Richard Nason – Offices and Controversies

John Winthrop, governor, Massachusetts Bay Colony

Richard Nason arrived in Maine sometime before 1636. My father told me that the date was 1629. I have also read that he arrived in 1623, 1629, 1630, and 1636. We know that it was before 1640 because his name appears in land records in Dover, N.H. before that date. Since Richard Nason received one of the choicest tracts of land in the Ferdinando Georges grant, I assume that he was at Pipe Stave Landing in South Berwick, Maine by the early 1630s at the latest. He married, started a family, and began to develop his various enterprises. He had a farm or plantation as they were known, worked as a local surveyor, owned a tavern, and may have had a hand in the management of the docks at the landing.

Beginning in the 1640s when he was in his late 30s & early 40s, he began to make a name for himself among his neighbors and peers. He served as a Juryman, a Commissioner, a Selectman, surveyor, and Ensign. Richard Nason was active in Kittery’s affairs from the 1640s through 1680s, when he was over 70 years old.

1647 – On October 20th, the town of Kittery, Maine was incorporated. It was Maine’s first town. Richard Nason was one of 42 men admitted to the town. The original name was Piscataqua Plantation. At the time of incorporation, Kittery included what is now Berwick, North Berwick, part of South Berwick, Eliot, and Kittery.

1647 – Served on a Coroner’s Jury.

1649 – Served as a Juryman, and a Committeeman.

1649 – Surveyor for Berwick and laid out the boundary between Berwick and Kittery.

1652 – The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony sent a commission to Kittery to convince the residents of Maine to submit to Massachusetts rule. Richard Nason spoke out against submission. However, the Massachusetts delegation was successful. On November 16,th he took the Oath of Allegiance to the Massachusetts government. As with other documents, Nason signed with his mark. That this was due to a lack of education seems improbable, since he owned a number of books, rare in that day. He may have had an injury that prevented him from signing his name.

1653 – Named an Ensign in Captain Shapleigh’s company. An ensign is one of three military officers whose duty is to lead and defend townspeople from an Indian attack.

1653 – He served as a Juryman.

1653 – Named a Selectman of Kittery.

Pipe Stave Landing, upper field

1654 – Nason sold a parcel of land to George Leader and Jon Beex & Company for the Great Works Mill on February 20. “I Richd…sell unto George Leader for and in behalf of Jon Beex & Company..a pcell of Land…along the river side at Newgewanacke, beginning at pipe staffe point & soe down along the river unto the next fresh water Cricke…in Consideration of the some of ffourty & seven shillings…this 20th day of ffeb: 1654…the Marke of Richard Nason..In the presence of us Humphrey Chadborne Roger Playsteed.” 

 1654 – On March 24 Richard Nason was one of five men appointed by the Massachusetts General Court to be a commissioner. He and the Selectmen were responsible for compiling a census of taxable polls (males aged 16 and above) and ratable properties for levying taxes imposed by Massachusetts to defray the costs of administering the town.

1655 – Richard Nason’s actions and speech frequently landed him in trouble or in court. He was charged and presented before the General Court for being absent from “meeting.” (church).

1656 – Elected a Deputy to General Court, but not seated because of his disrespect, and the town was censored for electing him.

1659 – Charged and presented in General Court for “entertaining Quakers.” Fined five pounds and disenfranchised.

1659 – Elected a Selectman.

1662 – Every town in Maine elected a deputy to a General Assembly in hopes of breaking away from Massachusetts and reestablishing Maine as a separate province. Massachusetts sent a commission to Maine to intimidate the deputies. The deputies voted to uphold their oath of submission to Massachusetts except for one man: Richard Nason.

1662 – Puritan authorities in Dover, N.H. issued this directive: “You are required in the King’s Majesty’s name to take these vagabond Quakers, Anna Coleman, Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose, and tie them fast to the cart’s tail. Then drawing the cart through your several towns, to whip them upon their naked backs not exceeding ten stripes apiece on each of hem in each town..”  After passing through two towns, the Quaker women escaped across the river to Kittery.  They were welcomed into the homes of Kittery’s Selectmen, Richard Nason, James Heard and Nicholas Shapleigh.  The three men were promptly dragged into General Court, charged with being Quakers and dismissed from office.  Although the text of his will indicates that he was a Christian, there is no evidence or record of Richard Nason belonging to any church. One of his sons, Joseph Nason, settled on Nantucket Island and became a Quaker.

1663 – Charged for being absent from meeting.

1664 – In a deed dated 4 February, Richard Nason and his wife, Sarah, sold nine acres of his granted land at Kittery to an abutting landowner, Nathan Lord, receiving as payment a sorrel-colored horse with a white star in the forehead. “Richd Nayson of Newgewanacke…& Nathan Lord…in Consideration of a horse, of Culler sorrel, with a white starr in the forehead…Richard Nayson…doth sell…unto the sayd Nathaniell Lord…Nine Acres…Adjoyneing…by the head of the second swampe…” Richard signed by mark and seal, and Sarah by a seal. Richard appeared in court on 5 July 1676 and confirmed the deed, and the deed was recorded 18 July 1678. 

Pipe Stave Landing, upper field

1665 – Presented before the General Court and charged with blasphemy. The accuser was a Puritan neighbor, Philip Chesley of Oyster River who lived in New Hampshire. Richard Nason’s support in Kittery was so strong that the Court hesitated to take any drastic action.  In the end, the Court decided it didn’t “judge him so guilty of blasphemy as that by our law he ought to die.” The Court issued a rebuke and put him under bonds of forty pounds for good behavior.

1666 – Elected a Selectman. He signed a petition to the King (Charles II) to appoint a stable government free of “Bostoners.”

1667 – Elected a Selectman.

1668 – Elected a Selectman. On September 15, 1668, Richard Nason, Nicholas Shapleigh, and James Heard, all Selectmen, were dismissed from office under the charge of being Quakers. The men were not Quakers but had shown hospitality to Quakers and spoke out for freedom of religious beliefs.

1669 – Elected as Deputy to the General Court, but the court refused to seat him and called the people of Kittery to account for electing him. “Whereas at a County Court held at York July ye 6th 1669 Majr Nicholas Shapleigh, James Heard and Richard Nason were dismist by yet Court for being Selectmen And in Obedience to an order of the Court they at a generell town meeting—made Choyce of these persons here mentioned for Selectmen in there roomes for ye year ensuring ye aforesd persons being Quakers.” (Thomas Withers, Robert Mendum, James Emery)

1670 – On July 5 at a session of the York County Court in Wells, Nason was charged for being absent from meeting. “We present Richard Nayson for not frequenting of the place of God’s public worship on the Lord’s Day. Ric Nayson owned in Court that he attended the public meetings which went by the name of Quakers’ meeting.”

1671 – Charged for being absent from meeting.

1675 – Charged for being absent from meeting.

1678 – Charged with being abusive toward officers.

1679 –Richard Nason, and sons Jonathan and John, signed a petition to King Charles II asking for direct government. The petitioners complained that Massachusetts was suppressing freedom of religion.

1680 – Richard Nason, and sons Jonathan, Benjamin, and John, signed Major Shapleigh’s Petition, which was read in Council in London on September 30. The prayer was to be reinstated under Royal authority, although Massachusetts had purchased the Gorges land grant from his heirs.

1685 – Richard Nason and four of his sons were charged from being absent from meeting.

What can we surmise about Richard Nason from these events?

He was popular with his neighbors, who agreed with many of his positions and opinions, and trusted him to represent them. He was brave and steadfast. He was an independent thinker who spoke his mind, no matter what the consequences. He believed in freedom of religion. He didn’t like Puritans and refused to be intimidated or cowed by them. He showed hospitality and kindness to people who were held in contempt by authorities. I found the swap of the sorrel horse with the star on its forehead for some land to be a sweet vignette and offered a glimpse of another part of his personality. Either he loved the horse, or someone he loved wanted it. Making a special someone happy was worth the exchange.




  • I’m a Nason & live in Maine! My direct family owns Nason’s Beach on Sebago Lake. I wish I had this timeline when I did my family tree project in high school! Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the family history & letting it live on 🙂

    • Hello,
      My mom is Cynthia Nason and her father Donald Nason. I am researching to see who ancestors were. I found this article fascinating. There are rumors that on my Nason side there is some Algonquin Indian linage.

  • Hi, Maraia, thank you so much for your kind words. Many years ago I belonged to the Sebago Canoe Club in New York. Unfortunately, I moved away before I could make the trip to Sebago Lake. I love Maine, too.

  • Hi Cynthia, are you on I’m working with a genealogist to complete my Nason family tree. It is public, so anyone can access it. She has added hundreds of relatives and I’m sure your ancestors are there or will be shortly. I did see a reference to Indian blood in a newspaper article on one of the people. However, I believe it was a Godfrey ancestor. If I find out who it was, or get any information, is there a way I can contact you? My email is if you would like to send me yours. All the best, Karen

By Karen