by Barbara Rumsey
Barbara Rumsey’s book, Colonial Boothbay, Mid-1600s to 1775, is the first comprehensive study of Boothbay’s colonial history. The struggle of the settlers to acquire, define, and control their land is analyzed through the use of primary sources.
Section 1 profiles the English settlers who pioneered at 1600s Winnegance, as Boothbay was then called. Included are both known colonists, such as Champnois and Curtis, as well as obscure settlers, all driven out in 1689. Featured also is the identification of nearby 1600s sites, such as Corbin’s Sound and Two Bacon Marsh.
Section 2 covers the 1730 Scotch-Irish resettlement of Townsend, as Boothbay was then called, and its development through incorporation as Boothbay in 1764 and to the eve of the Revolution.
Binding the two sections together are the Montgomerys of 1700s East Boothbay. Colonial Boothbay is seen through the lens of the Montgomerys, who serve as carriers of information about another age and profilers of their own age. The suit brought by prior landowners, the Champnois family, against the Montgomerys preserved knowledge of the 1600s settlers. And the matters that dominate the area’s 1700s history—the reliance on standing timber, class conflict, and lack of clear land title —converge in the Montgomery family. Their fight for autonomy, battling enemies, absent proprietors such as the Kennebec Proprietors, neighbors, and family members, reflects the fight of all Boothbay settlers to establish themselves and endure.
According to Rumsey, “My favorite period is the 1600s, but there is little documented about many of the region’s earliest settlers.” And it is there that the attraction lies for Rumsey. “I’ve always liked to solve mysteries, and, when you are interested in history, there are built-in mysteries everywhere.”
It was through a 1736 court case that Rumsey made the two discoveries that pleased her the most. During one of her visits to the Maine State Archives Rumsey came upon a court document wherein a Pierce from Round Pond deposed that his father built a gristmill for Champnois in what is now East Boothbay in the mid-1600s. “So I could establish that the tide mill there, run by the Montgomerys, Murrays and finally the Hodgdons, predated the 1700s and had gone back to the previous century.”
“No historian I know of had identified the true location of Two Bacon Marsh, a 1600s site in this area. So I was also delighted with the discovery of its true location,” continued Rumsey, “at Salt Marsh Cove in Edgecomb. Champnois owned from Ocean Point all the way up to Salt Marsh Cove—about seven miles.” As with the gristmill information, the Two Bacon Marsh’s location was contained in the Champnois-Montgomery case.
“When I wrote the first book I knew I would keep writing with East Boothbay the focus.” The first East Boothbay book, printed in 1995, dealt principally with the nineteenth-century Hodgdon shipyard and mill and the development of the village in that period. “This book profiles the region’s colonial history principally through East Boothbay eyes, so it is the second volume of ‘The East Boothbay Series,’ explained Rumsey. “My favorite Boothbay figure is also one of the major figures in the book—Sarah Montgomery, who died in 1772. Whether chasing the Linekins with a broomstick or conducting her own court case, she had all the traits necessary to making it on the frontier—an outstanding, colorful woman. Even if you love local history, it can get a little humdrum at times—she certainly livened things up and made the writing more enjoyable for me.”
“My main reason for writing is not because I like to write. I write because I like to do research. I think it would be almost irresponsible to do research and to let it fall away and not record it. If it’s locked in only one head, it’s as though it had never been done.”
The 320-page paperback book contains thirty-four maps and photos. The appendices include the text of original documents cited in the body of the book and all existing lists that identify local pre-Revolutionary Boothbay settlers.
Section I: The Seventeenth Century
1. Winnegance Settlers
2. Champnois at Winnegance
3. Champnois’s First Homestead at Lobster Cove
4. Champnois’s Last Homestead at Mill Cove
5. The Final Struggle, Twilight, and Close
Section II: The Eighteenth Century
6. Dunbar and the Scotch-Irish Settle Townsend, 1730
7. Land Claimants and War, 1730-1750
Champnois vs. Montgomery
8. The Kennebec Proprietors Appear, 1750
Montgomery vs. Great Proprietors
9. Neighbors, War, and Proprietors, 1755-1760
Linekin vs. Montgomery
10. Death, Probate, and Court Cases, 1761-1764
Miller vs. Montgomery
11. The Creation of Boothbay, 1764
The Montgomery Children
12. Internal and External Family Clashes, 1768-1770
Davis vs. Montgomery
13. The Early 1770s
14. Probate, Land Claims, and Independence, 1722-1755
The Death of Sara Montgomery
1. Nineteenth-Century Accounts of 1600s Settlers
2. Corban’s Sound
3. Champnois Family Genealogy
Champnois vs. Montgomery Case papers
4. Eighteenth-century Documents and Lists