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1690 Expedition up the Androscoggin

Created December 1997

Benjamin Church's 1690 Expedition up the Androscoggin

The event that took place in the year 1690 on the Androscoggin River has been told and retold many times. In most cases the writers relied on one particular document without searching for any other account. Often the writers were more interested in telling a good story than in accurately reporting an event that occurred well before the time of any of their readers. Some writers took a great deal of liberty in describing the event. The story needs to be told in an unbiased and more complete way. However, in fairness to those earlier writers, our research has not been successful in determining the truth. Therefore, we offer you the sources we located during our research. Judge for yourself, what happened at Laurel Hill in September 1690.

Ne-Do-Ba Comment - - - Please remember this was a time of war - the third war between Maine Abenaki and English Settlers.

Church's Orders - The first document is a transcript of the orders received by Maj. Church just prior to setting out on the expedition.

The Official Report - This document is a letter (or formal account) written by Major Benjamin Church, shortly after the event occurred. As it is a detailed military report to his superiors, it should be considered "the true accounting of the expedition". However, by the time he writes this report, he has experienced "many cross things falling" and some of his actions may already have been questioned. He may be trying to make a "good" accounting of his actions. In any event, this letter is the only document found that can be considered a "first hand" account.

Below is a map of the Laurel Hill area of Auburn, where the "Indian Fort" once stood.

village and activity areas map

His Son's Version - This document is found in a book originally written and published in 1716 by Thomas Church, son of Benjamin Church. It was reprinted in 1772, and again in the early 1800s with extensive notes by historian Samuel G. Drake. The transcript that we provide you here comes from the 1989 Heritage Books reprint of the 1829 second edition by Samuel Drake. Thomas Church supposedly had access to his father's journals, letters, reports, etc. and to his father, who was still alive but quite aged at the time of the writing. It should also be noted that Thomas was born after this event took place, so his knowledge of the subject is second hand.

The Mysterious Document - The source of this story is a true mystery. It appeared in the Lewiston Journal in 1881 and provides us with a different picture of events just prior to the skirmish at the fort. However, it creates more questions than answers. The writer takes liberty to create dialog for Church (which could not possibly be known) and this makes all other dialog in the story suspicious of accuracy. But, would this writer have been so bold as to create an entire event? Perhaps the writer (identified only as H.F.B) was a descendant of one of the soldiers with access to a journal or oral history. But why are these two soldiers never mentioned in any other account?

What the early Historians had to say - This last document contains accounts written by early historians. They may have had access to information or oral accounts from soldiers with Church.

Brief background of Benjamin Church with comments by Ne-Do-Ba