The Humprey Chadbourne Site Excavation

A project of the Old Berwick Historical Society


Summary of Excavations by Emerson W. Baker


Site History


            In 1643 Humphrey Chadbourne bought a large tract of land at the confluece of the Great Works and Salmon Falls River from Sagamore Rowls. [1]  Four years later Rowls sold more land to Chadbourne’s brother-in-law, Thomas Spencer.  Finally in 1651, he sold “an ould Corne ground which I the sayd Rowls have formerly made use of” to Chadbourne’s mother-in-law, Katherine Treworgy. [2]  Thus, from an early date, the family were well acquainted with the local Indians. Presumably, Humphrey took up residence on the site at the time of his purchase in 1643 or soon afterwards. The confluence of the rivers was an ideal spot for a fur trading post and Chadbourne's primary activity in these years probably was a fur trader, though he also was a house builder, a skill he would have learned from his father. In 1651 George Walton of Portsmouth, sucessfully sued Humphrey for building a house that was not up to the standards agreed upon in the building contract.[3]  In July 1654 Humphrey Chadbourne accompanied local Indians on a trading voyage to Lake Winnipesaukee, in southern New Hampshire. There he found himself at a major gathering of peoples, including “sagamores of note.”[4] Collectively this group wanted Chadbourne to help them negotiate a treaty with the government of Massachusetts.


            That same year  the town of Kittery granted Humphrey's father William Chadbourne a saw mill priviledge on the Great Works River. The Chadbournes soon constructed a saw mill on the site, and the fur trade probably took a back seat to the developing lumber industry.


            The thin documentary evidence suggests that the first house on the site may have been very simple. In the early eighteenth century Humphrey's great grandson made a deposition as a part of a land claims case on the Saco River. As a part of his deposition he said he remembered his father and uncle reminiscing about  their "grandfather's logg house or loging house and that said house stood about half a mile Southerly of Quampeging (sic) Landing in Berwick near Little River now called great works river and further saith not." [5]  This locates the "loging house" somewhere near the confluence of the Salmon Falls and Great Works Rivers.  While one might immediately think that Chadbourne was referring to a log cabin, a "logging hut" was in actuality a very crude structure, perhaps a lean-to or a semi-subterranean pit house, that was constructed by loggers, while establishing a temporary camp in the area. For example, in 1707 the Kittery town records refer to land laid out to Thomas Goodwin,  "beginning about 30 or 40 poles below the logging house or wigwam that Wm. Grant, Thomas and Daniel Goodwin, and Joseph Hodsden, kept in, the last winter." [6]


            It would seem that the deponent is probably remembering his father and uncle reminisce about their childhoods, when they remembered the original Chadbourne residence, a very crude affair, indeed. By their childhood the logging hut would have given way to the fine mansion house but the first structure still stood, perhaps being used as some sort of outbuilding.


            The Chadbournes were not your typical early New England family, for several reasons. First, they were among the first settlers of the region, and related to the leading families.  Humphrey's wife Lucy Treworgy was the neice of Nicholas Shapleigh, one of the richest and most powerful men in Maine. After the death of her husband James Treworgy, Lucy's mother would marry Edward Hilton. The Hiltons were also among the elite of the Piscataqua region. Although it cannot be proven, the family may be also be unusual because of they may have strayed from mainstream Puritan views.  In 1645 Humphrey and Roger Nanney had jointly purchased a house in Dover from Christopher Lawson. Nanney was the son-in-law of the the antimonian leader, Reverend John Wheelwright. Lawson was a  kinsman of Anne Hutchinson and a follower of Wheelwright who had signed the Exeter Compact. Humphrey's and Lucy's daughter Patience married Thomas Spencer, who was disenfranchised in 1659 for entertaining Quakers. Their dealings with Quakers and Antinomians certainly suggest the family may have swayed from main stream Puritanism.


            Humphrey Chadbourne would prosper on the land and would become a leading office holder in and respected man in Kittery. When he died in 1667, he was one of the wealthiest men in New England. In addition to his mansion house and farm, he owned the nearby saw mill, a second farm in present-dat Eliot, and other holdings of timberlands. The mansion house and farm were valued at 250 pounds.  At the time, the entire estate for the average Maine man was perhaps 80-100 pounds. Thus, the house must have been extensive and well built. Humphrey's will was written May 25, 1667, and recorded on October 15, 1667.


            Humphrey Chadbourne left behind a young family. The home farm was entailed by his will, and  remained in the hands of the eldest son (Lieutenant Humphrey Chadbourne) and his eldest son (Humphrey Chadbourne III) until 1763. People outside the eldest son had very limited rights to use the land. When Lieutentant Humphrey Chadbourne inherited the land, he was only 14. The terms of the will dictated that his mother Lucy essentially controlled the property until he reached adulthood. Even after this point, Lucy and the minor children had the right to continue to live in the family house. Lucy remarried after April 1 1669 and probably by April 13, 1671. Her second husband, Thomas Wills, was a Kittery merchant. 

(YD 2: 27-31).


It was a second marriage for Thomas Wills as well, having married Sarah Abbott by 1662.   They lived in Kittery, in the Crooked Lane house, which was given to them by Sarah father, Walter Abbott. No deed was ever made, but this gift was confirmed in a deed on Jan. 30, 1688 (presumably actually 1689, especially since the deed presumes the 1688 death of Thomas Wills Sr.). The deed is from Peter, Thomas and John Abbott (all sons of Walter Abbott) to their niece and nephew, Thomas and Sarah Wills. The deed states the house was a gift from Walter Abbott to their parents, and upon their death, the children were to inherit the house - 2/3 to Thomas Jr. and 1/3 to his sister Sarah. By this time Sarah had probably married John Geare. So, presumably soon after she married, Lucy moved in with Thomas in his house in Kittery, and she lived there until his death in 1689. She may have moved back to South Berwick at this time, though she would marry a third time, to Elias Stileman.


Probably about 1676 Lieutenant Humphrey Chadbourne marries Sarah Bolles. Their first child was born in September 1678. In 1676 Humphrey would have been 23 and Sarah 19.   Once he married, he gained the right, according to his fathers will, to "fence and in a quantity of the aforesaid lands, at Newichawannock, either ten acres more or less for planting land, and also free liberty to erect and build him a Mansion house and other houses." To date, all evidence suggests that he instead elected to live in his father's house. 


King William's War would bring an end to the Chadbourne homestead. In 1689 Dover suffered from a devastating raid. In the spring of 1690 a combined Native and French force attacked Salmon Falls, killing and taking captive many friends and neigbors of the Chadbournes. No document survives to tell us exactly what happened to the homestead, or when it was destroyed, but all evidence suggests it was during the Salmon Falls raid.



History of Excavation


            The Humphrey Chadbourne site was discovered in August 1995, during a two day project to introduce local teachers to archaeology. Every summer since then, the Old Berwick Historical Society has sponsored a two week excavation at the site. The project is scheduled to conclude in 2001. The project has been a unique partnership between the Old Berwick Historical Society, the Chadbourne Family Association, as well as professional archaeologists and dozens of community volunteers. This project of the Old Berwick Historical Society is directed by Emerson W. Baker, Ph.D., of Salem State College, and a resident of York, Maine. The field assistants are Richard Fernald, Richard Lunt, and Gordon Russell. Several hundred volunteers have given thousands of volunteer hours to excavate the site, as well as clean and catalogue the artifacts.


Summary of work by seasons


1995 - A two day fieldschool was organized, on a site that was believed to contain the remains of the 1630s Newichawannock trading post. Instead, a mid-seventeenth-century homestead is revealed, the home of Humphrey Chadbourne Sr. and Jr., and their families.


1996 - The project expanded to two weeks of excavation and laboratory work to clean, catalogue and study artifacts. It became clear that a minimum of two structures had been discovered - a substantial dwelling house, and an earth-fast outbuilding, located just to the north of the house. All evidence  indicated a house built in the 1640s or 1650s, and destroyed  during the Salmon Falls raid of 1690. In other words, this could not be the 1630s trading post, but the home of the Chadbournes who purchased the land in 1643, and lived there until forced off in 1690. The 1996 dig was a tremendous success - over sixty people volunteered on an excavation that had produced some exciting finds that were beginning to tell us quite a bit about life for the first English settlers of the area. The story was carried far and wide by local newspapers coverage on MPBN's "Quest" television show and through a series of slide talks. The main talk given by Emerson Baker in the fall of 1996 had over 140 people in attendance. 


1997 - Building upon previous successes, in 1997 the project lasted three weeks, with two weeks in the field, and one week in the laboratory. The 1997 project began in June with the installation of an exhibit curated by Emerson Baker, which told the story of the dig and displayed some of the significant finds of the 1995 and 1996 seasons. Every year since then, the exhibit has been added on to. In this way, even when the dig is not taking place, people can learn from it.  Digging proceeded from July 22-26 (Tuesday-Saturday) and July 28-August 1 (Monday-Friday). After the first week, there were so many finds that  Gordon Russell set up the laboratory on the second floor of the Counting House, supervising an average of six volunteers a day.  The laboratory work continued after the dig, with the work being completed on August 18. Approximately seventy people volunteered on the dig in 1997. Most people who helped in 1996 came back, and  quite a few new volunteers helped as well.  Most volunteers came from the Piscataqua region, but some came from as far north as greater Portland, and as far south as Essex County, Massachusetts. During the first week the crew averaged sixteen people a day. The second week, with a second crew in the lab, the field crew was usually around 10 people. As in the past, a sizable portion of the crew are teachers and students (middle school, secondary school, undergraduates, and even several graduate students). One class from the University of New Hampshire visited twice: once to dig and once to work in the lab. A class of 35 students from Salem State visited the lab as well.  In addition to volunteer excavators, approximately 200 people visited the dig. The archaeological field school from Strawbery Banke Museum toured the site, as did a large group of students from Hong Kong who were in a summer program at Berwick Academy. Others learned about the dig through newspaper coverage (Portsmouth Herald, Foster's Daily Democrat, Portland Press Herald) or on the 6:00 news on Channel 8 (Portland). The public lecture by Baker took place on September 25 with over one hundred in attendance.


1998 -  The brief 1998 fieldseason focused on fully delineating the mansion house, and an adjacent earthfast barn or outbuilding. After these excavations it was now known that the house underwent at least three phases of construction between ca. 1643, and the time Chadbourne’s probate inventory was drawn in 1667.  After the 1998 season, the artifact total for the dig surpassed 15,000. In 1998, a third structure, labelled Structure 3 was located immediately to the south of Structure 1.


1999 - Work in 1999 took place in several areas of the site. First, extensive work was carried out in the cellar of the parlor, particulary to reveal the brick chimney remains in the parlor. In addition, extensive work was done throughout the lean-two. Some excations took place in structure two, in hopes of finding further bounds for it. Finally, work was done to attempt to bound the site, particularly, to define structure 3, the structure immediately south of Structure 1. Although the site bounds escaped definition, it became clear that Structure 3 was a seventeenth century residence. The artifacts tend to be very slightly earlier than Structure 1. This gives rise to the speculation that Structure 3 was the initial house built on the site by Humphrey Chadbourne, before her constructed his mansion house.



Archaeological Results




The Humphrey Chadbourne provides some of the most important data yet recovered on seventeenth-century Maine housing. Since the early extant house in the state is the MacIntyre garrison of 1707, we have no standing buildings left to study early building practices in Maine.


            The core of the site is Structure 1,  Humphrey Chadbourne's mansion house. Currently the believed dimensions of the house are believed to be 43' x 30'.  Excavation has revealed that the building was constructed in at least three phases, using a variety of building techniques and materials. The first phase was a one room, two story house, with a massive hearth, and adjacent bulkhead leading to a full stoned cellar. A second phase of construction included a rear lean-to, build on 2-3 courses of stone footings, but lacking a cellar. At the same time, a side lean-to was constructed opposite the hearth - creating a central chimney with kitchen on one side, and lean-to on the other. This side lean-to was built on earth-fast posts. Finally, in 1664, a parlor and end chimney was added onto the end of the kitchen, and the rear lean-to was extended to keep the building as a rectangle. The 1664 date is confirmed by a dated window lead and dated brick found in this part of the house, and the inclusion of the parlor in Chadbourne’s 1667 probate inventory.  The parlor was plastered, an expensive rarity for its day, but the room sat above a wood-lined cellar, secured by earthfast posts. The chimney base sat on clay, held in place by a wooden retaining wall, anchored with earthfast posts. Behind the parlor, the extension of the lean-to was constructed with sills on grade.   


The substantial floor plan, plastering and a large number of windows (then an expensive luxury) suggest a true "mansion house," on a grand scale never before found archaeologically in Maine. Still, the house is not out of place for the wealthier settlers of the Piscataqua. Richard Candee, who has provided invaluable advice to the project, has pointed out that architecturally the house has much in common with the 1664 Richard Jackson house, still standing in Portsmouth.   At the same time, the Chadbourne house is a bit of an enigma, because of the variety of construction techniques used, including fairly crude techniques such as earth fast posts, woodlined cellars, and sills laid on grade. Although such techniques are relatively common at other Maine sites, they have tended to be viewed as an expedient, used by people who did not have the money, the skills, or the know how to build in a better fashion. The fact that Humphrey Chadbourne, a wealthy millwright who was also a an experienced carpenter, would also build this way is somewhat surprising. Chadbourne also did not lack for labor, for his probate inventory lists five indentured servants. Presumably Chadbourne used earthfast architecture as a short cut. There must have been enough work to be done at the mill to keep everyone busy, and he had to wait until a business lull to complete the construction of the parlor. Unfortunately, he died before he could complete the project.  After his death, Humphrey Jr. and Lucy must have had other priorities, as the renovations were left as is.


Structure 2


Structure 2 is an earthfast building, whose dimensions have not yet been determined. Minimally it measured 15' x 15.' Three posts have been located for this building, as well as a shallow cellar, measuring 8' x 14'. Despite extensive work in this area in 1999, no posts have been located for the northern end of this building. It is conceivable that this end may have been anchored by sill on grade construction, as a piece of what is believed to be a burned sill was excavated along the line of the western wall, just outside the shallow cellar. The presence of redwares which were often used in dairying, combined with the shallow cellar, suggests this area might have been a dairy. However, the presence of tablewares and a lateen spoon also suggest that food consumption took place here as well. Hence, this may have been a multiple purpose building, serving as a dairy, as well as a quarters for the indentured servants.



Structure 3


In 1998 work immediately south of Structure 1 led to the discovery of Structure 3. To date no walls, postholes or other features have been recovered for the building. Still, its presence is clear by the excavation of brick and nail, as well as domestic artifacts, including calcine bone and ceramics. As with Structure 2, these finds suggest an area of food consumption and domestic activity. Although this area has seen limited test pitting, the slender data here suggests a house that might be slightly older than the Structure 1. This is based principally on tobacco pipe data, where fragments of several belly bowls have been recovered, and 8/64" pipe stems are more the most common size. Belly bowls are a shape that was more common in the early to mid seventeenth century. In the 1660s and 1670s it was gradually replaced by elbow-shaped pipe bowls, a form more common at Structure 1. Likewise, in Structure 1, 7/64" pipe stems are more common than 8/64" stems, and 8/64" tend to be slightly older.  Still, the sample of artifacts is still too small to be stastically significant. Much more work is planned in the area of Structure 3 in 2000 to better define this structure's nature and date of occupation. For now, our working hypothesis is that this may have been the Chadbourne's initial dwelling on the site, constructed in 1643 or shortly thereafter by Humphrey. It could even be the "logging hut" referred to in his great-grandson's deposition.




            To date over 20,000 artifacts have been recovered from the site. The site was rapidly abandoned and then burned down, with virtually all of the family's possessions inside. Thus, it presents a complete and well-preserved record of life in Maine in the late 1600s.  The fact that the Chadbourne's were one of the wealthiest families in the colony means that they left a rather large and wide-ranging set of possessions behind for archaeologists.  Many of the artifacts from the dig are on display at the the Old Berwick Historical Society's Counting House Museum. The dig is one of the most artifact-rich and most important archaeology sites discovered in Southern Maine. Most are every-day sort of items: hand-forged nails, window glass, bits of stew bones, or stems from clay pipe stems. Others are much more revealing and unique.  several complete spoons - including one engraved "HL C" for Humphrey and Lucy Chadbourne;  buttons made of silver wound thread; a mirror with an ivory handle; a decorated spur;  an embossing seal with the image of a swan, used to seal letters with wax.


            As one would expect, many artifacts are related to the buildings on site. Thousands of hand-forged nails have been found, as well as hundreds of pieces of window glass, and window leads. Although these artifacts are typical, their sheer volume speaks to the wealth of the family. Since nails were hand-forged and not mass produced, they were a costly item. Window glass was a relatively new technology, and still expensive. While poor families had few or no glass windows, the Chadbourne house was filled with windows. One piece of window glass is quite unique, as it has "Tho:" scratched into it. Such window graffitti was not uncommon in colonial times. People would use diamonds and other sharp objects to scratch their names or names of loved ones into glass. "Tho:" was the seventeenth-century abbreviation for Thomas. It presumably refers to either Lucy Chadbourne's second husband, Thomas Wills, or her son-in-law, Thomas Spencer. The site also has several dated artifacts. Two window leads are marked "1664." It was not uncommon for glaziers to place their initials or date of manufacture on the inside seam of a window lead. A brick marked "64" was uncovered in the parlor, not far from one of the dated window leads. Also, numerous pieces of plaster were found in the parlor, and these are another sign of the wealth of the family. Plastering rooms was a very new technique in the 1660s, when the room was constructed.  Indeed, only one other seventeenth-century Maine site has produced plaster.  Fancy door hardware and imported "cock's head" hinges as well as curtain rings suggest the house was well furnished.  


            Another substanial part of the artifact assemblage relates to the preparation and consumption of food. Hundreds of pieces of redware would have been used in the preparation and storage of food. Fragments of iron and copper kettles would have been used for cooking. Perhaps the most the most unusual food-related artifact to be excavated is an iron dripping pan, which would have been placed in a fireplace under a spit, to catch meat juices for gravy. Numerous bones have been found, indicating the family principally a diet of domestic meat from cows, pigs and sheep. They also ate cod fish.  The numerous pieces of fine delftwares and other tablewares, in addition to spoons and knives suggest the Chadbournes were accustomed to fine dining.


            Other artifacts indicate occupations and activities on the site. An ax, a chisel, a timber dog, and pieces of saw mill blades are evidence of lumbering and saw milling. Chains, buckles and harness hardware wer probably used by the Chadbourne's five teams of oxen used to haul timber. A file would have been used to sharpen saw blades and other tools. Parts of a scythe blade is a reminder of harvesting crops. Fish hooks were used to catch dinner. Gun flints, musket balls, lead shot, a gun worm, and the breech plug from a pistol are all reminders of the threat of frontier warfare that would eventually claim the site. An embossed brass spur would have been used for horse riding, and also as a conspicuous sign of the family's wealth and power.


            A number of personal possessions  give us details of daily life. Quite a few artifacts relating to clothing and adornment have been found, including buttons, part of a thimble, dozens of straight pins, brass buckles, and two pair of scissors. Several buttons are made of silver thread. A glass mirror with an ivory handle was found in many pieces but it is a very rare find, exemplifying again the wealth of the family. The embossing seal, decorated with the swan points to the family's literacy. 


            Many other artifacts have been found and await discovery. Because of the range of finds, and their very fine quality, the Chadbourne site is becoming a "type site" for Maine in the late seventeenth century. That is, so many different artifacts have been found  on site that other archaeologists are using the Chadbourne collection for comparative purposes as they study their sites.






            From a research point of view, the Chadbourne site has revealed very important information, and is clearly a site with not only local but also national significance. Archaeologists and architectural historians have visited the site and all agree that it is well qualified to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site is an archaeological "time capsule," rapidly abandoned and then burned down, with virtually all of the family's possessions inside. Thus, it presents a complete and well-preserved record of life in Maine in the late 1600s. The fact that the Chadbourne's were one of the wealthiest families in the colony means that they left a rather large and wide-ranging set of possessions behind for archaeologists. While the dig has been underway only a short time,  it is already one of the most artifact-rich and most important archaeology sites discovered in Southern Maine.


[1] Rowls to Chadbourne, York Deeds II, 27.

[2] Mr. Rowles to Katherine Treworgy, York Deeds III, 10;  Mr. Roles to Humphrey Chadbourne, York Deeds I, 6; Mr. Rowles to Thomas Spencer, York Deeds I, 18.

[3] John Scales, ed., Historical Memoranda Concerning Persons and Places in Old Dover, N.H. (Dover: 1900), 240.

[4] Humphrey Chadbourne to the General Court, October 9, 1654, Massachusetts Archives, XXX, 34.


[5] Deposition of Humphrey Chadbourne, Massachusetts Supremen Judicial Court File#  138094.

[6] Mary P. Thompson,  L:andmarks in Ancient Dover, New Hampshire(Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1991), 99.