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Gorges, Sir Ferdinando 1565-1647

Colonial proprietor; born in Ashton Phillips, Somerset, England, about 1565; was associated with the courtiers of Queen Elizabeth; was engaged in the conspiracy of the Earl of Essex against the Queen's council (1600) ; and testified against him at his trial for treason (1601). Having served in the royal navy with distinction, he was appointed governor of Plymouth in 1604. A friend of Raleigh, he became imbued with that great man's desire to plant a colony in America, and when Captain Weymouth returned from the New England coast (1605), and brought captive natives with him, Gorges took three of them into his own home, from whom, after instructing them in the English language, he gained much information about their country. Gorges now became chiefly instrumental in forming the Plymouth Company (q. v.), to settle western Virginia, and from that time he was a very active member, defending its rights before Parliament, and stimulating by his own zeal his desponding associates. In 1615, after the return of Capt. John Smith (q. v.), he set sail for New England, but a storm compelled the vessel to put back, while another vessel, under Capt. Thomas Dermer (q. v.), prosecuted the voyage. Gorges sent out a party (1616), which encamped on the River Saco through the winter; and in 1619-20 Captain Dermer repeated the voyage. The new charter obtained by the company created such a despotic monopoly that it was strongly opposed in and out of Parliament, and was finally dissolved in 1635. Gorges had, meanwhile, prosecuted colonization schemes with vigor. With John Mason and others he obtained grants of land (1622), which now compose a part of Maine and New Hampshire, and settlements were attempted there. His son Robert was appointed “general governor of the country,” and a settlement was made (1624) on the site of York, Me. After the dissolution of the company (1635), Gorges, then a vigorous man of sixty years, was appointed (1637) governorgeneral of New England, with the powers of a palatine, and prepared to come to America, but was prevented by an accident to the ship in which he was to sail. He made laws for his palatinate, but they were not acceptable. Gorges enjoyed his viceregal honors a few years, and died in England in 1647.

His son Robert had a tract of land bestowed upon him in New England, on the coast of Massachusetts Bay, extending 10 miles along the coast and 30 miles inland. He was appointed lieutenantgeneral of New England, with a council, of whom Francis West, who had been commissioned “Admiral of New England,” by the council of Plymouth, and the governor of New Plymouth for the time being, were to be members, having the power to restrain interlopers. West, as admiral, attempted to force tribute from the fishing-vessels on the coast, Gorges brought to New England with him a clergyman named Morrell, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to act as commissioner of ecclesiastical affairs; also a number of indentured servants. After being a year at Plymouth, Gorges attempted to plant a colony at Wissagus. He had encountered Weston, [96] who came over to look after his colony, and took some proceedings against him as an interloper. Weston had been shipwrecked and robbed, but was kindly treated by the Pilgrims, who, nevertheless, regarded his misfortunes as judgments for his desertion of the company. See Weston's colony.

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