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Pejepscot Proprietors Records

Pejepscot Proprietors Records

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The Pejepscot Proprietors records document the legal and financial activities of this company of investors in Maine land in the late 17th to the early 19th centuries.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Pejepscot Proprietors
Title:Pejepscot Proprietors Records
Quantity:10.25 linear feet (18 boxes)
Abstract:The Pejepscot Proprietors records document the legal and financial activities of this company of investors in Maine land in the late 17th to the early 19th centuries.
Collection Number:MSS 338

Series List

SERIES I. Title to Pejepscot Lands: Chain of Title into Pejepscot Proprietors
SERIES II. Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay v. Pejepscot Proprietors and Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay v. Josiah Little
SERIES III. Proceedings, Accounts, and Travel Journals of the Pejepscot Proprietors
SERIES IV. Miscellaneous Journals and Accounts; Activities in Eastern Lands
SERIES V. Plans and Surveys
SERIES VI. Land Transactions, Taxes, and Town Proceedings
SERIES VII. William and Andrew Rogers Accounts
SERIES VIII. Hayes and Cogswell Papers
SERIES IX. Miscellaneous Bills and Receipts
SERIES X. Miscellaneous Litigation
SERIES XI. Miscellaneous Documents
SERIES XII. Little Family Letters

Scope and Content Note

The Pejepscot Proprietors records document the legal and financial activities of this company of investors in Maine land in the late 17th to the early 19th centuries. This collection contains letters and documents which relate to the personal affairs of the Little family as well as with the affairs of the Bakerstown Proprietors. The collection has been organized into 12 series.

Series I. Title to Pejepscot Lands: Chain of Title into Pejepscot Proprietors contains copies of deeds, affidavits, and other documents, including deeds from the Sagamore Indians, showing the chain of title of the various parcels of land comprising the Pejepscot claim. These documents were amassed in the process of litigation in the case of Commonwealth v. Pejepscot Proprietors and Commonwealth v. Josiah Little, Jr., in which the Proprietors' title to the extent of lands claimed was challenged by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on behalf of other land companies and individual settlers. Documents in box 1 folder 3 deal with a settlement of a boundary dispute between the Pejepscot Proprietors and the Kennebec Company, successors in interest to a tract of land originally ceded to the Plymouth Company in 1758. Please not that many of these documents are certified copies of the originals, and thus have multiple dates: the date of the original document, and the dates of copying and certification. In general, they are arranged according to the date of the original document, in order to provide a chronology in the chain of title.

Series II. Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay v. Pejepscot Proprietors and Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bay v. Josiah Little contains writs, pleadings, petitions, arguments, and witness depositions in the two cases dealing with the extent of the Pejepscot lands. The issue in each of the two cases was the same: whether the outermost boundary of the Pejepscot claim, designated in a deed from the Sagamore Indians to Richard Wharton (predecessor in title to the Pejepscot Proprietors) as the "Great Falls" or the "uppermost falls" on the Androscoggin River, was intended to mean the "Ten Mile Falls" or the "Twenty Mile Falls" or, as the Proprietors claimed, the falls later called the Rumsford Falls. The Commonwealth's claim to all Pejepscot land above the "Ten Mile Falls" was precipitated by competing land companies also speculating in Maine land. The origin of these lawsuits and the connection with the Commonwealth v. Bakerstown are laid out in detail in an undated summary in folder 4 of box 1. The petitions, pleadings, depositions, summaries, and decisions which comprise the litigation and arbitration documents are not always clear as to whether they pertain to Commonwealth v. Pejepscot Proprietors with Josiah Little as its agent to to Commonwealth v. Josiah Little, individually.

Included in folders 6 and 7 of box 1 are depositions of witnesses, stating their knowledge of the actual extent of the Pejepscot claim and the location of the "Great Falls." Of particular interest are the witnesses' accounts of personal attacks upon Pejepscot agents and surveyors in their attempts to subdivide the land to stop destruction of valuable timber by squatters and settlers.

It should be noted that some of the documents used in the course of litigation are dated prior to the dates of the actual court case. These are early documents that were probably gathered or copied in support of the Pejepscot claim. Other later depositions relate to the valuation of ands and were used in the post-judgment monetary settlements.

Series III. Proceedings, Accounts, and Travel Journals of the Pejepscot Proprietors includes official notices of Company meetings, the form, timing, and posting of which were regulated by the provincial and later the state government, minutes of the meetings, and company accounts, bill, and receipts. These are arranged chronologically. Minutes of the meetings are particularly interesting, setting forth the decision of the Company as to town founding, law suits, and other important matters. Box 2 folder 3 contains journals and expense accounts kept by Josiah Little as agent for the Pejepscot Proprietors. Little gives an account of a nighttime attack on the house in which he was staying in Durham, Maine (box 2, folder 4, September 8, 1800). Guns were fired into the house and stones thrown through the window, presumably by those opposed to the surveying and settlement of the land.

Series IV. Miscellaneous Journals and Accounts; Activities in Eastern Lands includes individual account books and details of journeys taken to "eastern lands," (i.e. Maine). Some of these journals and accounts are those kept by members of the Little family on behalf of the family business. Others describe business or trips on behalf of the Pejepscot Proprietors, although not specifically noted. The journals illustrate the time spent, and expenses for lodging, food, and other costs of these journeys.

Series V. Plans and Surveys is housed in an oversize box (4). Of particular importance is a map in folder 1, dated 1764, which delineates the entire original Pejepscot Claim before competing claims led to protracted litigation and changed boundaries. The map also shows the supposed southerly line of the Kennebec Company's claim. Other maps in folder 1 show divisions of land to the individual proprietors along a portion of the Androscoggin River. Many of the plans and sketches in this series have no labeling or dates and the locations cannot be easily ascertained.

Series VI. Land Transactions, Taxes, and Town Proceedings includes not only deeds, but mortgage instruments and secured bonds, some leases, some records and receipts for work done by settlers in lieu of payment of their parcels of land, tax rolls, and other documents in connection with land ownership and land transfers. In some cases, folders include the proceedings of the towns with regard to petitions to the state for road building and other infrastructure matters. These documents are divided by town names. Within each folder the documents are arranged in chronological order. It is not clear whether the towns represented in the collection were originally in, or remained in, that area of the original Pejepscot Claim. Of particular interest are the notices of public vendue, i.e. foreclosure and sales of property for non-payment of taxes or fees. In many cases the foreclosures were initiated by the Pejepscot Proprietors, or by the Littles as creditors, and were bought at public auction by the Proprietorship or by individual proprietors such as Josiah Little,

Series VII. William and Andrew Rogers Accounts contains accounts and receipts of these successful merchants; William was an early settler of Shapleigh, Maine. Box 9 folder 10 contains the "receipt book," of Captain William Rogers, in which payment of debts made to Rogers and by Rogers to his own creditors, is documented.

Series VIII. Hayes and Cogswell Papers contains the accounts and correspondence of both William Allen Hayes and Charles Northend Cogswell in connection with their law practice. Box 10 folder 5 is primarily composed of legal writs issued by Cogswell in his role as Justice of the Peace in South Berwick. When Cogswell died in 1843, William A. Hayes was executor of his estate. Some papers from the settlement of the estate are in box 10 folder 7. Of particular interest are documents in connection with the proposed extension of the Boston and Maine Railroad (box 10, folder 8). The bound volume in box 11 folder 2 was actually used by Charles Northend Cogswell as a docket book, dated June 1830. The last few documents, dated 1836, substitute the name "Frederic Cogswell" for Northend Cogswell."

Series IX. Miscellaneous Bills and Receipts includes some accounts in which Josiah Little or other members of the Little family area a party, but the majority of the accounts show no obvious relationship to either the Pejepscot Proprietors or the Little Family.

Series X. Miscellaneous Litigation contains an assortment of writs, pleadings, depositions and settlements on a variety of issues ranging from land disputes, trespass, probate, debt, and "action on the case," the "catch-all" writ which could cover a variety of issues. Most of the cases were in York County, Maine, and Cumberland County, Maine. However, the contents of box 14 folder 4 include papers from New Hampshire courts and other jurisdictions.

Series XI. Miscellaneous Documents includes different types of legal documents, which have been sorted into various categories. Most of the documents do not reveal any particular connection with the Pejepscot Proprietors or the Little family. Some of the documents in box 15 folder 6 are of particular interest, concerning running the boundary line between Maine and New York, and also the separation of the District of Maine from Massachusetts, Included in this folder is an announcement of the poll tax for the town of Robbinston, Maine for the year 1826. A complaint by the Great Fall Manufacturing Company (box 15 folder 9) filed with the Superior Court of New Hampshire against Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company of New Hampshire, illustrates the competition for water power and riparian rights among the proliferating textile mills of New England.

Series XII. Little Family Letters contains letters dealing primarily with business matters and management of the Little family's large land holdings. Management of business was mostly delegated to Josiah's sons, Edward and Josiah, Jr.

Biographical Sketches

Moses Little was born on May 8, 1724, in Newbury, Massachusetts. He married Abigail Bailey and the couple had ten children, eight daughters and two sons, Moses and Josiah. For several years prior to American independence he served as "Surveyor of the King's Wood," marking those trees coveted by the British Navy as suitable for ships' masts. He was the agent and shareholder of the Bakerstown Proprietors, another company with large holdings in Maine, as well as having a major interest in the Pejepscot Proprietors. He also had large land holding in other areas. He died on May 27, 1798.

Josiah Little, elder surviving son of Moses and Abigail Little, was born on February 16, 1747. As agent of the Pejepscot Proprietors and Bakerstown Proprietors, he managed the real estate holdings and affairs of both companies, as well as his own and the Little family's extensive lands and business interest. He was a representative in the General Court of Massachusetts for nineteen consecutive years, as well as six additional years served at various times. He married Sarah Toppan on March 23, 1770. His three sons, Michael, Edward, and Josiah Jr., were engaged in managing the affairs of their father. Josiah died on December 26, 1830.

Edward Little, son of Josiah Little, was born on March 12, 1773. He trained as an attorney with Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons, practiced in Newbury, Massachusetts, and also served as representative to the Massachusetts legislature for several years. He later moved to Portland, Maine. Much of his time was spent in managing his father's business affairs and land holdings in Maine and other areas. He was also involved in the growth of several Maine industries. He married Hannah Brown, and after her death in 1828, married Hannah Chase. He died on September 21, 1849.

William Allen Hayes was born on October 20, 1783, in North Yarmouth, in the Maine district of Massachusetts. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1805 and studied law with several Maine lawyers. He was admitted to the bar in 1809, and opened an office in South Berwick, Maine. In 1817, he took on Charles N. Cogswell as a partner. He was president of the South Berwick Bank, president of the Bar of York County, and from 1828-1847, judge of probate for York County. He married Susan Lord in 1828. Hayes died in 1851.

Charles Northend Cogswell was born on April 24, 1797, in Berwick, Maine. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1814, and studied law with William Allen Hayes, entering into partnership with him in 1817, when Cogswell was admitted to the bar. He was a state senator from 1833 to1834. He was twice married, first to Elizabeth Hill, then to Margaret E. Russell, with whom he had one son. He died at the age of 47 on October 11, 1843.

The Pejepscot Proprietors, formed for the sole purpose of land speculation, was organized in 1714/15 by a group of eight merchants, who purchased, as tenants in common, a large tract of land in the Maine district of Massachusetts Bay. The company (called a "Proprietorship") could sell and transfer shares and would finally divide the land among the shareholders according to their relative interests. The company existed as an entity separate from its shareholders, able to own property, and sue and be sued, in its own name.

The tract of land had been amassed by Richard Wharton, and then sold by the administrator of his estate, Ephraim Savage of Boston, in order to liquidate Wharton's debts. Much of the land had originally been acquired through a series of purchases from local Native American tribes. However, the boundaries of these purchased tracts were not precisely described in the deeds and would come into question many years later.

In 1714, the Massachusetts General Court passed a resolution that "it was for the public interest that some townships be laid out and settled in the eastern country." In order to have some record of land ownership, and also probably to establish some control over patterns of settlement, a committee was appointed to receive and review the claims of all persons asserting ownership of tracts in the "eastern lands." In 1715, upon the petition of the Pejepscot Proprietors, and the acceptance of a set of conditions as to patterns of settlement, provision of a meeting house, initial exemption from provincial taxes, etc., the committee reported favorably upon the Pejepscot claim, and the Company's ownership of its purchased territory was validated. The Proprietorship began to lay out townships and distribute parcels of land.

A large portion of the Proprietorships' lands were to be divided among the shareholders, who would then subdivide the large tracts and sell the parcels, although it appear that some land was retained by the Company. As in modern day business entities, the identity and number of shareholders changed over the years. Members of the Little family of Newburyport, Massachusetts, among others, were shareholders of the Company and grantees of the divided Pejepscot lands.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Cogswell, Charles Northend, 1797-1843
Hayes, William Allen, 1783-1851
Little family
Little, Edward, 1773-1849
Little, Josiah, 1747-1830
Little, Moses, 1724-1798
Wharton, Richard
Bakerstown Proprietors
Hayes and Cogswell
Indian land transfers--Maine
Land companies
Land settlement--Maine
Land speculation--Maine
Land subdivision--Maine
Stock companies
Androscoggin River (N.H. and Me.)
Kennebec River (Me.)
Lewiston (Me.)
Maine--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
South Berwick (Me.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Pejepscot Proprietors Records, MSS 338, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


Some of the material was purchased in November 1933 from a dealer who "acquired it directly from the Little family." Other portions were separated from the Waters Family Papers (MSS 92) and the Little Family Papers (MSS 67).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Frances Malamy, February 2005. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, March 2016.

Related Material

Akagi, Roy Hidemichi. The Town Proprietors of the New England Colonies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1924.

Burrage, Henry S., and Albert Roscoe. Stubbs. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine. Ed. George Thomas Little. Vol. I. New York: Lewis Historical Pub., 1909: 452-456.

Clayton, W. W. History of York County, Maine with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1880.

Leamon, James S. Historic Lewiston: A Textile City in Transition. Auburn, Maine: n.p., 1976.

Martin, John Frederick. Profits in the Wilderness: Entrepreneurship and the Founding of New England Towns in the Seventeenth Century. Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, by the U of North Carolina, 1991.

Merrill, Georgia Drew. History of Androscoggin County, Maine. Boston: W.A. Fergusson, 1891.

Wheeler, George Augustus., and Henry Warren Wheeler. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine, including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: A. Mudge & Sons, Printers, 1878.

Bakerstown Proprietors Records, 1758-1831, MSS 337

Little Family Papers, 1691-1883, MSS 67

The following typed summary of contents of the Pejepscot Proprietors Records was compiled prior to the complete processing of the collection. It contains information about specific documents and materials within the collection, but the references to location or arrangement are no longer valid (e.g. box, folio, or volume numbers).

Lenfest, Bertram A., comp. Pejepscot Proprietors Papers at the Maine Historical Society, Portland, Maine, and the Essex Institute, Salem, Mass. Place of Publication Not Identified: Publisher Not Identified, 1940.

Additional records of the Pejepscot Proprietors and Bakerstown Proprietors are in the Maine Historical Society, Portland, Maine.

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