Wheeler & Wheeler Home About Wheeler & Wheeler Curtis Memorial Library Home
Previous Chapter Table of Contents Next Chapter


The town of Topham first received its name, legally, in the year 1717, when a vote passed in the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "That the other Town Plotted In a square of a Mile to ye eastward of Androscoggin River fronting to Merrimeeting Bay be allowed and accepted by the name of Topsham and be Plotted & Laid out the quantity of Six miles Square as the Land will allow."1 This tract of land was mainly settled by English emigrants, the greater number of whom are supposed to have come from the town of Topsham, England, and to have named the place in memory of their former home. The situation of the place on the bank of a river may possibly have given it, to the minds of its founders, a fancied resemblance to its English namesake.

The settlement of the town under the Pejepscot proprietors has already been given in previous chapters. No records of any municipal doings of the inhabitants previous to the incorporation of the town have been preserved, if, indeed, there ever were such.


[1764.] The municipal history of the town commences, therefore, with its incorporation in January, 1764. The petition for an Act of Incorporation was as follows:-




Most Humbly Sheweth.

"That from the Year 1715 under the Sanction & approbation of this Honoured court the Settlement of said Place was projected at the

1. Massachusetts Records, 1717

Desire & Expense of the Pejepscot Proprietors under whose Right the said Inhabitants originally settled & so continue to this present time: That we always have been and still are an Exposed Frontier & have greatly suffered by the Indian Enemy Nevertheless by the Divine Favour have maintained said Settlement under the Protection of this Government and there are at this time to the number of thirty-five families who are desirous of being incorporated that so they may be enabled to have the Gospell setled among them having already erected a Frame for the Meeting house in said Place; also that they may be qualified to transact their Affairs among themselves necessary to their better Settlement in Town Order the said Inhabitants having laboured under many Inconveniences on these Accounts and by their Situation have been Subjected to be taxed by the Town of Brunswick on which account they have had Just Cause to think themselves no so fairly treated by them.

"Therefore your Petitioners most humbly entreat this Honourd Court would be pleased to incorporate them into a Township or District that they may be entitled to the Advantages & Priviledges other Towns enjoy by virtue of the Royall Charter and that the said present Settlement may thrive & flourish under the encouragement & Protection of this Hond Court. Petitioners as in Duty bound shall ever pray.


1. Pejepscot Papers

In accordance with this petition, Topsham was duly incorporated in 1764. The following is a copy of the Act of Incorporation:-



for erecting a Town in the County of Lincoln by the Name of Topsham.

"WHEREAS the Inhabitants settled on a Tract of Land situate on the easterly Side of Androscoggin River, lying convenient for a Town, hitherto called and known by the name of Topsham, within the County of Lincoln, have humbly petitioned this Court, that for the Reasons therein mentioned, they may be Incorporated into a Town, and vested with the Powers and Authorities belonging to other Towns.


Therefore for the Encouragement of said Settlement ;


  Bounds of

"That the Said Tract of Land described as follows, viz. to begin upon the Southerly Line of the Town of Bowdoinham, where Said Line strikes the Water, and from thence to run a West Northwest Course upon said Bowdoinham Line, as far as it goes, and from thence on the same Streight Course to Little River so called, which is about eight Miles from the Water aforesaid, and from thence Southwardly down said Little River to Androscoggin River, and down said Androscoggin River to Merry-meeting Bay, and from thence to the Line of Bowdoinham aforesaid, including several small Islands or Islets lying in said Androscoggin River, between the Said Little River and the Falls at Brunswick Fort, be, and hereby is erected into a Town to be called Topsham, and the Inhabitants thereof shall have and enjoy all such Immunities and Priviledges as other Towns in this Province have and do by Law enjoy.

"AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That Aaron Hinkley, Esq. be and hereby is empowered to issue his Warrant to some principal Inhabitant of the said Town of Topsham, requiring him in his Majesty's Name to warn and notify the said Inhabitants


First meeting
how to be called

qualified to vote in Town Affairs, to meet together at such Time and Place in Said Town as shall be appointed in said Warrant, to chuse such Officers as the Law directs and may be necessary to manage the Affairs of Said Town; and the Inhabitants being so met shall be and hereby are impowered to Chuse such Officers accordingly."1


The first town meeting was held May 9, 1764. In accordance with the Act of Incorporation, the warrant for this meeting was issued by Aaron Hinkley, of Brunswick, a justice of the peace, and was addressed to Adam Hunter. The following officers were elected at this meeting, viz.:-

Gowen Fulton, moderator; William Thorne, clerk; Adam Hunter, treasurer; John Fulton, John Read, and John Merrill, selectmen; Hugh Wilson, constable; David Reed, Paul Randall, and Samuel Wilson, surveyors of highways; James Work and Thomas Wilson, tithing-men; Ezra Randall and William Wilson, fence-viewers; Robert Gore, sealer of leather; James Beverage and William Alexander, hog constables; Stephen Staples and John Winchell, surveyors of boards, at Cathance; John Merrill and William Wilson, surveyors of boards; Samuel Staples, pound-keeper; James Mustard, field-driver; James Hendry (?), surveyor of staves, shingles, and hoop poles; Adam Hunter, sealer of weights and measures; James Hunter and Robert Gore, wardens.

At a meeting, held June 2, Thomas Wilson, Adam Hunter, John Reed, John Fulton, and John Merrill were chosen a committee to lay out the highways and roads through the town. The town at this meeting voted to raise 34 13s. 4d. as a contingent fund. There is no record to be found of any meetings of the town in 1765.

[1766.] At a meeting of the town, held May 8, 1766, Mr. William Patten was chosen to prefer a petition to the General Court "in order to get Kate Hance Point annexed to Topsham, and likewise all the islands in Brunswick River, below the falls."

[1767.] The above-mentioned petition was presented to the House of Representatives, and in 1767 the committee to which it was referred reported in favor of its dismissal, and it was dismissed.2

At a town meeting, held in July of this year, it was voted to allow men 3s. per day for work on the highways, and 2s. per day for each yoke of oxen.

[1769.] In 1769 Messrs. John Patten, William Patten,

1. Topsham Town Records.
2. Massachusetts Records, Vol. 26, 1767, p. 49.

Robert Fulton, and Robert Patten, inhabitants of Cathance Point in the town of Bowdoinham, presented a petition to the General Court, asking to be set off from Bowdoinham and annexed to Topsham. The petition was considered by the General Court, and an order issued that the petitioners should notify the town of Bowdoinham that they might show cause at the next session of the Court why the prayer of the petitioners should not be granted.1

At the March meeting of the town, this year, James Potter, Jr., was chosen "to go to the General Court to get Cow Island, together with all the islands in the Narrows, annexed to Topsham."

[1771.] On the petition from Topsham it was ordered, in 1771, that the petitioners should notify the town of Brunswick that their petition was revived, in order that the agents of that town might be on hand at the next session of the Court.2

At the May meeting, this year, the town requested Mr. John Merrill to draw up a memorial to the General Court, asking to have the line determined between Brunswick and Topsham.

[1774.] At a meeting of the town, held November 19, 1774, it was unanimously voted that the town would stand by what the Continental and Provincial Congresses had done.

[1775.] At a town meeting, held April 30, 1775, Robert Gower and William Randall were chosen a committee to meet the committees of other towns at Pownalborough on the second of May, to represent the town of Topsham, as to the matter of provisions and ammunition, and to consider the method of furnishing the same.

The selectmen having petitioned the General Court for a supply of powder, that body passed a resolve to the effect that Topsham, being a seaport place in the eastern part of the colony, and much exposed to the attacks of the Indians, therefore it was recommended to the select-men of Wrentham, Massachusetts, to furnish the town with one half barrel of gunpowder at the expense of the colony.3

[1776.] The town, at its March meeting this year, instructed the selectmen to petition the General Court to take off the provincial tax, "till the trade is opened." At this meeting James Potter, Junior, David Reed, James Fulton, John Merrill, and Robert Hunter were chosen a Committee of Inspection, Safety, and Correspondence.

At a meeting held June 12th, the selectmen were authorized to hire 30, lawful money, to furnish the town with a stock of powder. In

1. Massachusetts Records, Vol. 28, 1769, p. 144.
2. Massachusetts Records, Vol. 29, 1771, p. 257.
3. Massachusetts Records, Vol. 31, 1775, p. 212.

December, the town voted to keep this powder at Captain James Mustard's and at Captain Actor Patten's.

[1777.] At the annual meeting of the town in March, 1777, a new Committee of Safety, etc., was chosen, consisting of Joseph Graves, David Robinson, Joseph Foster, James Purinton, and Pelatiah Haley. At another meeting, held the latter part of this same month, it was voted to petition the General Court for authority to collect the "Province Taxes" for 1776. Also, to send an agent to meet with other committees in other towns of the county, to regulate the prices of goods, etc.

[1778.] At the May meeting in 1778, the number voting against the constitution of the government, as it then was, was nineteen, and there were none in favor of it. The small. number voting may possibly be due to a bad state of the weather and a consequently thin attendance, rather than to indifference. This vote was in reference to the ratification of the first Constitution of Massachusetts.1

A good deal of doubt was felt in town about this time in regard to the legality of a number of previous meetings, in consequence of there having been a neglect on the part of the constables to make a regular return on the warrants for holding these meetings. The matter was laid before the General Court in a petition. The General Court accordingly passed a resolve this year, "That none of the proceedings of said meetings or of any town meetings since March, 1776, shall be considered as invalid on account of the irregularity of the said returns, or neglect in recording the same."2

[1779.] In March, 1779, the town requested John Merrill, Esquire, to furnish a plan of the whole township. At a meeting held in July, the town voted to procure the number of shoes, stockings, and shirts which the General Court called for, for the use of the army.

[1780.] At the annual meeting in 1780, the town voted to give fifty dollars a pair for the shoes referred to above, sixty dollars a pair for the shirts, and forty dollars a pair for the stockings. The town at this meeting appropriated 1,600 for highways, and voted to pay twenty dollars per day for work on the same. 1,000 was also appropriated for current expenses.

At a meeting of the town held November 20, the selectmen were instructed to inform the General Court that the beef called for by them3 could not be obtained without great difficulty

1. Bancroft, History of United States, 9, p 260.
2. Massachusetts Records Vol 38, 1778, p. 674.
3. Each town was required to furnish its proportion of beef, etc, for the support of the Massachusetts army.

[1781.] At a special meeting, held February 6, 1781, the town voted to postpone getting the beef referred to above, "until further orders." At this meeting a committee was chosen to procure the enlistment of seven men for the army, as required by the General Court. At the April meeting, Actor Patten, Lieutenant David Reed, and John Rogers were chosen a Committee of Correspondence and Safety. At a meeting held in May, the selectmen were directed to purchase the cows "promised to the Continental soldiers." The town also, at this meeting, voted that if the General Court had released or would release this county from sending its quota of men to the Continental Army, in that case the selectmen would "settle with the soldiers for this town as they think proper." The town also voted to raise 486, hard money, or cows with calf or with calves by their side, --cows to be reckoned equivalent to eight pounds each, -- or 3,000 in paper-money.

At a meeting held the July following, it was voted to petition the General Court to release the town from providing the beef called for by them.

[1782.] At a meeting held January 14, 1782, the town voted to petition the General Court in regard to the difficulty they experienced in paying their taxes, and to employ William Lithgow, Esquire, of Boston, to speak in favor of the petition. In March, John Merrill and William Wilson were chosen a committee to petition the General Court in regard to the people at Little River settlement refusing to pay their taxes. Probably the settlement at Little River was an "adjacent" of Topsham.

At a meeting of the town, held on the last day of August, Captain George White was chosen delegate to a convention to be held at Wiscasset, to consider the question of a separation of the District of Maine from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

[1783.] At the March meeting in 1783 it was voted to rate the islands below the Falls to the town of Topsham. The wolves must have been committing depredations about this time, as at this meeting a bounty of 40s. per head was offered for all that were killed. At a meeting held in May, the town voted to comply with the resolve of the town of Boston, in regard to permitting absent refugees to return. Captain David Reed, John Winchell, and Robert Alexander were chosen a Committee of Correspondence and Safety, this year.

[1784.] William Reed, Ezekiel Thompson, and John Rogers were chosen a Committee of Correspondence and Safety for 1784.

[1785.] William Randall, Actor Patten, and Joseph Berry were

the Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety for the year 1785. At a meeting held in November of this year, Samuel Thompson was chosen a delegate to a convention to be held at Falmouth, to consider as to the advisability of having the eastern counties made into a new State. The town at this time voted to petition the General Court to relieve them, wholly or in part, of their taxes, then due, or about to become due, on account of "the great loss the town had sustained by the late great freshet." It was, also, at this meeting, resolved, "that the former petition sent to the General Court, with regard to the islands in the Androscoggin River being annexed to Topsham," was agreeable to the present wishes of the town.

The General Court this year, on the petition of the inhabitants of Topsham with regard to the islands before mentioned, ordered that the petitioners serve the town of Brunswick with an attested copy of their petition, and of this order, twenty days before the second Wednesday of the next session of the Court.1

On the petition for an abatement of taxes, the General Court so far granted the request as to direct the treasurer of the Commonwealth to credit the town of Topsham with the sum of 126 6s. 2d. on the second tax set on the town in the year 1780.2

[1786.] At the annual town meeting in 1786, Samuel Thompson was chosen a delegate to the convention to be held at Falmouth on the first Wednesday of the following September. The question as to whether the District of Maine should be separated from Massachusetts was brought before the people in November, and this town voted in favor of a separation.

[1787.] At the annual meeting in 1787, the selectmen were directed to see that the town was provided with a stock of powder and ammunition, as provided by law. They were also directed to join in a petition of the people of Cathance in regard to having Cathance Neck annexed to Topsham. At this meeting a committee was chosen to take care of the fishery, agreeable to an act of the General Court in 1780, providing for its protection.3 At a meeting held September 29, it was voted to petition the General Court "to consider us with regard to our deficiency in not [?] paying our taxes." At a meeting held the last day of the year, the town voted "against the constitution," and Samuel Thompson was chosen a delegate to a convention to be held at Boston.4

1. Massachusetts Records, Vol 46, 1785, p. 97.
2. Ibid., p. 534.
3. Massachusetts Records, Vol. 48, p. 472.
4. See p. 131

[1788.] On March 29, 1788, the General Court decided, on the petition of John Patten and others, of Bowdoinham, and of the town of Topsham, that Patten's Point, so called, be set off from the town of Bowdoinham, and annexed to the town of Topsham.1

At the May meeting, 1788, the selectmen were instructed to employ some person as agent to discharge the beef tax then standing against the town, and to authorize him to draw the money out of the town treasury. The town at this meeting voted that an application should be made to the General Court for an act to stop the catching of salmon by dip-nets and seines, and to prevent the building of weirs. Samuel Thompson was elected representative to the General Court, but was instructed not to attend its next session without orders from the selectmen. Another petition was also ordered to be sent to the General Court, in regard to the deficiency in taxes. At a meeting held in December the town gave its consent to the building of a boom from Mason's Rock to Ferry Point,2 and fixed a scale of prices to be paid the owners of the boom, for stopping masts, bowsprits, logs, etc.

[1791.] In 1791 the representative was instructed not to attend the session of the General Court except so ordered by the authorities of the town, unless at his own expense. The town this year voted in favor of a separation of the District of Maine from Massachusetts. The town also voted against the proposed plan of cutting a canal from the Carrying-Place in Brunswick to Maquoit. But one person voted in favor of this project, while there were fifty voting in the negative. The town also voted to raise this year one half of the money allowed by the General Court for the damages caused by the great freshet of 1785. The excessive depreciation of the old paper currency at this time is shown by the instructions given to the selectmen, which were to the effect that they should take the paper-money belonging to the town and sell it as best they could, but not for a less price than seven dollars, current money, for $1,000 of the old.

[1792.] In 1792 the town voted to distribute, among the sufferers by the great freshet of 1785, one half of the money allowed by the General Court for this purpose. At the May meeting the town again voted in favor of a separation of the District from the Commonwealth. In November the town cast its vote in favor of Samuel Thompson as a Presidential elector. In the list of votes for Presidential electors,

1. Massachusetts Special Laws, Vol. 1, p. 194.
2. Ferry Point, the point of land at the Topsham end of the iron bridge. Before the toll-bridge was built, there was a ferry from this point to the landing in Brunswick below Mason's Rock, hence its name.

in the Massachusetts archives, the number of votes for him is recorded as seventy-seven.

[1793.] In 1793 Samuel Thompson was chosen a delegate to the convention, to be held at Portland in December, to consider the expediency of forming a new State.

[1794.] At the annual meeting in 1794, the town voted to purchase a stock of ammunition. At a meeting, held September 18, William King, afterwards governor, being moderator, the town voted "that those men who shall this day enlist, agreeably to the Act of Congress of the 10th of May last,1 shall receive a bounty of four dollars per man, whether called for or not." The town, moreover, voted that those who should enlist should have their wages made equal, by the town, to ten dollars a month, from the time they should march to actual service until their discharge from the service, allowing them a reasonable time to return home; and that they should have one month's wages advanced on their march. Also, that one dollar of the aforesaid bounty should be paid on enlistment, and the remaining three dollars on producing a certificate of having passed muster. Colonel John Read, Jr., Captain Actor Patten, and Doctor Benjamin Jones Porter were chosen a committee to draw up the enlistment orders and to wait on the men and see that their names were enrolled. In November it was voted that a survey of the town be taken, agreeably to a resolve of the General Court. This year, for the first time, several persons were warned to leave the town, not having its consent to reside therein.

[1795.] At the meeting, this year, the selectmen were authorized to take measures to secure the lot of land called the school lot, which was said to belong to the town.

Samuel Thompson was chosen a delegate to a convention, held at Portland, for the same purpose as the previous conventions, and William King was chosen representative to the General Court.

[1797.] The question in regard to a separation of the District from the Commonwealth again came before the people in May, 1797, and the town voted forty-six in favor to one against a separation.

[1798.] This year William King was chosen delegate to a convention to, be held at Hallowell, on the fourth Tuesday of the October following, to consider the expediency of dividing Lincoln County, and if judged expedient, to agree on the dividing line.

[1799.] At a meeting held May 6, 1799, the town voted to petition the General Court to have a Court of Common Pleas and General

1. For the improvement of the militia, Williamson, 2, p. 570.

Sessions of the Peace held in Topsham thereafter. Reverend Jonathan Ellis, Doctor Benjamin Jones Porter, and James Purington were chosen a committee to draft and present the petition.

[1801.] In 1801 Captain Robert Patten was exempted from paying taxes for that year "by reason of his house being burnt."

[1802.] At its March meeting in 1802, the town voted to hold its meetings in future in the Court House, and the meeting in the May following was held there.1 At this same meeting it was voted not to send any representative to the General Court that year. A motion was made to reconsider this vote, but it was not carried. "After the moderator (Reverend Jonathan Ellis) had declared the meeting dissolved, some person (not one of the selectmen) called for the people to bring in their votes for a representative. One of the selectmen protested against the disorderly manner of introducing the business, and declined having anything to do in receiving the votes. Two of the selectmen, however, with the town clerk, received and counted the votes, receiving, however, a number of unqualified votes and refusing some qualified votes which were offered while the votes were being assorted. The moderator then declared that the town had chosen Jonathan Ellis their representative." The town, at a meeting held on the last day of the same month, had a statement to the above effect prepared for presentation to the legislature, containing a remonstrance against Reverend Jonathan Ellis holding a seat as their representative. He was allowed, however, to take his seat.

[1804.] In 1804 a premium of twenty-five cents per head was offered for crows.

[1806.] A Mrs. Drybury became a town charge in 1806. She was the first pauper the town ever had. She lived in a little cot near the First Parish meeting-house. Her house was sold this year by the town for a small sum.

At the meeting for choice of governor this year, considerable feeling was manifested at what was considered the unfair management of the polls, and a protest was sent to the General Court. The protest was signed by:-

1. The town meetings had previously been held in the old meeting-house east of the village. Sometimes, in extreme cold weather, the meetings were adjourned to Mrs. Hunter's inn.


[1807.] In 1807 the town insructed its senator and repre-sentative to make application to the legislature for its consent to a separation of the District of Maine from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

[1808.] The EMBARGO which Congress had, December 22, 1807, declared, was a source of great vexation and suffering to all the New England towns, especially to those on or near the seaboard. Topsham suffered from this cause equally with Brunswick or Harpswell, and accordingly, at a meeting held August 20, 1808, the town resolved that it "unanimously approves of the doings of the town of Boston," respecting the petitioning for the repeal of the embargo laws, and the selectmen were directed to communicate this action to the selectmen of Boston. The town also voted to present to the President of the United States a memorial requesting him to suspend the embargo, in whole or in part, and Benjamin Orr, Esquire, William Wilson, and Henry Wilson were chosen a committee to draft the address. It was at once prepared and unanimously accepted by the town. The address, probably for the most part the production of Mr. Orr, was as follows:-

      President of the United States.-

"The inhabitants of the town of Topsham in the State of Massachusetts, legally assembled in town meeting on the twentieth day of August, 1808, respectfully represent:

"That having always been influenced by a regard for the general interests and welfare of their country, sincerely attached to its Constitution and duly impressed with the necessity of conforming to the laws of their government, they have hitherto submitted to the privations and losses occasioned by the embargo laws, without opposition or complaint, at the same time indulging an anxious hope, that when experience should ascertain the extent and degree of their sufferings, in common with their fellow-citizens, and events in Europe should render it safe and expedient, a speedy relief would be afforded them, through the existing provisions of Congress for that purpose.

"And could your memorialists entertain a belief that the further

suspension of all foreign commerce and the existing restrictions on domestics were necessary to the essential interests of their country, or consistent with the original views and policy of the government in passing the embargo laws, they would still wait the pleasure of government, without an expression of their wishes for relief.

"But concurring in opinion with numerous other sections of citizens assembled to express their sentiments on this subject, your memorialists are impressed with a conviction that the late attempt to subjugate the people of Spain to a foreign yoke, and their consequent declaration of independence, and of war against the power attempting to impose it, have materially altered the relations of the United States to some of the powers of Europe; and also believing that the avenues of a safe and lucrative commerce to the people of this country are by these events laid open, which the wisdom of the legislature has rendered available by placing the power to suspend the laws restricting it, in your hands:

"They therefore pray that the embargo laws may be suspended, in whole or in part, as your wisdom may direct, agreeably to the powers vested in you by Congress for that purpose."

A reply was received from President Jefferson to this memorial, which is entered in full on the records of the town. As it is identically the same answer that was given to similar memorials from the majority of the New England towns, and as it has often been published in documents of State and other works, it is not judged necessary to give it in this connection.

[1809.] At a meeting held February 4, 1809, the following resolutions and memorial were adopted, - the resolutions to be printed in the Portland Gazette, and the memorial signed by the selectmen and clerk, to be sent to the representative, to be by him presented to the General Court:-

"Resolved, That it becomes us not to despair of the safety of our Republic, while we enjoy the constitutional right and liberty of assembling peaceably to consult upon the common good and to petition the legislature to devise and promote the redress of the wrongs and grievances we suffer.

"That as it is our privilege 'in prosperity to rejoice,' it is our duty 'in adversity to consider,' to investigate, to ascertain the causes of the calamities we experience and the most effectual means to remove them.

"That we are convinced the people in many instances have not been sufficiently cautious in the exercise of their electoral rights, but

have permitted themselves to be deceived by crafty and unprincipled men and have frequently conferred their suffrages on seekers of popular favor, without making the important inquiries, 'Are they capable?' 'Are they honest?' 'Are they attached to the Constitution?'

"Hence it has happened that many, destitute of requisite talents and integrity, have been promoted to offices of the highest trust and importance; and that we now feel the extensive mischief naturally arising from this want of caution and inquiry in the people; for power obtained by fraud will always resort to violence for support.

"That the principles and public conduct of our rulers are the fair objects of a manly and public-spirited scrutiny, for the purposes of merited censure or approbation, their continuance or removal from office, in the prescribed forms.

"That, when we take into view the great prosperity generally diffused through our once happy land, under the arduous administration of the revered Washington and his immediate successor, we are compelled to believe, that the numerous and heavy evils since fallen and daily accumulating upon us have been principally occasioned by the departure of our rulers from that wise, firm, liberal, and impartial policy which regulated the conduct of those distinguished patriots.

"That, with sorrow, we must confess that the present executive of the United States has appeared to us, in the course of his administration, more like the dependant and humble friend of a foreign despot than the brave and generous chief of a great spirited and free people,- more devoted to the nefarious schemes of the republic-destroying, King-making Napoleon, than to the security, peace, and happiness of his own country, or to the rights and privileges of those nations, who, having made a noble stand, are now contending from the pure spirit of patriotism against that rapacious tyrant of boundless ambition.

"That the people have a right to require of their lawgivers and magistrates, who are at all times accountable to them, an exact and constant observance of constitutional principles in the formation and execution of the laws.

"That our national legislature, apparently from the impulse of executive influence, have enacted a system of embargo laws, in our decided opinion, unconstitutional in principle and ruinous in operation, that must subject us abroad to contempt, at home to want and wretchedness.

"That we consider the act entitled 'An Act to enforce the several Embargo Laws of the United States,' a most flagrant violation of many articles in our federal and State Constitution and the measures

prescribed to carry it into effect to be utterly subversive of our dearest rights and privileges; that it is a law which the people are not bound to obey and which we believe, from their strong attachment to the liberties of their country, they will not obey.

"That we most cordially approve the patriotic conduct of those officers of the revenue department who, disdaining to be the instruments of arbitrary power, and having a more tender concern for the rights of their fellow-citizen than for the emoluments of office, have lately retired to the post of honor, - a private station. That we sincerely hope these patriotic examples will excite a general emulation, and should deeply lament that any from a penurious, calculating spirit, from a mere regard to private property, , should submit to or aid the execution of laws destructive of our civil liberties."


"The inhabitants of the town of Topsham in legal town meeting assembled on the fourth day of February, A. D. 1809, respectfully represent,

"That in the late recess of Congress, they petitioned the President of the United States to relieve them from the sufferings occasioned by the embargo, and, finding no hope of relief, they have made a similar application to Congress, by whom their petition has also been neglected.

"To your honorable body, therefore, your memorialists are induced to resort for relief, not only from the evils and sufferings of which they had reason to complain to the President and to Congress, but also from others of more serious moment emanating from those high authorities.

"At the time of the passing of the first embargo law, the respect due to the constituted authorities induced your memorialists to hope that it would not be continued in force beyond the ability of the people to endure it; but in the Act recently passed, not only to enforce that law and its supplementary appendages, but to extort additional sacrifices the most exorbitant, they recognize a policy equally ruinous and oppressive.

"Had this law been wholly original it would have been less dreadful in its aspects; but in the French decree of April, 1808, it has both an example and guarantee, by which all vessels of citizens of the United States found at sea after that time are declared forfeited to France for breach of the embargo

"When such is the concurrence of laws, your memorialists can entertain no hope of relief or of safety from the constituted guardians of their national rights and privileges.

"To enumerate the losses, privations, and sufferings resulting from the embargo system would be but a recapitulation of circumstances familiar to every mind.

"The protection they afford to seamen brings with it want and misery; the benefits they confer on merchants are waste and bankruptcy, and to the hand of charity they consign the necessitous laborer and his dependants. As to their effects abroad, none are perceptible to your memorialists, except the approbation of the nation to whom alone they are beneficial and the disregard of that which they were manifestly intended to restrain and humble.

"The act to enforce the embargo, in its relation to the Constitution, cannot escape the notice of your honorable body. By this act the property of your memorialists, as well as their fellow-citizens, is rendered liable to seizure by military force, without evidence, without process or trial, and on the suspicion alone of an accuser, and neither their possessions nor buildings remain a secure depository against the combination of jealousy and force to assail them; these, with the exaction of exorbitant bonds for acts in themselves lawful at the time of doing them, appear to your memorialists calculated to deprive them of their most essential constitutional rights.

"In recurring to the transactions of the last session of your honorable body, your memorialists derive the highest satisfaction from the consideration that the opposing voice of a free people was distinctly expressed to an administration that had been offering up an essential part of their national rights a sacrifice to the boundless ambition of a foreign despot, rights that were obtained by the toils of the illustrious Washington and his companions and fellow-sufferers, and secured by a Constitution that will never be abandoned by free men, to the merciless hands that opposed it. in its origin and still seek to destroy it. In the wisdom and firmness of your honorable body to restore to your memorialists and their fellow-citizens of the State the full enjoyment of those rights by rescuing them from the destructive grasp of the tyrant of Europe and his minions, they repose the most implicit confidence, and they pledge themselves by all the lawful means in their power to support the measures that your honors may adopt for the general safety and relief, against the various acts of violence and oppression with which they have been assailed by foreign and domestic usurpers. They therefore pray your honors to take the subject of

their grievances into consideration and adopt such measures of redress as you, in your wisdom, shall deem proper and expedient."

[1810.] In the year 1810 a committee was chosen to superintend the inoculation with the kine-pox of all such persons as had not had the small-pox, and one hundred dollars was appropriated for the vaccination of those unable to bear the expense themselves.

[1811.] In 1811 a committee was chosen to discover what method should be taken to keep the highways from being encumbered with mill logs, timber, etc., especially on the island, and in the village near Granny's Hole. This committee reported at a subsequent meeting to the effect that increased diligence should be required on the part of surveyors, etc. The committee on vaccination reported that Doctor Isaac Lincoln had vaccinated four hundred and three persons, of which number three hundred and ninety-one cases had been successful and twelve were doubtful. The committee complimented Doctor Lincoln for the zeal and attention which he had shown in the matter.

[1812.] In 1812 Benjamin Hasey, Esquire, and Thomas G. Sandford were chosen delegates to a county convention, to be held at Wiscasset on August the third, "to take into consideration the alarming state of public affairs, to ascertain and express by memorial, or otherwise, the voice of the people relative to the WAR in which we are now involved, and to devise and recommend the most speedy means of relief from its awful calamities." On August the first, the following resolutions were adopted as the sentiments of the people of Topsham, and a copy of them was sent to the Portland Gazette for publication:-

"Resolved, That 'in the present season of calamity and war' it behooves the people to exercise their essential and unalienable right of consulting and seeking their safety and happiness ; that, at all times, it is their duty to approve and support, with zeal and alacrity, Laws for the vindication of their rights and the advancement of their welfare, and their right and privilege to expose and control, by the powers of reason and argument, all public measures endangering their security, their prosperity and peace.

"Resolved, That we cannot cease to cherish our fond attachment to the union of the States and the federal Constitution, endeared to us by the upright, wise, and liberal administration of Washington; that we cannot cease to hope that the innumerable evils already inflicted by the partial, degrading, and destructive 'exercise of restrictive energies,' commenced by the last administration and consummated

by the present, will awaken in ourselves and our fellow-citizens a lively sense of our common dangers, and unite us, as the surest means of relief, in a firm resolution to intrust with power those only who are true to the example and faithful to the precepts of the departed Father of our Country.

"Resolved, 'That we cannot insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion that they are less able to defend their rights, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors; that we will not insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment "to regain their lost liberties" by a blind and tame submission to a long train of insidious measures which must precede and produce it.'1

"Resolved, 'That a state of war does not destroy or diminish the rights of citizens to examine the conduct of public men and the tendency of public measures';2 that all attempts to impair the liberty of opinion and inquiry, the freedom of speech and of the press, are infringements upon our most invaluable constitutional rights and privileges, meriting the pointed disapprobation of all except Napoleon and his humble worshippers.

"Resolved, That we deeply lament the numerous facts which loudly proclaim that, in too many instances, the spirit of faction has misguided the deliberations of our State and national legislature. That by faction we understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion or interest adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the whole.

"Resolved, That to a factious spirit only can we attribute the contrivance of our senatorial districts by which nearly three fourths of the present Senate have been elected by a minority of votes of the whole State. That to intemperate party zeal in the Senate so chosen we must ascribe their obstinate refusal to adopt any one of the various propositions made to them by the House of Representatives, at their last session, for dividing the Commonwealth into electoral districts, and especially their refusing to concur in the resolve providing for the choice of electors by the people at large. That we consider these proceedings as disgraceful to the Commonwealth as grievances of the most alarming magnitude, demanding redress without delay; that we have full confidence that our representative in the General Court will

1. Madison
2. De Witt Clinton.

not be wanting in his endeavors to correct procedures so reproachful and oppressive.

"Resolved, That to a spirit adverse to the rights of the maritime States we must impute the long neglect and repeated refusals of our Congressional legislature to provide a navy in some degree competent to protect our commerce and guard our extensive and almost defenceless coasts; that our surprise at this neglect is greatly aggravated when we call to mind the solemn truths long since announced by the present chief magistrate of the Union, truths the more important and interesting now we are placed in 'an attitude' if not in 'an armor' of war. 'Naval batteries, the most capable of repelling foreign enterprises upon our safety, are happily such as can never be turned by a perfidious government against our liberties. The inhabitants of the Atlantic frontier are all of them deeply interested in this provision for naval protection; and if they have hitherto been suffered to sleep quietly in their beds; if their property has remained safe against the predatory spirit of licentious adventurers; if their maritime towns have not been compelled to ransom themselves from the terrors of a conflagration by yielding to the exaction of daring and sudden invaders, these instances of good fortune are not to be attributed to the protection of the existing government that claims their allegiance, but to causes that are fugitive and fallacious.'1

"Resolved, That the closest examination we have been able to make of the long train of our foreign negotiations compels us to believe that the unnecessary and ruinous war, into which we are now plunged, is to be attributed more to the impulse of faction, combined with the intriguing, flattering, menacing, confiscating, plundering, and burning policy of the modern Attila, operating upon our own government with magic influence, than to the 'injustice of a foreign power,' declared to be our enemy.

"That a war so forced upon us we can neither approve nor voluntarily support; that we cannot consent to forego the abundant and honorable returns of legitimate commerce for the scanty and disgraceful plunder of legalized piracy; we cannot freely exchange the cheering scenes of domestic peace for the chilling horrors of the 'bloody arena.' Indeed we are unwilling wantonly to put to hazard the noblest gifts of God to man, --our liberty and independence,-- to assist even our loving friend Napoleon in his aim to destroy the remnant of liberty in Europe, that he may the more easily bring within his iron grasp the

1. Madison

'ships, colonies, and commerce of the world.' In short, this war we must reprobate and abhor chiefly because it tends to draw us into a close connection, into a fatal alliance with this tyrant of nations, the enemy of the human race, whose tender mercies are cruel, whose friendship is slavery and death.

"Resolved, That, undismayed at the gloomy and threatning aspect of our public affairs, we will not despair of the safety of our confederated Republic, trusting that the discerning, enlightened, and resolute spirit of a free people, not to be shaken by the ruffian assaults of faction, not to be seduced by the insidious arts of tyranny, will speedily arise in vindication of their honor and in defence of their rights, and make manifest to the world that their confidence cannot be betrayed nor their interests sacrificed with impunity."

[1814.] In 1814 it was voted to accept the offer of the Court House, for the purpose of holding town meetings, on the terms named by the Court of Sessions.

[1816.] At a meeting held May 20, 1816, the town voted strongly against a separation of the District of Maine from Massachusetts, and the representative from Topsham was instructed to use all means in his power to prevent such separation.

At a meeting held September 16, Benjamin Hasey was elected delegate to the convention to be held the latter part of the month in Brunswick.

At a meeting held November 4, the memorial strongly opposing separation, which was adopted by the convention at Brunswick on the last Monday in September, relative to the separation of, the District of Maine from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was read, and it was then voted that the same should be signed by the selectmen and town clerk, and by them be presented in behalf of the inhabitants of the town of Topsham to the honorable General Court.

[1818.] At the annual meeting in 1818, Messrs. Abel Merrill, Thomas G. Sandford, and Captain Nathaniel Walker were chosen a committee to adopt measures for the maintenance of paupers. They reported at the May meeting in favor of the town poor being collected together and provided for by some one individual.

[1819.] At a meeting held July 6th, 1819, the town again, and for the last time, voted in favor of a separation of the District from the Commonwealth. This was the fourth time that the town had voted in favor of a separation, never having voted against it but once. September 20th, Mr. Nathaniel Greene was elected delegate to the convention to be held at Portland in October, for the purpose of

framing a constitution for the new State. On December 6th, the town voted unanimously in favor of the Constitution framed at that convention.


[1820.] The annual town meeting this year was held April 3d. This was the first meeting of the town after the admission to the Union of the State of Maine. At this meeting Mr. Pelatiah Haley declined any longer service as a selectman, and the thanks of the town were tendered him "for the ability and punctuality displayed in his service in that capacity for many years past." At a meeting held in May following, the representative to the legislature was instructed to advocate a petition in favor of a new county.

[1821.] In 1821 the selectmen were instructed to provide a hearse for the use of the town.

[1822.] The vote for county officers was this year thrown out by the Court, on account of unlawful proceedings at the town meeting.

[1824.] In 1824 the selectmen were instructed to pay each soldier belonging to Topsham, who was entitled to receive rations, agreeably to a late law, twenty cents in cash. This was to enable the soldiers to buy their dinner on muster days. They were also instructed to employ a physician to vaccinate the town. The town this year voted to purchase the farm occupied by Aaron Thompson, "for the use of the town," paying for the same three hundred dollars in three annual payments. Probably the vote never went into effect.

The following by-laws were adopted by the town and approved by the Court of General Sessions this year:-

"1. Sliding down hill in winter on sleds or boards, in any of the public streets, prohibited under a penalty of twenty-five cents for each offence.

"2. Playing with, or knocking, a ball in the streets, within three fourths of a mile from the toll-bridge, prohibited, under a fine of twenty-five cents.

"3. Smoking a pipe or cigar on the streets prohibited under a fine of twenty-five cents for each offence.

"Carrying fire through the streets strictly prohibited, under a penalty of one dollar, unless it was properly secured in some metallic case or pan."

[1825.] At a meeting of the town, held in September, 1825, it voted to accept the land on Great Island, purchased by the selectmen for

the use and benefit of the town, at the price of one hundred and twenty-five dollars. This land was for the erection of a building in which to confine an insane person.

At a meeting held in December following, the representative to the legislature was instructed "to oppose the petition of George Jewett and one other," unless the whole expense occasioned by its being granted should be imposed upon the county. It is probable that this petition was for a bridge across the Cathance River, at the eastern part of the town. Persons now living recollect that there was, about this time, considerable discussion in regard to this bridge, and no one has any knowledge of any other purpose for which a petition was likely to be presented at this time.

[1829.] This year the selectmen were instructed to petition the legislature for a new county.

[1832.] In 1832 the representative to the legislature was instructed to confer with the representatives of other towns on the subject of a modification of the militia law, so as to dispense with all trainings except the annual inspection in September, and such other meetings of companies as might be deemed necessary for the proper organization of the militia, and to request their co-operation.

[1833.] The selectmen were again instructed by the town, in 1833, to petition the legislature for a new county. They were also authorized to defend the town against any suit brought by the Maine Stage Company to recover damages for the upsetting of one of their carriages near James Purinton's tannery, in Topsham, on the evening of the 12th of January, 1833, or were authorized to settle the matter with the company, if judged expedient.

[1837.] The town, at its annual meeting in 1837, voted to receive its proportion of the surplus revenue deposited with the State of Maine by the United States government, and to deposit this money in Androscoggin Bank, provided the bank would allow interest at five per cent per annum, the interest to be paid annually to the town treasurer. Mr. John Coburn was appointed an agent to receive and receipt for the money in the name of the town. The September meeting was held in the Freewill Baptist vestry, near the brick school-house. At this meeting the selectmen and treasurer were appointed a committee to consider the subject of building a town-house.

The town also voted that the surplus revenue money should be put at interest and the interest divided among the school districts. This vote was, however, reconsidered the next year [1838], and the town voted to divide it per capita amongst the inhabitants, and

Gardner Green was chosen agent to collect and distribute it. The money having already been loaned to individuals, the agent was authorized to borrow the same amount and distribute it per capita, as directed for the surplus revenue money. Messrs. Charles Thompson, Joshua Haskell, and William Frost protested against this action of the town as illegal, and gave notice that they would severally hold all persons, and particularly the agent, responsible, who should be instrumental in carrying the vote into effect.

[1841.] In 1841 the town voted in favor of the proposed constitutional amendments, in regard to the election of State officers, but voted against any increase of the number of representatives.

[1842.] In the year 1842 the town was classed, for election of representative, with the town of Bowdoin. Previous to this date it had elected its own representative.

[1843.] At a meeting, held February 6, in accordance with an Act of the legislature to see if the town would consent to the annexation of a part of Bowdoin, agreeably to a petition of sixty-three of the inhabitants of Bowdoin, the town chose Abel Merrill and Nathaniel Walker a committee to remonstrate against and oppose the proposed annexation. At the annual meeting in April, the selectmen were authorized to appoint one or more persons to sell ardent spirits for medicinal and mechanical purposes, and were instructed to prosecute all who were guilty of a violation of the law in regard to such sales. At a meeting held in September following, the selectmen were instructed to petition the legislature for a separate representation of the town.

[1846.] The following by-law was adopted by the town in 1846 "Any person sliding in the streets or highway in the town of Topsham, within three fourths of a mile from the Androscoggin toll-bridge, upon a sled, board, or any other vehicle or thing; or who shall skate in said streets or highways, as aforesaid; or shall knock, throw, or play at ball, in said streets or highways, as aforesaid; or be accessory thereto; shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five dollars for each and every offence so committed, together with costs, to be recovered on a complaint before a justice of the peace.

[1847.] In 1847 the town voted in favor of amendments to the Constitution providing that State officers should be elected by a plurality instead of a majority vote, and also in regard to the State loaning its credit.

[1850.] At a meeting held September 9, the town voted against an amendment to the Constitution providing for a change of the meeting of the legislature from May to January.

[1853.] At a special town meeting, held February 28, 1853, the representative was instructed to use his greatest exertions to prevent any change in the territory of the county of Lincoln, and the senator from the district was requested to co-operate with him. At the annual meeting the article in the warrant, to see if the town would choose an agent to sell liquors for medicinal and mechanical purposes, was dismissed. This was, of course, a total prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors for any purpose.

[1854.] In October, 1854, the town was called upon to express by vote its preference of a town to be the shire town of the new county of Sagadahoc, which was incorporated on the fourth day of April previous. The vote stood In favor of Topsham for shire town, one hundred and fifty-one. Of Bath, five.

[1855.] The town voted, in 1855, almost unanimously, against amendments to the Constitution of the State which provided that judges of probate, registers of probate, sheriffs, and municipal and police judges should be chosen by the people; and also providing that the land agent, attorney general, and adjutant general should he chosen by the legislature. The representative was chosen this year from the town of Lisbon, Topsham and Lisbon being classed together.

[1858.] In June, 1858, the town voted unanimously in favor of a Prohibitory Liquor Law.

[1859.] At the annual meeting in 1859, the selectmen were authorized to hire out to suitable persons such town paupers as might be able to perform labor, and also to bind out the children of such persons to suitable individuals, who should be required to give bonds for the faithful discharge of their trust. They were also authorized to provide a suitable building or buildings, in which to take care of the aged and of all others unable to do anything for their own support, and to employ some judicious person to take care of them under the general supervision of the overseers of the poor.

At a meeting held in June the town voted to exempt from taxation for ten years all capital which might be invested in manufactures in the town. The town also voted, at this meeting, against "an Act to aid the Aroostook Railroad Company, increase the value and promote the sale and settlement of the public lands."

[1860.] The town concluded in 1860 to make a different provision for its poor, and accordingly, at the annual meeting, it was voted that the selectmen and overseers of the poor be authorized to purchase a farm and to stock the same by hiring or purchasing stock, as

they deemed most expedient. The town's poor were to be kept upon the farm and a superintendent was to be chosen who should be under the direction and control of the overseers. The selectmen were also authorized to hire money for the purchase of the farm, and to give notes payable in ten years in equal annual instalments.

The sum of $2,200 was raised this year for the support of the poor, and $1,250 for schools.

[1861.] At the annual meeting in 1861, the town expressed its choice of the candidates for the office of POSTMASTER, and Robert P. Whitney received a majority of the votes. This was an unusual, but at the same time eminently fitting way of securing the appointment of an efficient and honest officer. This year, Topsham and West Bath were classed together for representation.

[1863.] The town-house being in need of repairs, it was voted this year that the selectmen should ascertain what terms could be made with the Sagadahoc Agricultural Society, for the use of their hall for future town meetings. The next year, 1864, the town obtained the privilege of using the Agricultural Hall and authorized the sale of the town-house.

[1865.] This year the town voted to dispense with a liquor agency.

[1867.] At the September election in 1867, the town voted in favor of authorizing the county commissioners to effect a loan of $25,000 to complete the county court house at Bath.

[1868.] In 1868 an appropriation of six hundred dollars was voted for the purchase of a new hearse.

The municipal acts of this town, in reference to the enlistment of volunteers and the support of their families, as well as to all other matters not already given, will be found in their appropriate connection in other chapters.

Wheeler & Wheeler Home About Wheeler & Wheeler Curtis Memorial Library Home
Previous Chapter Table of Contents Next Chapter