7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)
Much of Maine was wracked by Anglo-Indian conflict from 1675 until the late 1720s, which devastated the region’s Native American and English communities. Berwick was caught in the middle of this inter-cultural warfare. On the evening of November 15th, Dr. Neill De Paoli will lead the audience on a historical and archaeological journey into the impact this warfare had on the makeup, layout, and dynamics of old Berwick. His research has revealed a community under considerable economic, social, and psychological stress as the settlement responded to Native American attacks on this and other settlements in Maine and New Hampshire.
Late seventeenth and early 18th century Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts records abound with references to the physical and economic toll King Philip’s, King William’s and Queen Anne’s Wars took on Berwick. In October 1675 a large Wabanaki force attacked Berwick, killing 9 settlers and garrison members and burning several homes and barns. King William’s War (1688-1697) was even more devastating as the settlement was often under the threat of attack or was attacked. Most destructive was a 1690 raid in which a large force of Wabanaki warriors and French troops burnt more than twenty homes and one mill and killed or captured 80-100 of residents. This and subsequent attacks on Berwick and nearby settlements such as Dover, Kittery, and York left Berwick in dire straits. In June of 1691, Francis Hooke of York reported to Massachusetts Bay officials that a Wabanaki war party had captured and occupied the garrison of Thomas Holmes (adjacent to today’s Counting House Museum) while other area garrisons were thinly manned or “breaking up.” Six years later, the selectmen of Berwick in a petition to the Bay government spoke of “burnt” or “Useless” saw mills, failed crops, and residents who were “generally Exceeding poor.”
De Paoli pushes his study beyond the toll this Anglo-Indian conflict took in lives and property. He also explores the emotional and mental state of Berwick’s residents. While historical records provide scanty outright evidence of the emotional strain that Berwick residents faced, close examination of wartime conditions coupled with modern examples of the psychology of civilian life during war has helped to paint a portrait of Berwick’s “community psyche.” He delves into the emotional strain of disrupted lives as Berwick residents contended with frequent rumors of pending Wabanaki and French attacks and life “in garrison” where conditions were often uncomfortable and stressful due to crowded and noisy quarters, poor sanitation, shortages of personal belongings, food, and water, and illness. In turn, the Portsmouth resident explores how victims of these attacks coped with personal injuries, captivity, and the loss of family members and friends. Dr. De Paoli closes his presentation with a look at how Berwick and her neighbors adjusted to these unsettled and frightening times through the development of improved military tactics.