nathaniel, it is believed was allowed a land grant of 100 acres to rebuild. The new home had to be built from the virgin forest and the family could not use the giant pine trees as they were essential for ship masts for the King’s Naval Fleet.
So it came to pass that Nathaniel and his wife Mary, survive the Bombing of Falmouth at the beginning of the Revolutionary war.
Nathaniel did not join the Revolution as a soldier, as his life was dedicated to the refugee survival of wife Mary and their infant children. Later children, another Nathaniel (my 4th great grandfather), George, Sarah, Anna and Phoebe lived in that home made by Nathaniel of Oak trees from his own land in the town of Westbrook, along Duck Pond Rd., near Prides Corner. It was a “Way Station” for some 100 years caring for Teamster Wagons and Horses. It still stands today in testament of Nathaniel’s carpentry skills and the strength of the mighty Oak trees he used to build it.
Genealogical and Historical Epilogue: The burning of Falmouth is well documented on the internet by several sources. In the beginning, we read of Nathaniel Hale, my 5th great grandfather (who later married Mary Lawrence in Portland, daughter of Joshua and Sarah (Pollow) Lawrence) was born to John Hale of Newbury, Ma., whose great grandmother was a Lowell) and Mary (Noyes) Hale, Nathaniel’s mother of Nicholas Noyes fame. John Hale’s first wife was Patience “Dole”Hale who died. Some of the Dole family made it to Hawaii and “Dole Pineapple”was born. The daughter of John and Patience (Dole) Hale, was Patience Hale and married to Dr. Nathaniel Coffin Sr. who graduated Harvard Medical and a great grandson to Tristram Coffin of Newbury (my 10th Great Grandfather too). Great Grandpa Tristram was a signatory in the purchase of Pentucket from Indian chiefs, Passaquo and Saggahew, later to become Haverhill, Ma. And well documented by George Windgate Chase in his Haverhill Book. Tristram later with several others purchased the little Island of Nantucket from Indians for 30 pounds and two beaver hats and lived there happily till death (a true story for another time)
In words of my friend Paul Harvey, “So now you know the rest of the story!” Your Genealogical past awaits you and I hope yours is as rewarding as mine. Till next time.
The End © 2013
(Editor’s Note: Ed Hale resides in Plaistow, with his family. He is a lifelong genealogy enthusiast. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org).