The English settlement of Pemaquid (now Bristol) was the first permanently
established on the coast of the present state of Maine, and was
second only to Plymouth (and perhaps not even to this) in all New-England.
Very early in its history a man came there from bristol, Eng., by
the name of Abraham Shurt (sometimes written Shurd, and occasionally,
Short), who is believed to have spent the rest of his life there,
and whose history and character present some points of interest.
He was a man of excellent moral character, and through a long life
exerted a good influence among the comparatively rude people of
the place; but, at the same time, it is very certain that much of
the credit which Williamson and others have attributed to him, for
certain specific acts, at a time of great peril, really belongs
to another, whose name has literally disappeared from history, except
as it is found in the original contemporaneous authorities. This
man was John Earthy; a name quite as uncommon as that of Shurt.
Concerning these two names, Shurt and Earthy, I may remark, that
they are not only unusual, but so far as my own researches have
extended, quite unknown in modern times. Considerable research has
failed to bring to light either of them, except as referring to
these identical men. Fortunately for us, Shurt has left some account
of himself in an affidavit sworn to by him in Boston, Dec 25. 1662,
and put on record there (1). From this we learn that he was eighty
years old, and that he came to Pemaquid in 1626, as agent for ''Alderman
Aldworth and Mr Giles Elbridge of Bristol, Merchants,'' and that
he purchased for them the island of Monhegan of Abraham Jennings,
a gentleman of Plymouth.
Jennings, it is believed, never came to this country: but he had
acquired his title to the island by gift, or perhaps by purchase,
from the Council of Plymouth, which about this time enjoyed its
highest prosperity, and exerted its great influence.
The nearest good harbor to Monhegan, on the main land, is that of
Pemequid, about 14 or 15 miles distant in a north-west direction.
This beautiful harbor is located some two or three miles from the
present Pemaquid Point light-house., on the west side; and was then
surrounded wih tall pines and spruces, intermingled with birch and
maple, and gray and red oak. It is but a little distance from the
line usually pursued by ships sailing along the coast, is easy of
access, and perfectly safe at all seasons of the year. Here Shurt
located himself, and here he is believed to have had his residence
the remainder of his life, though we often hear of him as making
excursions both east and west , in the prosecution of his business.
Probably when his principals sent him over as their agent they were
contemplating further grants from the council of Plymouth, as one
was actually made to them only a few years later, Feb. 29th, 163(1/2).
This patent was for 12,000 acres of land between the Damariscotta
and Muscongus rivers. Possession was given to Shurt, as agent of
Aldworth and Elbridge, according to the old forms, March 27th 1630.
The year before Shurt's arrival in the country (July 15th, 1625),
John Brown, also a Bristol man, had purchased this same territory
(the northern boundary alone being a little different) of the Indian
chiefs of the place, and the deed signed by the Indians was acknowledged
before Shurt, July 24th, 1626. This must have been very soon after
his arrival in the place, and plainly indicates that he was considered
as endowed with some special authority or office, though in taking
the acknowledgment he simply signed his name, without appending
any title. It is also noted that this was several years before the
issuing of the Pemaquid Patent to Aldworth and Elbridge, and of
course they had as yet no pretense to any claim or title whatever.
The Acknowledgment of the deed is in the usual form, now so well
known, or there is only a slight transposition of a few words, ''Captain
John Somoset and Unongoit, indian Sagamores, personally appeared
before me, & c''. The late N.I.Bowditch, Esq., of Boston, in
his work on ''Suffolk Surnames'' says this is certainly the first
instance of its use on this side of the Atlantic, and probably Shurt
was himself the author of it. He dedicated his work just named to
him, and in doing so, conferred on him the title of ''Father of
Many facts of Shurt's personal history, after he came to this country
are known; but our object does not require repetition here. in his
early acquaintance with the Indians, an incident occurred which
secured for him their confidence and respect; and as a result of
his kind and upright conduct towards them , this feeling was continued
to the end of his life. A quarrel existed between some tribes on
the Penobscot and some of the tribes about Boston, and the wife
of an Agawam chief had been taken prisoner with others, and carried
to the east as a captive, where she she was still held. Shurt, learning
the facts in the case, by friendly negotiation with the parties,
secured her release and restoration to her people and friends. The
business was conducted in such a manner as to secure Shurt the respect
of both parties-the victors, as well as the captive and her friends
Shurt early established at Pemaquid a large business, considering
the circumstances of that early period, and, at times had extensive
business relations with Boston and other English settlements to
the west, and also with the French settlements to the eastward.
Every where he maintained the same enviable character of an eminently
honest, upright man. At the same time he was exceedingly modest,
and even retiring in his habits: and though often applied to for
counsel, he never aspired to be a leader, or indicated a desire
for office. It is believed that he never was married.
It is not known when or where he died: but there is good reason
to believe that the making of his affidavit in 1662 is the last
act of his that is recorded. Being then eighty years of age, it
is probable that he soon passed away. Williamson indeed three times
speaks of his death, but in doing so shows that he is only making
very poor guesses. On page 603, vol.i. of his history, he
says, in a note, ''Abraham Shurte, Esq., died at pemaquid, about
1680.'' Again on page 694 of the same volume he says, ''it is said
he died 1690.'' This last date had been previously given as the
time of his death on page 420.
But what evidence have we that he died soon after making his affidavit
in 1662? It is entirely negative. Three years after this date (1665)
the Royal Commissioners by order of Charles II., visited this vicinity,
and probably this very place. Sept. 5th, they met at the house of
John Mason, at Sheepscot, having previously summoned the inhabitants
to appear there and signify their submission to the government of
His Majesty. Twenty nine men made their appearance, among them five
from Pemaquid: but the name Shurte is not on the list (3)
This is significant, but, of course not conclusive. it may be that
he sympathized with the Massachusetts party, and chose not to identify
himself with those who favored the policy of the British government.
But nine years later, in 1674, Massachusetts sent her Commissioners
eastward, for a similar purpose, who, in the language of the day,
held a court at Pemaquid; and no less than sixty-five men, belonging
to Pemaquid and vicinity, took the ''oath of fidelity,'' whose names
have been preserved; but that of Shurt is not among them (4).
These Commissioners, at the same time, organized that part of the
territory of Sagadahoc into a county, by the name of Devon or Devonshire,
establishing all sorts of offices pertaining to a regular government,
which they proceeded to fill. But the name of Shurt nowhere appears.
If living at this time, he was 92 years of age, and incapable, we
may suppose. of holding any office, or taking any active part in
the business of ''the court;'' but it would not excuse him from
taking the oath of allegiance and fidelity.
We therefore concluded, with very much confidence, that he had died
before that time, and perhaps very soon after his visit to Boston
in 1662. But to make the matter still stronger, we may remark, that
no mention of his name is made during the Indian wars (king Philip's
war), which began late in 1676, nor during the whole time the place
was under the government of the Duke of York; except perhaps in
a single instance, which we will now proceed to notice.
Governor Andros made a voyage to the eastern settlements, in the
spring of 1688, and, through a part of it, was accompanied by Secretary.
Randolph, who, after his return to Boston, wrote to Mr. Povey, a
member of the Privy Council, some account of his journey, and the
condition of the eastern settlements as he had seen them. being
at Permaquid, he says, ''then I went to one Shurt, town clarke of
Pemmequid, to know what leases were made lately and by whom, and
for what quitt rent; he told me that above 2 years agoe Capt. Palmer
and Mr. West produced to them a commission from Col. Dongan, to
dispose of all their land to whoever would take leases at 5 s. the
hundred acres quitt rent, &c.'' The letter is dated, Boston,
June 21st, 1683.(5)
Was this our friend Abraham Shurt, who made his affidavit in 1662,
being then, as stated by himself, eighty years of age? If so , as
has been assumed by Williamson and others, then he must have attained
the age of 106 years, and was still serving as town clark. If we
allow this to be barely possible, it is in the highest degree improbable.
Unfortunately our authority does not give us the Christian
name of this mr Shurt, ''town clark of Pemaquid;'' but we conclude,
without hesitation, it could not have been our venerable friend,
Abraham. May it not have been a younger relative of his, who was
following somewhat in his footsteps?
And now a few words as to the credit given by Williamson and
others to Abraham Shurt, which we contend, really belongs to John
Down to the time of king Philip's war, which began in 1675, no serious
difficulty, it is believed, had ever occurred at Permaquid or vicinity
, between the settlers and the Indians, with whom a considerable
trade was carried on.
In the autumn of this year, some unfavorable change began to be
observed in the disposition and conduct of the Indians, occasioned,
in all probability, by reports that reached them of the war in which
their brethren at the west were engaged. As the war progressed,
and emissaries from the western Indians began to make to make their
appearance among these eastern tribes, the inhabitants of these
parts were filled with apprehension as to their own approaching
fate, if the neighboring Indians should resolve on war.
As a matter of course, they became more jealous of their savage
neighbors, and watched them closely to discover any signs of disaffection
or bad faith. this of itself not a little increased the danger of
After much consultation by the authorities of the settlements at
Casco (Portland) and on the Kennebec, it was determined, very unwisely,
as it seems to us, to disarm all the neighboring Indians, and refuse
longer to sell them arms or and ammunition. The attempt was actually
made, and some of the natives compelled to give up their guns; but
the effect was to incur their deepest hatred, and oblige them to
look to the French settlements at the east for their supply of these
things, which had now become a necessity to them, as a means to
obtain their daily food. To the people of all the eastern settlements
it was a time of deep anxiety and peril.
The people of the Pemaquid settlement having always lived in peace
with the neighboring Indians, decided to adopt a peaceful policy
towards them, and took measures to pacify them, and if possible
prevent an outbreak.
In these efforts they were joined by some of the settlers on the
Kennebec. At such a time in such perilous circumstances, there was
of course needed a wise, firm courageous leader; one if possible,
acquainted with the Indians, and respected by them, as well as by
the English settlers. Fortunately , a man possessing these characteristics,
in good degree, was found in their midst; and our enquiry now will
be to learn who that man was.
Williamson, in his history of Maine (Vol.I.,p.626-7), without hesitation,
or any qualification whatever, says the man was Abraham Shurt; and
then proceeds, in succeeding pages , to describe his important services
and wise efforts for the preservation of peace. in doing this, he
refers to Sullivans's History of the district of Maine, and Hubbard's
Indian wars, as his authorities. And when we turn to the passages
cited, we are surprised to find the name of Shurt is not mentioned
in either of them, nor indeed, so far as I can find, anywhere else
in these works!
If we inquire concerning the services at this time, of this agent
of Permaquid, whoever he was, we shall find that they were quite
too laborious to be performed by a man ninety-four years
of age, as Abraham Shurt then was, if living.
First in the autumn of 1675, by much effort, he persuaded many chiefs
of the neighboring tribes to meet him at Pemaquid, where a treaty
of peace was agreed to, the Indians present promising to use their
influence to include other tribes, not represented, to unite with
them in the agreement.
This arrangement being concluded, he next made a winter voyage to
Boston, but on what special business is not stated, though it is
believed to have been on public account. Here he found that complaints
had been made against him for selling arms and ammunition to the
Indians; but being well known to the authorities, he easily persuaded
them that the charge was unfounded, and was allowed to return without
But now another formidable difficulty met him, which was quite unexpected.
Ever since the time of Waymouths's voyage in 1605, natives of the
coast had been occasionally kidnapped and taken to Europe, and sometimes
sold into slavery. About this time of the first Indian war, and
for nearly a score of years later, quite a disposition was manifested
in New-England to adopt the policy of seizing upon such of the natives
as had committed serious offenses, and selling them for slaves;
but it was eventually frowned down by the public sentiment (6).
It was from this source that the new difficulty arose, in the way
of the preservation of peace. The peace-maker had just returned
from Boston when it was rumored that a vessel was lurking on the
coast for the express purpose of kidnapping any unfortunate native
that might fall into their hands. This greatly incensed the Indians,
and embarrassed pending negotiations. They accused the English of
violating previous treaties, and especially of failing to afford
the protection promised them.
This agent of Permaquid then sought out the suspected vessel, represented
to the Captain the extremely perilous condition of the plan, the
efforts they were making to preserve the peace, and besought him
at once to leave the coast. The outlaws so far complied as to depart
from the immediate neighborhood of Pemaquid, but only to sail farther
east-it is believed, to Nova Scotia, to renew their operations without
On the opening of spring (the spring of 1676), another Indian conference
was held, somewhere to the eastward, which this gentleman attended,
but no good resulted from it, because of the wicked doings of the
slaver farther to the eastward, reports of which soon reached their
ears. The natives were now more than ever enraged, and complained
bitterly of the perfidy of the English; but did not proceed so far
as to begin actual hostilities. Every thing that was possible was
done to pacify them, and another conference appointed to be held
at Teconnet on the Kennebec. To this place our friend repaired,
accompanied by Richard Oliver, of Monhegan, and Capt. sylvanus Davis,
of Arrowsic island.
The savages received them with much cordiality and respect, even
firing a salute on their arrival; but nothing was accomplished,
except to demonstrate the impossibility of any amicable adjustment
of their difficulties. The Indians were not to be blamed for demanding
a supply of guns and ammunitions with which to obtain their daily
food; but on the other hand, the English felt, as we cannot now,
that to do this would be to incur the great risk of their own destruction.
The conference had just broken up, and the representatives of Pemaquid
and Monhegan were on their way home, when news was received of the
beginnings of hostilities at Casco; and this was the signal for
a general onslaught of the eastern Indians on all the settlements
upon the coast, involving all in one dense cloud of smoke and flame.
From the Kennebec, word was sent to the more eastern settlements
of Sheeppscot, Damariscotta, and Pemaquid, of the beginnings of
hostilities; and the inhabitants made haste to escape to the neighboring
islands, the persons in the last boat that left Pemaqiud actually
seeing many of their houses in flames as they passed out of the
This brings us to the last of August, 1676; and we thus see that
the unwearied exertions of this agent of Pemaquid were continued
through the space of a year, and required him to make two journeys-one
somewhere to the eastward, perhaps the mouth of the Penobsot, and
the other up the Kennebec to Teconnet-and a voyage in mid-winter
to Boston; a task quite impossible for a man 93 or 94 years of age.
Let us now examine a little further, but briefly, the authors to
whom Mr. Williamson refers us. Neither of them, as we have already
stated, mentions the name of Shurt, in this or any other connection.
That he has sadly blundered in introducing it as he did, seems therefore
very evident; and, by a close inspection of Hubbard's language,
we way perhaps be able to see just how he was led astray. We must
say, in passing, that for these transactions of Pemaquid and vicinity,
that author is the only original authority that we have. From him
therefore must come all that we now know.
Hubbard's manner of introducing the subject is a little singular.
having occasion to allude to the efficient agent of Pemaquid, he
does it several times in a general way, as if unwilling to mention
the name, but at length brings it out in a way that we not mistake.
In Vol.I., page 149 (7), speaking of the troubles with the Indians
on the Kennebec, then (1672) just beginning, he says, '' A gentleman
who at that time lived at Pemaquid, a kind of Superintendent
over the Affairs of that Place, considering the sad state
things were running into, Labored to obtain a Parley with
the said Indians, or some of them, which after much Trouble and
Cost, he did accomplish.'' Why did he not at once mention the name
of the gentleman? We cannot tell-perhaps it was a mere inadvertence.
On the next page (150) he speaks twice of the same gentleman-''However
the person aforesaid,'' and ''This Gentleman aforesaid.'' Then on
page 151, ''The Winter being now over, the forenamed Agent of
Pemaquid went to the Meeting of the Indians Eastward, &c.'';
and again, page 152, ''making Complaint thereof to the said Agent,
Mr. Earthy, Mr. Richard Oliver, and others.'' In answer
to these complaints of the Indians, for the purpose of quieting
them, certain conditional promises were made to them, and this language
is used, page 153: ''This Gentleman mindful of his Promise, went
with Post to the Kennebec;'' he was then on his way to Teconnet,
as before stated.
These extracts plainly show that John Earthy, and not Abraham
Shurt, is the man ment by Hubbard, and to him therefore should be
ascribed the praise of making these earnest, though unsuccessful,
efforts for the preservation of peace, at this time of peril.
The passage from page 152 of Hubbard, given above, in which the
name of Earthy is mentioned, is indeed susceptible of a different
construction from that we have adopted, and the fact should not
be concealed; but the probabilities are so strongly in favor of
our construction that any more words in confirmation of it would
If Hubbard in this passage, does not positively mean to say that
Mr. Earthy-elsewhere called John Earthy-was the worthy agent of
Pemaquid, in the important transactions referred to, then we now
know who it was.
Abraham Shurt, a quarter of a century before, was a prominent man
there, and worthy to be thus employed-and if now among the living,
about 94 years of age; still we may, if we please, with Williamson's,
guess him to have been the man. But it will only be a guess,
and nothing better.
One fact more remains to be mentioned, which favors are view of
this subject. Late in the autumn of 1676, though nearly all the
eastern settlements had been destroyed, some feeble efforts for
the restoration of peace were continued by the Massachusetts authorities.
Mugg, ''a distinguished chief of the Andrscoggins,''(8)
was in Boston at this time, and undertook to negotiate a treaty
with the government of Massachusetts for Madowockawando, chief of
the Penobscots, and his tribe and the document was signed Nov.13th.
What authority he had thus to act does not now concern us; and the
treaty seems never to have been considered of any importance; but
it was negotiated and signed as above stated, and witnessed by John
Earthy, Richard Oliver, and Isac Addington.
The two former were the same we have heretofore become acquainted
with, and Addington was a distinguished public man of the time in
It is therefore clearly proved, as we claim, that John Earthy, and
not Abraham Shurte-excellent man as he was-was the man who labored
so earnestly for the preservation of peace with the eastern Indians,
in the State of Maine, in the years 1675-6. His prolonged efforts
were earnest and judicious, but unfortunately not successful; and
the inhabitants of the state-more especially the eastern part of
it-suffered the bitter consequences for the next hundred years.
Thornton in his ancient Pemaquid (10), by following Hubbard, the
only original authority, has avoided the mistake of Williamson,
and done justice to the memory of John Earthy. Sewall follows Williamson
We will mention another mistake of Williamson, which is of some
importance. He says (Vol.i.,p.526), ''Nay the Monhegan Islanders
offered a bounty of £5 for every Indian's head that should
be brought to them.'' the language, of course, meaning that so much
would be paid for every Indian that should be murdered! This we
submit, is a mistake and again appeal to our excellent authority,
Hubbard. His language is, ''Others at Monhiggan offered five pound
for every Indian that should be brought.''(12)
This was in 1675, just the time when, at least, one slaver was on
the coast; and the object, in all probability, was to obtain victims
for sale to this outlaw. This, it may be claimed, was not less discreditable
than the other charge would be, but, however this may be, our only
object is to ascertain and establish the simple facts of history.
It is well to remember, also, that the horrible policy of offering
bounties for scalps had not yet been adopted by any party in New-England.
A word further of Mr. John Earthy. The unusual rarity of this name,
as well that of Shurt, has already been alluded to. May it not be
that by some change in the orthography of the names we fail to recognise
them at other points in history, and in other places? This is possible
but all our researches have failed to throw any light upon the subject.
John Earthy, probably, was not a great, or a learned man; but, in
a time of great distress and peril, he labored for peace courageously,
and wisely, though, unfortunately, without success; and the blessing
of the peace-maker should be pronounced upon his memory.