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Richard Hitchcock Site, Biddeford, Pool, Maine



The Richard Hitchcock homestead was built sometime between 1636 and 1654. This substantial homestead was rapidly abandoned, presumably during a  Native American raid in 1690, in the early stages of King William's War.

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Hitchcock Site History
Description of Excavations
Site Plan
Artifacts

Tad Baker and Rob Carignan with Iberian Oil Jar

Emerson Baker and Rob Carignan
excavate a complete Iberian oil jar.
Overview of the site and the settlement of Biddeford Pool

Biddeford Pool was initially occupied by English settlers in the 1630s. A series of farmsteads quickly spread across the backside of the pool, and a number of these may be within Rachel Carson. To date, five archaeological sites have been located in the refuge, including the homes of two of the region’s earliest English settlers – Thomas Williams and his son-in-law, Richard Hitchcock. Both men were here by 1636 when they appear on the first list of settlers on the Saco. After the death of Williams, the property was consolidated in the Hitchcock family, and their heirs, the Smiths. All told, four archaeological sites have been identified for this family, which lived her for 200 years. The property also includes the site of the Edward’s family’s “Whalebone Cottage” a local landmark in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These sites are very important, for they are the well-preserved remains of how two families occupied one coastal Maine farm for almost 350 years.

The one site to have seen extensive excavation is probably the most important, the Richard Hitchcock site. Built sometime between 1636 and 1654, the house stood until 1690, when it was destroyed during a Native American raid in King William’s War. Hastily abandoned, and rapidly destroyed, the site proved to be an archaeological “time capsule” filled with virtually all of the family’s possessions. Finds included an amazing range of tools and domestic possessions, many of which have been featured in museum exhibits. The architecture of the site is very significant as well, for the house was “earth-fast” – that is, it had no stone or brick foundation, but was anchored to the ground by the wooden corner posts of the house. Even the cellars were wood lined.

The Richard Hitchcock site is one of the earliest English homesteads to be located and excavated in all of New England. As one of the few seventeenth century sites to be excavated in southern Maine, it is a very important “type site” telling us what we may expect to find elsewhere in the region. With few surviving records and no standing buildings from this era, much of our knowledge about the first European settlers in Maine comes from excavations at the Hitchcock site and elsewhere.

Hitchcock site overview, 1991
Overview of the Hitchcock site Excavations in 1991

The Hitchcock site was discovered in 1987, when a subdivision was proposed for the property. A series of excavations took place between then and 1995, though they only excavated a fraction of what appears to be a substantial site. Excavations were directed by Emerson Baker, then the Director of the Dyer Library and York Institute Museum in Saco (now renamed the Saco Museum). All artifacts are held by the museum. Excavations were funded by grants from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. Acquisition of this property by U.S. Fish and Wildlife in 1993 prevented it from being developed, which would have resulted in the destruction of the Hitchcock site, and its related sites, causing a tremendous loss of archaeological and historical knowledge.
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