When the Rev. Thomas Smith first came to the Neck, as Portland was known during the early 1700s, he was 26, recently hired by the church in Boston to serve the religious needs of the inhabitants attending the First Parish Church in Portland.

In June 1725, the congregation consisted of just 56 families, most widely scattered on the Neck, at New Casco and Cape Elizabeth. Those on the Neck clustered around the lower part of what is now India Street.

At the time of Smith’s arrival, the population of the whole town, including outlying villages, did not exceed 400, more than half of them in the India Street area. His salary that first year was “voted A?£70 plus board and the contributions of strangers… to supply his firewood, clear and fence his lots and to find him a house.”

The reverend’s duties were arduous, extended over a wide territory and required him to “preach every third Sabbath to the small settlement across the river at Purpoodock to benefit the people there.” He traveled to his various posts in boats, on horseback, on the ice or plodding through snow.

The 17 families in Purpoodock and Spurwink erected a log house on the Point that was used as both a garrison and a meeting house.

During late fall of 1726, the young parson set out on one of his required visits to Boston on religious business. He followed the well-trod footpath first begun by Native Americans traveling from one village to another.

At first the trail was only a narrow pathway through the forest the width of a man’s foot, but after the settlers arrived and began using the same trail, it gradually became wider to accommodate a horse and ride, then wagons with passengers and trade goods.

The early colonists and settlers referred to these trails as the King’s Highway. In our section of Maine, one such well-known route from Portland to Kittery led travelers across streams, rivers and marshes, through dense forests, up hills and down to valleys following a circuitous route along the shoreline to Boston.

On Nov. 21, 1726, Smith and his horse left the First Parish Church (1) proceeding down hill to India Street to board the ferry crossing the Fore River to Purpoodock.

This section of the King’s Highway led east past the shipyard that would produce the Liberty Ships used during World War II (2).

The journey around the point led him along the coast to the future site of Fort Preble (3), now Southern Maine Community College. Plodding along, he and his horse trudged the shoreline past the Old Settlers’ Cemetery (4) to Preble Street, eventually joining Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth.

The area would have several small inns and hotels built during the next century to accommodate the traveling public. At the same time, private homes were built on land owned by George W. Brown offering a view of the ship channel and outlying islands. Brown named his development Mountain View Park (5).

Following the King’s Highway in this area, Smith approached the site of several future summer homes constructed on the coastal side of Shore Road, most of them with their own wells and windmills.

About one-half mile farther and on a slight hill to his left, the future Cape Cottage Hotel would be built during the end of the 19th century (6). Inland we would later find Joseph W. Armstrong’s Country Store where, at present, the U.S. Postal Service maintains a sub-station.

Farther along are open fields later owned by U. W. Allen, whose business was listed in 1871 as a “farmer and gardener” (7).

Smith’s next view of the ocean would be at the rocky promontory and future site for Portland Head Lighthouse (8).

Continuing south, horse and rider pass the spot where Barzilla Delano would build his blacksmith shop on land that retains the family name (9).

The two have passed through dense woods and thick vegetation. Tall trees overhead make a canopy, keeping out the sun as well as inclement weather that may impede their travels.

As the ocean creeps in forming a cove later known as Pond Cove (10), the travelers rest for a time, perhaps pausing long enough to gather berries or edible plants to nibble along the way.

At the southern edge of the cove, the woods become denser and the footpath veers inland. Trudging through the woods, the travelers approach a clearing where a new town hall would be built, 1901 (11).

To the far side of the clearing is land claimed in the future by three members of the Hannaford family (12). At the next fork in the path where Fowler Road branches off, we will see the future farm of one of the Jordans.

The travelers meander along, skirting huge rocks to stop for fresh water at Alewife Brook and passing Great Pond to Bowery Beach Road, where later generations will construct the Grange Hall (13).

The Spurwink Meetinghouse will be built nearby with its adjacent Riverside Cemetery overlooking the marsh (14).

Smith and his horse travel the rest of the way through farmland of the Rev. Robert Jordan, one of the original settlers of Cape Elizabeth (15).

As they slide down the muddy hill toward the mouth of the Spurwink River, the ferryman Ambrose Boaden is waiting to take the weary travelers across to Scarborough (16), where they continue traveling the King’s Highway to the Piscataqua River and on to Boston.

Smith’s route this day has taken him through only a small portion of the King’s Highway to Boston, a distance of approximately 9 miles. He arrived in Boston, Nov. 26, five days later after a journey of 124 miles.

This tireless gentleman continued his ministry for the next 68 years. He died May 25, 1795, at age 93.

Excerpts from journals of the Rev. Thomas Smith and Samuel Deane, pastors of the First Parish Church in Portland.

A map of the King’s Highway shows the difficult trail the Rev. Thomas Smith traveled en route to Boston.The Rev. Thomas Smith served the First Parish Chuch in Portland for 68 years. He died May 25, 1795, at age 93.


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