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Who were the Kennebec and Pejepscot Proprietors?

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Residents on company lands also complained, with considerable justification, about suffering as a result of rivalries between the Great Proprietors (as the speculators became known after the American Revolution) over vague, overlapping claims. Fearing that an adverse decision in court would jeopardize their company’s entire claim, the Pejepscot and Kennebec Proprietors preferred to issue unwarranted “quitclaim” deeds to residents. Ordinary homesteaders buying from one company often faced threats and lawsuits from rivals, and some even paid multiple sets of proprietors for their land to avoid eviction.

As agent for the Kennebec company, Samuel Goodwin alone delivered notice to several hundred families between 1749 and 1751, in nineteen communities from North Yarmouth to Newcastle that they should either ask the Kennebec Proprietors for a grant to land these families already lived on or face a lawsuit. At least 319 individuals complied, paying the company over £6000 for lands they had occupied before the company had dispatched its first agent. Frontier residents retaliated by vandalizing the property of company agents, threatening them, and on several occasions, physically assaulting them on the road or even in their homes.

Clashes between the Great Proprietors and frontier residents climaxed in the years around 1800. But in 1808, the Massachusetts General Court passed the Betterment Act, finding that the speculators would have to compensate residents for the value of “improved” land. Squatters’ murder of a surveyor named Paul Chadwick in 1809 along the Kennebec River sapped popular support for continued resistance, convincing most residents to finally settle with the proprietors. Both the Pejepscot and Kennebec Proprietors sold off their remaining claims and wound up their business within a few years of the Betterment Act, bringing the great era of land speculation in Maine to a close.