Runaround Pond & Judah Chandler & the Wabanakis

JUDAH CHANDLER (1720-1802)

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In 1766, Judah Chandler built the first sawmill and dam creating Runaround Pond, building at the head a falls, near the current bridge. The mill dammed Chandler Brook (named after Judah Chandler), which is also known as the Middle Branch of the Royal River. A second sawmill was built in 1777. The dam was constructed for the purpose of providing water power to a grist mill which was later converted to a shingle mill, known as the Old Chandler Mill. Over the years five different mills, including the most-recent Stone Mill operated at various dam locations. A road crossed the brook below the dam. Various quarry holes are visible near the dam.

Judah’s dam or one of the later dams created “The Runaround,” an overflow stream or second outlet of the pond located at the eastern-most boundary of the Runaround Pond Recreation Area. This runaround gave the pond its name, and creates an island today hosting the parking area and trails. Over the years the pond has been known as Round About Pond, Run Round Pond, and the Stone Mill Pond. (A separate pond named Chandler Mill Pond is in New Gloucester, named after a different Chandler Mill built by a branch of the Chandler family descended from Judah’s nephew Peleg.)

Durham was once known as Royalsborough and also Royalston, after the Royall family of North Yarmouth (now Yarmouth) for whom the Royal River was named. Durham contains significant headwaters of the East and Middle Branches of the Royal River, called the Wescustogo (Muddy) River by the Wabanaki.

Judah Chandler was born in Duxbury, Mass, and raised in North Yarmouth (now Yarmouth). He first settled in Royalsborough (Durham) in 1766. He was a coaster who sailed up and down the sea coast bringing the raw materials out and finished goods and supplies in, a lumber surveyor, and saw mill operator. He spent time up and down the whole Maine coast building saw mills and helping found towns like Jonesboro, Maine.  

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On June 12, 1775 Judah Chandler was on the ship Unity when it engaged, successfully, HMS Margaretta off Machias. This is considered the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War, and the birth of the US Navy, five days before the Battle of Bunker Hill. Judah and one of his sons (who died in the Revolution) are buried in Durham’s Harmony Grove Cemetery on David Road, with simple stones.

Maine, then part of Massachusetts, was not one of the original 13 colonies symbolized by the thirteen stars and thirteen stripes of the Revolutionary flag.

According to the Town of Durham’s Comprehensive Plan, there are several possible archaeological sites near the shoreline of Runaround Pond. These site contain rich history of Maine’s oldest cultural traditions, to guide current and future generations of Maine and Wabanaki people as a strong foundation of cultural awareness.

The  Wabanaki name for the Royal River and its surroundings, “Wescustogo,” means “muddy.”  Marine clay soils now known as the “Presumpscot Formation” form a large part of the Royal River watershed, resulting in chocolate brown water. Most of what is today the Royal River watershed used to be under the sea, before the ice age. Granite outcroppings, like the granite ledges here at Runaround Pond, and Bradbury Mountain, formed islands in the sea.

Wabanaki people travelled seasonally and took advantage of the coastal fish and shellfish during the summer while travelling inland along the royal where they could hunt for the winter. Native Americans have made use of the forest and river for centuries.

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The Wabanaki Confederacy (“People of the First Light” or “People of the Dawnland”) is a confederation of five principal nations: the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot. During the early 1700s, the Wabanaki created a Confederacy against the British with objectives of defense and survival. After the Wabanaki aligned with the French, the French and Indian Wars — especially King George’s War — defined the settlement patterns of the Wescustogo region during the mid 1700s. After the French defeat at the Battle of Quebec in 1759, the Wabanaki People were without their military ally and were in a weakened position.  

King George II promised to respect Wabanaki territory in a proclamation issued in 1763, but the various Governors of Massachusetts did not recognize the Proclamation as valid.  

In 1980, a land settlement between the State of Maine and some of Maine’s Wabanaki nations resulted in Wabanaki ownership of roughly 1% of Maine’s forestland, none of it near Wescustogo.