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History of State Maine

Before proceeding to the main theme of our trip to the U.S.A. and mainly to Maine, it would be in a good taste to learn some facts from the history of the state.

State Symbols:


         The Flag                                                 The State Seal


    The State Animal -the Moose         The State bird - the Chickadee      


A Short History of State Maine.

(Taken from Wikipedia)  

 The history of the area comprising the U.S. state of Maine spans thousands of years, measured from the earliest human settlement, or less than two hundred, measured from the advent of U.S. statehood in 1820.

The origin of the name Maine is unclear. One theory is it was named after the French province of Maine. Another is that it derives from a practical nautical term, "the main" or "Main Land", "Meyne" or "Mainland", which served to distinguish the bulk of the state from its numerous islands.

 The first Europeans to explore the coast of Maine sailed under the Portuguese Esteban Gómez, in 1524. They mapped the coastline (including the Penobscot River) but did not settle. The first European settlement in the area was made on St. Croix Island in 1604 by a French party that included Samuel de Champlain. The French named the area Acadia. French and English settlers would contest central Maine until the 1750s (when the French were defeated in the French and Indian War). The French developed and maintained strong relations with the area's Native American tribes through the medium of Catholic missionaries.


English colonists sponsored by the Plymouth Company attempted a settlement in Maine in 1607 (the Popham Colony at Phippsburg), but it was abandoned the following year. A French trading post was established at present-day Castine in 1613 by Claude de Saint-Étienne de la Tour, and may represent the first permanent European settlement in New England. The Plymouth Colony, established on the shores of Cape Cod Bay in 1620, set up a competing trading post at Penobscot Bay in the 1620s.

The territory between the Merrimack and Kennebec rivers was first called the Province of Maine in a 1622 land patent granted to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason. The two split the territory along the Piscataqua River in a 1629 pact that resulted in the Province of New Hampshire being formed by Mason in the south and New Somersetshire being created by Gorges to the north, in what is now southwestern Maine. The present Somerset County in Maine preserves this early nomenclature.

One of the first English attempts to settle the Maine coast was by Christopher Levett, an agent for Gorges and a member of the Plymouth Council for New England. After securing a royal grant for 6,000 acres (24 km2) of land on the site of present-day Portland, Maine, Levett built a stone house and left a group of men behind when he returned to England in 1623 to drum up support for his settlement, which he called "York" after the city of his birth in England. Originally called Machigonne by the local Abenaki, later settlers named it Falmouth and it is known today as Portland..  Levett's settlement, like the Popham Colony also failed, and the men Levett left behind were never heard from again. Levett did sail back across the Atlantic to meet with Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop at Salem in 1630, but died on the return voyage without ever returning to his settlement.

The New Somersetshire colony was small, and in 1639 Gorges received a second patent, from Charles I, covering the same territory as Gorges' 1629 settlement with Mason. Gorges' second effort resulted in the establishment of more settlements along the coast of southern Maine, and along the Piscataqua River, with a formal government under his distant relation, Thomas Gorges. A dispute about the bounds of another land grant led to the short-lived formation of Lygonia on territory that encompassed a large area of the Gorges grant. Both Gorges' Province of Maine and Lygonia had been absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony by 1658. The Massachusetts claim would be overturned in 1676, but Massachusetts again asserted control by purchasing the territorial claims of the Gorges heirs.

That part of present-day Maine east of the Kennebec River was known in the 17th century as the Territory of Sagadahock by the English, and Acadia by the French. It was dominated by its native inhabitants, and the only significant European presence was at Fort Pentagouet, the French trading post first established in 1613. That trading post was a source of conflict not only between French and English colonies, but also between competing Acadian governors Charles de Saint-Étienne de la Tour (son of founder Claude de la Tour) and Charles de Menou d'Aulnay, who fought a minor civil war for control of Acadia. French influence in the area receded after the British conquest of Acadia in 1710, although French Jesuit missionary Sibastien Rale was notably active until he was killed by a New England force in 1724 at Norridgewock during Dummer's War.

In 1669, the territory between the Kennebec and St. Croix rivers was granted by Charles II to his brother James, Duke of York. Under the terms of this grant, all the territory from the Saint Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean was constituted as Cornwall County, and was governed as part of the duke's proprietary Province of New York. This grant, when combined with the territories claimed by Massachusetts (which it called York County), encompassed all of present-day Maine. Many settlements were destroyed by the Abenaki in King Philip's War in 1675.

 In 1686 James, now king, established the Dominion of New England. This political entity eventually combined all of the English-held territories from Delaware Bay to the St. Croix River. The dominion collapsed in 1689, and in 1692 the territory between the Piscataqua and the St. Croix became part of the new Province of Massachusetts Bay as Yorkshire, a name which survives in present day York County.

The territory was on the front lines of King William's War (16891697), with its small settlements frequently subjected to French and Indian raids. In 1696, the major defensive establishment in the territory, Fort William Henry at Pemaquid (present-day Bristol), was besieged by a French amphibious force. The territory was again on the front lines in Queen Anne's War (17021713), with communities from Casco Bay south again becoming the target of raids.

 Dummer's War (also known by many other names), was fought roughly from 1722 to 1725 between British settlers of Maine, New Hampshire, and Nova Scotia on one side, and the Wabanaki Confederacy (specifically Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, and Abenaki) on the other, who were allied with and supported by New France.

  French and Indian War

In an effort to resist the Expulsion of the Acadians from the region during the French and Indian War, Acadian militia raided the British settlements of present-day Friendship, Maine and Thomaston, Maine. After the defeat of the French colony of Acadia, the territory from the Penobscot River east fell under the nominal authority of the Province of Nova Scotia, and together with present day New Brunswick formed the Nova Scotia County of Sunbury, with its court of general sessions at Campobello Island.

In the late 18th century, several tracts of land in Maine, then part of Massachusetts, were sold off by lottery. Two tracts of 1,000,000 acres (4,000 km²), one in south-east Maine and another in the west, were bought by a wealthy Philadelphia banker, William Bingham. This land became known as the Bingham Purchase.

American Revolution

Maine was a center of Patriotism during the American Revolution, with less Loyalist activity than most colonies. Merchants operated 52 ships that served as privateers attacking British supply ships. Machias in particular was a center for privateering and Patriot activity. It was the site of an early naval engagement that resulted in the capture of a small Royal Navy vessel. Jonathan Eddy led a failed attempt to capture Fort Cumberland in Nova Scotia in 1776. In 1777 Eddy led the defense of Machias against a Royal Navy raid.

Captain Henry Mowat of the Royal Navy had charge of operations off the Maine coast during much the war. He dismantled Fort Pownall at the mouth of the Penobscot River and burned Falmouth in 1775 (present-day Portland). His reputation in Maine traditions is heartless and brutal, but historians note that he performed his duty well and in accordance with the ethics of the era.

 New Ireland

In 1779 the British adopted a strategy to seize parts of Maine, especially around Penobscot Bay, and make it a new colony to be called "New Ireland". The scheme was promoted by exiled Loyalists Dr. John Calef (17251812) and John Nutting (fl. 1775-85) and Englishman William Knox (17321810). It was intended to be a permanent colony for Loyalists and a base for military action during the war. The plan ultimately failed because of a lack of interest by the British government and the determination of the Americans to keep all of Maine.

In July 1779 British general Francis McLean captured Castine and built Fort George on the Bagaduce Peninsula on the eastern side of Penobscot Bay. The state of Massachusetts sent the Penobscot Expedition led by Massachusetts general Solomon Lovell and Continental Navy captain Dudley Saltonstall. The Americans failed to dislodge the British during a 21-day siege and were routed by the arrival of British reinforcements. The Royal Navy blocked an escape by sea so the Patriots burned their ships near present-day Bangor and walked home, Maine was unable to repel the British threat despite a reorganized defense and the imposition of martial law in selected areas. Some of the most easterly towns tried to become neutral.

After the peace was signed in 1783, the New Ireland proposal was abandoned. In 1784 the British split New Brunswick off from Nova Scotia and made it into the desired Loyalist colony, with deference to King and Church, and with republicanism suppressed. It was almost named "New Ireland".

The Treaty of Paris that ended the war was ambiguous about the boundary between Maine and the neighboring British provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. This would set the stage for further fighting in the nineteenth century.

 War of 1812

During the War of 1812, Maine suffered more than any other region in New England. Early in the War there was some privateering action and a famous duel between HMS Boxer and USS Enterprise in 1813, but it wasn't until 1814 that the district was invaded. The regular military did little to defend Maine, and the local militia proved completely inadequate to the task. British army and naval forces from nearby Nova Scotia captured and occupied the eastern coast from Eastport to Castine, and plundered the Penobscot River towns of Hampden and Bangor (see Battle of Hampden). Legitimate commerce all along the Maine coast was largely stoppeda critical situation for a place so dependent on shipping. In its place an illicit smuggling trade with the British developed, especially at Castine and Eastport. Claims to "New Ireland" were finally dropped in the Treaty of Ghent, and Castine was evacuated, although Eastport remained under occupation until 1818. But Maine's vulnerability to foreign invasion, and its lack of protection by Massachusetts, was important factor in the post-war momentum for statehood.

Maine Constitutional Convention and statehood

The Maine Constitution was unanimously approved by the 210 delegates to the Maine Constitutional Convention in October 1819. It was then ratified by Congress on March 4, 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise, in which free northern states approved the statehood of Missouri as a slave state in exchange for the statehood of Maine as a free one. In this manner, northern representation remained in balance with southern pro-slavery influence in the Senate.

Maine gained its statehood on March 15, 1820, with William King as the state's first Governor. William D. Williamson became the first President of the Maine State Senate. When King resigned as governor in 1821, Williamson automatically succeeded him to become Maine's second governor. That same year, however, he ran for and won a seat in the 17th United States Congress. Upon Williamson's resignation, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Benjamin Ames became Maine's third governor for approximately a month until Daniel Rose took office. Rose served only from January 2 to January 5, 1822, filling the unexpired term between the administrations of Ames and Albion K. Parris. Parris served as governor until January 3, 1827. Thus in less than two years after gaining statehood, Maine had five different governors.

The Aroostook War

 The still-lingering border dispute with British North America came to a head in 1839 when Maine Governor John Fairfield declared virtual war on lumbermen from New Brunswick cutting timber in lands claimed by Maine. Four regiments of the Maine militia were mustered in Bangor and marched to the border, but there was no fighting. The Aroostook War was an undeclared and bloodless conflict that was settled by diplomacy.

U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster secretly funded a propaganda campaign that convinced Maine leaders that a compromise was wise; Webster used an old map that showed British claims were legitimate. The British had a different old map that showed the American claims were legitimate, so both sides thought the other had the better case. The final border between the two countries was established with the WebsterAshburton Treaty of 1842, which gave Maine most of the disputed area, and gave the British a militarily vital connection between its provinces of Canada (present-day Quebec and Ontario) and New Brunswick.

The passion of the Aroostook War signaled the increasing role lumbering and logging were playing in the Maine economy, particularly in the central and eastern sections of the state. Bangor arose as a lumbering boom-town in the 1830s, and a potential demographic and political rival to Portland. Bangor became for a time the largest lumber port in the world, and the site of furious land speculation that extended up the Penobscot River valley and beyond.


 Industrialization in 19th century Maine took a number of forms, depending on the region and period. The river valleys, particularly the Kennebec and Penobscot, became virtual conveyor belts for the making of lumber beginning in the 1820s-30s. Logging crews penetrated deep into the Maine woods in search of pine (and later spruce) and floated it down to sawmills gathered at waterfalls. The lumber was then shipped from ports such as Bangor, Ellsworth and Cherryfield all over the world.

Partly because of the lumber industry's need for transportation, and partly due to the prevalence of wood and carpenters along a very long coastline, shipbuilding became an important industry in Maine's coastal towns. The Maine merchant marine was huge in proportion to the state's population, and ships and crews from communities such as Bath, Brewer, and Belfast could be found all over the world. The building of very large wooden sailing ships continued in some places into the early 20th century.

Cotton textile mills migrated to Maine from Massachusetts beginning in the 1820s. The major site for cotton textile manufacturing was Lewiston on the Androscoggin River, the most northerly of the Waltham-Lowell system towns (factory towns modeled on Lowell, Massachusetts). The twin cities of Biddeford and Saco, as well as Augusta, Waterville, and Brunswick also became important textile manufacturing communities. These mills were established on waterfalls and amidst farming communities as they initially relied on the labor of farm-girls engaged on short-term contracts. In the years after the Civil War, they would become magnets for immigrant labor.

In addition to fishing, important 19th century industries included granite and slate quarrying, brick-making, and shoe-making.

Starting in the early 20th century, the pulp and paper industry spread into the Maine woods and most of the river valleys from the lumbermen, so completely that Ralph Nader would famously describe Maine in the 1960s as a "paper plantation". Entirely new cities, such as Millinocket and Rumford were established on the upper-most reaches of the large rivers.

For all this industrial development, however, Maine remained a largely agricultural state well into the 20th century, with most of its population living in small and widely-separated villages. With short growing seasons, rocky soil, and relative remoteness from markets, Maine agriculture was never as prosperous as in other states; the populations of most farming communities peaked in the 1850s, declining steadily thereafter. 

Civil War

 Maine was the first state in the northeast to be captured by the new Republican Party, partly due to the influence of evangelical Protestantism, and partly to the fact that Maine was a frontier state, and thus receptive to the party's "free soil" platform. Abraham Lincoln chose Maine's Hannibal Hamlin as his first Vice President.

Maine was so enthusiastic for the cause of preserving the Union in the American Civil War that it ended up contributing a larger number of combatants, in proportion to its population, than any other Union state.[ It was second only to Massachusetts in the number of its sailors who served in the United States Navy. Maj. Gen. (then Col.) Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment played a key role at the Battle of Gettysburg, and the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment lost more men in a single charge (at the Siege of Petersburg) than any Union regiment in the war.

One legacy of the war was Republican Party dominance of state politics for the next half-century and beyond. The state elections came in September and provided pundits of the day with a key indicator of the mood of voters throughout the North--"as Maine goes, so goes the nation" was a familiar phrase.

In the 50-year period 1861 to 1911 (when Democrats temporarily swept most state offices) Maine Republicans served as Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury (twice), President pro tempore of the Senate, Speaker of the House (twice) and Republican Nominee for the Presidency. This synchronization between the politics of Maine and the nation broke down dramatically in 1936, however, when Maine became one of only two states  to vote for the Republican candidate, Alf Landon in Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide re-election. Maine Republicans remain a force in state politics. The most nationally-influential Maine Republicans in recent decades include former Senator William Cohen, and Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.



Maine experienced a wave of Irish immigration in the mid-19th century, though many came to the state via Canada, and before the potato famine. There was a riot in Bangor between Irish and Yankee (nativist) sailors and lumbermen as early as 1834, and a number of early Catholic churches were burned or vandalized in coastal communities, where the Know-Nothing Party briefly flourished. After the Civil War Maine's Irish-Catholic population began a process of integration and upward mobility.

 French Canadians

In the late 19th century, many French Canadians arrived from Quebec and New Brunswick to work in the textile mill cities such as Lewiston and Biddeford. By the mid 20th century Franco-Americans comprised 30% of the state's population. Some migrants became lumberjacks but most concentrated in industrialized areas and into enclaves known as 'Little Canadas.'

Québécois immigrant women saw the United States as a place of opportunity and possibility where they could create alternatives for themselves distinct from the expectations of their parents and their community. By the early 20th century some French Canadian women even began to see migration to the United States to work as a rite of passage and a time of self-discovery and self-reliance. When these women did marry, they had fewer children with longer intervals between children than their Canadian counterparts. Some women never married, and oral accounts suggest that self-reliance and economic independence were important reasons for choosing work over marriage and motherhood. These women conformed to traditional remigration gender ideals in order to retain their 'Canadienne' cultural identity, but they also redefined these roles in ways that provided them increased independence in their roles as wives and mothers.

 The French-Canadian community in New England tried to preserve some of its cultural norms. This doctrine, like efforts to preserve francophone culture in Quebec, became known as la Survivance. See also: Quebec diaspora. With the decline of the state's textile industry during the 1950s, The French element experienced a period of upward mobility and assimilation. This pattern of assimilation increased during the 1970s and 1980s as many Catholic organizations switched to English names and parish children entered public schools; some parochial schools closed in the 1970s. Although some ties to its French-Canadian origins remain, the community was largely anglicized by the 1990s, moving almost completely from 'Canadien' to 'American'.

 Summer residents

 Maine's natural beauty, cool summers and proximity to the large East Coast cities made it a major tourist destination as early as the 1850s. The visitors enjoyed the local handicrafts; the most successful was carving out a mythical image of Maine as a bucolic rustic haven from modern urban woes. The mythical image, elaborately polished for 150 years, attracts tourist dollars to an economically depressed state. Summer resorts such as Bar Harbor, Sorrento, and Islesboro sprung up along the coast, and soon urbanites were building housesranging from mansions to shacks, but all called "cottages"--in what had formerly been shipbuilding and fishing villages. Maine's seasonal residents transformed the economy of the seacoast and to some extent its culture, especially when some began staying all year round.

In transition

By the mid-20th century, the textile industry was establishing itself more profitably in the American South, and some Maine cities began to de-industrialize. Shipbuilding also ceased in all but a few places, notably Bath and its successful Bath Iron Works, which became a notable producer of naval vessels during the Second World War and after. In recent years, however, even Maine's most traditional industries have been threatened; forest conservation efforts have diminished logging and restrictions on fisheries have likewise exerted considerable pressure along the coast. The last "heavy industry" in Maine, pulp and paper began to withdraw in the late 20th century, leaving the future of the Maine Woods an open question.

In response, the state attempted to buttress retailing and service industries, especially those linked to tourism. The term Vacationland was added to license plates in the 1960s. More recent tax incentives have encouraged outlet shopping centers such as the cluster at Freeport. Increasing numbers of visitors began to enjoy Maine's vast tracts of relatively unspoiled wilderness, mountains, and expansive coastline. State and national parks in Maine also became loci of middle-class tourism, especially Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island.

The growth of Portland and areas of southern Maine and the retraction of job opportunities (and population) in the northern and eastern areas of the state led in the 1990s to discussion of "two Maines", with potentially different interests. Portland and certain coastal towns aside, Maine remains the poorest state in the Northeast, ranked 34th nationally in per capita income (2000 census), while neighboring New Hampshire ranked seventh.