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Biddeford City


Biddeford City Hall is located at 205 Main Street, Biddeford ME 04005; phone: 207-284-9307.

Due to both their history and proximity, Biddeford, together with Saco, are often referred to as "Sister Cities."

Beginnings [1]

Richard Vines, one of the original patentees of Biddeford, came to the coast of Maine from England in 1609, and remained here almost constantly afterwards for thirty years. He was an enterprising and trustworthy agent of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who employed him in frequent voyages to this coast after the failure of the Popham colony had discouraged all further attempts to settle the country. The severity of the winters was thought too great to be endured by English people, and for many years none could be induced to come here for the purpose of making permanent homes. In 1616, Gorges sent out Richard Vines, with orders to stay in this country all winter with his companions, and thus practically test the rigor of the climate. He spent the winter of 1616-1617 in the sheltered basin now called Biddeford Pool, from which circumstance it received the name of Winter Harbor.

Mr. Vines made some sort of settlement here prior to 1623, as is proved by a statement of Gorges. In speaking of the settlement undertaken at Agamenticus that year, he says, "And we found more hope of a happy success of these affairs by reason that not far from that place there had been settled some years before Mr. Richard Vines, a servant, of whose care and diligence he (Gorges) had formerly made much trial in his affairs."

It is well known that Mr. Vines in repeated voyages subsequent to 1616 made Winter Harbor his chief place of resort. That he erected buildings here, and occupied the place by tenants, more or less permanently, till he obtained a grant of land in the vicinity, is highly probable.

The grant now commonly called the Biddeford patent, coinciding nearly with the present limits of the town, was made by the Council of Plymouth to John Oldham and Richard Vines, February 1, 1630. It extended along the sea coast four miles west from the mouth of the Saco River, and up into the country eight miles. Mr. Vines took legal possession of this grant June 23, 1630, in the presence of Isaac Allerton, Captain Thomas Wiggin, Thomas Purchase, Captain Nathaniel Waters, Captain John Wright, and Stephen Reekes. The attorneys of the Council for the delivery of possession were Reverend William Blackstone, of Shawmut, now Boston, William Jeffries and Edward Hilton, of Piscataqua.

The names and number of colonists at this time have not been recorded, but it was one of the conditions of the grant that the patentees should transport 50 persons to the colony, "to plant and inhabit there" within seven years. We find within that period quite a list of names and something of the occupation and financial standing of the people. There is an agreement bearing the date January 27, 1635, between Peyton Cooke and Richard Williams for the furtherance of clapboard making—an article of export in which the settlers in the neighborhood of the pine forests early engaged. They were then riven out of bolts or logs, instead of sawn, as at a later day. The principal settlers at this early period, and their pecuniary standing, may be learned from a rate-list for the support of the minister, bearing the date September 7, 1636, which gives the names and amounts as follows: Richard Vines, £3; Henry Boade, £2; Thomas Williams, £2; Samuel Adams, £1; William Scadlock, £1, John Wadlow, £2; Robert Sankey, £1 10s.; Theophilus Davis, £1 10s.; George Frost, £1 10s.; John Parker, £1; John Smith, £1, Robert Morgan, 15s.; Richard Hitchcock, 10s.; Thomas Page, £1; Ambrose Berry, £1. These subscriptions were probably for support of a minister a part of the time who was engaged to hold religious services in different settlements, as we find no regularly scheduled minister as early as this at Winter Harbor. The only clergyman known to have been in the country previous to 1636 was Reverend Richard Gibson, an Episcopal minister at Spurwink and Richmond's Island, and who preached at a later period to fishermen along the coast and upon the Isles of Shoals. In 1636 he appears in the court record as party to a suit. Reverend Robert Jordan, whose residence was Spurwink, was probably the next clergyman who came into the country, about 1640.

The first settlement was made near the sea, along the north margin of the Pool, where Mr. Vines spent the winter of 1616-1617. Besides the settlers mentioned in the rate-list, the following names have been gathered from other sources: Francis Robinson, Arthur Macworth, Peyton Cooke, Richard Williams, John West, Thomas Wise, Stephen Batson, John Baylie, Thomas Cole, James Cole, John Walton, John Boynton, Morgan Howell, Arthur Browne, George Jewell. Some of these, Boynton at least, were on the east side of the Saco River. Andrew and Scadlock settled in the west part of the grant near Little River; John West and Thomas Williams north of the principal settlement at Winter Harbor. Traces of former residences have been discovered at all of these places. A point of land at the head of the Pool, long known as Leighton's Point, is said to have been the site of a courthouse during the period when the earliest courts were held here. This point was the first seat of justice in Maine when William Gorges was sent over and held the first court in 1636. Before this, the colonists had formed a "combination" for the government of their little community, in which Richard Vines was the organizing and leading spirit.

  1. History of York County, Maine, Everts & Peck, Philadelphia, 1880.
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