Old Orchard Beach, Me.
The Old Orchard Beach area began appearing in historical records around 1653. The area was first officially settled in 1657 by Thomas Rogers who had arrived in the Goose Fare Brook area in 1636, and who dubbed it “The Garden by the Sea”. The town takes its name from Rogers’ abandoned apple orchard. Rogers’ family left the area and relocated in Kittery, Maine after an Indian attack destroyed the Rogers’ homestead. The namesake orchard survived for approximately 150 years as a beacon of land to sailors in the Atlantic Ocean. Old Orchard Beach is a favorite destination and continues to attract travelers and is known for its oceanfront amusement park, which was established in the early 1900’s and is the only one of its kind in all of New England.
Abenaki Indians called the area Owascoag, meaning “a place of much grass”, after its large salt marshes.
In about 1630, John Stratton opened a trading post on Stratton Island in Saco Bay off Scarborough’s shore. In 1631, the Plymouth Council for New England granted the “Black Point Patent” to Captain Thomas Cammock, nephew of the Earl of Warwick. Cammock built a house and began residence in 1635 on the 1,500-acre (6.1 km2) tract of land, which extended from the Spurwink River to Black Point – today this area is known as Prouts Neck. However, he then sold his holdings and moved to the West Indies. Nevertheless, settlements developed at Black Point, Blue Point (i.e., Pine Point), Dunstan (i.e., West Scarborough) and Stratton Island. By 1650, there were fifty homes. The town offered excellent fishing and farming. On July 14, 1658, the Massachusetts General Court incorporated them all as Scarborough, named for Scarborough in Yorkshire, England.
At the outbreak of King Philip’s War in 1675, Scarborough was an important coastal settlement with over one hundred houses and one thousand head of cattle. By 1676, the town had been laid to waste as a result of the war – some settlers were killed and others were taken hostage by the Native Americans. Subsequently, Massachusetts sent soldiers accompanied by Indian allies in 1677 to secure the town for resettlement. On June 29, 1677, while pursuing some Indians sent as a ruse, the company was ambushed by warriors under Chief Squando.
In the New England militia of nearly one hundred soldiers, fifty to sixty were left dead or mortally wounded. Among the casualties was Captain Benjamin Swett. Called the Battle at Moore’s Brook, it was an embarrassing rout for the military. In 1681, a great fort was erected at Black Point. After several attempts to rebuild between guerrilla incursions during King William’s War, the survivors evacuated in 1690 and moved south to Portsmouth, New Hampshire or Boston.
A truce was signed in 1699 between the Province of Massachusetts Bay and the Eastern Indians. Resettlement of Scarborough started in 1702 when seven settlers arrived from Lynn, Massachusetts, and construction began on a fort located on the western shore of Prout’s Neck’s Garrison’s Cove. This fort was commanded by Captain John Larrabee.
Despite the treaty, in August 1703, five hundred French and Indians under command of the Sieur de Beaubassin made a sudden descent upon English settlements from Casco Bay (Portland) to Wells. The fort on Prout’s Neck sat atop a bluff. When the French and Native Americans arrived, they were protected from gunfire by the overhanging cliff. They subsequently began tunneling into the bluff to breach the fort from below. Had it not been for a two-day downpour that made the disturbed bank slough, exposing the previously hidden excavators to snipers in the fort, the French and Native Americans might have been successful in their attempts to capture the fort and the eight people inside. However, Beaubassin retreated in search of easier prey.
Despite occasional subsequent harassment, the second settlement succeeded. By 1749, it was economically prosperous. Cattle and timber were important local products for export, with Scarborough’s many water power sites operating a dozen sawmills.
Old Orchard Beach, Me.