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Who were the Kennebec and Pejepscot Proprietors?

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The Pejepscot Proprietors granted a limited number of free plots of land in Brunswick and Topsham between 1715 and 1722, and continued a policy of selling initial plots of 100 acres for £5, to entice colonists to move in. Different goals of residents and the proprietors soon led to clashes. The proprietors hoped to retain most “undivided” land until its value rose because of growth in Brunswick, Topsham, and other company towns. Residents in those communities wanted the proprietors to grant away more land to attract more settlers, with greater numbers enabling schools, prosperity, and, on a still-contested frontier, safety in times of war. Residents also levelled frequent complaints about the quality of their existing plots of land, pointing out that the proprietors hoarded choice lots for their own use, hindering community prosperity.

In 1719, Brunswick residents took matters into their own hands, declaring in their own “Leagual Town Meeting” that the (still unincorporated) town would assume the power to revoke grants to anyone who “neglect[ed]” to build on the land” for the space of halfe a year.” Later that year, residents discussed expanding the meadowland attached to each grant by vote of the town, yet another measure that they lacked the legal authority to do. The Pejepscot Proprietors spent the next half century struggling with Brunswick and Topsham residents who squatted on unsold land, stalled on payments, or helped themselves to timber on company land, while arguing that, by assuming the risk of moving to Maine, and making the company claim valuable, they deserved a greater share of it. Writing about Topsham residents to Enoch Freeman in 1762, Belcher Noyes grumbled that “there is not one of them but what think their Right superior to the Proprietors and have a long time bid Defiance.”