Tag Archives: casualties

Ancient skulls uncovered at Cape Arundel

Olean Evening Times October 17, 1919
Olean Evening Times October 17, 1919

Atwater Kent’s neighbors called him a grave robber when he bought the land next to his Cape Arundel home near St Ann’s and dug up the graves of early Cape Porpoise Settlers to expand his lawn.

In a letter to her daughter Alice, Eleanor Rogers, who summered at what is now the Franciscan Monestary, wrote of Atwater Kent:

“Since he bought the point and dug out the old fort and burned off the rubbish, he has just had permission from relatives left, of the buried ancestors to remove their bones.  It is hard to locate those without stones as it was the habit of that day to remove the handles from the coffins and the name plate and mount them on velvet, as a parlor ornament.  He had in his pocket a white obsidiary arrowhead, one of the best I ever saw, which was under a skull as they lifted it, and the skull had a hole into which the arrow had just fitted, at the base of the brain.”

The Biddeford Weekly Journal reported the remarkable discovery on October 10, 1919.  The story in the Biddeford newspaper varied slightly from the one Mrs. Rogers told.   The reporter considered the discovery of special interest to students of the earliest history of Maine.

“In removing a grassy mound which was situated close to the fort and was no doubt embracedin the land occupied as a cemetery the workmen came across at a depth of about six feet a perfect skull (not skeleton) of a white man imbedded in which was an indian arrow, the weapon sticking out from the top of the skull just as apparently it had been left when the victim was buried after being slain by a redskin with bow and arrow.  Equally remarkable and interesting was another find in almost the same spot, which was that of a skull showing plainly that the man had been scalped by Indians.  The very tip of the victim’s head had in this case been cut off as clean and smooth as the most skillful scalper could do the job.”

The only partial skeleton found, according to the Biddeford reporter, was that of the man that based on the size of individual bones was hypothosized to be seven feet tall.  “It is certain,” the newsman continued, “that when the facts reach the ears of the of the officials at the Maine Historical Society… doubtless further excavations will be made.”  Apparently that never happened, in spite of the fact that Henry S. Burrage, the State Historian, summered in Kennebunkport.

The cemetery was that of the Jeremiah Smith family.  Atwater Kent moved most of the Smith’s to the Landing Cemetery and Arundel Cemetery but the skeleton and two skulls found under the grass mound adjacent to the old 1812 fort must have been much older.  Indians were using guns for hunting  during the 17th century but arrows and tomahawks were war weapons into the 18th century.  Many of the Indians described in Bradbury’s history used guns to attack the settlers.

Mrs. Rogers calls the arrowhead “white obsidiary”.  Even assuming she meant “obsidian,” it is still puzzling since obsidian was reportedly not found in New England.

The Kennebunkport Historical Society has a human skull in the vault that in the catalog is described as a skull found by Atwater Kent at Kennebunk Point.  It is further explained that at one time the arrowhead accompanied the skull but it was lost before the Historical Society received it.  The damage to the skull looks more like the clean cut described as having been caused by a tomahawk.  There is one scalping described in Bradbury’s history.  Old white-haired Mr. Joseph Bailey was scalped by an Indian at the site of the Garrison House in Cape Porpoise in October of 1723.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to learn how old the skull at the Historical Society is?

Read about the Indian attacks that we know took place in the Kennebunks.  Included are attacks that took place on Trotts Island and on Vaughn’s Island.

Known Indian attacks on the Kennebunks

Apr 1689 Stage Island attack

1688 Oct 11 –  Bussey and Barrow – Barrow may actuallyhave  been Barrett.  (see 1689).  A letter dated Oct 16, 1688, written by John Allyn to Gov Andros, refers to an attack at Cape Porpoise that took place on Oct 11.

  • 1689  Apr  –  Attack at Stage Island Fort.  John Barrett was killed.  An Indian attack on Cape Porpoise is described in a desparate letter from Wells   “they came to Cape-Porpus burnt a house begun to be Garrisoned, belonging to Nicho Moorey slew one young man: uiz: John Barrett (whose father and two Brothers, were killed by sum Indians as is supposed, ye last fall)”

1703   –  Stephen Harding and his family fled their home in time to save themselves from an Indian attack.  The Durrell family upriver were not so fortunate.  Philip Durrell’s wife and 4 children were kidnapped while he was away from home.  Mrs. Durrell pursuaded the Indians to let her return home with her one infant son.  She was kidnapped again in 1726 and she , her daughter and infant grandaughter were all killed.

1713   –  William Larrabee’s family was killed at his home near Butler’s Rock.

1723   –  The Old Garrison House now stands in Cape Porpoise at the site of the earlier Major’s Garrison.  White-haired Mr. Joseph Baily was scalped and killed by Indians there in October of 1723.   During the same month, two men from Huff’s Garrison, Fitz Henry and Bartow, being on Vaughn’s Island for wood, were surprised and wounded by three Indians.  The Indians tortured the two men, trying to get them to reveal the number of men at the garrison.  The Indians killed them and threw their bodies into a creek on the island which still bears the name Fitz Henry’s Ditch.  Also in 1723, Thirty women and children were sheltered at Harding’s Garrison when Chief  WaWa of Great Hill, and his men unsucessfully attacked.

1724 Mar   –   Felt, Wormwood and Lewis were killed by Indians while loading lumber onto a vessel anchored on the Kennebunk River.  All three were killed with bullets.  Sergeant Smith, of the Cape Porpoise fort, was killed by Indians on March 23, 1724.  Bradbury says he was killed at the fort on Stage Island but the new fort had already been built.  Others say Smith was killed on Vaughn’s Island.

1725  –  Mr. Huff’s daughter was milking his cow near Huff’s garrison when she was attacked by an Indian.  She knocked him down with her milk pail and made her escape to the house.  The same year, a boy was sent to Trott’s Island to retreive his father’s cow.  When he didn’t return another son was sent and then a third.  None of the boys ever returned.  The next morning their heads were discovered elevated on poles and seven Indians were tracked from Trott’s Island.  A man was also killed by Indians at Goff’s Brook in 1725.