September 19, 2014  5:50 PM 

Town of Shapleigh

HISTORY OF SHAPLEIGH

In the winter of 1661 a man by the name of Francis Small began keeping a “trading house” somewhere in the vicinity of what is now Limington and Cornish. Many Indians became largely indebted to him, promising him furs and other valuables in the spring. The Indians later plotted an easier way to extinguish their debt and conspired together to surround and burn his house down on a particular night.

Captain Sunda, an Indian Chief of the Ossipee Tribe, learned of this plot and secretly informed Small so he was able to make a timely escape. Small, at first, regarded this as a sly set-up to deprive him of his property; but for this the Chief openhandedly promised to compensate him with a conveyance of lands if this plan went through. On the night before the scheduled attack Small left his house and retired to a neighboring hill. From that hill he watched the flames of his trading house light up the forest. Later that night Small left those regions and returned to Scarboro’, his original home.

In 1663 Captain Sunda, faithful to his promise, met Small in Saco, and deeded him the Ossipee tract, towns now know as Cornish, Parsonsfield, Newfield, Limerick, Limington, and Shapleigh to indemnify him for his loss. After the loss, it was an established fact that a man by the name of Major Nicholas Shapleigh of Kittery, was in company with Small in the trading house enterprise. Due to that fact, Small deeded to Shapleigh, an undivided half of all the lands conveyed by Sunda.

Before long, a period of Indian wars commenced. Francis Small, fearful he may be an object of savage vengeance, went to Cape Cod where he later died. Around that same time after serving on a committee to establish peace with the Indians, Nicholas Shapleigh died in Kittery in 1682.

These wars suspended to all new settlements and deeds were known as “dead letters” for the longest time. At length these cruel and destructive wars were ended. The settlements began to recover their reduced states and began surveying the land.

In 1770, the original unrecorded deed from Captain Sunda to Francis Small was located by his family from over 100 years before. The heirs of Nicholas Shapleigh knew they had an interest in the deed and therefore in 1772 appointed a committee “to go up and possess the land”. In May of 1773 this committee, accompanied by a surveyor and chairman, went out into the wildernesses and marked what eventually became the towns original boundaries.

Later thru the Supreme Court, Smalls’ heirs took possession of Cornish, Limington, Newfield and ½ of Limerick while Shapleighs’ heirs took possession of Parsonsfield, Shapleigh, and the other ½ of Limerick.

The town we now know as Shapleigh was officially incorporated in 1785 as the 43rd town containing approximately 20,000 acres with a current population of 2,326.