Friday, July 21, 2023

Early Raymond settler leaves lasting impression upon community

By Ernest H. Knight

One of Raymond’s most prominent early citizens was Joseph Dingley, who was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts about 100 years after the landing of the Pilgrims at nearby Plymouth.

Joseph Dingley was one of the pioneers
and early settlers of Raymond in the 18th
century and is buried in the cemetery on
Raymond Cape Road across from his
homestead where he operated a grist
mill for many years.
As to how he came into contact with the Beverly Proprietors of Raymondtown to acquire right to land in their township is not known, but he arrived here in 1770, and having won a race against Dominicus Jordan to be the first settler, received an additional 100 acres for his victory.

As he came by water there is not an agreement as to whether his first landfall was at the head of Kettle Cove near where he had Lot 15 in Range Two or by Dingley Brook to Lot 9 in the same range where he developed his sawmill.

When the proprietors in 1771 realized the great need for a mill for the settlers they sought someone to erect one on the lot reserved for that purpose on the outlet from Panther Pond, then named Painter Pond. Dingley countered with one of his own to build a mill on his lot on the outlet from Thomas Pond, which was accepted by the proprietors.

Both proposals included a provision that the proprietors find millstones and deliver them to Falmouth (Portland) and Dingley was committed to have a “sawmill fit for sawing boards by the next June and a corn mill fit to grind corn by next fall.” This provided Raymondtown with the minimum commercial requirements for survival, a sawmill, and a grist mill.

Settler Dominicus Jordan also had a mill site above the present Route 302 bridge over the Jordan River, but once again, Dingley got ahead of him. It was to the Dingley mill that resident Jeremiah Tarbox was carrying a sack of corn on his back to provide corn meal for his family when he fell exhausted into the snow, and froze to death, together with his wife who tried to help him back to their cabin.

Joseph Dingley’s progeny were plentiful and active in the life of their community, as were those of Dominicus Jordan, both before and after division of the town into Raymond and Casco. Dingley’s daughter Susan married Richard Manning, a blacksmith from Salem who was agent for the Beverly Proprietors in Raymondtown, who after Manning’s death married Francis Radoux. Joseph’s son Samuel settled on the other Dingley lot near Kettle Cove, building a house that still stands just beyond the Bridgton Road Church on Route 302. Samuel later moved to Joseph’s homestead and helped run the mill in Joseph’s advanced years. Joseph is recorded as having an odd habit of mouth distortions, shaking hands and an unsteadiness that would today probably be called Parkinson’s or some other affliction.

Both Dingleys, father and son, volunteered for military service at the start of the Revolutionary War in the company of men from Raymond and Windham and returned to the fast-growing Raymondtown as Captains, a title that Jospeh retained for the rest of his life, even though he later held the rank of Colonel in the militia. Joseph is buried in the cemetery behind the Manning House across the road from his homestead and across the brook from his mill.

Off the mouth of Dingley Brook in Sebago Lake are a dozen Dingley Islands, one or more of which were used by Joseph. There he cleared pasture for his sheep, a wise procedure as an island has a ready-made fence of water to keep livestock in as well as an equally ready-made barrier to marauding bears and wolves. In those days of wilderness living there were many predatory animals from which domestic stock needed protection as well as did people for which fences offered little security.

Dogs were also employed as an aid to security and in the collection of artifacts from the era at the Friends Schoolhouse at the Raymond-Casco Historical Museum, there is a homemade iron dog collar on which is soldered a copper plate engraved “Joe Dingley, Casco, Me No. 15.” Whether the “Joe Dingley” was our Joseph Dingley, or the name of the dog is not known. But it is an interesting and rugged collar, suitable for rugged times. There is legend that in the Dingley household there was at one time a pet bear that had the run of the house in the summer and hibernated under the mill in the winter, so all wild animals were not their enemy.

Jospeh Dingley was a farmer as well as a mill man (as applied to those working with lumber) and a miller (as applied to those working with grains). An authentic relic of his farming activity in our schoolhouse collections is his two-tined pitchfork which hangs on a wall. < 

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.

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