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Thomas Westbrook
Westbrook retrieved Father Rale's strong box
Westbrook retrieved Father Rale's strong box
Born 1675[1]
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Died 11 February 1743/1744 (age 69)
Falmouth, Maine
Occupation Commander in the "East", Colonel of militia, King's mast agent, councilor, mill owner, speculator, innkeeper
Spouse(s) Mary Sherburne
Children Elizabeth (married Richard Waldron (Secretary))
Parents John Westbrook and Martha Walford
Signature 150px

Colonel Thomas Westbrook (1675-1743/1744) was a senior New England militia officer in Maine during Father Rale's War. In addition to this senior militia role he was a scout, a colonial councillor, an innkeeper, a mill owner, a land speculator and a King's Mast Agent.[2][3] He is the namesake of Westbrook, Maine.

Early yearsEdit


Globe Tavern[4][5] on the Plains in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

During Queen Anne's War, Westbrook became a ranger in a small company of four (1704).[6]

In 1716 the General Assembly of the Province made a grant to Thomas Westbrook, to keep the only public house at the Plains, in consideration that he should lay out six acres of land for the accommodation of drawing up the militia of the town.[7] From at least 1720 he was the owner and proprietor.[8]

Father Rale's WarEdit

During the years 1721-3 Westbrook became a captain in the militia and, after the fall of Colonel Shadrack Walton from favour with Massachusett's acting Governor William Dummer, became the colonel in charge of the militia in the "East" (Maine)[9][10][11]

A focus during the Father Rale's War was the New England effort to apprehend Father Sebastien Rale, a Jesuit priest and French national who resided with and, the New Englanders thought, guided the natives to raid and kill or abduct New England colonists. The General Court of Massachusetts in December 1721 directed the militia to apprehend Rale and bring him to Boston to answer these charges.[12]

The Strong BoxEdit

In January 1722 Colonel Westbrook led a group of militia that, unable to find Rale, seized a strongbox containing his correspondence with Marquis de Vaudreuil, the French Governor in Quebec, and a hand written dictionary of the native Abenaki language. In the minds of New Englanders of the day, the letters proved French complicity in urging native American tribes to attack New England settlements, and they were conveyed to authorities in Boston.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

He was present at the December 15, 1725 Falmouth peace treaty with the Indians, "Dummer's Treaty", which ended the hostilities, apparently his last act as a militia officer.[21]

Falmouth, MaineEdit

He moved to Falmouth (near modern Portland, Maine) "as early as 1719" to enter the lucrative business of providing masts to the British navy as a private contractor. He was one of only a few European-descended residents there at that time.[22]

He was appointed as King's Mast Agent in 1727 and moved the "King's mast business" from Portsmouth to Falmouth.[23] The mast agent was charged by the Crown with marking, protecting and providing trees which were suitable for ship's masts in the Royal Navy.[24]

Westbrook "became a citizen" of Falmouth in August 1727.[25] He built his "splendid seat"[26] of "Harrow House" with garrisons on the south side of Stroudwater River on a 69-acre (280,000 m2) property.[27] It was likely at this home that Westbrook entertained Governor Belcher and other guests.[28]

He built two mills, a gristmill whose stones still survive[29][30] as markers of other historical sites, and a papermill.[31] Native chief Polin travelled to the governor to protest Col. Westbrook's failure to provide a way for spawning fish to get past his mill.[32]


As early as 1710[15] he was part of the King's Council appointed by the governor, and held his post (though often absent) until 1730 when he resigned voluntarily.[33][34] In 1733 he was briefly in Boston as a representative to the council from Falmouth and courted by Governor Jonathan Belcher to be a supporter of the Massachusetts government. He showed little interest in these duties and was fined for being absent.[35]


With the young[1] Brigadier General[15] Samuel Waldo (pictured at right) he became a land speculator of as much as 15,000 acres[31] in the Falmouth area (near present-day Portland, Maine). The two partners prospered until, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Waldo "[who had] led him into large land speculations ... then struck upon him in an unfortunate time."[36] "Waldo by unscrupulous or ruthless means divested Westbrook of his lands and much of his wealth by 1743..."[15]

"In 1743, Waldo recovered judgement against him for ten thousand five hundred pounds, which he levied upon his property, and swept it nearly all away."[37]

A copy of one of his later letters, desperately seeking a loan, survived and was transcribed near the end of Trask's Letters of Colonel Thomas Westbrook. Unlike most of his letters, this one was probably not dictated and captures Westbrook's choice of spelling as well as his desperation.

July 29, 1740. Sir my desterse is so grat I know not how to Turn myself for Want of money. If you cold any Ways helpe me I shall tack it as a favor. Mr. Robrds is going to Portsmouth, and I want to send sum money to Plastd. Pray consider the hard case of your frind and sarvant ... THO. WESTBROOK.[38]


He died heavily in debt[15] on 11 February 1743/1744 "of a broken heart caused by Waldo's Acts".[39] He expired in a smaller cottage adjacent to his beloved Harrow House, which had been lost to his creditors. Despite his bankruptcy his estate was valued at seven thousand, three hundred and two pounds.[40] In contrast, his probate inventory totalled £1052/14/5 and included a house, a pew in Rev Smith's meetinghouse, and books.[41] His Globe Tavern later appears among the property owned by his grandson Thomas Westbrook Waldron though the date of transfer of this property and of his son in law's house is unknown.

"[H]is family was forced to spirit his body away in the middle of a nighttime snowstorm in order to prevent the Waldo family from claiming Westbrook's remains and holding them "hostage" until debts were paid".[1] The burial location was unknown[42][43] until the 1976 bicentennial celebrations except to descendants of his sister Mary (Westbrook) Knight.[44] The gravesite, located at Smiling Hill Farm, has been marked by the Daughters of Colonial Wars in Maine and is pictured on the Knight family farm's website.[45]


File:Clinton cropped.JPG

Born in 1675,[1] he was the son of John Westbrook and Martha Walford of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His siblings included Mary who married Nathan Knight,[46] and whose family continues to own and operate the "Smiling Hill" farm.[47][48]

Thomas married Mary Sherburne, daughter of the mariner John Sherburne and his wife Mary Cowell.[49] The restored Sherburne house at Portsmouth, New Hampshire's Strawbery Banke, has been identified as theirs. Their only child, Elizabeth, married Richard Waldron (Secretary) of a prominent colonial New Hampshire family.[25][26]

Though he had no sons, he was the namesake for several descendants all bearing the name "Thomas Westbrook Waldron". A great-great-grandson of this name,[50] a US who died in 1844 at Macau, was commemorated in a May 1, 2009 Washington DC ceremony by then-Secretary of State Clinton.[51] The names "Thomas Westbrook" or merely "Westbrook" as given names were in use among descendants well into the twentieth century.[52][53]


File:Seal of Westbrook, Maine.jpg

In 1814 the town of Stroudwater was created from Falmouth. Within a couple of months, the town was renamed Westbrook in honour of the Colonel.[54][55] "...[I]t was a member of the Knight family -the descendants of Westbrook['s sister] who were holding the secret of his burial place - who proposed naming the town after him."[1]

His reports of activities as a militia captain and colonel to Governor Dummer were a series in the New England Historic & Genealogical Register (including vol 44, 1890 to vol 45, 1895) and then published in a book: Letters of Colonel Thomas Westbrook and others relative to Indian affairs in Maine, 1722-1726.[56] This work is often cited as a primary source in histories of that time.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 John Ballentine, "American Journal", "Q and A - Westbrook History Matters to Andrea Vasquez", (posted May 26, 2010) At: accessed August 22, 2010
  2. Aileen B. Agnew, "Big Timber: the Mast Trade", My Maine Memory accessed 26 December 2010
  3. Letter, Thomas Westbrook to William Pepperell, 25 May 1734 Maine Memory accessed December 26, 2010
  4. "Globe Tavern at the Plains, Portsmouth, New Hampshire" at:
  5. C.S. Gurney, Portsmouth, Historic and Picturesque, (1902), p.59 at:
  6. Dan L. Thrapp (ed)., "Thomas Westbrook", In: Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, p.1536 at accessed August 22, 2010
  7. C. S. Gurney, Portsmouth, Historic and Picturesque, (1902), p.59 at:
  8. "Globe Tavern at the Plains - Portsmouth New Hampshire", accessed August 21, 2010
  9. Robert Bayley, The First Schoolmaster in Falmouth (Portland) Maine and Some of His Descendants In: SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY accessed August 21, 2010
  10. Dan L. Thrapp (ed)., "Thomas Westbrook", In: Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, p.1536 at:
  11. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.197 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  12. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.177 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  13. Rev. T. J. Campbell, SJ, Pioneer Priests of North America 1642-1760, (1911) vol.3, pp.299-300 accessed August 23, 2010. "It is alleged that in the strongbox were found very compromising letters from Vaudreuil. As the Governor of Quebec had to do his best to keep the Indians attached to the French, and as the limitation of territory had not yet been officially made, it might very easily happen that an Englishman would find Vaudreuil's letters very inflammatory without involving any culpibility on the part of the Governor. It all depends in the point of view, and no good can result in discussing the tenor of the letters."
  14. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.181 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 The dictionary is now in Harvard University's Houghton Library. Dan L. Thrapp (ed)., "Thomas Westbrook", In: Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, p.1536
  16. The strongbox was retained by Westbrook and descended through his family and through the Massachusetts Historical Society until his descendant the Catholic Reverend E.Q.S. Waldron willed it to the Maine Historical Society. (See George E. Hodgdon, Reminiscences and Genealogical Record of the Vaughan Family of America, (1918) pp.6-8 at: accessed September 5, 2010
  17. ""Proceedings at May Meeting, 1886", In: Collections of the Maine Historical Society Collections of the Maine ... By Anonymous, Maine Historical Society, p. 331 at: accessed September 6, 2010
  18. Wilfred H. Paradis, Upon this granite: Catholicism in New Hampshire, 1647-1997, p.17 at: accessed September 6, 2010
  19. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.183 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  20. "Maine" In: Historical Magazine and Notes and Queries Covering the ..., vol 5, p.76 which recounts the reading of Rev. Waldron's letter within the Maine Historical Society's January 24, 1861 meeting.
  21. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), pp.191,196 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  22. Southgate, History of Scarborough, cited In: William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.198 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  23. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.199 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  24. Tate House Museum - History of Mast Trade (website) accessed January 7, 2013.
  25. 25.0 25.1 William Blake Trask (ed)., Letters of Colonel Thomas Westbrook .... (1901),p.5, at: accessed August 22, 2010
  26. 26.0 26.1 William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.208 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  27. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.204 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  28. Goold
  29. Scottow's Stockade Fort accessed December 28, 2010
  30. William and Rufus King Stone accessed December 28, 2010
  31. 31.0 31.1 William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.205 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  32. "August 10, 1739" In: A RIVER DAMMED - The History of the Presumpscot River from 1725 to 1800 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  33. "Father of City Lived An Exciting Life Indeed", newspaper article, at Westbrook Historical Society
  34. Minutes of a General Assembly meeting, December 2, 1730 In: Nathaniel Bouton, (ed)., "Journal of General Assembly", Provincial and state papers, New Hampshire Historical Society, vol. 4, pp.769-770 accessed January 2, 2011
  35. Michael C. Batinski, Jonathan Belcher, Colonial Governor (1996), p.99.
  36. Judge Freeman, compiler of Smith's Journal, as quoted in Portland in the Past at Google Books, p.208
  37. William Willis, The History of Portland, from 1632to 1864; with a notice of a previous ..., p.355, footnote at: accessed August 26, 2010
  38. William Blake Trask (ed)., Letters of Colonel Thomas Westbrook and others relative to Indian affairs in Maine, 1722-1726. (1901) p.187.
  39. Judge Freeman, compiler of Smith's Journal, as quoted in Portland in the Past at Google Books, p.208.
  40. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.209 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  41. Maine Probate Abstracts "Vol Viii: 1749 -1753" page 331
  42. William Goold, Portland in the past (1886), p.211 at: accessed August 21, 2010
  43. Westbrook Historical Society, "Col. Westbrook burial plot" at: accessed August 21, 2010
  44. Isabel T. Coburn, "The Westbrook Secret: A Skeleton in the Woods Solves A 232-Year Old Mystery", Portland Evening Express, Tues, July 27, 1976, (with photo of Westbrook's partially exhumed skeleton) copy at Westbrook Historical Society
  45. "Smiling Hill Farm History" accessed August 21, 2010
  46. Myrtle Kittridge Lovejoy, Earle G. Shettleworth, and William David Barry, This was Stroudwater: 1727-1860, (1985) p.5 as cited by Craig Bryant at accessed August 23, 2010
  47. "Smiling Hill Farm History" at accessed August 21, 2010
  48. "Our 12th Generation" accessed August 21, 2010
  49. Edward Raymond Sherburne & William Sherburne, "Henry Sherburne of Portsmouth, N.H., and some of his Descendants" In: New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1904, pp. 228-9
  50. C.H. Cutts Howard, Genealogy of the Cutts Family of America, (1892), entry 1390, p.123 at accessed August 22, 2010 has an entry on this individual who can be followed back to Colonel Westbrook (entry 108) on p.34
  51. "American Foreign Service Association's Memorial Plaque Ceremony" Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, C Street Lobby, Washington, DC, May 1, 2009 at:
  52. "SAR Application", Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Patriot Index
  53. Rootsweb page
  54. Westbrook Historical Society, "Things to know about Westbrook" In: "Collections" (webpage) at accessed August 21, 2010
  55. Geo. J. Varney, History of Westbrook, Maine From A Gazetteer of the State of Maine (1886), at: accessed August 22, 2010
  56. William Blake Trask (ed)., Letters of Colonel Thomas Westbrook .... (1901) at: accessed August 22, 2010

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