The early history of Maine is one of frequent changes in boundaries and governments. Early on, Maine was governed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During the 1600s and the first half of the 1700s it was governed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the colony of Massachusetts and by self government. Its boundaries, especially the northern and eastern, were largely undefined and frequently changed by the English government and by treaties between the British and French. Also, the western boundary with New Hampshire was somewhat fluid and was only finalized in 1740. The settlement of Maine initially took place along the coast and the interior was not settled until much later, partially because the interior was an extreme wilderness. In addition, the Indian tribes of the interior were very unfriendly to the settlers which made settlement much more risky. After the end of the French and Indian War in the 1760s, settlement in the interior increased dramatically but was again slowed by the Revolutionary War in 1776. Many men from Maine volunteered but were officially considered fighting from Massachusetts. After the war, settlement efforts again increased and many towns in the interior were founded.
Fryeburg in the southwestern portion of present-day Oxford County was the first settlement in the area and was founded in 1762. It became the rallying point for settlers moving further inland. A settlement was started at Bethel in 1773 and in Waterford in 1775. Paris was settled in 1779, Rumford in 1780 and Buckfield in 1777. Sumner was settled in 1783, Norway in 1786 and Peru in 1793. All of these towns are in the vicinity of present-day Woodstock.
Much of the above information has been extracted from pp 9-14 “History of Woodstock, ME with Family Sketches and an Appendix”; William B. Lapham; Stephen Berry, Printer ; Portland, 1882
Abraham Walton is my 3rdgreat grandfather and spent his childhood and early adult life in Maine. William Walton (Abraham’s father) was born in Amherst, NH in 1743 and was married to Hannah Littlehale of Dunstable, MA in 1765. They soon moved to Wayne, ME and their first child was born there in 1767. Probably all five of their children were born in Wayne, Abraham being the last in 1777. Not long afterwards, Abraham’s mother Hannah died and in 1782 or 1783, William married Mehitable Lyons and had three more children. It is unclear exactly when Abraham left Wayne and moved west but an upper limit is apparent:
“In 1805 William Walton sold out to his son John and removed to a lot taken up at an early date by his son Abraham near the Fayette line and southwest of G. P. Taylor’s. Here he lived with his son Rufus till he moved to Fayette Mills”
pg 32 from “History of the Town of Wayne, Kennebec County, Maine, From Its Settlement to 1898”; Maine Farmer Publishing Co.; Augusta, Maine; 1898
So, by 1805 Abraham was no longer in Wayne, ME. In addition, he was married (1798 or 1799) to Mary (Poly) Hutchinson, daughter of Ebenezer Hutchinson and Hannah Littlehale, and they had three children. In 1805 they were living in what is now Woodstock, ME but exactly when they moved there is not certain. The area around Woodstock was very rough and unsettled. In 1795 the towns of Paris and Rumford (to the northeast) petitioned to have a road built through the 20 miles that separated them. The road was completed (in rough condition) in 1796 and went through the township of Woodstock. In the spring of 1797 a survey of part of the western half of the town was conducted and the first settlers moved in and by the winter of 1800-1801 nine to ten families were there. In addition, it appears that Abraham Walton, his father-in-law Ebenezer Hutchinson and others were in residence on the eastern half of the township.
“Soon after a settlement in the west part of Woodstock was effected, a section two lots wide and running the witdth of the half township on Paris line, was run out on the east half by a surveyor named John K. Smith. These lots were of different sizes, and in number some twelve or fifteen. Abraham and Jonathan Walton* settled upon two of these lots, and the former, if not the latter, was here in 1801. Mr. A. Hutchinson and also E. Hutchinson occupied two other lots. …”
“ *Perhaps a clearing was made on this territory even before the Bryants came to the west part, by Walton and Hutchinson, who built log huts and wintered here, in which case they were really the first settlers in town. If this is true, which is by no means certain, they did not remain long, and the Bryants have always been regarded as the first permanent settlers.”
pp 17-18 from “History of Woodstock, ME with Family Sketches and an Appendix”; William B. Lapham; Stephen Berry, Printer ; Portland, 1882
By 1800 it is evident that Abraham has married and he, his family and father-in-law have left Wayne and moved to Woodstock. It is also probable that he spent some time in Paris and may have lived there for a time while building his cabin and clearing land. The Jonathan Walton referred to above is probably the son of Abraham’s uncle Reuben.