Less than 100 families lived in Wells when blacksmith, Louis Allain arrived from France around 1684. The colonists probably received him with some trepidation, given the alliance between his countrymen in Canada and the Indians that had plagued them, off and on, for a decade. Little did they know that Allain would one day use their acquaintance to spy for the Governor of l’Acadie.
French Protestants or Huguenots fled religious persecution in France during the reign of King Louis XIV, many of them settling in New England. Louis Allain’s indentured apprentice, Anthony Coombs, was a Huguenot. Louis, himself may also have represented himself as such to the people of Wells. He would later prove his loyalty was really to his pocketbook.
At thirty years old, Allain was already a man of means. He purchased ½ of Samuel Storer’s Cape Neddick-built brigantine, Endeavor, in August of 1685. A month later, he purchased a mill on the western bank of the Little River, lots on both sides of the river and the home of William Frost.
Territorial tensions grew between the colonists from France and England and between the Indian tribes allied to both monarchies. Allain decided to move to Port Royal, Nova Scotia, leaving Anthony Coombs behind to protect his Wells property.
In 1687, he obtained permission to build windmills along the river that has since been known as Allain’s River. He raised a family there and his fortunes grew. Within a few years Louis owned a grain mill, a saw mill, a store and several coasting vessels that made regular trading voyages to the English city of Boston. He and his partner shipped lumber and flour from their mills in Port Royal and brought back Boston goods to sell to their Acadian customers. Andre Faneuil, the wealthy Boston Huguenot whose fortune financed the building of Faneuil Hall, traded regularly with the Acadians, even as Governor William Phipps burned Port Royalin 1690. When the legality of their trading arrangement was questioned, Allain and other Acadian businessmen declared their allegiance to the English King. At the same time they were supplying the French Navy with mast timbers.
Indians attacked the villages along the York County coast in 1703. It was a horrible year for Wells. Thirty-nine of her inhabitants were either killed or made prisoner.
The following Spring Colonel Benjamin Church led an expedition through Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and the Bay of Fundy, collecting French prisoners and Indian scalps for bounty along the way. Under orders from Massachusetts Governor Dudley, he left Port Royal unscathed. Some people of Massachusetts, including Puritan minister Cotton Mather, suspected that Dudley was trying to preserve illegal trade between Boston and Nova Scotia.
Feeding prisoners of war became expensive for both the French and the English. An agreement was made to exchange prisoners in 1705. Allain and his business partner, who were fluent in English and familiar with Boston, were sent to seal the deal. According to the September 10, 1705 issue of the “Boston News-letter”, Allain arrived in Boston on the 20th of August under a flag of truce, with the signed agreement. He returned to Port Royal at the end of September carrying a few French prisoners back as a show of good faith. A January 1706 report in the same paper indicates that he sailed again for Massachusetts a few months later.
“On Thursday last the 26th day of December there arrived at Nanguncket [Ogunquit] near to Wells in the Province of Maine, A Flag of Truce from Port-Royal with 34 English Prisoners.”
E.E. Bourne writes in his “History of Wells” that Lewis Allen came to Wells under the Flag of Truce and was authorized to trade prisoners. The people of Wells were immediately suspicious of the Frenchman’s motives and searched his pocketbook. In it, they found incriminating instructions for Allain to report, to the French Governor of Acadia, any efforts underway to fortify Wells against the Indians.
“If any enterprise was afoot that he should join L.A. the two first letters of his name, close together. If it was only in agitation, place them at some distance; but if nothing was in motion, then to sign a cross.”
Allain was clasped in irons and sent to Bostonto be dealt with. In a surprising twist that Bourne does not reveal, Governor Dudley released Allain. He made some excuse about owing Louis his life and sent him back to Port Royal to continue his lucrative lumber and flour trade.
Anthony Coombs, whose indenture expired, had long since deserted Allain’s Wells mill on the Little River. Louis hired his “trusty and well-beloved friend Lewis Bane of York,” (who had represented the English in treaty negotiations at Port Royal) to recover his title to the Wells property. Bane eventually bought the property from him in 1720 and Louis boldly appeared at the courthouse in Biddeford to acknowledge the instrument May 9, 1733. When he died in Port Royal several years later Louis Allain was one of the richest men in town.