MOULTON, JEREMIAH, militia officer, member of the Massachusetts Council; b. York, Massachusetts (now in Maine), 1688, youngest son of Joseph Moulton and Hannah (?) Littlefield; d. York, 20 July 1765.
Jeremiah Moulton’s father was a tavern-keeper and prominent citizen of York, which by 1692 was one of the last southern Maine settlements to survive repeated French and Indian attacks. Early in that year a sizeable band of Penobscots, some of them converts of Father Louis-Pierre Thury*, encouraged by the promises of Acadia’s Governor Joseph Robinau* de Villebon to give them presents, arms, and ammunition, joined Indians from the Kennebec River in a winter raid on the remaining Maine towns. On 25 January (o.s.) they surprised York and overran all but its fortified garrison houses. They killed or made captive about half its people; one of the dead was York’s first minister, the noted Shubael Dummer. Joseph Moulton, his wife, and a number of his guests were killed and some of his children were captured. Among them was the four-year-old Jeremiah, a determined youngster who struggled, managed briefly to get away from his captors, and was finally allowed to take refuge in one of the garrison houses.
Over the next few years Jeremiah grew up in a relative’s home in York, learned the trade of surveying, and married Hannah Ballard (?) of Portsmouth, New Hampshire; they were to have eight children. He also served in the militia, advancing from sergeant to captain, and gaining a reputation as an energetic, capable, and popular leader of colonial scouting expeditions during Lovewell’s or Dummer’s War (1722–1725). A central enterprise of that war was the colonial effort to capture the controversial Father Sébastien Rale*, French missionary to the Norridgewock Indians of the Kennebec River. A hero and martyr to most French Canadian historians, he was the evil genius of the Maine Indians to contemporary and many later English writers. His influence with the Indians made him an inevitable target for English colonists angered by attacks on their frontier settlements. Between 1721 and 1724 there were four attempts to capture the missionary; Captain Jeremiah Moulton played a prominent role in at least two of these, including the last, which succeeded.
In August 1724 a carefully planned expedition of over 200 colonial soldiers headed up the Kennebec from Fort Richmond (Richmond, Maine). After stopping briefly at Ticonic (Winslow), where they left their whaleboats and a guard of 40 men, they continued north on foot towards Norridgewock (Narantsouak; today Old Point, Madison). Captain Johnson Harmon led the raid, with Moulton as second in command. Among the raiders were many York soldiers who, like Harmon, Moulton, and some other officers, had been present, had had relatives killed or captured, or had been made captives themselves in the raid on York in 1692. Coming within striking distance of Norridgewock about noon on 12 August, the raiding force was divided into two sections of some 80 men each. Captain Harmon, who chose to attack through the tribe’s cornfields, found no Indians and missed the whole fight. Captain Moulton led his men directly into the village. They were warned to silence and were under strict orders not to fire until the enemy had emptied their guns. The surprised warriors, about 50 or 60 in number, rushed out of their homes shooting wildly at the attackers, withstood a disciplined return volley, fired again, then retreated to join the women and children whose earlier flight they had been trying to cover. They were pursued by most of Moulton’s men, who cut them down in the river and in the forest. The old chief Mog* and Father Rale held out in the village. As he was firing from a cabin, Rale was killed by Lieutenant Richard Jaques, Harmon’s son-in-law, against orders from Moulton that he be captured alive. Norridgewock was looted and later burned, and the dead were scalped.
After this attack, Captain Moulton continued to take part in scouting expeditions. When the war was over, he remained a militia officer, but resumed his civil career. He became a judge, sheriff of York County, member of the Massachusetts Council, and holder of various other offices. He also developed farms and mills, and helped to found the town which later became Sanford, Maine. During King George’s War, Moulton, now a colonel and one of New England’s most experienced soldiers, once more saw active service; he commanded one of the three Massachusetts regiments in the expedition against Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) in 1745. In April of that year he landed with the New England troops at Canso and went from there, leading a detached force of New Hampshire men, to capture and destroy Port-Toulouse (St Peters, N.S.) in early May. He sat regularly with the council of war at Louisbourg and stayed on after the fall of the town to help with its occupation. He did not return to Maine until December 1745; shortly thereafter he was appointed judge of probate for York County.
In 1760 Moulton’s first wife died; in 1762 he married Mrs Mary Lord. He remained an active and respected citizen of York until his death in 1765. In the words of a Maine historian, “few men of this age and this Province, had a greater share of public confidence, or were called to fill so many places of official trust and responsibility. . . . [He was] a man of sound judgment possessing a character of uncommon excellence.”
[The account of the Norridgewock attack given in this biography is based largely on New England sources which, with some exceptions, seem much more accurate than the French sources, however biased they might be against Father Rale. The principal French source is a letter of Father Pierre de La Chasse of October 1724, which is printed in JR (Thwaites), LXVI, 231–47. Among the main New England sources are two newspaper stories: New-England Courant (Boston), 17–24 August 1724, and Boston News-Letter, 20–27 August 1724. These stories reflect Captain Harmon’s sworn testimony before the Massachusetts Council and give him the credit for the success of the raid. Moulton’s story is embodied in Thomas Hutchinson, History of Mass.-Bay (Mayo), II, 234–38. Hutchinson, a careful historian, interviewed Moulton at some length about the incident. For another contemporary account, see Penhallow, History of wars with eastern Indians (1726), 102–4.
See also: Charlevoix, History (Shea), IV, V. Documentary history of Maine, X, XI, XII. Cotton Mather, “Decennium luctuosum, 1699,” in Narratives of the Indian wars, 1675–1699, ed. C. H. Lincoln (New York, 1913). New Eng. Hist. and Geneal. Register, LV (1901), 314. J. C. Webster, Acadia at the end of the seventeenth century: letters, journals and memoirs of Joseph Robineau de Villebon, commandant in Acadia, 1690–1700, and other contemporary documents (N.B. Museum, Monographic ser., I, Saint John, N.B., 1934), 36. [Thomas Westbrook et al.], Letters of Colonel Thomas Westbrook and others relative to Indian affairs in Maine, 1722–26, ed. W. B. Trask (Boston, 1901), 26, 46, 78–79, 91–92, 104, 109, 154–56, 173. C. E. Banks, History of York, Maine . . . (2v., Boston, 1931–35), I, 296–97, 322–25, 328. J. P. Baxter, The pioneers of New France in New England, with contemporary letters and documents (Albany, 1894). Coleman, New England captives. F. H. Eckstorm, “The attack on Norridgewock, 1724,” New Eng. Q., VII (1934), 541–78. George Ernst, New England miniature: a history of York, Maine (Freeport, Maine, 1961), 36, 118–21. G. T. Little, Genealogical and family history of the state of Maine (4v., New York, 1909), I, 413–14. K. M. Morrison, “Sebastien Rale vs. New England: a case study of frontier conflict” (unpublished ma thesis, University of Maine, Orono, 1970). Parkman, Count Frontenac and New France (1891), 348–51; Half-century of conflict, I. W. D. Williamson, The history of the state of Maine; from its first discovery, A.D. 1602, to the separation, A.D. 1820 inclusive (2v., Hallowell, Maine, 1832; repr. ), I, 628–30; II, 102, 350–51. a.r.s.]