Richard Nason (1606-1696) – Stratford-Upon-Avon to Pipe Stave Landing

Richard Nason was born or baptized on August 3, 1606 at Stratford-Upon-Avon. I saw his baptismal font when I visited Holy Trinity Church in September 2018. The same font baptized William Shakespeare, a neighbor. 

His father was Johanius (or John) Nason (1585-1624). His mother was Elizabeth Rogers (1583-1653). They married on October 28, 1600 in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Richard Nason was the third of nine or eleven children. His siblings included Elizabeth (1601), John or Johanius (1603), Phillippa (1604), Henry (1608), Thomas (1611), William (1613), Ann (1615), Mary (1618), Thomas (1619)? and Frances (1622)?

Richard left for the “province of Mayne” when he was in his early 20s. Richard was the only member of the Nason family to immigrate at that time. He never returned to England. His father, Johanius Nason, died when he was in his late teens. His mother, grandfather, Ananius Nason, and most of his brothers and sisters were alive when he departed.

Richard Nason’s father was a barber and an apothecary. A barber did minor surgery and patched up wounds in addition to cutting hair and shaving. His grandfather was a farmer. Richard must have learned some of those skills and others that he put to use as a planter (farmer), surveyor and militia member in Maine.

Richard grew up in an uneasy society. The Guy Fawkes plot (1605) to assassinate King James I threw suspicion on area Catholics. James I had a contentious relationship with Parliament, with bitterness on both sides. James I’s son and successor, Charles I, had an even more acrimonious relationship: he dissolved Parliament in March 1629 and began 11 years of personal rule until he was executed in January 1649. I believe this tension and instability were part of Richard’s decision to immigrate.

Sir Ferdinando Gorges

Another part was the opportunity to see new lands and get rich. The early 17th century was the beginning of the golden age of exploration and exploitation of new worlds. In August 1622, The Council for New England granted to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason a huge land grant in Maine and New Hampshire. They and their agents recruited men to harvest resources like timber, trade with the Indians for beaver pelts, and to settle by promising them land grants.

Richard Nason’s tract of land – 200 acres – was one of the prime lots in Kittery. How he managed to secure such a choice location is unknown. There is no record of him being part of Captain Mason’s company, but Nason may have been recruited in England by Mason or one of his agents. Two of his neighbors—Thomas Spencer and Thomas Canney—were brought over by Captain John Mason and had lands from his grant.  Nason journeyed to Maine as a lumberman or laborer. His intelligence and spirit may have won Mason’s confidence; Richard Nason was granted a key spot—the place on the Salmon Falls River that became known as Pipe Stave Landing. The land, and the section of the river where Richard Nason settled, was called “Newichawannock,” an Abenaki word which means “river with many waterfalls.”

The exact year that he landed and on what ship has not been verified. My father told me that it was in 1629. I’m sure that date was handed down from generation to generation. Other Nason researchers believe that he sailed in 1626 or 1627 on the ship, Warwick, which ferried other workers and settlers to the area.

After a voyage of six to eight weeks, Richard Nason landed close to the area of his new home. Ships arrived and sailed up the Piscataqua River to Pipe Stave Landing. Kittery, Dover and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, could be other candidates. I also don’t know the port where Richard departed to New England. Gravesend, near London, Portsmouth and Plymouth are possibilities. If I had to intuit, I would guess that he left from Gravesend since it is the closet to Stratford-Upon-Avon, and landed in New Hampshire, where he settled for a little while before moving on to Pipe Stave Landing in South Berwick, Maine.

Pipe Stave Landing, or Lower Landing, must have been a busy place, with ships unloading and loading. The water was deep enough that a boat could dock at low tide. The Hamilton House, also called the Nason-Hamilton House, is built on a bluff that overlooks the river on part of the site. The Hamilton House and Pipe Stave Landing is described in the opening scene of The Tory Lover by local author Sarah Orne Jewett. The actual dock area is to the right of the house, lower down. A track runs down a grass-covered road over a short hill into the water. You can see some huge timbers under the water by the shore – remnants of a very old dock. Richard Nason’s house was supposedly in the area where the parking lot is now. This site provides a good view of the water, the woods, and the fields that stretch away into the distance. 

The First Permanent Settlement in Maine, a pamphlet written by local historian Everett S. Stackpole in 1926, and published in Sprague’s Journal of Maine History, Vol. IV, No. 4, mentions Richard Nason: “He had a grant of 200 acres next south of Thomas Spencer…The fact that he had so large a grant, equal to that of Thomas Spencer, and his election to the office of selectman in 1645, favor the supposition that he was a man of importance. Perhaps he had been one of Thomas Wiggins’ company. He reared a large family, and his surname has spread widely. From the year 1638 to 1651 the only persons that appear on records as living at what is called now Great Works were the families of Humphrey Chadbourne, Thomas Spencer and Richard Nason and the two who kept bachelors’ hall together, viz., Basil Parker and Peter Weare.”

Richard Nason settled in Pipe Stave Landing sometime between 1629 and 1635. He built a tavern on his farm. He was a planter (farmer) and also assisted in surveying. He may have had a hand in managing the docks at the Lower Landing. Richard Nason and his wife, Sarah Baker Nason, would have grown a variety of vegetables on their farm, including pumpkins, turnips, squash, beans, parsnips, cabbages, peas and Indian corn. There was plenty of wood nearby for building and fuel. They may have had an apple orchard since apples were used for eating and to make cider. 

Whenever we visited Pipe Stave Landing, we were greeted by an ancient apple tree. Was it the last vestige of Richard Nason’s orchard?


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By Karen