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About Ferdinando Gorges, Lord Proprietor of the Province of Maine
Sir Ferdinando Gorges (1565–1647), the "Father of English Colonization in North America", was an early English colonial entrepreneur and founder of the Province of Maine in 1622. Curiously, he never set foot on American soil.
Gorges was born in Clerkenwell, Middlesex, England around 1565, descended from a cadet branch of the Russells of Kingston Russell, Dorset. He was buried on 14 May 1647 in Long Ashton, Somerset, England.
Parents: Edward Gorges (1536-1567), of Wraxall, Somerset, England and Cecily Lygon, who married John Vivian after Edward Gorges' death.
- on 24 Feb 1589 in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, England, to Ann (?-1620), daughter of Edward Bell, Esq. of Writtle, Essextmire. She died 26 Aug 1620 after 31 years of marriage.
- on 21 Dec 1621 in Exeter, England, to Mary (?-1622), the widow of Thomas Achims, Esq. of Pelint, Cornwall, and daughter of Thomas Fulford, Esq. of Devonshire.
- on 6 Dec 1627 in Ladock, Cornwall, to Dame Elizabeth (?-1627), daughter of Tristam Gorges, Esq. of St. Bedeaux, Devonshire; widow of William Bligh. 
- on 28 September 1629 at Wraxall, Somerset, England, to Elizabeth Gorges (?-1658), daughter of Sir Thomas Gorges and widow of Sir Hugh Smyth of Ashton Court.
Children of Ferdinando Gorges and Ann Bell:
- John Gorges, b. 23 Apr 1593 - d. 1656, m. 1. Lady Frances Clinton alias Fiennes. m. 2. Mary Meade. Inherited the province of Maine from his father.
- Robert Gorges b. est 1595 in London, England, and d abt 1624 in England. After serving in the Venetian wars, Gorges was given a commission as Governor-General of New England and emigrated to modern Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1623, building his settlement on the site of the failed Wessagusset Colony.
- Ellen Gorges
- Honoria Gorges died young
Ferdinando Gorges today is little remembered. He founded no permanent colonies and most of his ventures were failures. His legacy rests on his enthusiastic and visionary support for other, more successful enterprises.
Ferdinando Gorges said of himself (in modernized English)
“I dealt not as merchants or tradesmen are wont, seeking only to make my own profit, my ends being to make perfect the thorough discovery of the Country (wherein I waded so far with the help of those that joined with me) as I opened the way for others, to make their gain, which has been the means to encourage their followers to prosecute it to their advantage.”
The Peirce Patent of 1621
The legal arrangements under which the Pilgrims journeyed to America and established their colony, and which, ultimately, resulted in the colony’s demise in 1692 are among the most confusing aspects of the Plymouth experience. The “correct” way to proceed, as outlined in the surviving documents (and many documents do not survive), did not always reflect how affairs were actually conducted. ...
The earliest surviving state document for New England, the Second Peirce Patent is on display in Pilgrim Hall Museum. It is signed by five wealthy, influential and adventurous Englishmen: Lennox, Hamilton, Warwick, Sheffield, Gorges.
Ferdinando Gorges grew up a “West Country” boy, inspired by the exploits of Queen Elizabeth’s already-legendary West Country “sea dogs” - the Gilbert brothers (John, Humphrey and Adrian), Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, John Hawkins and Sir Richard Grenville. These daring and gallant heroes of privateering exploits had made their names by striking terror into Spanish hearts and by spearheading England’s colonial expansion through exploration and colonizing adventures.
All were loosely related – including young Ferdinando - and all shared a love of the sea, bold and intrepid characters, a yearning for profit and a strong sense of English identity. .... [see pdf file, attached]
Gorges ... 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 Tisquantum known as Squanto, 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 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 ...
In 1639 ... Gorges obtained a new charter, 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. 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.
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.
The St. Budeaux Church, Devon, England
ST. BUDEAUX. St. Budeaux or St. Budock. This small church [plate 215a] dating from about 1563 is situated on the top of a hill from which there are very fine views of the surrounding country. ... The principal objects of interest which the church contains will be found in the mural monuments, and an altar tomb at the east end of the north aisle [plate 215b]. The latter is composed of slate and has coats of arms on the front and sides. The slab has three coats of arms, and the back has a coat of arms in the centre and the following inscription:-
- Roger Budockshead of Budockshead Esquire ob: 1576
- Sir William Gorges Kn: ob: 1583
- Dame Winifred Gorges, ob: 1599
- Tristram Gorges of Budockshead Esq: ob: 1607
- Mrs. Elizabeth Gorges ob: 1607
Restored 1881 Chiefly at the expense of the Historical Society and Citizens of the state of Maine, U.S.A., in memory of Sir Ferdinando Gorges the first Proprietor and Governor of that Province. A.D. 1635 aided by some connections of the Gorges family in England.
- Ferdinando Gorges
- Sir Ferdinando Gorges
- Encyclopedia of World Biography on Ferdinando Gorges, Sir
- Early Encounters in North America: Sir Fernando Gorges
- Nigel Batty-Smith 2001
- Baxter, James P, Ferdinando Gorges, and Ferdinando Gorges. Sir Ferdinando Gorges and His Province of Maine: Including the Brief Relation, the Brief Narration, His Defence, the Charter Granted to Him, His Will, and His Letters. Publications of the Prince Society, Volume 2. Boston: Prince Society, 1890.
- Brown, Frederick. The Pedigree of Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Boston: Brown, 1875. Print.
- Fuller, Henry M. Sir Ferdinando Gorges, 1566-1647: Naval and Military Commander, Father of English Colonization in America. New York: Newcomen Society in North America, 1952. Print.
- Gorges, Raymond, and Frederick Brown. The Story of a Family Through Eleven Centuries, Illustrated by Portraits and Pedigrees: Being a History of the Family of Gorges. Boston: s.n., 1944. Print.
- Papers Compiled by Raymond Gorges for a Book on the Gorges Family 1616-1940. Provided by the University of Virginia Library, 1970.
- Preston, Richard A. Gorges of Plymouth Fort: A Life of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Captain of Plymouth Fort, Governor of New England, and Lord of the Province of Maine. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1953.
- Information about Gorges's colonial plans can also be found in Henry S. Burrage, Gorges and the Grant of the Province of Maine, 1622 (1923) and The Beginnings of Colonial Maine, 1602-1658 (1914).
- More general information is available in Herbert L. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century (3 vols., 1904-1907), and Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History (4 vols., 1934-1938).
-  Edward Gorges was undoubtedly living in one of the old mansions of his family. Most families of wealth and distinction had their town houses, and Clerkenwell was a favorite place of residence for gentlemen desiring to take part in London life. (Baxter, p. 3)
-  The record of Ferdinando's birth or baptism has not yet come to light ... It was at Wraxall that the Gorges family were wont to record their births, marriages, and deaths, as though they took especial pride in solemnizing the important family events there; and the fact that the younger son's name is not to be found in the registers of the ancient parish church, so endeared to the family by long association, renders it probable that he was born at Clerkenwell while his father was lying sick there. Like his predessors, however, he is entitled as of Wraxall, the old manor of the Gorges family, which had then been in their possession for more than three centuries, (Baxter, p. 3)
-  Ferdinando's will bears the date of May 4th, 1647, and the date of his burial in the church at Long Ashton, a few rods from his residence called Ashton Phillips, is the 14th. (Baxter, p. 4)
-  There is no tomb to mark the resting place of Sir Ferdinando Georges, whose death took place during the troubled period of the Civil War; but it is supposed that his remains repose near those of his wife, whose burial-place is marked by a monumental structure. (Baxter, p. 152)
-  Edward's young widow was left with two sons: Edward, the elder, baptized September 5th, 1564, at Wraxall, and at the death of his father four years of age ; and Ferdinando ... (Baxter, p. 3)
-  Left by the death of her husband with the sole charge of two young children, it became the chief duty of Cicely Gorge to rear and educate them; and although she subsequently became the wife of John Vivian, we have reason to believe that she fairly filled her trust. (Baxter, p. 4)
-  [Ann Bell and Ferdinando Gorges ...] had four children, namely: John, Robert, Ellen, and Honoria; the last-named of whom died young. Of his domestic life, unfortunately, all knowledge is wanting, as nothing in the nature of family correspondence or biography has come down to us; hence we are obliged to confine ourselves almost wholly to events of a public nature in his life. (Baxter, p. 111)
-  Baxter, p. 127. Batty-Smith has the name of Ferdinando's second wife as Ursula.
-  The Dame Elizabeth had already been twice married: the last time to William Bligh, Esq., who died in the July previous to her marriage to Sir Ferdinando. Strange to relate, within a few weeks after his third marriage, Sir Ferdinando was again a widower. (Baxter, p. 149)
-  The close of the war, in which he had been of actively engaged, Sir Ferdinando celebrated by a fourth marriage; and this time with another cousin, who bore the same maiden name as his preceding wife, namely, Elizabeth Gorges, daughter of Sir Thomas Gorges and widow of Sir Hugh Smyth of Ashton Court. The marriage took place at Wraxall, the ancient seat of the Gorges family, on September 28th, 1629, and Sir Ferdinando went to reside at Ashton Phillips which belonged to his wife. (Baxter. p. 150)
-  Batty-Smith has her name as Elizabeth Gorges, Lady Smyth, buried in Long Ashton Church; daughter of Sir Thomas Gorges (1536-1610) and Helen Snakenbergh, Marchioness of Northampton (1549-1635).
-  His eldest son, John Gorges, inherited his Province of Maine, and at his death in 1656 bequeathed it to his son Ferdinando. (Baxter, p. 3)
-  Its remaining history may be briefly stated. The conflict for government continued between the representatives of the Gorges and Rigby interests, when Massachusetts practically settled the question at issue by running its northern boundary in accordance with a strict construction of its charter, which gave it a confiderable portion of the Province of Maine. (Baxter, p. 3)
-  To make her tenure wholly secure, Massachusetts purchased of Ferdinando Gorges, the grandson of Sir Ferdinando, in 1677, his title to the Province, by which it passed forever from the possession of his descendants. (Baxter, p. 196)
Ferdinando Gorges, Lord Proprietor of the Province of Maine's Timeline
England, United Kingdom
Clerkenwell, London, England
April 23, 1593
Maxtock, Warwickshire, England
December 21, 1621
December 6, 1627
Ladock, Cornwall, England
September 21, 1629
Long Ashton Church, Somerset, England
George Cleeve and many others signed this petition to the Parliament of Great Britain complaining of the governance of Ferdinand Gorges over the Somersetshire Plantation in New England.
Title: Petition to Parliament by George Cleeve
Maine Historical Society
May 24, 1647
Lower Court, Long Ashton, Somerset, England
Long Ashton Church, Long Ashton, Somerset, England