Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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GORGES, Sir Ferdinando, proprietor of Maine, born in Ashton Phillips, Somerset, England, about 1565: died in England in 1647. He was engaged in the conspiracy of Essex, and testified against the latter at his trial for treason in 1601. During the war with Spain he served in the royal navy with distinction, and in 1604 was appointed governor of Plymouth. Being a friend of Sir Walter Raleigh, he became interested in the latter's plans for colonization in the New World; and when Weymouth returned from New England in 1605, bringing five Indians, Gorges took three of them, Manida, Sketwarroes, and Tafquantum, into his home, and after instructing them in the English language gained much information relative to their country, and determined to become a proprietor of land beyond the Atlantic. His efforts resulted in the formation of the Plymouth, which with the London company was incorporated in 1606. Between these was divided the territory extending fifty miles inland from the 34th to the 45th parallel of north latitude. Plymouth company had the northern portion, which was styled North Virginia. The patentees were authorized to maintain the government for twenty-one years, with permission to impose taxes, to coin money, and to exercise all the power of a well-organized society. After several unsuccessful expeditions, two ships were despatched from Plymouth in 1607, bearing a party who erected a fortified storehouse, near the mouth of the Kennebec, in Maine, which they called Fort George. Owing to the severity of the climate and many hardships, this colony was abandoned in the following spring. In 1614 Gorges engaged Captain John Smith, who had visited New England in the service of the Plymouth company. He set sail in March, 1615, with two ships. His own becoming dismasted, he returned to port, and the other made the voyage alone, but soon returned. After other unsuccessful attempts, Gorges sent out a party under Richard Vines, in 1616, which en-camped on the Saco during the winter. In 1619 Dermer made a second voyage. The London company had now incurred the resentment of King James, and Gorges and his party formed a new corporation on 3 November, 1620, under the name of the "Council established at Plymouth, in the County of Devon, for the planting, ruling, ordering, and governing of New England in America," which was the foundation of all the grants made in New England. This corporation consisted of forty patentees, most of whom were persons of distinction, including thirteen peers. Gorges was styled the "father of colonization in America." He took grants with John Mason of the district called Laconia, and attempted settlements. In 1635 the council resigned its charter to the king ; but Gorges obtained a new charter in 1639, which constituted him lord-proprietary of the province of Maine, with extraordinary governmental powers, which were to be transmissible with the property to his heirs and assigus. He prepared to visit New England, but the company became embarrassed for funds, and was obliged to sell the ship and pinnace which had been built. Sir Ferdinando had also become interested in the Puritan colony of New Plymouth. Through the influence of his father and of Lord Edward Gorges, ROBERT, the youngest son of Sir Ferdinando, was commissioned lieutenant governor of New England. He had just returned from the Venetian wars, and was a share-holder in the grand patent. He also had a personal grant of a tract of land on the northeast side of Massachusetts bay, which had been made to him in consideration of his father's services to the company. He came to Plymouth in 1623, bringing with him an Episcopal clergyman, William Morell. He attempted to form a settlement at Wessagusset, which ended in a dispute with Weston, who had begun the colony there, and returned to look after it. Robert Gorges, having power to "restrain interlopers," began proceedings against him. He returned to England in less than a year, and his people dispersed--some to England, some to Virginia. In 1631 a grant of land was made to several persons, including Ferdinando Gorges, a grandson of Sir Ferdinando. This territory was situated on the Acomenticus River, and several settlements were made there. These were subjected to no external government until the arrival of Captain WILLIAM as deputy governor of the province, which was called "New Somersetshire." The first meeting of the commissioners was held on 25 March, 1636, in Saco. then containing 150 inhabitants, and was the first provincial government for this section of New England. The charter of Maine covered the same territory as that of New Somersetshire, and Sir Ferdinando issued a commission for its government, and sent his nephew, THOMAS, to be deputy governor. The first general court of this government, which exercised the powers of an "executive, legislative, and judicial body in the name of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, late proprietor of Maine," was held in Saco, 25 June, 1640. After the Gorges government was established, in 1641, the borough of Acomenticus and the town of Gorgeana were incorporated. Thomas Gorges arrived in 1641, and settled in this town. He sailed for England in 1643, leaving Richard Vines at the head of the government. In that year the four New England colonies formed a confederacy, excluding the settlements of Gorges, for they "ran a different course both in their ministry and civil administration." On the death of Sir Ferdinando, the estate was left to his son, JOHN, who totally neglected the province. After writing repeatedly to the heirs and receiving no replies, the Gorges colonies formed themselves into a body politic for the purpose of self-government, and submitted to the jurisdiction of Massachusetts.--Sir Ferdinando's grandson, Ferdinando, born in Loftas, Essex, England, in 1629 ; died in England, 25 January 1718, petitioned the king against the usurpation of Massachusetts, and commissioners were sent out to adjust the affairs of the government. In 1677 he sold his rights to Massachusetts for £1,250. He published "America Painted to the Life" (London, 1659).
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