Nicholas Shapleigh1

b. 1 January 1617/18, d. 29 April 1682
Nicholas Shapleigh|b. 1 Jan 1617/18\nd. 29 Apr 1682|p8121.htm|Alexander Shapleigh|b. c 1585\nd. 6 Jul 1650|p8078.htm|Jane Egbeare|||||||||||||||

8th great-granduncle of Ruth Minerva Fairfield.
10th great-granduncle of Laura Jane Munson.
Family Background:
Fairfield and Allied Families
     Nicholas Shapleigh was baptized on 1 January 1617/18 in Kingswear, Devon, England.1 He was the son of Alexander Shapleigh and Jane Egbeare.1 He married Alice (—?—) by 1651.1 He died without issue on 29 April 1682 at age 64, being killed by a falling mast at the launching of a vessel at the shipyard of John Diamond.1
     Nicholas Shapleigh, noted for his ability in public life and for his hospitable nature and tolerance for those not always in favor with others, early became a distinguished man in the Province of Maine.

     Early in 1641 he was called merchant of Kingsweare, but he was at Kittery in August 1644, but bound for England three months later. By 1648 he had returned and was serving as selectman, an office he filled for many years until 1669. He was chosen Treasurer of the Province of Maine in 1649, captain in 1653, major in 1656 (superseded by William Phillips in 1663), and in 1662 was magister, next to Worshipfull Henry Josselyn (register). In 1653 "Mr. Nicholas Shapley" was appointed one of the commissioners to hear cases of "civill actions" on the "Ile of Shoales" ("Records of Massachusetts," vol. 3, pp. 307-308). When York and Kittery were taken into the Bay Government the bounds of "Yorke & Kettery" were laid out by Nico Shapleigh, Edw: Rishworth, Abram Preble, Nico Frost, and Joh: Davese. (Ibid., p. 402.)

     In 1644 he was a member of Governor Vine's council which sat at Saco, he was a member of the Provincial Council each year with one exception from this time to 1652, when the people of Kittery submitted to Massachusetts. With others of Governor Godfrey's council, he contended violently with the Massachusetts commissioners in opposition to submitting to that Province, but as most of the people had yielded, Godfrey, Shapleigh, and most of the other members of the Council signed a submission in 1652.

     "Nicholas Shapleigh" signed the acknowledgment of subjection to the Massachusetts Bay Government on 18 May 1653. The demand, dated 15 Nov. 1652, was made by the Massachusetts Bay Governor ("Records of Massachusetts," vol. 4, pt. 1, pp. 123-124). On 26 May 1658 the Court appointed Capt. Brian Pendleton, Capt. Nicholas Shapleigh, and Nico Frost "to pitch & lay out the dividing line betweene Yorke & Wells" (ibid., pp. 340-341). On 28 May 1659 Capt. Nicholas Shapleigh and three others were appointed to lay out Scarborough, Falmouth, and Saco bounds (ibid., p. 380).

     This was a striking mark of the confidence which the Massachusetts authorities had in his candor and abilities. The Massachusetts Commissioners who were authorized to settle a government in the Province appointed him collector and directed him to make a report of his proceedings within one month; and in case of insufficiency in collections, to discharge the peoples engagements, it was to be supplied by an assessment or rate according to their former custom. On 14 Sept. 1653 they also appointed him Shire or County Treasurer, an office which was ordered to be filled subsequently from year to year by the County Court. He was appointed also one of the Commissioners to hold the first term of County Court for Yorkshire in June 1653, and these trusts were conferred on him by the Government of Massachusetts, notwithstanding he had been a zealous opposer of the peoples submission to that Province and was far from being a supporter of the Puritan faith, then the established religion of Massachusetts. At the first regular organization of the militia in Yorkshire, Maine, into a regiment by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1656,* a Nicholas Shapleigh was appointed sergeant major and commandant, and he was required to meet with the company officers for improvement in military tactics, and to see that the soldiers were well armed, equipped, and disciplined. In 1661, after the restoration of Charles II, Gorges' heirs renewed their claim to the Province, thereby causing a division among the people and a manifestation of some disaffection to Massachusetts in which Shapleigh and several other prominent men partook. Charged with not causing the militia to be exercised and trained according to law, he was displaced from the command of the militia and superseded by William Phillips of Saco.

     Nicholas Shapleigh had been an associate of one of the County Courts in 1659, 1660, and 1661, an office chosen by the people for one year. Although he was evidently of the established Church of England, yet he appears to have had a strong leaning toward the Quakers and was at times considered one of them by the authorities of Massachusetts. In 1663 he was accused of favoring the Quakers, and the constable of Kittery was ordered to go to his house on the Sabbath Days to prevent the holding of meetings there. In 1669 he and two others (one of them the town clerk), elected by the people selectmen of the town, were all removed by the County Court on the charge of being Quakers and the town was required to elect others; but it is evident that Nicholas had not joined the Quakers for prior to this period he had held high military stations which he could not have occupied had he been a Quaker.

     In 1674 he was imprisoned in Massachusetts, but was released on the plea of his sister Katherine, and the payment of £

     On 21 Feb. 1675/6 Maj. Richard Waldrene and Nicholas Shapleigh were appointed a committee to treat with the Eastern Indians for peace.

     In 1677 he was reappointed to the command of the militia, it being then a time of war with the Indians when men of the best ability were needed for a trust of that nature.

     *15 May 1656: "Whereas this Court is informed of sev[er]all neglects of the inhabitants of Yorkshire in not being furnished with suffycyent armes, powder, &ct, as the law requires, there being no generall officer at p an unknown person sent to call p[er]sons for neglecting to an account it is therefore ordered, that Capt. Nico Shapleigh shall henceforth have power to call together the cheife officers of each company wthin sd county, to examine such abuses & defects as may or shall arise amongst them, & is hereby impowred to act therein as a mojor may & hath power to doe in the like cases, till the Court make further order herein") "Records of Massachusetts," vol. 3, p. 409).

     27 May 1663 "Whereas this Court thought meete, in the yeare 1656, to conferr the power of a major vpon Capt. Nicho Shapleigh, for ordering of the militia in the county of Yorke, vntill the Court tooke further order therein, this Court doeth hereby declare the sajd order & commission of Nicho Shapleigh aforesajd to be null, voyd, & of none effect, & doe further order & declare, that Capt. Willjam Phillips, of Saco, is hereby impowred & hath power . . ." (ibid., vol. 4, pt. 2, pp. 75-76).

     In 1678 Nicholas Shapleigh, Captain Champernoon, and Captain Fryer of Portsmouth were appointed by the Government of Massachusetts commissioners to settle a peace with Squando and all the Sagamore upon the Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers. They met the Indians at Casco and entered into articles of peace on 12 Apr. 1678. This treaty put an end to the distressing Indian wars which had existed three years and had greatly reduced the number of inhabitants.

     In the early part of April 1682, a few days before his death, Nicholas for the last time was elected to office, being chosen Representative to the Massachusetts General Court.

     Nicholas Shapleigh left no children. His widow Alice, his deceased sister's three daughters, and his deceased brother Alexander's son John were the heirs to his estate. He left at his decease a large property consisting principally of land and mills. He received but little from the town.

     At an early period Nicholas Shapleigh purchased from Cammack and Mrs. Warnerton a large tract of land extending by the river from Mill Creek to a small fresh brook near Everett's House and back that width halfway to the York line. He also bought from an Indian sagamore several islands between Cape Small Point, Georgetown, and Marquoit, and some other tracts of land which were subsequently sold by his heirs.

     In 1663 Francis Small* purchased of the Indians a large tract of land comprising the northern and some of the middle part of the present County of York, one-half of which Nicholas Shapleigh purchased. Shapleigh's half included several townships, among which was all or a part of the present town of Shapleigh, which was named in his honor.

     The tract contained "Twenty miles Square Lying and Being Between the two Rivers of great osobe and Little ossobe." This deed is dated 28 Nov. 1668. It was lost for over 100 years, but was finally found among the descendants of Small and recorded 28 Aug. 1773. (York County Deeds, vol. 52, fo 239.)

     *Francis Small bought this tract from the Indian Capt. Sandy for "two large Indian blankets two gallons of Rum two Pound of Powder four Pounds of muscet Balls and twenty Strings of Indian Beads with several other articles."1

     Nicho Shapleigh was mentioned in his nephew Humphrey Chadbourne's will dated 25 May 1667 in Kittery, York County, Maine.2 Click to view image


  1. [S761] The New England Historical and Genealogical Register; (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001), (Orig. Pub. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 148 vols., 1847-1994) 95:182.
  2. [S751] Maine Historical Society, compiler, Maine Wills, 1640-1760 (n.p.: Maine Historical Society, 1887), 45-53, Registry of Deeds, 2, 27.