Deputy Pres. George Cleeve

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George Cleeve (Cleave), Esq.

Also Known As: "Mr. George Cleve", "Cleeve", "Cleaves", "Cleeves"
Birthplace: Stogursey, Somersetshire, England
Death: Died in Falmouth, Cumberland, Maine
Immediate Family:

Son of John Cleeve and Anna Cleeve
Husband of Joanna Price; Joanna Price; Proposed 1st wife of George Cleeve; Alice Abrook and Joan Cleeve
Father of Elizabeth Harvey; Cleombrotus Cleeve and Anne Cleeve

Occupation: Vintner of Shrewsbury; Founder of Portland, Maine
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Deputy Pres. George Cleeve

George Cleeve (ca. 1586- after 1666) was an early settler and "founder of Portland, Maine"; Deputy President of the Province of Lygonia from 1643 until the final submission of its Maine towns to Massachusetts authority in 1658.

"From the start Cleeve, a litigious and foul-mouthed man often in conflict with the nascent local administration, appears to have imposed his powerful personality upon the early history of Maine. By 1637 he was already attempting, without success, to persuade Governor Winthrop in Boston to establish a new government with himself in charge; and in due course he was to prove a provocation to the Gorges interest in particular, the weakness of which during the Civil War period he was to ruthlessly exploit." "In depth" George Cleeve (c. 1586-c. 1666), vintner of the Sextry and of the Pheasant, Mardol Head.

George was a vintner, together with one Thomas Lewis, in Shrewsbury, England. George came over in 1630 from Plymouth, Devonshire, England, and settled first at Spurwink, Maine. He was ejected from this land by another settler in 1632, in a dispute lasting many years, and went on to become one of the first settlers of Falmouth, now Portland. He was involved in many notorious land transactions, together with one Richard Tucker, for many years, causing great disturbance among the early inhabitants, one of whom said he was, "a firebrand of dissension and hath set the whole Province together by the ears," in a letter to Governor John Winthrop. In 1636 he and Tucker purchased, for £100, 1500 acres in Casco and Hogg Island in Casco Bay. He returned to England several times. He was a Massachusetts representative later in life, and even this election involved dispute.

His career was both contentious and litigious, engaged in frequent land disputes and vying with Gorges' Province of Maine for jurisdiction over the area north of Cape Porpoise. He is known to have convened provincial courts at Casco in 1644 and Black Point in 1648. Under Massachusetts governance of the area, he was Commissioner for Falmouth (from 1658)and Representative to the General Court, 1663-1664. He died sometime after November 1666, last known record of his life.

He married Joan Price 7 September 1618; daughter Elizabeth married in 1637 Michael Mitton, from whom there are numerous descendants.



Probably one of the most colorful and controversial individuals in Maine's early history, about whom much survives in the records of that colony, George Cleeve was the son of John Cleve, linen draper, of Stogursey, Somerset, England. By the time of his departure for Maine, he was living in Shrewsbury, Somerset, where, in a 1616/17 tax roll, he and Thomas Lewis, vintners (who also emigrated to Maine) were taxed together. Even before he left England, he was involved in a suit against his father-in-law, John Price, a precursor to his litigious nature in Maine. He is believed to have arrived in Maine around 1630, where he first went to Spurwink in 1630-1631, where he was ejected from his first home by John Winter, agent of Robert Trelawny, and removed to what is now Portland in late 1633. Whatever fault of character he may have possessed previously, became pronounced throughout his life in Maine. He was labeled aggressive, ambitious, dishonest, litigious, and unscrupulous, and that "when he had secured his immediate aims, he became a thorn in the flesh of his associates." The early records of Maine are filled with less than admirable descriptives of his nature. His hatred for Ferdinando Gorges, and others of the titled class, was pronounced, and he attempted every coercion possible to defame those who stood in his way, or to misrepresent his aim to others in order to pursue his own gain. That he was initially, to those who knew nothing of his character, persuasive and charming, is apparent, but it was not long before he had alienated every person of power in both Maine and Massachusetts.


  1. Noyes, Libby, Davis, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire (Genealogical Publishing Company reprint, 1996)
  2. James Phinney Baxter, George Cleeve of Casco Bay (Gorges Society, 1885)
  3. W. Williamson, "History of Maine", Volume I
  4. Robert C. Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, bio. entry.
  5. George Cleeve of Casco Bay, 1630-1667: with collateral Documents, by James Phinney Baxter, A.M., (South Windham, ME: Alice Mitchell Branson Auspices of George Cleeve Association, 1991). This is a reprint of the original, and was issued only to members of the George Cleeve Association.


Founder of Portland, Maine

Accomplishments: First settler on Portland Peninsula in 1632. Began farming and lumbering and expanded into land speculation. His importance grew as he acquired large land holdings and greater influence. Cleeve was responsible for bringing more settlers into what was then called Falmouth Neck. He became a judge, the head of Maine's colonial Supreme Court, and president of the province. His final years were marked by poverty and illness.


For a brief time it was thought that George Cleeve had married four times in less than a decade, but it has been determined that there were two men of the name of almost the same age in London, and two of the marriages apparently belong to the man who did not come to New England [ NEHGR 140:180-81; GMC26 36]:

  • "Some thoughts on Geo. Cleeves" 15 Oct 2008
    • In _Register_ 140:180-81, Threlfall tried to show that had a hitherto unknown third (? fourth) marriage, to widow Frances Olney: "This marriage too [to Shortoll] seems to have lasted but a short time, for he subsequently married third Frances Olney, widow of Thomas Olney. This is recorded in a suit in the Chancery Court filed in October 1620 by Ann Buttery, former mother-in-law of Thomas Olney by his first wife Ann Buttery. The suit claimed that Frances held a considerable estate of her first husband that belonged to the children of his first marriage, that Cleeve and Frances's cousin Edward Murcott had taken the estate and refused to account for it or pay the just debts, all of which they denied. Frances was then dead. Just when she died is not known, but at St. Chad's Church, Shrewsbury, 7 September 1618 George Cleeve and Joan Price were married."


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Deputy Pres. George Cleeve's Timeline

Stogursey, Somersetshire, England
Age 19
Shropshire , England
March 13, 1620
Age 34
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
June 24, 1623
Age 37
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England