Exploring & Sharing the Wabanaki History of Interior New England
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His Christian name was Pierre Paul. Most likely he pronounced it Pial Pol. The early settlers corrupted it to Pierpole and Perepol. He was Algonqian from Trois Rivières. We don't know how old he was at any given time, but he was an adult with a family in 1781 when early settlers of the Sandy River first met him. We also know he fought on the American side during the Revolutionary War where he received the title of Captain. We should place his date of birth before 1768. When and where he died is still a mystery. The last date we have found him in history is 1801 when he filed a petition to sell his land in Strong, Maine.
When settlers first came to the Sandy River there were two Abenaki families living in the area: Old Philip and Pierpole. Pierre Paul was living at Farmington Falls which was the site of the old Ammessecontee Village. Philip soon moved away. This is perhaps the same Philip who sold the Indian Stream land to Thomas Eames in 1796. Abenaki hunters continued to trade in the Sandy River area for many years.
Where did Pierre Paul come from? Local historians made a number of guesses. Some said Norridgewock, some said Penobscot, some said he must have been Androscoggin. They were all wrong. He was Algonquin. We know this for certain, because of a recently discovered church record in Quebec - but more on that later.
We are told that Pierre Paul was of "medium height, broad in the shoulders, straight, strong and lithe". He always wore native dress "a blanket and moccasins, with ornamentation of silver bracelets and a silver medal". He spoke English well enough to communicate with his neighbors. He traveled to Quebec each year to "carry his gifts to the priest and receive his benediction". The yearly trip might also have included trading and visiting with relatives.
He was given 100 acres of land on the Sandy River for his service during the War. This was lot #11 in township #3 (Readstown/Middletown/Strong). The original deed for the land that now makes up the town of Strong (Township No. 3 in the 1st Range of townships on the west side of Kennebec River) includes reservations and resolves to accommodate the early settlers that had established homesteads and made improvements to the land prior to the date of the deed. These reservations include the usual lots for the school, church, minister, etc. along with the following section titled "Reservation for Capt. Peirpole" in the left margin of the deed. The text of this section reads;
And also reserving one hundred acres for the use and benefit of Captain Peirpole (so called) an Indian & his heirs, who settled on said land a number of years ago, & still resides on the same.
The document is "Sworn to before Justice Cooper 1st February 1794"
Pierre Paul's wife was known as Hannah Susep to the settlers. She was Abenaki and her Christian name was Anne Joseph (or perhaps Anne-Josephte). It is said she was originally from Norridgewock. Some have suggested she was present at the village in 1724 when it was attack by the English, but that is extremely unlikely. One of her daughters was born about 1783, some 59 years later putting her well past childbearing age if she was alive as early as that. Pierre Paul is quoted as saying "wisest squaw of all the Sandy, the best forest women". She made birch-bark containers which she sold or traded locally. The basket pictured here was owned by William Lockhart's grandmother and made by Hannah in the late 1700s. Hannah typically wanted nothing to do with her neighbors, she "maintained toward them a sullen and surly demeanor". However, we know of one instance of her helping a neighbor whose shawl was missing. When Hannah recognized the shawl, she took it from the visiting Indian and returned it to it's owner, a Mrs. Hunter.
The names of their children seem to be confused by time. We had a couple of records for his children, but most of our knowledge of his family was of the "legend" or perhaps we should say "legendary" type. A most exciting development occurred when a fellow researcher alerted us to a baptism and marriage record at St. Joseph de Beauce parish in Quebec. We have placed copies of these wonderful church records in our online genealogy database (link at the bottom of the page). Essentially these two records tell us the family was at this parish in October of 1800, where 2 grown daughters where baptized, 1 of them was then married along with a third daughter.
A woman claiming to be the great grand daughter of Pierre Paul visited with older residents of Strong in the early 1900s. Unfortunately no one bothered to record her name or where she was from. We suspect she was a member of the Annance family, living at Greeneville.
Pierre Paul's relations with his neighbors "were most pleasant, ... he rendered them essential service". They spoke of him as "a most kindly disposed man, gentle and religious". Descendants of the Freeman family tell a story of Pierre Paul traveling from Strong to Farmington in a blinding snowstorm to fetch a doctor for an ailing member of their family.
Pierre Paul was a friend and frequent visitor of Deacon Livermore. Found among the Deacon's papers was the following place names (dated 28-Feb-1789) given by Pierre Paul (you will find our notes in [brackets]);
Pierre Paul was called upon to help solve a white land claims case that was based in part on old Indian Deeds. One of the deeds covered the lands of Thomas Purchase, who was "run off" in 1675 by Androscoggins fed up with his dishonest trading methods. Another deed was known as the Pejepscot or Worumbo's Deed. Worumbo was the sagamore at Amitgonpontook (the Auburn village) when it was destroyed by Maj. Benjamin Church in 1690. Pierre Paul's affidavit was taken by William Reed of Strong and dated July 19, 1793. It reads:
I, Perepole, of lawful age, testify and say that the Indian name of the river was Pejepscook, from Quabacook, which is now called Merrymeeting bay, as far as Amitgonpontook, what the English call Harris' falls, and all the river from Harris' falls up was called Ammascoggin, and the longest falls on the river was above Roccomecook about twelve miles, and those falls have got three pitches, and there are no other falls on the river like them, and they used to catch most salmon at the foot of those falls; and the Indians used to say when down the river from Roccomecook, and when they got down over the falls by Harris', that now come Pejepscook.
his mark: PERE POLE
Local history tells of Pierre Paul's lead mine somewhere on Day's Mountain. He would disappear in the forest and return with lead for making his bullets. No one has ever located this mine although many have tried. It is possibly there was never a mine. The Abenaki had an important trail through this area in earlier days. It is likely there were munitions caches at strategic points along their trails. Perhaps Pierre Paul simply knew where one of these old hiding places was located.
At what time Pierre Paul and his family left the Sandy is uncertain. Most believe it was sometime between 1797 and 1801. He was seen camped for several days near the falls in 1799. He was at St. Joseph De Beauce in Quebec in October of 1800 where two of his daughters were married. His petition in 1801 indicates he was planning to go to Canada. This petition also suggests he remained in the area until 1801 or returned to the area that year to file his petition.
His petition of 1801 to the General Court of Massachusetts reads:
To the Hon. the Senate & the Hon. the House of Representatives in
General Court Assembled --
your Petitioners humbly Showeth that when Township No.3 or Reads Town, on Sandy river, was purchased by William Read & others, one hundred acres was reserved for me Capt. Pealpole, Indian Man & my heirs, but not for assigns. and as I now wish to sell said Land and __ [house?] which is Lot no. 11 which I possessed long before that purchase & ever since. I humbly pray your Hon. that I may be authorized to convey the same by deed as there is not any other Indian family living Near, I have so many visiting Indians, it keepeth me excessive Poor. I would further State that as my kindred live at Kanada, I wish to remove thither not only that I may enjoy my Friends, but that Religion which I was taught to observe - as in duty bound with ever pray -
Pealpole X Coveagme
We the Subscribers do hereby certify that the above Statement by the said, Pealpole is True. we would further State that we think it much for his interest to sell said Lot & remove to Kanada. For the reasons by him Stated, we further certify that he has now an opportunity of selling his lot for the full value. Provided he can be authorized to give a deed of the same - we add that [he was?] Friendly & a good Soldier in the American war -- "
Resolve on the petition of Pealpole Coviagme an Indean Man authorizing him
to sell and convey lot of Land in Readstown in the County of Kennebec.
Feby 12 . 1801
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In Senate February 6 1801
On the petition of Pealpole Coviagme and Indian Man praying that he may be authorized to sell and convey a lot of land in a place called Reads town or No three in the county of Kennebec.
Resolved for reasons set forth in said petitions that the said Pealpole Coviagme be and he is hereby authorized to sell and convey lot Number eleven in a place called No. Three or Readstown in sandy river in the county of Kennebec, containing one hundred acres ___ or resolve to the contrary notwithstanding __ [part?] down for concurrence
In the House of Representatives Feby 11 1801
We learn from this petition that no other Indians lived near, but many where traveling through the area. This petition also verifies that Pierre Paul served during the Revolutionary War, but we have no further information about his service record at this time.
Ne-Do-Ba Comment - - - A big thanks to Eunice Shurtleff of Strong, who donated a photocopy of the original petition to sell the land. This has cleared up a few things for all of us. Strong celebrated it's 200th birthday in 2001, which created renewed interest in discovering more about Pierre Paul and his family.
Another great big thanks to Johan Robitalle for pointing us to the Church Record for the double marriage of Pierre Paul's daughters.