From the past

Outcry along the Damariscotta – 1829

Sun, 11/11/2018 - 8:30am

Author’s note: In the late 1820s there was a series of altercations and confrontations between two men in Edgecomb. In May 1829, one of the men was sent to the county jail for assault and battery. Thereafter a general outcry of support for this man arose among the villages and towns all along the Damariscotta. Numerous petitions were signed and sent to the Maine Executive Council praying for his release. One petition went so far as to say they would be perfectly fine if they released the convicted man and imprison his accuser.

There was Zedekiah Richardson, the third son of Joseph and Hannah Richardson, born in Temple, N.H., Feb. 25, 1779; he married Sarah Burnham. He was by trade a blacksmith. He lived some years in Lyndeborough, N.H. In 1804 he settled in Lempster, N.H. He left Lempster and went to parts unknown in Maine about the year 1818, and was not heard from by his family or community thereafter. Zedekiah was rather eccentric and somewhat addicted to strong drink, though not a drunkard, and, having a large family of five children and a feeble wife, became discouraged and left his family to take care of themselves, the eldest being only sixteen years of age. His wife died in Lempster at over 80 years of age.


There was William Williams of Bristol, Maine. He married Sarah Knowlton of Nobleboro on the 18th of November, 1811.They were married by Elder Phineas Pilsbury at the house of her father Jeremiah Knowlton in Nobleboro. It is here noted that Jeremiah Knowlton was from Machias, and before moving to Nobleboro had resided in Bristol. William and Sarah eventually settled in East Edgecomb.

On the Edgecomb tax evaluations dated May, 1, 1828, William Williams is listed as having 2 improved acres valued at $24; he had 25 unimproved acres valued at $100. He had ½ a dwelling house valued at $175, and he also had a barn, one cow, and one swine. He possessed a boat called Fox, a 13 ton vessel valued at $78, $6 per ton.


In the late 1820s there were altercations and a violent confrontation between Zedekiah Richardson and William Williams in Edgecomb.

August 3, 1828, Zedekiah Richardson appeared before Justice of the Peace Thomas Cunningham in Edgecomb. It was alleged Zedekiah Richardson with clubs and other dangerous weapons threatened to kill William Williams, wound and do him some bodily injury. Zedekiah was found guilty and fined three hundred dollars until the setting of the court of Common Pleas at Wiscasset. On May 14, 1829 William Williams was bought before Justice of the Peace Thomas Cunningham at the house of Zedekiah Richardson upon the complaint of Zedekiah. It was alleged that on May 12 Williams with force and . . . (the entry is not finished in Thomas Cunningham’s docket book).

Another record has William Williams being convicted on May 4, 1829. The record also states that in the 1829 May term of the county court William Williams was indicted for an assault and battery with intent to commit murder. Williams was found guilty of assault and battery, but not felonious intent. He was sentenced to eight months imprisonment in the county goal, and he was to pay the costs of prosecution.

Thereafter a general outcry of support for William Williams arose in the villages and towns all along the Damariscotta. Many in the area signed petitions sent to the Maine Executive Council pleading for a pardon for William Williams and his freedom. One petition from Bristol (actually 2 petitions) to the Maine Executive Council was 7 pages joined together from the bottom to the top of each page of paper. It was dated June 1, 1829. It said:

We can certify Williams is a person of good industrial economical habits and may be justly said a good citizen and the said Richardson as we believe, universally, where he is known, has the character of being a quarrelsome, drunken, vile, unprincipled fellow.

It also said that Williams had bought a small farm and improved it; Williams was a fisherman by occupation. Williams had purchased a fishing boat, and outfitted it for the season. The petition ended by stating, “Your petitioners desire to encourage virtue, foster laudable ambition & discourage vice.” The petition stated that if the sentence is carried out (jail & cost) it would ruin Williams.

William Hunter of Bristol wrote Albert Smith of Waldoboro that he believed all Bristol would sign, but he hoped there were a sufficient amount of signatures as it was a good deal of trouble to ride about. Among the signatories to this petition were Williams’ Wentworth relations who lived across the river in Walpole. One of those Wentworth signatories, twenty-three year-old Henry Wentworth was signatory the previous year to a temperance pledge in Bristol. Mr. Henry, as inscribed on his grave stone, died six months after signing the petition for William Williams’ release. He is buried at the Wentworth Point Cemetery at the Darling Marine Center.

Other signers to this petition for William Williams included the Wentworth’s relations, the Kelseys, numerous residents from the surrounding Clarks Cove Rd. neighborhood in Bristol, and numerous Bristol residents including people from Louds Island; the Bristol selectmen also signed the petition.

A June, 1829 petition from Edgecomb stated:

We do verily believe that all who know the character of Mr. Williams & of Richardson his accuser would without a solitary exception decide that the latter who is universally considered a pest to society ought to take the place of the former.

They essentially explained they fully support law and justice, but in this case justice was not being done.

Another petition from Edgecomb and Bristol listed reasons why Williams should be pardoned. 1) Williams was provoked; Richardson had attacked him with a stake. 2) Williams was in solitary confinement with no exercise or labor. 3) Williams, a fisherman with a large family to support will be deprived for a year to come. 4) He was uniformly esteemed an industrious & honest & exemplary man.

One Damariscotta River petition was signed by the selectmen from Newcastle, Edgecomb, and Nobleboro. A petition from Nobleboro and Jefferson noted “the notorious detestable character of Richardson.” The petition stated the pardon of William Williams would be gratifying to thousands. Among the signatories to this petition were the selectmen of Nobleboro and Jefferson. The surgeon Lot Myrick signed it, as did Josiah Myrick, one of the jurors in the case.

Indeed there seemed to be political pressure on local officials. One person wrote, “The subject of the Williams case and the deep & unusual interest taken for him by All who know him must be my excuse for again interceding in his behalf. We all know his character as a neighbor and a citizen to be above reproach. He is endeared to all for his uniformly kind & friendly deportment. His imprisonment therefore is a very & almost unspeakably great affliction to us all.” The writer went on to list reasons that William Williams should be pardoned, that Williams had learned his lesson, that it had already cost $100 to defend him, that his family is poor. The writer implored, “Don’t take $50 from him and the children’s mouth.”

Nothing is further known by this author about the resolution of this case.


On the 1830 census Zedekiah Richardson is listed as being between the ages of 50 and 59 and living in Edgecomb. In this household there is a male between the age of 20 and 29, two males between the age of 10 and 14, and one male between the age of 5 and 9. In this household there is also a female between the age of 15 and 19, a female between the age of 10 and 14, and a female under the age of 5. On the 1840 census 50-59 year-old Zedekiah Richardson is living in Westport, head of a household of 6 people, including a female between the age of 50 and 59.


On the 1830 census William Williams of Edgecomb was recorded as being between the ages of 50 and 59 years of age. In this household there was a female between the age of 40 and 49, and a female between the age of 20 and 29.

March 25, 1839 the poor of Edgecomb were set up at auction. Those that bid them off were to go after them and carry them to their places of residence. One Sarah Fly was bid off at one dollar and ninety one cents per week by William Williams. Sarah was bid off by William Williams for the same price March 14, 1840.

On the 1840 census William Williams is a male between the age of 60 and 69. He is living with a female between the age of 50 and 59, and a female between the age of 30 and 39. Also living in this household is a female between the age of 15 and 19, a male between the age of 10 and 14, a female between the age of 5 and 9, and a male under the age of 5. Three of these children are scholars attending school, and one person in the household is occupied in agriculture.

There was a record of a Bill of Sale from William Williams of Edgecomb, yeoman, to David W. Chapman of Nobleboro, trader, for $20.00 for twenty cords of soft wood, dated Feb 19, 1846, signed by William Williams and witnessed by John Hussey. There was also a record of a mortgage from William Williams of Edgecomb, yeoman, to David W. Chapman of Nobleboro, trader, for $26.29 for “eighty thousand bricks in the yard occupied by Willard Davidson & John Kenny in Edgecomb,” dated Sept 21, 1846, signed by William Williams and witnessed by Benja. Chapman.

It is not known when William Williams died. On the 8th of May, 1848 Sarah Williams of Edgecomb was appointed administratix of the estate of William Williams of Edgecomb who died intestate.


Source information for this article can be found in the Wentworth Point History Supplements, a copy of which can be viewed at the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta, the South Bristol Historical Society, and the Louise Dean Library at the Darling Marine Center. If you would like to share additional about William Williams, his family, or this story, please contact the library at the Darling Marine Center, 563-8193.

Founded in 1965, the Darling Marine Center is the University of Maine’s marine laboratory. Its mission is to connect people to the ocean. The center’s researchers, staff, and students work alongside fishermen, aquaculture entrepreneurs, marine industry professionals, and other members of the community in Maine and around the world. More information is available at