The Founding and Naming of Sedgwick, Maine (GOV.21)
Story of the founding and naming of Sedgwick, Maine
The founding and naming of Sedgwick, Maine
In 1789 the District of Maine was still part of Massachusetts. There had been settlers in the area for many years but in 1762, the General Court of Massachusetts granted David Marsh and 359 others land that included the areas that are now Brooklin, Sedgwick, and Brooksville. It was called Township Four and the men named in the Marsh grant were called proprietors. In 1786 the Massachusetts Legislature passed a resolution that detailed conditions by which land should be allotted to the proprietors and to those settlers who had been living there prior to 1784. With this as their guide, a committee made up of proprietors Joshua Trussell, Jonas Dodge, Eben Herrick, David Carlton, Joseph Babson and Samuel Gray, a settler who had lived in the area for 16 years, laid out the property lots.
By 1788 there were at least 60 families in the area and it became clear that organization was needed to deal with civil affairs so in 1789 the Massachusetts General Court passed an act “for incorporating the township number four on the east side of the Penobscot River”.. into a town by the name of Sedgwick.” On January 13, 1789, by act of the Massachusetts Legislature, the Township Number Four settlement which included the present day towns of Sedgwick, Brooklin and Brooksville, was incorporated as the Town of Sedgwick. It was the second town in the county and fifty-ninth in the state to be incorporated.
Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813) was Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives when Township Four applied to become incorporated and it is said that he suggested that the town be named after his great grandfather, Major General Robert Sedgwick1because it was he who had liberated Castine from the French.
Robert Sedgwick (1613-1656) was born in England and immigrated to America around 1635/36 where he was a member of the British military involved in the early defenses for Boston. He was one of the founders of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts and was commissioned by Oliver Cromwell, leader of the parliament of England’s armies and Lord Protector of the British Isles, to organize a force against the Dutch in New York. However, the issues with the Dutch were settled before they could leave so Cromwell sent the expedition north to the area that is now Maine and in 1654 troops lead by Sedgwick took Castine back from the French.
In time, when the British occupational forces drove the Spanish out of Jamaica, Cromwell appointed Sedgwick governor. Robert Sedgwick died there shortly thereafter and probably is buried there.2
Theodore Sedgwick, Robert’s great grandson, was influential in more ways than Sedgwick’s naming. He was an attorney who served in various roles including as a Delegate to the Continental Congress and in 1802 was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. He was a colleague of Alexander Hamilton and, in fact, the last letter Hamilton wrote the day before his dual with Aaron Burr was to Theodore Sedgwick.
The story about Elizabeth Freeman, who was called Mumbet by the Sedgwick family, stands out in Theodore’s illustrious career. Though New England did not have the number of slaves living in the South, they were an accepted part of the northeastern population in even the earliest settlements. Mumbet, a young woman born into slavery in New York was the household slave of the Ashley family who lived a few miles from the Sedgwick home in the Massachusett Berkshires. Theodore Sedgwick, an abolitionist on the committee working on the Massachusetts Constitution would attend meetings at the Ashley home where they would work on the resolutions to be included in that document. One of the points supported by Theodore was that all men are equal and have a right to their liberty. It is said that Mumbet probably heard these discussions and thought that the right to be free should also apply to her so, after an alleged incident of abuse by Mrs. Ashley, she walked the four miles to the Sedgwick home and asked Theodore if he would represent her in the fight to get her freedom. He agreed to do so and in 1781 Mumbet was legally declared a free woman. This ruling set a precedent that was affirmed by the state courts and within two years a judge declared slavery unconstitutional in Massachusetts whereby all slaves in the state gained their freedom.3
Upon becoming free, Mumbet changed her name to Elizabeth Freeman and took a paid position in the Sedgwick household. She became a valued member of the family and when she died she was buried next to Theodore’s youngest daughter, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, in the family plot in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
The Sedgwicks have been a prominent family since the beginning of our country. Many of them had positions of influence and were advocates for civil rights.
Suggested follow-up resources:
Sedgwick, John, In My Blood: Six Generations of Madness and Desire in an American Family, 2008, Harper, NY, NY.
Wilds, Mary, Mumbet, The Life and Times of Elizabeth Freemen, The True Story of a Slave Who Won Her Freedom, 1999, Avisson Press Inc., Greensboro, N. C.
Woelfle, Gretchen, Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, 2014, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, M.N.
On an episode of Finding Your Roots, Henry Louis Gates told Kyra Sedgwick that her 5 th great grandfather Theodore was the first person to use the Massachusetts Constitution to argue for the freedom of an enslaved woman. Kyra, who is married to Kevin Bacon, is a direct descendant of both Robert and Theodore Sedgwick.
Susan Webb, Sedgwick, Maine
Pam Simmons, Sargentville, Maine
1The booklet written for Sedgwick’s bicentennial celebration notes that Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813) was influential in the choice of a name for the town.
Articles of Incorporation of the Town of Sedgwick
Hancock County, Maine
Commonwealth of Massachusetts –
In the Year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
For incorporating the township number four on the east side of Penobscot River, commonly called Naskeeg, in the county of Lincoln, into a town by the name of Sedgwick.
Be it entered by the Senate and House of Representatives in general court assembled and by the authority of the same that the tract situated and bounded as follows:
Viz: Beginning at the head of Eggemoggon Reach, so called, the dividing line between number three and number four, and from thence running North Easterly on the Easterly line of number five, thence by the South Westerly line of number five to the Blue Hill Bay, thence by said bay and Eggomoggin Reach to the first mentioned. Bound together with the inhabitants thereon be, and they hereby are Incorporated into a town by the name of Sedgwick, and the inhabitants of said town are hereby invested with all the privileges, power and amenities which the inhabitants of towns within this Common Wealth be or may by law enjoy.
And be it further enacted that Gabrel Johonnat, Esq. (spelling?) in his (?) By empowered to give his warrant directed to some suitable Inhabitant of said town of Sedgwick, directing him to notify the inhabitants of said town to meet at such time and place as he shall appoint to choose such officers as other towns are empowered to choose at their annual meetings in the month of March or April annually.
In the House of Representatives January 12, 1789.
This Bill had three Several Readings, proposed to be Enacted. Theodore Sedgwick, Speaker
In the Senate January 12, 1789
This Bill had two Several Readings passed to be enacted. Samuel Phillips, Jun., President
Approved, John Hancock
A true Copy attests, John Avery, Jun., Secretary1
1Extracted from Volume I of the Book of Records of the Town of Sedgwick, p. 1, LDS Microfilm # 1123348.