Friday, November 13, 2009

Kittery celebrates the lives
of the Pepperrells

By Devin Beliveau
Staff Columnist
275 years later, the Pepperrell Family was once again at the center of attention in Kittery Point.
Local residents gathered at the tomb of Colonel William Pepperrell in Kittery Point on Saturday to see the work that has recently been completed by the Pepperell Project. Led by former state senator Steve Estes, The Pepperrell Project has cleaned up the area surrounding the tomb. “It’s to make the site more visible. People couldn’t find it,” Estes explained in his opening remarks to a crowd of several dozen.
The event began with several songs by maritime folk performers The Dog Watch. Estes then welcomed the crowd, and stated that the goal of the Pepperrell Project was to “reveal again for the first time in 30 years this wonderful site.” Estes noted that 2009 is the 275th anniversary of the death of Colonel Pepperrell, and asked if there were any Pepperrell descendants in the crowd. About 6 people raised their hands.
After a blessing by Reverend Jeff Gallagher, historian, author, and former state legislator Neil Rolde took the podium. “Today we are celebrating once again the lives and the contributions to American history of the two Pepperrells,” said Rolde, referring to Colonel William Pepperell and his son Sir William Pepperrell. Rolde is the author of the book Sir William Pepperrell of Colonial New England.
Colonel Pepperrell arrived at the Isles of Shoals in 1676 from Devonshire, England. He married Margery Bray of Kittery Point, the local tavern keeper’s daughter, and the couple had 8 children, including William Jr. “The William Pepperrell Company” found success in shipping, trade, forestry and especially real estate.
“With his father’s help, William Jr. went about acquiring Maine real estate,” Rolde explained. “From Kittery all the way north to Scarborough. It was later said he could get on his horse here in Kittery Point, ride to Scarborough, and never get off his own land.” At one point William Jr. was known as the richest man in Maine.
William Pepperrell Jr. went on to serve in the Massachusetts Legislature. “He seemed to excel at everything he did. He was apparently extremely personable,” said Rolde. “Everybody liked him.”
William Pepperrell Jr.earned his fame for his leadership in capturing the French Fortress Louisburg on Cape Breton Island (Canada) during King George’s War in 1745. “He was chosen to lead an armada of colonists against the French,” said Rolde. “Pepperrell’s leadership led to the capture, after a short siege, of a supposedly impregnable French fortification.”
“Pepperrell’s victory was wildy celebrated in England. And he went there, not to be knighted by the king, but actually ennobled, which means he was made a Baronet, which is a much higher rank than a knight,” Rolde explained. William Pepperrell Jr. thus became Sir William Pepperrell.
After Rolde’s history lesson, Shapleigh School eighth grader Jackson Yeaton read the poem “With Pepperrell’s.” The restored memorial tablet was then unveiled, and the “Pepperrell Brigade” colonial re-enactors fired a musket salute over the Pepperrell tomb.
Work on the Pepperrell Project began in the summer and benefitted from the time given by several volunteers. Additional support for the Pepperell Project was given by The Friends of Fort McClary, The Kittery Cemetery Committee, and The Kittery Historical and Naval Museum. The museum also hosted a reception following Saturday’s celebration.
The Pepperrell Tomb and Memorial can be found on Route 103 in Kittery Point, across the street from Frisbee’s Market.
Photo caption: Part of the ceremony in Kittery Point on Nov. 7 celebrating restoration of the Pepperrell Tomb and Memorial. (Devin Beliveau photo)