Dover Quakers moved well across Maine

To the northeast, resettlement of Maine’s Casco Bay region began in 1714 at Falmouth, a town that would also encompass today’s Portland, South Portland, Cape Porpoise, and Westbrook. Among its early residents was James Winslow, who arrived in 1728 with his wife and seven children from Bristol County, Massachusetts, to establish a gristmill on the Presumpscot River. Although he descends from a prominent extended Plymouth Bay family that includes Mayflower arrivals, Winslow became Quaker, likely in Maine. The questions of when, where, and how remain.

Portland Friends Meeting historian Wayne Cobb notes, however, “When the first regular Quaker meetings began here, they included James Winslow and his son Benjamin, as well as four men from Harpswell.”

That’s where the Dover influence appears. In 1750, Ebenezer Pinkham and his wife, Sarah Austin, and at least some of their 11 children moved to Merriconeag Neck in Harpswell and, as Dover Meeting’s family records note, were considered members of Falmouth Meeting once it formed. Over time, some would move on to Durham and its Monthly Meeting.

Friends moved from Dover to Falmouth and Vassalboro. So many, in fact, that all three locations were soon Quarterly Meetings.

The Dover connection with Falmouth and the Winslows intensified. In 1760, John and Jacob Morrill were granted certificates of transfer to Falmouth Friends Meeting, soon joined by brother Stephen and sister Mary, who wed Samuel Winslow, according to Dover’s records.

They were followed by John Robinson in 1767 and his brothers Stephen and Samuel as well as their sisters Sarah, who married James Winslow, and Mary, who wed Job Winslow.

In addition, Dover’s Huldah Varney wed Benjamin Winslow around 1770.

By the time of the Revolutionary War, 25 to 30 Quaker families were clustered around the Presumpscot River, by Cobb’s count. Dover had provided a significant core.

By the early 1800s, at least 60 Dover adult Friends had transferred to Falmouth, some with their families and some to marry, adding the surnames Allen, Dow, Hanson, Hussey, Meader, Peaslee, Purinton, Rogers, Tuttle, and Varney to the Pinkhams, Morrills, and Robinsons.

Cobb observes that for about 50 years in the mid-1700s, “close to half the land mass in Falmouth was owned by Quakers and they were a significant force. By and large they were farmers,” though some built mills on the Presumpscot. “Their legacy really shows up most in the 19th century, when the Winslow descendants became well-known industrialists, inventors, and abolitionists.”

Acknowledging that Quakers in and around Falmouth have been “largely forgotten,” Cobb points out “they’re really responsible for much of the early commercial success of Portland. And in their day, they were well respected and well thought of in the community.”

Expansion in Maine continued. In 1780, Friends began to worship together in Vassalboro in the Kennebec Valley near Augusta. Within 20 years, they had attracted 19 adult Quakers from Dover, beginning with Joshua Frye in 1787.

Vassalboro meetinghouse today.


Traveling around the Pine Tree State, I encounter these surnames seemingly everywhere.

I like to think that Dover Friends have made a positive difference.

Windham Friends Church near Sebago Lake is one of today’s Quaker Meetings in Maine.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in a Nook edition at Barnes & Noble.

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.