Harpswell Historical Society

Incorporated 1979

929 Harpswell Neck Road
Harpswell, Maine  04079

The Harpswell Historical Society is dedicated to the discovery, identification, collection, preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of materials relating to the history of Harpswell and its people.

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Cundy’s Harbor Incident

Cundy’s Harbor Incident

Copy of part of a letter from Aunt Carrie Chapman Purington of  East Harpswell, Maine to Frank Purington Reed, West Roxbury, Mass., dated November 7th, 1905.

“Have you ever told the boys the story of our Revolutionary forebears, how your great, great grandfather Nathaniel Purington, born 1736- died 1788, helped stop the depredations of a privateer whose crew had landed at Cundy’s Harbor, East Harpswell, and at other places along the New England coast, robbing the farmers and fishermen.

The privateer was a British gun boat, a schooner named Picaroon and called a gun boat because of its armament of 2 brass swivel cannon and small arms.

Nathaniel Purington was a farmer, was a member of the militia during the Revolutionary War – was a Colonel, so it was said, and in that capacity commanded an expedition of about 30 men.

Recorded are names of those taking part in the incident:

Nathaniel Purington – Commander
Josiah Totman - Sailing Master
Isaac Snow - 2nd Officer
Henry Merrill
John Snow
Elisha Hopkins
Nathaniel Hall
Elisha Snow
Stephen Purington
Peter Birthrite
Joseph Hall
Ellis Dolph
Abraham Toothaker
And others unrecorded

The above men met at the home of Nathaniel Purington the night of the departure – went to Cundy’s Harbor and took the Shoving Mill an 8 ton open boat belonging to Isaac Snow, one of the volunteers. When the reached Small Point, the changed the Shoving Mill for a larger boat – America – of 14 tons, schooner rigged. The next morning at sunrise they sighted the Picaroon off the mouth of the Kennebeck River. She had captured a schooner coming from Rockland, Maine leaded with lime in the hold and cordwood on deck, bound for Portland. The Cundy’s men captured the schooner, threw overboard part of the middle tier on either side as needed. The gun boat opened fire on the Cundy’s boat, but their shots fell short or were wild. Col. Purington ordered his men to keep out of sight and not to fire until within pistol shot, also ordered them to rise and fire, one section of the crew at a time, rapidly. As the boats neared each other, they opened fire. The helmsman, of the British gunboat, Picaroon was shot, and the position was an open target for any one who took his place so the Picaroon was quite adrift and finally surrendered. When the Americans boarded the prize, they found one man killed and one wounded, most of the rest were below deck. These were ordered up one by one and handcuffed or tied. The Yankees started back in quite a procession to Cundy’s Harbor, picking up the Shoving Mill with the America, the British gun boat and the Rockland Schooner, with 7 English prisoners whom they sent under guard to Portland, Maine.

The man killed was Sheperds by name, the helmsman of the gun boat – was buried at Cundy’s Harbor on a point of land which is still called Sheperds’ Point, and the police was marked with one of the brass cannon. This cannon was wrecked in 1869 at a wild 4th of July time.

The other cannon was presented to Parsonfield Academy in 1837.

The account of the capture means but little, but the men’s defense of home and liberty against heavy odds is a record worth cherishing.”

The letter was signed “C. C. P.”
Cundy’s Harbor
East Coast of Harpswell Maine

[Harpswell's 250th Anniversary]   [Memoirs of the Harpswell Cottages]   [Cundy’s Harbor Incident]