Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island, Nov. 2, 1754

“On account of a load of lumber sold”

Capt. Andrew Dunning, of Harpswell, was a master mariner and coastal trader who sailed his sloop Mary in coastal trade as far north as Cape Breton Island, Canada and as far south as the Carolinas.

Capt. Andrew, in this entry, has unloaded 22,417 board feet of lumber and 1,430 barrel staves at the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. This seems to be a huge load of lumber to carry in a sloop-rigged boat, which would usually be about 30 feet in length. The little vessel must have been very heavily laden and down in the water.

We must assume that Capt. Andrew procured his lumber from a coastal water-powered mill here in Harpswell or in another coastal town. It would have been quite a feat and a lucky voyage to sail such a load Down East, through the Bay of Fundy, around Nova Scotia, and then to Cape Breton Island and the Louisbourg Fortress without being wrecked or swamped.

The date of this entry is significant. In 1745, control of Louisbourg was taken from the French by means of a raid and subsequent siege, spearheaded by Massachusetts Bay Colony Gov. William Shirley and William Pepperell, of Kittery, Province of Maine. Other notable colonists involved in this expedition were Samuel Waldo (for whom Waldo County is named) and John Bradstreet, of Colonial Massachusetts renown. Men with Harpswell connections involved and participating in the attack were Richard Jacques, Samuel Moody and Ebenezer Eastman, who were all three members of the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment, commanded by Samuel Waldo. This expedition was joined and supported by British naval forces led by Commodore Warren.

These leaders and their men were disgruntled and very angry when Louisbourg was given back to the French by the British under the treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle in 1748. Ironically, the British would be forced to lay siege again in 1758 to regain control of Louisbourg and therefore the St. Lawrence River, then known as the gateway of Canada.

We may speculate that the motives of our man Capt. Andrew were neutral and profit-driven. He was supplying the French at Louisbourg with lumber to build and expand. He was trading with the British at Halifax in all manner of goods. He was trading at Portsmouth, Boston, Philadelphia, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and many other places.

Items of trade were many and sundry. Lumber, rum, beef, pork, chocolate, sailcloth, linen, tea and shoes were only a few. The common denominator was the relatively high value of these goods to justify carrying them such long distances.

Rum was Capt. Andrew’s most profitable cargo. In July of 1754 at Boston, we find him buying a barrel of rum (in this case 30 1/2 gallons) at 22 pounds, 17 shillings, 6 pence. Also in July he is selling a gallon of rum in Boston at 1 pound, 16 shillings, 3 pence. There are also entries indicating the sale of rum by the quart at 7 shillings, 6 pence. Rum was by far the most lucrative trade good!

Before there was a town of Harpswell, and when we were still subjects of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Capt. Andrew Dunning was an intrepid mariner who did much to promote our town and allow us to prosper. Twenty-two years before the publication of the Declaration of Independence, we see that Capt. Andrew Dunning was truly independent and a pioneer in shipping, sailing, trade and world navigation.

Sam W. Alexander, of Harpswell Neck, is a former Harpswell selectman and Planning Board chair. He is the great-grandson of Betsy Dunning, who was a granddaughter of Capt. Andrew Dunning and record-keeper of the Alexander and Dunning families.