Fort Saco (1693-1708) - A King William's War Fort established in 1693 near Saco, York County, Maine. Named Fort Saco after the location. Abandoned circa 1708 for Fort Mary near Biddeford Pool. Officially known to the Massachusetts Government as His Majesty's Fort Mary at Saco. Also known as Fort Mary (1) and later as the Old Stone Fort after it was abandoned. Assigned Location ID ME00087.
King Philip's War (1675-1678)
Some of the opening shots of King Philip's War were aimed at the settlement at Saco Falls when Hostile Indians attacked the garrison of Major Philips. The garrison house was strongly built with large timbers and a blockhouse-like second floor. The attack was thwarted and twenty-one hostiles were killed or wounded. Within the settlement, only Major Philips Garrison House was left standing. He was later forced to abandon the garrison house and retreat to Winter Harbor. The garrison house was then burned down by the hostiles making the destruction of the original Saco Falls settlement complete.
Three years later a treaty was signed at Casco Bay in April 1678 ending the conflict and a ten year period of relative peace ensued.
King William's War (1689-1697)
At the beginning of King William's War, Hostile Indians again burned what was now the township of Saco in 1688. In this war, the French from Canada and western Maine supported and encouraged Indian tribes to raid English settlements to drive them out of Maine. This war became known as the first French & Indian War.
To protect the growing settlement of Saco a Fort was constructed in the summer of 1693 under the supervision of Major Francis Hooke and Ensign John Hill (Later Captain Hill). This fort was located on high ground on the western side of the Saco River just below the falls.
The fort was not large enough to house all of the settlers and the garrison of about 20 soldiers so as the war progressed some settlers were forced to move some family members west to larger settlements. As conditions worsened and the fort became the last stronghold for local settlers there were fears that it would also have to be abandoned or fall to hostile Indian attacks. John Hill's own family was separated in this manner with his father removed to Wells and his mother at the Saco fort.
A short period of relative peace existed between wars (1697-1702) and for a part of this peace, the fort was unoccupied.
Queen Anne's War (1702-1713)
Queen Anne came to the English throne in 1702 and renewed hostilities with the French. In August 1703 some 500 French & Indians attacked English settlements between Casco and Wells. The assault at Fort Saco resulted in eleven killed and twenty-four taken prisoner. In all, one hundred and thirty people were killed and taken prisoner. In January 1704 Fort Saco was again attacked but the garrison under Captain Brown repulsed the attackers.
Captain Joseph Hill (the former fort commander) was among those captured and he returned in 1705 to negotiate a prisoner exchange. He reported that the French were holding one hundred and fourteen captives and their Indian allies had seventy.
In 1708 the General Court passed an order to remove the forces from the Saco Fort to a New fort near Winter Harbor where many of the displaced settlers had fled. Three-hundred pounds were allotted in 1708 and an additional 100 pounds was allocated in 1710 to complete what was then known as Fort Mary (2).
John Hill (1666-1713)
John Hill was born in Saco, Maine, in 1666. In 1689, John was commissioned an ensign for King William's War. He married Mary Frost in 1694, and they had four children. Mary Frost was the daughter of Major Charles Frost who was Hill's commander at the time.
Hill served throughout the war and as a reward for his heroic conduct was made lieutenant and subsequently captain, He commanded His Majesty's Fort Mary from about 1693, until 1700 when he resigned his commission at the rank of Captain. The acceptance letter for Captain Hill's resignation was effective 8 Apr 1700. It confirms His Majesty's Fort Mary at Saco name and assigns a new Commander, Captain George Turfrey.
John Hill then built a house in Berwick, Maine, near Great Works Falls in 1700-1701 where he lived until his death in 1713.
In the 1840s a trunk with original documents from the 1680s and 1690s was discovered in an old attic. Those documents changed the way that history looked at the two forts that were established in this area. A key phrase in many of the documents was in the address, they were addressed to "His Majesty's Fort Mary at Saco". The Massachusetts governor's acceptance of Captain John Hill's resignation dated 8 Apr 1700 was so addressed. The Fort Mary above Biddeford Pool was not authorized by the General Court until 1708 and the entire garrison of the Saco Fort was transferred here in 1708 and the old fort was abandoned. The Saco Fort was known to the Massachusetts Colonial Government as His Majesty's Fort Mary at Saco and that when the garrison transferred to the new fort the Fort Mary name was transferred with the garrison becoming His Majesty's Fort Mary at Hill's Beach. The abandoned fort at Saco became the Old Fort and later the Old Stone Fort. Captain Hill only served and commanded at Fort Mary (1), because he had resigned 8 years before Fort Mary (2) was built.
The fort site has been overbuilt with mill buildings starting in 1843 and the elevation of the site was reduced and leveled. The outside wall of the old mill building now has a plaque and a reader board for the old forts.