Date of Award

Spring 2001

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

W Jeffery Bolster


Seventeenth-century New England's northern frontier has been an important but poorly understood place of contact between a diverse array of English, French, and Indian actors who traded, socialized, and fought with one another over land, commercial and political alliances. The English fishing settlement of Pemaquid was a key player in this world. Pemaquid emerged as one of New England's earliest year-round settlements after its beginning as a migratory fishing station in the early 1610s. In those early years, Pemaquid benefited and paid for its strategic position on the northern edge of New England. It was situated in a region that was well-endowed with marine and terrestrial resources. As a consequence, the plantation's proprietors and inhabitants devoted considerable time and energy to trade with their Indian and French neighbors and coastal fishing. In the process, Pemaquid emerged as an important conduit of goods---furs, fish, and timber---for the rapidly emerging Massachusetts Bay. In turn, this English fishing plantation along with the other English outposts on Maine's coast and major waterways served as a protective buffer for Massachusetts Bay from the French and Indians.

Pemaquid's story is one that has importance and applicability that reaches far beyond that of 17th-century Maine. This fishing plantation and the lives of its inhabitants shed light on the whole experience of the English settlement of North America. One element of this study that strengthens and sets it apart from most community studies of 17th-century New England is the blend of history and archaeology. The experience of Pemaquid bears out Jack Greene's thesis of the atypicality of Puritan Massachusetts Bay. The order of the day was commercial profit and personal advancement as it was throughout much of Maine, New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts. This undertaking began with the seasonal fishing stations clustered along New England's coast in the 1610s and early 1620s and continued with many of the permanent settlements that followed. Religion played a secondary role for these plantations. The case of Pemaquid underscores Greene's challenge to scholars to redirect their study of early America. More attention needs to be focused on the frontier communities of early America. Only when 17th-century New England's periphery is more closely examined will the social and commercial development of the region as a whole be fully understood.