Swanckadocke and Depth of Sovereignty
In 1629 the Council for the affairs of New England in America, more commonly known as the Council of New England, issued two charters, one to Thomas Lewis and Captain Richard Bonighton granting them land on the north side of the present-day Saco River and one to John Oldham and Richard Vines granting an identically sized tract of land to the south of the river. The Council had been granted the ability to divide up the land under their control by a 1620 patent from King James I of England, and Lewis and Bonighton were examples of one such small sub-charter within the larger grant of land to the colony of New England. Grants such as these two indicate the next stage in claiming land after the initial charter from the King. While the charters establishing New England or Massachusetts Bay or Maine were often vague in their delineation of geographic boundaries, reflecting the lack of knowledge of the areas in question, these second generation grants were on a much smaller, more manageable scale that permitted the grantors to be specific about boundaries and also to impose requirements for settlement that were intended to solidify the English claim to the land through actual physical occupation.
The Council of New England and their Powers
The Council derived the authority to assign this land to Lewis and Bonighton, as well as “their heirs, associates, and assigns forever,” from James I’s 1620 patent for New England, which gave the “Adventurers and Planters” of New England the same privileges and powers as their counterparts in Virginia. In addition the patent set aside “all that Circuit, Continent, Precincts, and Limitts in America,” lying between 40 and 48 degrees of latitude and stretching “by all the breadth aforesaid throughout the Maine Land, from Sea to Sea.” This was a very generous grant, in spite of – and perhaps because of – the fact that neither James I nor any of the men receiving the grant had ever actually seen the “breadth” of the land in question.
The 1620 patent also granted the Council for New England the privilege of dividing the lands under their control and granting them to individual owners, provided these owners were not “foreign princes” and that the lands given did not infringe upon the territorial rights of Virginia. For the next twenty or so years, individual grants of land in New England would be based on this power, starting with the patent for Plymouth in 1621, which allotted one hundred acres of land for each colonist and fifteen hundred for public use of the colonists choice, provided no Englishman already resided there. In 1622 the Council began to parcel out land more specifically. These grants would come into conflict with further grants for the province of Maine and the Company Trading to Massachusetts Bay from King James I and his successor King Charles I. This occurred mostly because, as specific as individual grants might be in respect to dividing land by coastal landmarks, inland geographical knowledge was much more scant and even rivers and capes and other landmarks could be placed at different locations by different grantors and grantees. In addition, the Council itself was often unclear about which grants had actually been issued, as often a grant might be spoken or written of without going into effect.
Swanckadocke in Practice
The grant to Thomas Lewis and Richard Bonighton was one of a pair of grants centered on the present-day Saco River (then known as the Swanckadock River) that split up the land the Council for New England specified was “commonly called or known by the name of Swanckadocke.” Swanckadocke, according to the Council, stretched between Cape Porpoise and Cape Elizabeth, “in breadth from northeast to southwest along by the sea four miles in a straight line.” The Lewis and Bonighton grant allotted a parcel of land “eight English miles upon the main land on the north side of the river Swanckadock,” with each English mile numbering 1760 ft. This land grant backed up to the grant that the Council for New England gave to John Oldham and Richard Vines, which consisted of almost the same wording, only eight miles to the south of the Swanckadock River.
Swanckadocke and Sovereignty
Records indicate that Lewis, Bonighton, Oldham, and Vines did indeed take possession of their land founding what would eventually become the towns of Saco and Biddeford. For the initial years of the settlement they remained under the jurisdiction of the Council for New England and part of the terms of the grants mandated the “the bettering of his experience in advancing of a plantation,” by transporting others as well as the proprietors themselves to the land. The grant also noted that at the time of issuance, Thomas Lewis had already moved to transport people to his land. The patents from the crown may have established wide, sweeping dominion with an eye to further development, but it was these small grants that put actual people on the land and promoted settlement as the best way of effectively claiming land.
Land Disputes in Early Colonial Maine
Bonighton and Vines acted as some of the earliest councilors and magistrates for Maine, and assisted in the formation of the first government for the colony in 1640. Bonighton’s son, John Bonighton, and son-in-law, Richard Foxwell, can be traced in legal documents through the mid part of the 17th century, and Foxwell spent over forty years in Maine until his death in 1676. Foxwell’s disputes over land, in particular, illustrate the confusion that existed over boundaries of land claims and even grants. In 1640 Foxwell had to defend his claim against Thomas Cammock, who had received a grant for land to the north of the Lewis-Bonighton grant at Black Point. Foxwell mistakenly had settled outside of the Lewis-Bonighton grant’s boundaries, but defended his claim by saying “”yt he hath for these four years or thereabouts lived at Blacke-poynt in the right of Capt. Rich: Bonython, his father-in-law, who settled him there and gave him as much freedom and privilege as by virtue of his Pattent he could.” Foxwell was later involved in a particularly acrimonious squabble over the rights to his estate with John Bonighton that culminated in Bonighton tearing down one of his buildings and being forced to pay damages by the court.
 Samuel F. Haven, History of Grants Under the Great Council for New England: a lecture of a course by members of the Massachusetts historical society, delivered before the Lowell institute, Jan. 15, 1869 (Boston: Press of J. Wilson and son, 1869), 9, Sabin Americana.
 “Great Patent of New England by James I. of England,” in Documentary History of the State of Maine, Vol. VII, containing the Farnham Papers 1603-1688. Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series, Compiled by Mary Frances Farnham, (Portland, ME: The Thurston Print, 1901), 20.
 “First Plymouth Patent by the Great Council for New England,” in Documentary History of the State of Maine, Vol. VII, containing the Farnham Papers 1603-1688. Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series, Compiled by Mary Frances Farnham, (Portland, ME: The Thurston Print, 1901), 45.
 York Deeds, Book 1 (Portland, ME: John T. Hull, 1887), 35.
 Haven, History of Grants, 147-148.
 “Grant of Land North of the Saco to Thomas Lewis and Richard Bonighton, by the Great Council for New England,” in Documentary History of the State of Maine, Vol. VII, containing the Farnham Papers 1603-1688. Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series, Compiled by Mary Frances Farnham, (Portland, ME: The Thurston Print, 1901), 117.
 “Grant of Land South of the Saco to John Oldham and Richard Vines, by the Great Council for New England,” in Documentary History of the State of Maine, Vol. VII, containing the Farnham Papers 1603-1688. Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series, Compiled by Mary Frances Farnham, (Portland, ME: The Thurston Print, 1901), 121.
 “Grant of Land North of the Saco.”
 York Deeds, 44-45.
 Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Vol. III (Portland, ME: Brown Thurston, 1853), 19.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 18.