Chip Griffin speaks on Scotts Irish heritage at St. Andrews Village

Local historian and lawyer presents on Jan. 11
Posted:  Friday, January 2, 2015 - 9:30am

Historian and local attorney Chip Griffin will describe the legacy of the fiercely independent Scots Irish people, who were among the first settlers to the Boothbay region, and whose values help define the region’s character to this day.

Griffin’s talk will be at St. Andrews Village on Jan. 11 at 2 p.m.

Griffin, who grew up in Boothbay Harbor and graduated from Bowdoin College summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, will paint a picture of life on Maine’s rugged frontier in the 18th century through stories of the people who settled the region and did great deeds of piety, bravery and, in some cases, immorality.

The Scot Irish settlers of the Boothbay region were largely descendants of the Lowland Scottish families who settled in Northern Ireland in the 17th century. They were both pushed and pulled to America in the 18th century, starting around 1730 by the promise of free or cheap land on the frontier and the desire to escape rising rents on the land they farmed in Scotland.

In religion they were protestant. In character they were egalitarian, hardworking, fiercely independent and pugnacious. All of these characteristics, particularly the last one, made them attractive to the colonial authorities who settled them on the frontier as a buffer between existing settlements and the increasingly discontented and warlike native peoples.

Among the heroes of the early Boothbay region was John Murray, a Presbyterian minister born in Northern Ireland and educated at the University of Edinburgh. Murray sailed to settlement of Townsend (later Boothbay) at the behest of his aunt and uncle, Andrew and Sarah Reed.

In the frontier town, Murray played a key role in knitting his community together. He was the Boothbay area’s representative to the Revolutionary Congress in Massachusetts around 1775 and when British warships sailed into Boothbay’s inner harbor and threatened to bombard the town, Murray helped negotiate a truce.

Murray was so active in the patriot cause during the Revolutionary War that the British placed the princely sum of 500 pounds on his head. Murray was the leading Presbyterian minister in New England during the tumultuous eighteenth century, leaving an amazing and long lasting legacy although he only lived to 50.

On the hell-raiser side of the Scots Irish heritage was Samuel Ball, who was born around 1722 and lived on the eastern frontier of the Sheepscot River. Growing up on land that was claimed both by settlers and Native Americans, Ball’s father was killed by Native Americans during King George’s Way in 1747.

Two years later, after peace had been negotiated, Ball, of Balltown, now Whitefield and Jefferson, was accused of being one of several men who participated in the unprovoked murder of an Abenaki chief near Wiscasset.

Captured and jailed about a year later, Ball along with five other suspects, was being moved from the jail in Wiscasset to York when he escaped. Re-arrested, Ball was placed under a heavy guard but managed to escape again in 1751 when arrangements were being made to move him south to the Boston area for trial.

Ball, who claimed to be innocent of the killings, lived until about 1800, spending the last five decades of his life in the Boothbay area. When he died, his estate included 90 acres of land on Squirrel Island.

This event is free and open to the public but space is limited, so please call 207-633-0920 for more information and to RSVP.