December 29, 2011

Mount Desert Island’s Historical Land Grants




     The year: 1603. November 8, the date.

     The event: the first European land grant patent in Maine.

     The characters: King Henry IV of France and Pierre du Guast, Sieur e Monts


     The land grant given to du Guast by King Henry IV included trading and seigniorial rights over a vast territory, extending from Newfoundland along the Atlantic coast far to the southward: the territory of La Cadie.

     Three years later King James I of England granted the Virginia Company a patent to de Monts which included much of the same territory.

     The two rival claims inevitably ended up in a century and a half of intermittent warfare.*


      A French attempt at colonization, beginning in March 1613, took place at Fernald’s Point (near the mouth of Somes Sound). That July an English captain, Argall, attacked the settlers, burned their buildings to the ground, stole their charter, set most of the survivors adrift at sea, and carried the leaders back to Virginia for ransom. The colony of Saint Sauveur was short lived.

     The Sagadahoc territory (land between the Kennebec and St. Croix rivers) was next portioned off by allotment to members of the King’s Council for New England.

      On November 19, 1622, Sir Robert Mansell purchased, outright, the Island of Mount Desert for one hundred and ten pounds, payable in two years or within six months after he received letters of advertisement from Captain Squibb, following his survey of Mount Mansell. It is recorded that sometime during 1622 Captain Squibb took possession of Mount Mansell, in New England, for Sir Robert’s use.

     On June 8, 1630, The Arabella under the direction of Winthrop landed where it was proved (to be) Mount Mansell.*


     On July 23, 1688, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, was granted ‘the place called Douaquet near Magesse (Machias) and two leagues of land (a league equals 4,428 acres), 177 acres in each direction, which included Mount Desert and the other islands and islets. The grant was confirmed May 24, 1689.**

    “He only stayed in the New World about two years.”   

     Gen. Henry Jackson was conversing with Gen. Henry Knox, a land speculator looking to purchase land in Downeast Maine. Gen. Jackson was acting as Gen. Knox’s agent in purchasing a huge amount of land in the Massachusetts Territory of Maine—millions of acres from the State and additional acreage from Monsieur and Madame Bartholomy de Gregoire—all land formerly known as the Sagadahoc territory.

      “That’s right. In the fall of 1689 he returned to France. But he held onto his grant for twenty five years, until, in 1713, France ceded to England all its claims on Acadia, including Maine.” 


     During Great Britain’s claim on Maine a land grant was given to George Bernard, Gov. of Massachusetts.

     It was a 1760s custom for governors to pay a large fee to King George III for a commission in the United States. Massachusetts was supposed to reimburse Gov. Bernard with a large pre-service bonus in return for his paying his own commission, but money was scarce then in Massachusetts. In 1762 the General Court of Massachusetts gave Gov. Bernard half of Mt Desert Island, as per his request.

    “Gov. Bernard tried to settle of Mt. Desert Island with German settlers, but nothing ever came of this German colony, even though it was nursed along to the best of Bernard’s capabilities. Then the Revolutionary War interrupted his plans,” Gen. Knox said.

      In 1788, this land came under the jurisdiction of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay.

     Gov. Bernard returned to England in 1769. By the time he died in 1779, the General Court had confiscated his real estate. However, his will had left Mt. Desert Island to trustees for his son John.

     “John Bernard lived in Bath (Maine). In 1785, he petitioned for this confiscated land, and was granted a half-interest in the island. Later he mortgaged his land and went to England,” Gen. Knox said.


      “Harry.” Gen. Jackson spoke, using Gen. Knox’s nickname. “I wrote to you on July 17 about Monsieur Bartholomy de Gregoire. You are familiar with him?”

     “Yes—the United States granted his wife Maria Therese de Gregorie half of Mount Desert and a number of islands surrounding it. This was the land that Louis XIV originally granted to her grandfather, M. de le Motthe, described as ‘Lord of Donoquec and Mount Desert.’…


       “(But) Madame de Gregoire was only granted half of Mt. Desert Island,” Jackson said. “Why was that?”

     “Even though these lands were originally part of Monsieur Cadillac’s land, Madame de Gregoire couldn’t reclaim them because of the grant belonging to the Bernard family.”

     In the early 1790s the de Gregoire’s, experiencing financial problems, sold off much of their Mount Desert Island claim. Some of it was purchased by Gen. Henry Knox.


*It Could Have Been Mount Mansell Island!, Acadia Weekly, August 10-16, 2003, pp. 15-18

**The information in this section came from a draft of my historical romance novel, Intertwined Love, a work still in progress (as of August 2011). The characters are real. Much of the conversation is drawn from documents and letters, especially those between Gen. Henry Knox and Gen. Henry Jackson






THE SPECTACULAR PENOBSCOT RIVER A Natural Wonder in Maine: Part 2 (my novel site, which has posts on character sketches and background information)

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