William Wormwood (1620-1690)
My Wormwood ancestors who came to Maine in the 1630s landed in Kittery Point, then moved on to take part in the burgeoning fish trade on the newly-settled Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals seven miles off the coast. The Maine frontier was rough, and unlike the Puritans who settled in Boston, people came there to fish, not to pray. Codfish was abundant off the Isles of Shoals, the average codfish weighing 150 pounds, and the fishermen supplied salted cod to early settlers from Massachusetts to Virginia.
William Wormwood may have been a mate on fishing vessels but what we know for sure is that he and his wife, Catherine, lived in the fast lane for the times. In 1644 they sold their land in Kittery and moved to Star Island. Three years later, authorities expelled them from the island for “improper dealings” with sailors, presumably selling them too much liquor.
The Wormwoods were cast off the Island with a man named William James, who moved in with the couple in Kittery. In 1647, Catherine was arrested and sent to the court in Boston to face charges of adultery. She was later released, though she and James apparently continued to carry on. Six months later the court ordered that William James and William Wormwood should “part household and for to build another house by year’s end.” That move did not keep Catherine and William James apart and in October 1650 the court again ordered that James “shall hence forward separate himself from Catherine Wormewood & must forthwith pay his Fourty shillings for his breach of the last Court order about his separation.”
The historical record shows that William Wormwood became "a common swearer and a turbulent person" but he and Catherine eventually moved back to the Shoals, again shadowed by a court order that warned “if the Fishermen of the Iles of Sholes will entertaine Wormewood and his wife, they have liberty to sit downe ther provided that they shall not sell neither wine, beare nor Licker." The pair later returned to Kittery.
The couple gave birth to several children, including my direct ancestor, another William Wormwood, in 1654, who became a carpenter and lumberjack. (See Massachusetts and Maine Families in the Ancestry of Walter Goodwin Davis, Vol. III) He also served as the constable of York in 1685 and 1686.
Fatal Conflicts with Native Wabanakis
This area, now part of York County, Maine, was a dangerous frontier where settlers lived inside palisaded garrisons to protect themselves from attacks from Wabanaki warriors backed by the French. William’s brother, John, and two other men were taken prisoners by Native Americans in 1676 and the regional British official, Richard Waldron (another of my ancestors), negotiated their release in Pemaquid by paying a ransom of twelve skins for each of the men.
William Wormwood was not as fortunate. Fourteen years after his brother’s release, in October 1690, William was helping load timber onto a ship at nearby Cape Neddick when he was killed in an attack by a Wabanaki war party.
Thomas Wormwood (1684-1751)
William’s son, Thomas, was six years old when his father died and he grew up to be a farmer and a fighter, living in the village of Larrabee, which was a fortified garrison. In the “History of Kennebunk Port” Bartholomew Gosnold, writes that in 1723, William took charge of Harding's Garrison while Mr. Harding was off on a hunting expedition.
"The garrison housed about 30 women and children at the time. Thomas wasn't expecting an attack and took a boat to board some of the coasting ships that were in the river loading lumber. Thomas heard the alarm guns from Major's Garrison and returned and closed the gates when the Indians were within 20 yards of him. Sagamore Wahwa was irritated with his men for alarming the garrison just for the scalp of the white headed old man Mr. Bailey whose scalp they placed on a pole in view of the folks in the garrison. The Indians destroyed the remaining crops and killed the cattle who continued their raids through the fall.”
Thomas’s son, William, was a soldier in Harding’s garrison when he and Ebenezer Lewis were loading a sloop under the command of Capt. John Felt in Gooch’s creek on April 25, 1724. The three men came under attack by Wabanaki fighters. The captain and Lewis were shot in the head but William Wormwood made it ashore, pursued by the warriors. He put his back against a stump to defend himself with the butt of his musket, but was shot several times and died. The bodies of the settlers were buried near Butler Rocks. (From: The history of Wells and Kennebunk, from the earliest settlement to the year 1820.)
Joseph Wormwood (1718-1767)
William Wormwood’s brother, Joseph, survived the violence that pervaded York county only to nearly lose his life when he was shipwrecked on Mount Desert Island. In 1746, 28-year-old Joseph was one of a group of 100 men pressed into service against the French near the end of King George’s War. The men from Wells and Arundel Maine crowded onto a ship heading to Nova Scotia that wrecked during a fierce snowstorm. All but a handful of men died. Wormwood and three comrades from Wells survived and made their way ashore onto Mount Desert Island, where they faced “fearful hardship and suffering.” (History of Wells and Kennebunkport) No houses existed on the island and the men shot fowl for survival as they fashioned a rough boat that they managed to sail south to Townsend (Boothbay) to find help. (From: The history of Wells and Kennebunk, from the earliest settlement to the year 1820.)
Joseph returned to Wells where he married Sarah Evans in 1748. Their son Joseph, was born seven years later, in 1755.
Joseph Wormwood, Jr. (1755-1838)
Joseph Jr., married Mary Hall when he was 19-years-old and apparently the newlyweds left Wells shortly after the wedding heading to Township No. 6, Surry. Their daughter, Adnah, my 4th-great-grandmother, was born in Surry the next year, 1785. Joseph and Mary resided in Surry until their deaths in 1838. According to their gravestone markers, they changed their last name to Wood. Adnah Wormwood Ray died in 1853.
Names of My Ancestors
Puritans & Servants