Southgate, Dr. Robert

People Who Called Scarborough Home

By Charlene Fenlason

Dr. Robert Southgate – Doctor, Lawyer, Judge

Dr. Robert Southgate, ca. 1830

Dr. Robert Southgate, ca. 1830

Robert Southgate: doctor, lawyer, judge, gentleman farmer, and businessman. According to family tradition, in 1771 Dr. Robert Southgate rode into Dunstan on horseback with all his worldly goods packed in his saddlebags. He had come from Leicester, Massachusetts where he was born 26 October 1741. In 1773, Southgate married Mary King, daughter of Richard King, a successful merchant, landholder, farmer and shipbuilder. The Southgate’s first home was at Dunstan Landing. They later built a large brick home on what is now Route 1. Eleven of their twelve children died before reaching middle age.

One of the first doctors in the area, Southgate gave up his medical practice after becoming interested in the law and being appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He was a justice of the peace for 40 years and no case decided by him went to a higher court. As a gentleman farmer, he sold surplus marsh hay and leased marsh lots to farmers to raise hay for winter fodder. To increase marsh salt hay production, he initiated one of the first diking experiments in Maine. His experiments attracted the attention of farmer Seth Scamman who introduced large-scale diking to the marsh in the 1800s. As a businessman, along with William and Cyrus King, he headed the Scarborough Turnpike Corporation, which built the Cumberland Turnpike. A toll road across the marsh between Dunstan and Oak Hill, the Cumberland Turnpike was the first turnpike in New England. Dr. Southgate passed away 2 November 1833 at the age of 92.


Chapman, Leonard. Monograph on the Southgate Family of Scarborough, Maine. Portland, ME: Hubbard W. Bryant, 1907.

Libbey, Dorothy Shaw. Scarborough Becomes a Town. Freeport, ME: The Bond Wheelwright Co, 1955.

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