American History and Genealogy Project


Samuel Waldo, Soldier and Colonizer

When, in response to the teacher's question, we name the counties of Maine, two in that list should remind us of two of the State's great men, Henry Knox and Samuel Waldo. Knox was, perhaps, the greater general; but Waldo, though two generations earlier, was the more active in the development of our State. Oddly enough, General Knox married the grand-daughter of General Waldo, and, partly by purchase, partly by inheritance, acquired the whole of the Waldo Patent.

Samuel Waldo had an interesting ancestry. His father, Jonathan Waldo, or von Waldow, was a German nobleman, who had established himself as a merchant in Boston. Samuel is said to have been born in London, but his boyhood was passed in Boston.

He spent some time in the Boston Latin School, but at eighteen had left his books and was acting as clerk in his father's office. Later, he tried a business venture with his brother Cornelius, trading to Europe and the West Indies.

His education did not cease here. He went to Harvard, and then was sent to Germany to finish his training. It is said that he entered the body guard of the Elector of Hanover, later George I. of England, and went with him to London.
On his father's death, Waldo returned to Boston to take charge of the business. His military training was soon recognized, and he was made Colonel of Militia. Later, by his conspicuous services in the capture of Louisburg, he earned the title of general.

Equally as successful in business as in war, he soon acquired large tracts of land. The Patent which bears his name was obtained in a particularly interesting way.

In 1630, the Plymouth Council, fearing that it might be dissolved, made various hasty grants of land. Among these grants was one called the Muscongus Patent, including the present counties of Knox and Waldo, as well as a part of Lincoln. This grant was made free of cost to John Beauchamp of London and Thomas Leverett of Boston, England, in the hope that its settlement would increase the value of the other wild land. The Patent finally fell into the hands of one of Leverett's descendants, who formed a company, known as the "Thirty Proprietors." The "Thirty" in 1731 got into difficulties, and sent Samuel Waldo to England to get them out. He succeeded so well that on his return the proprietors gave him half the Patent for his pains. Later, he purchased the other half, and the tract became known as the Waldo Patent.

Getting settlers, however, was not so easy as getting land. A few Scotch-Irish were induced to settle near St. George's, and a still smaller number of English at Medumcook, now Friendship. Something must be done to get colonists. Waldo bethought him of his German kin, who had proved such good colonists in Pennsylvania. In 1738, he made a trip to Germany and spread broadcast circulars promising land and prosperity to all who should cross the seas. A few families made the crossing in 1739, and more, perhaps forty families from Brunswick and Saxony, in 1742. These colonists landed first at Marblehead, Massachusetts, then made their way to Broadbay and laid the foundation of the present town of Waldoboro.

They had encountered almost as many delays and discouragements as did the Pilgrims. They met at Manheim, from this point proceeding to Mulheim, below Cologne, where they waited several weeks for ships. Again they were delayed at Rotterdam, so that they did not reach the New World until October. They were welcomed in state by Governor Shirley and several Assemblymen; but this reception was the only good the New World was to offer them.

They reached Broadbay in November, to find, instead of the fields and village the circulars had led them to expect, only an uncleared wilderness, and winter coming on. They feared to hunt and knew not how to fish. Terrible were the privations which they endured. When that winter of famine and danger passed, and spring brought a ray of hope, the survivors petitioned Governor Shirley for help, which was refused. Some left the settlement, others were killed in Indian raids, and for two years the land lay unbroken.

In 1748, following the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, settlement was resumed in the Patent. Thirty more families came to Broadbay that autumn, to meet even worse conditions than their predecessors had faced. With the rudest of log huts and insufficient supplies, they faced the rigors of a Maine winter. Many died from exposure, some few survived. Later, other families joined the remnant, and a thriving town grew up. Educated men were among the colonists, so church and school followed. The quaint old church in which these men of Broadbay worshiped still stands in Waldoboro Village, though not on its original site.

Waldo has been bitterly criticized for his treatment of these colonists and for his glowing promises unfulfilled. Perhaps, however, much of this blame was undeserved. He may not intentionally have misled them as to conditions in the Patent. Be that as it may, the colony he founded in time became part of the State's strength.

General Waldo must have been a man of striking personality. How he looked, we know; for his portrait hangs in Bowdoin College. Tall, dark, commanding, he breathed power. Enterprising and adventurous he surely was, for he crossed the ocean no less than fifteen times.

His death, like his life, was out of the ordinary. He had ascended the Penobscot to a point near the present town of Brewer, in order to settle the question of the boundary of his patent. After landing, so the story goes. General Waldo stepped back a few paces on the bank, and, looking about him, cried, "Here are my bounds," and instantly fell dead. His body was buried in King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, the spot marked by a simple tablet. Thus passed one of the builders of Maine.

Jessica J. Haskell

Source: Maine My State, The Maine Writers Research Club, The Journal Print Shop, Lewiston, Maine, 1919

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