A Brief History of Shapleigh & Acton

In the winter of 1661, Francis Small began keeping a "trading house" somewhere in the vicinity of what is now Limington and Cornish. Many Indians became largely indebted to him, promising him furs and other valuables in the spring. The Indians later plotted an easier way to extinguish their debt and conspired together to surround and burn his house down on a particular night.

Captain Sunda, an Indian Chief of the Ossipee Tribe, learned of this plot and secretly informed Mr. Small so he would be able to make a timely escape. Mr. Small, at first, regarded this as a sly set-up to deprive him of his property; but for this the Chief openhandedly promised to compensate him with the conveyance of lands if this plan went through. On the night before the scheduled attack, Mr. Small left his house and retired to a neighboring hill. From that hill, he watched the flames of his trading house light up the forest. Later that night, Mr. Small left those regions and returned to Scarborough, his original home.

In 1663, Captain Sunda, faithful to his promise, met Mr. Small in Saco and deeded him the Ossipee tract, towns now known as Cornish, Parsonsfield, Newfield, Limerick, Limington and Shapleigh to indemnify him for his loss. After the loss, it was an established fact that a man by the name of Major Nicholas Shapleigh of Kittery, was in company with Mr. Small in the "trading house" enterprise. Due to that fact, Mr. Small deeded to Mr. Shapleigh, an undivided half of all the lands conveyed by Captain Sunda.

Before long, a period of Indian wars commenced. Mr. Small, fearful he may be an object of savage vengeance, went to Cape Cod where he later died. Around that same time, after serving on a committee to establish peace with the Indians, Nicholas Shapleigh died in Kittery in 1682.

These wars suspended to all new settlements and deeds were known as "dead letters" for the longest time. At length, these cruel and destructive wars ended. The settlements began to recover their reduced states and began surveying the land.

In 1770, the original unrecorded deed from Captain Sunda to Francis Small was located by his family from over 100 years before. The heirs of Nicholas Shapleigh knew they had an interest in the deed and therefore in 1772 appointed a committee "to go up and possess the land." In May of 1773 this committee, accompanied by a surveyor and chairman went out into the wilderness and marked what eventually became the towns' original boundaries.

Later through the General Court in Boston, Mr. Small's heirs took possession of Cornish, Limington, Newfield and half of Limerick while Mr. Shapleigh's heirs took possession of Parsonsfield, Shapleigh and the other half of Limerick.

In 1771, the name of Hubbardstown Plantation was given to the area we now know as Acton & Shapleigh.

The first settler was Joseph Jellison who lived in Emery Mills in 1775. More settlers were soon followed by Captain William Rogers, who built the bridge across the narrows of Mousam Lake and a house nearby.

The town we now know as Shapleigh was officially incorporated in 1785 as the 43rd town containing approximately 20,000 acres. Shapleigh has four principal settlements: Shapleigh Corner, Emery Mills, Ross Corner and North Shapleigh (go to SHAPLEIGH VILLAGES page for more info).

Owing to its barren wastes in the center of the new town, it was divided into the east and west parishes. In 1830, the West Parish was incorporated as the town of Acton.

Acton & Shapleigh are filled with rolling hills, stone walls and extensive bodies of water. These towns have several distinct personalities:

Rural communities with large amounts of open spaces and a few resource based enterprises such as apple orchards and a lumber mill;

Resort communities with significant influx of summer residents to the lakes; and

Bedroom communities for Sanford and other employment centers.