For those of you who’ve been following me for a while, you have more than likely noticed that I tend to dig up some really odd Maine history snippets from many of the older histories and other literature that has been published from Maine’s past. One of my favorites has been the story of the Bigfoot killing from Deer Isle, which would possibly have occurred no later than sometime around the end of the seventeenth century, and probably much earlier. I now find a strange tale from A History of the Town of Gorham, written by Josiah Pierce and published in 1862.
The story appears to have taken place circa 1788 and involved maybe two dozen men, ranging around the Gorham region towards the southern Maine coast. They spoke English, although the tale doesn’t say how well, and ate raw vegetables and birds. From whence did these men come from? Could they have been shipwrecked pirates? Maybe displaced Frenchmen, as the story suggests? Who knows today where they may have come from, nor where they would have gone to.
Perhaps they may have been English sailors marooned in New England while on a spy mission, what with the incident having taken place so close on the tails of the war of independence. Many stories that cannot be explained have taken place in Maine through the years, and this is merely another one of those tales. No explanation exists, but perhaps a reader may be able to add to this story in some way. Here’s the excerpt from the book:
WILD MEN OF GORHAM
About 1788, there was a general belief in Gorham, that certain strange men were wandering about this town, Scarborough and Westbrook. They were called ” Wild men.” Between the months of July and October, it is asserted, there were seen in the fields and in the woods, human beings ragged, and having long shaggy hair and beards, picking berries, green corn and peas. Upon discovering any other person, they would run away. Sometimes they were seen going out of barns early in the morning. Cows were frequently found to have been milked during the night in yards.
A Miss Webb, rising very early one morning, said she saw one of the wild men going out of her father’s yard, and one of the cows had been milked. Mr. Barnabas Bangs was looking for his oxen in a pasture where there were many trees and bushes, and he came suddenly upon one of these men sitting upon a log, eating a dead robin. Mr. Bangs asked him why he did not go to some house and cook his bird ? The fellow rose, and brandishing a large jack knife, replied, ” I will let you know the reason.” Mr. Bangs, being unarmed, speedily left the place.
Two boys, Ebenezer Hall and Israel Hall, were one day picking blackberries, and saw two of these wild persons coming towards them; the boys being frightened concealed themselves in the bushes. The boys said one of them was a woman, and that they were white people. It was said that a man in the vicinity of Bragdon’s Mills, near the line of Scarborough, being one day out in the woods with his gun, came upon one of these men, who was eating a young pigeon. The Scarborough man pointed his gun at him, and told him he would shoot him if he did not tell him who he was, and from whence he came.
The strange man said he was one of twenty-five sailors, the crew of a large vessel that was cast away on the coast. No such shipwreck was known by our citizens to have happened. Two brothers, Abraham and Eli “Webb, were one night driving a team with a load of boards from Saccarappa to Stroudwater, and they said they had a fair view of five of the Wild men in a field by the side of the road; they were picking green peas. It is said that the last time these wild men were seen was in Scarborough, near Gorham and Buxton lines, when a Mr. Libby is said to have counted fourteen of them, in a grove of young pine trees.
Not much importance is to be attached, I suppose, to the foregoing relation, yet there is no doubt that the people of Gorham and the adjacent towns, fully believed that such men were seen; that they were foreigners, mysterious persons. Some supposed them pirates, others, that they were a company of the Acadians, or neutral French, who had been expatriated from Nova Scotia. But who they were, where from, or what became of them, seems never to have been ascertained.
This account was given me in writing, some years ago, by an aged and intelligent gentleman of Gorham, who was a boy often years of age when these strangers were said to have been seen. My informant fully believed in the truth of the story.
A History of the Town of Gorham