|2nd colonial governor of Maine|
|Preceded by||William Gorges|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Gorges|
Ashton Phillips, Somerset, England
|Spouse(s)||Ann Bell (died 1620); 4 children · Mary Fulford, Mrs Achims (a widow) · Elizabeth Gorges, Mrs Courteney (a widow) · Elizabeth, Lady Smyth (a widow)|
|Profession||Governor, entrepreneur and founder of the Province of Maine|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2013)|
Sir Ferdinando Gorges (1565–1647), the "Father of English Colonization in North America", was an early English colonial entrepreneur and founder of the Province of Maine in 1622, although Gorges himself never set foot in the New World.
Gorges was born in Ashton Phillips, Somerset, descended from a cadet branch of the Russells of Kingston Russell, Dorset, which had changed its name to the metronymic Gorges, which family had died out in the male line on the death of Ralph de Gorges of Knighton, Isle of Wight, 2nd Baron Gorges, in 1331. In 1601, he became involved in the Essex Conspiracy and later testified against its leader, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. He entered the army at an early age and had obtained the rank of captain at the siege of Sluys in 1587, was a prisoner at Lisle in 1588, wounded at the siege of Paris in 1589 and knighted at the siege of Rouen in 1591. He was rewarded for his services by the post of Governor of the Fort at Plymouth, which he held for many years.
His interest in colonisation was invoked when Captain George Weymouth presented him with three captured American Indians. In 1605, he helped sponsor the expedition of Weymouth to the mouth of the Kennebec River along the coast of the present day state of Maine in the United States. In 1607, as a shareholder in the Plymouth Company, he helped fund the failed Popham Colony, near present-day Phippsburg, Maine.
In 1622, Gorges received a land patent, along with John Mason, from the Plymouth Council for New England for the Province of Maine, the original boundaries of which were between the Merrimack and Kennebec rivers. In 1629, he and Mason divided the colony, with Mason's portion south of the Piscataqua River becoming the Province of New Hampshire. Gorges and his nephew established Maine's first court system. Capt. Christopher Levett, early English explorer of the New England Coast, was an agent for Gorges, as well as a member for the crown's Plymouth Council for New England. Levett's attempt to establish a colony in Maine ultimately failed, and he died aboard ship returning to England after meeting with Governor John Winthrop in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.
Ferdinando Gorges's son was Robert Gorges, Governor-General of New England from 1623–1624. But Robert Gorges was seen with some suspicion by American colonists, who were skeptical of Gorges' almost feudal idea of governance and settlement, and ultimately Gorges returned to England. In the 1630s Gorges attempted to revive the moribund claims of the Plymouth Company. In concert with colonists banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he formally questioned the issuance of its royal charter in 1632, and forwarded complaints and charges made by the disaffected colonists to the Privy Council of Charles I. His efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
Ferdinando Gorges died destitute in 1647 and is buried in Long Ashton. His eldest son, John, inherited his Province of Maine, of which Robert, his younger son, had been for such a short time Governor. In 1677 his grandson, another Ferdinando, finally sold to Massachusetts all rights to Maine for £1,250. In 1820 Maine achieved separate statehood.
He married four times. His first wife was Ann, daughter of Edward Bell of Writtle, Essex, whom he married in 1589 at St. Margaret's, Westminster, and who died in 1620: they had two sons, John and Robert, and two daughters, Ellen and Honoria, the last of whom died young. Secondly, in 1621, Mary, daughter of Thomas Fulford of Devon, the widow of Thomas Achims of Pelint, Cornwall. Thirdly, in 1627, at Ladock, Cornwall, to Elizabeth, daughter of Tristam Gorges of St. Budeaux, and widow of Edward Courteney and of William Bligh (she died within a few weeks of the marriage). Fourthly, at Wraxall in 1629, to Elizabeth, Lady Smyth, daughter of Sir Thomas Gorges and Helena, Marchioness of Northampton, and widow of Sir Hugh Smyth of Ashton Court.
- John Franklin Jameson, Henry Eldridge Bourne, Robert Livingston Schuyler, The American historical review, Volume 4:P683
- York Deeds, Maine Historical Society, Maine Genealogical Society, John T. Hull, Portland, 1887
- Collections for a Parochial History of Wraxall, Google Books
- Fort Gorges
- Capt. Christopher Levett, mentioned in History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647 By William Bradford, Massachusetts