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History of Maine

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History of Maine

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 present article will concentrate on the period of European contact and after.

The origin of the name Maine is unclear. One theory is it was named after the French province of Maine.[1] 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.[1]


  • Pre-European history 1
  • Colonial period 2
    • Colonial Wars 2.1
  • American Revolution 3
    • New Ireland 3.1
  • War of 1812 4
  • Maine Constitutional Convention and statehood 5
  • The Aroostook War 6
  • Industrialization 7
    • Railroads 7.1
  • "Ohio Fever", the California Gold Rush, and westward migration from Maine 8
  • Civil War 9
  • Immigrants 10
    • Irish 10.1
    • French Canadians 10.2
    • Other immigrants 10.3
      • English and Scottish 10.3.1
      • Somalis 10.3.2
      • Bantus 10.3.3
  • Demographics 11
    • Summer residents 11.1
  • Modern Maine 12
  • See also 13
  • Notes 14
  • Bibliography 15
    • 18th-19th century histories 15.1
    • Contemporary 15.2
    • Local and specialty studies 15.3
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society 16
  • Documentary history on the State of Maine (1869) 17

Pre-European history

The earliest culture known to have inhabited Maine, from roughly 3000 B.C. to 1000 B.C., were the Red Paint People, a maritime group known for elaborate burials using red ochre. They were followed by the Susquehanna culture, the first to use pottery.

By the time of European arrival, the inhabitants of Maine were Algonquian-speaking Wabanaki peoples, including the Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscots.

Colonial period

A Voyage into New England, written by Capt. Christopher Levett to spur interest in his Maine colony

The first Europeans to explore the coast of Maine sailed under the command of the Portuguese explorer Estêvão Gomes, in service of the Spanish Empire, in 1525. 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 Somerset County in Maine preserves this early nomenclature.

One of the first English attempts to settle the Maine coast was by 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.[2] 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.

Marker commemorating the Dutch conquest of Acadia (1674), which they renamed New Holland. This is the spot where Jurriaen Aernoutsz buried a bottle at the capital of Acadia, Fort Pentagouet, Castine, Maine

The New Somersetshire colony was small, and in 1639 Gorges received a second patent, from 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.

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.

In 1674, the Dutch briefly conquered Acadia, renaming the colony New Holland.

Copy of English map of Maine, c. 1670

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.

Colonial Wars

For the English,east of the Kennebec River was known in the 17th century as the Territory of Sagadahock; however, the French included this area as part of Acadia. It was dominated by tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy, which supported Acadia.[3] The only significant European presence was at Fort Pentagouet, the French trading post first established in 1613 as well as missionaries on Kennebec River and the Penobscot River. Fort Pentagouet was briefly the capital of Acadia (1670–1674) in an effort to protect the French claim to the territory. There were four wars before the region was finally taken by the English in Father Rale's War.

In the first war, King Philips War, some of the tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy participated and successfully prevented English settlements in their territory. During the next war, King William's War, Baron St. Castin at Fort Pentagouet and French Jesuit missionary Sébastien Rale were notably active. Again, the Wabanaki Confederacy executed a successful campaign against the English settlers west of the Kennebec River. In 1696, the major defensive establishment in the territory, Fort William Henry at Pemaquid (present-day Bristol), was besieged by a French force. The territory was again on the front lines in Queen Anne's War (1702–1713), with the Northeast Coast Campaign.

The next and final conflict over the New England/ Acadia border was Father Rale's War. During the war, the Confederacy launched two campaigns against the British settlers west of the Kennebec (1723, 1724). Rale and numerous chiefs were killed by a New England force in 1724 at Norridgewock, which led to the collapse of French claims to Maine.

During French and Indian War, members of the Confederacy again executed numerous raids into Maine from Acadia/ Nova Scotia. Acadian militia raided the British settlements of Swan's Island, Maine and present-day Friendship, Maine and Thomaston, Maine. Francis Noble wrote her captivity narrative after being captured at Swan's Island.[4][5] During the French and Indian War, on June 9, 1758, Indians raided the Woolwich, Maine, killing members of the Preble family and taking others prisoner to Quebec.[6] This incident became known as the last conflict on the Kennebec River.

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.[7]

American Revolution

Maine was a center of Patriotism during the American Revolution, with less Loyalist activity than most colonies.[8] Merchants operated 52 ships that served as privateers attacking British supply ships.[9] 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[10] (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.[11]

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 (1725–1812) and John Nutting (fl. 1775-85), as well as Englishman William Knox (1732–1810). 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.[12]

In July 1779, British general Francis McLean captured Castine and built

  • Vol. 6
  • Vol 7
  • Vol. 9 (1689-1723)
  • Documentary history of the state of Maine, vol. 10 (1662-1729)
  • Vol. 11 (1729-1749)
  • Vo. 12 (1749-1755)
  • Vol. 13 (1755-1768)
  • Vol. 14
  • vol. 16
  • Vol. 22 (1788-1791)
  • Vol. 23 (Native affairs)
  • Vol. 24 (Native affairs)

Documentary history on the State of Maine (1869)

  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Third Series. Vol.1, 1901
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Third Series. Vol.2, 1906

Third Series

  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series. Vol.1, 1890
  • Second Series, Vol. 2
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series. Vol.3, 1892
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series. Vol.4, 1893
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series, Volume 5 (1894)
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series. Vol.6, 1895
  • Vol.7
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Second Series. Vol.10, 1899

Second Series

  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Vol.1, 1865
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Vol.2, 1847
  • Vol. 3
  • Vol. 4
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Vol.5, 1857
  • Vol. 6
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Vol.7, 1859
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Vol.8, 1881
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Vol.9, 1887
  • Collections of the Maine Historical Society - Index Vol.1-10

First Series

Collections of the Maine Historical Society

  • History of Saco
  • History of Wells
  • History of York, Maine
  • Bruce J. Bourque. Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians in Maine (University of Nebraska Press, 2001) online edition
  • History of Thomaston, Rockland, and South Thomaston, Maine: From ..., Volume 1 By Cyrus Eaton
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine Including Ancient Pejebscot. By George Augustus Wheeler and Henry Warren Wheeler. Published 1878.
  • History of Castine, Penobscot, and Brooksville, Maine including the ancient settlement of Pentagoet. By George Augustus Wheeler. Published 1875.
  • William Willis. History of Portland. 1865
  • Sketches of the History of the Town of Camden, Maine. By John Lymburner Locke. Published 1859.
  • History of Boothbay, Southport and Boothbay Harbor, Maine, 1623–1905. By Francis Byron Greene. Published 1906.
  • History of Farmington, Maine, from Its First Settlement. By Thomas Parker. Published 1875.
  • History of Bath and Environs, Sagadahoc County, Maine, 1607-1894. By Parker McCobb Reed.
  • The Makers of Maine: Essays and Tales of Early Maine History. By Herbert Edgar Holmes. Published 1912.
  • Sketches of the Ecclesiastical History of the State of Maine. By Jonathan Greenleaf. Published 1821.
  • A History of the Baptists in Maine. By Joshua Millet. Published 1845.
  • History of the First Maine Cavalry, 1861-1865. By Edward Parsons Tobie. Published 1887.
  • History of Piscataquis County, Maine: From Its Earliest Settlement to 1880. By Amasa Loring. Published 1880.
  • A History of Swan's Island, Maine. By Herman Wesley Small. Published 1898.
  • Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine. By Henry Sweetser Burrage, Albert Roscoe Stubbs. Published 1909.
  • The History of Waterford: Oxford County, Maine. By Henry Pelt Warren, William Warren. Published 1879.
  • The History of Sanford, Maine, 1661-1900. By Edwin Emery, William Morrell Emery. Published 1901.
  • History of Rumford, Oxford County, 156651645Maine: From Its First Settlement in 1779. By William Berry Lapham. Published 1890.
  • History of the City of Belfast in the State of Maine. By Joseph Williamson. Published 1877.
  • A History of the Town of Industry: Franklin County, Maine. By William Collins Hatch. Published 1893.
  • History of the Maine State College and the University of Maine. By Merritt Caldwell Fernald. Published 1916.
  • Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, Mary Winslow Smyth; Minstrelsy of Maine: Folk-Songs and Ballads of the Woods and the Coast, (1927) online edition
  • Richard P. Horwitz; Anthropology toward History: Culture and Work in a 19th Century Maine Town, (Wesleyan University Press, 1978) online edition

Local and specialty studies

  • Clark, Charles E. et al. eds. Maine in the Early Republic: From Revolution to Statehood (1989)
  • Hatch, Louis Clinton. Maine A History vol.1, vol2, vol 3, (1919)
  • Leamon, James S. Revolution Downeast: The War for American Independence in Maine (University of Massachusetts Press, 1993) online edition
  • Lockard, Duane. New England State Politics (1959) pp 79–118; covers 1932–1958
  • MacDonald, William. The Government of Maine: Its History and Administration (1902).
  • Palmer, Kenneth T., G. Thomas Taylor, Marcus A. Librizzi; Maine Politics & Government (University of Nebraska Press, 1992) online edition
  • Peirce, Neal R. The New England States: People, Politics, and Power in the Six New England States (1976) pp 362–420; updated in Neal R. Peirce and Jerry Hagstrom, The Book of America: Inside the Fifty States Today (1983) pp 208–13
  • Stewart, Alice R. "The Franco-Americans of Maine: A Historiographical Essay," Maine Historical Society Quarterly 1987 26(3): 160-179
  • WPA. Maine, a Guide down East (1937) online edition, famous guidebook


  • Mather Cotten. Magnalia Christi Americana, or, The ecclesiastical history of New-England: from its first planting in the year 1620, unto the year of Our Lord, 1698, in seven books (1702)
  • A summary, historical and political, of the first planting, progressive ... By William Douglass. 1755
  • Hubbard's Narrative History of the Indian Wars. 1677
    • "The history of the Indian wars in New England : from the first settlement to the termination of the war with King Philip in 1677 : Hubbard, William, 1621 or 2-1704 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  • Hubbard's Indian Wars in New England. Vol. 2, Ed. by Drake
  • Thomas Hutchingson. The history of the province of Massachusets-Bay. Vol. 1. 1828
  • Thomas Hitchingson. Story of the province of Massachusetts bay, from 1749 to 1774, Vol. 2
  • George Minot. Continuation of the history of Massachusetts Bay, Vol. 1, 1798
  • George Minot. Continuation of the history of Massachusetts Bay, Vol. 2
  • Samuel Niles, "History of the Indian and French wars," (1760) reprinted in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 3d ser., VI (1837), 248–50
  • Samuel Penhallow. History of the New England Wars with the Eastern Indians. 1726
  • Journal of John Pike
  • Samuel Sewell vol. 1 (1674-1729)
  • Rufus Sewall. Ancient dominions of Maine. 1859
  • Journals of the Rev. Thomas Smith, and the Rev. Samuel Deane, pastors of the First church in Portland: with notes and biographical notices: and a Summary history of Portland (1849)
  • James Sullivan. History of Maine. 1796
  • Stevens, John, Cabot Abbott, Edward Henry Elwell. The History of Maine (1892). comprehensive older history
  • Herbert Sylvester. Indian Wars of New England Vol. 1
  • Herbert Sylvester. Indian Wars of New England Vol. 3
  • (1832)The History of the State of Maine,Vol. 1William D. Williamson,
  • William Williamson. History of Maine 'Vol. 2

18th-19th century histories


  1. ^ a b "Origin of Maine's Name". Maine State Library. Archived from the original on 2006-11-24. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  2. ^ Maine: A Guide 'Down East,' Federal Writers' Project, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1937
  3. ^ 1690 census of Acadians in Maine
  4. ^ Drake, S.G. (1841). Tragedies of the wilderness, or True and authentic narratives of captives who have been carried away by the Indians from the various frontier settlements of the United States, from the earliest to the present time... p. 166. Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  5. ^ "Collections of the Maine Historical Society". Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  6. ^ "Preble Massacre". Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  7. ^ "Franklin County, Maine", New England Towns. Retrieved: 11-22-2007
  8. ^ Charles E. Clark, et al. eds. Maine in the Early Republic: From Revolution to Statehood (1989)
  9. ^ Charles E. Claghorn, "Maine Privateers during the Revolutionary War," Maine Historical Society Quarterly, 1989, Vol. 28 Issue 4, pp 210-222
  10. ^ James L. Nelson, "Burning Falmouth," MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History, Autumn 2009, Vol. 22 Issue 1, pp 62-69
  11. ^ Louis Arthur Norton, "Henry Mowat: Miscreant of the Maine Coast," Maine History, March 2007, Vol. 43 Issue 1, pp 1-20,
  12. ^ Robert W. Sloan, "New Ireland: Men in Pursuit of a Forlorn Hope, 1779–1784," Maine Historical Society Quarterly, 1979, Vol. 19 Issue 2, pp 73-90
  13. ^ Woodard, Colin. The Lobster Coast. New York. Viking/Penguin, ISBN 0-670-03324-3, 2004, pp. 139-140
  14. ^ James S. Leamon, "The Search for Security: Maine after Penobscot," Maine Historical Society Quarterly, 1982, Vol. 21 Issue 3, pp 119-153
  15. ^ Ann Gorman Condon, The Envy of the American States: The Loyalist Dream for New Brunswick (1984)
  16. ^ Ellis, James H. A Ruinous and Unhappy War: New England and the War of 1812 New York: Algora Publishing, 2009, pp. 1324-142
  17. ^ Smith, Joshua (2011). Battle for the Bay: The Naval War of 1812. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions. pp. passim.  
  18. ^ Smith, Joshua (June 2011). "The Yankee Soldier's Might: The District of Maine and the Reputation of the Massachusetts Militia, 1800-1812". New England Quarterly. LXXXIV (2): 234–265.  
  19. ^ Ellis, pp. 207-218
  20. ^ Smith, Joshua (2007). Borderland Smuggling: Patriots, Loyalists, and Illicit Trade in the Northeast, 1783-1820. Gainesville, FL: UPF. pp. 81–94.  
  21. ^ Woodard, Colin. The Lobster Coast. New York. Viking/Penguin, ISBN 0-670-03324-3, 2004, pp. 152-153
  22. ^ Howard Jones, "Anglophobia and the Aroostook War," New England Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Dec., 1975), pp. 519–539 in JSTOR
  23. ^ Robert Remini, Daniel Webster (1997) 535-64
  24. ^ David C. Smith, A History of Lumbering in Maine, 1861–1960 (University of Maine Press, 1972)
  25. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America, by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 35. [6]
  26. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America, by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), pages 21-2. [7]
  27. ^ Report on the Agencies of Transportation in the United States 1880 by United States Census Bureau (Washington DC: 1883). [8]
  28. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America, by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 20. [9]
  29. ^ Railroads and Canals of the United States of America, by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co, 1860), page 28-9. [10]
  30. ^ Alan Taylor, Liberty Men and Great Proprietors (1990), p. 239. Taylor estimates that "as many as 20,000" left Maine for Ohio and points West. Nineteenth century estimates usually put the number at 15,000
  31. ^ These were John deLaittre (1877-78)
  32. ^ These were Washington Allon Bartlett (1846-47); Isaac Smith Kalloch (1879–1881), and Maurice Carey Blake (1881–1883)
  33. ^ These were George Clement Perkins (1880–1883)
  34. ^ This was La Fayette Grover (1877–1883)
  35. ^ These were John McGraw (1893-97) and John Rankin Rogers (1897–1901)
  36. ^ William E.S. Whitman & Charles H. True, Maine in the War for the Union (Lewiston, Me.: 1865), p. 21
  37. ^ The phrase became, "As goes Maine, so goes Vermont."
  38. ^ Michael Barone, The Almanac of American Politics 2010: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts (2009), covers the state in detail
  39. ^ James Herbert Mundy, "Hard Times, Hard Men: Maine and the Irish, 1830–1860." PhD dissertation, U of Maine 1996; Dissertation Abstracts International 56(10): 4120-A. DA9604740, 242p.
  40. ^ Mark Paul Richard, "From 'Canadien' to American: The Acculturation of French-Canadian Descendants in Lewiston, Maine, 1860 to the Present", PhD dissertation Duke U. 2002; Dissertation Abstracts International, 2002 62(10): 3540-A. DA3031009, 583p.
  41. ^ Florencemae Waldron, "The Battle Over Female (In)Dependence: Women In New England Quebecois Migrant Communities, 1870–1930," Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 2005 26(2): 158-205; Waldron, "'I've Never Dreamed It Was Necessary To 'Marry!': Women And Work In New England French Canadian Communities, 1870–1930," Journal of American Ethnic History 2005 24(2): 34-64
  42. ^ Mark Paul Richard, "The Ethnicity of Clerical Leadership: The Dominicans in Francophone Lewiston, Maine, 1881–1986," Quebec Studies 2002 (33): 83-101
  43. ^ Susan Hudson, "Les Soeurs Grises of Lewiston, Maine 1878–1908: An Ethnic Religious Feminist Expression," Maine History 2001-02 40(4): 309-332
  44. ^ Alice R. Stewart, "The Franco-Americans of Maine: A Historiographical Essay," Maine Historical Society Quarterly 1987 26(3): 160-179
  45. ^ Mark Paul Richard, "From Franco-American to American: The Case of Sainte-Famille, An Assimilating Parish of Lewiston, Maine," Histoire Sociale: Social History 1998 31(61): 71-93; Richard, "From 'Canadien' to American" (2002).
  46. ^ C. Stewart Doty, "Rudy Vallee: Franco-American and Man from Maine," Maine Historical Society Quarterly 1993 33(1): 2-19
  47. ^ a b c Perceived Barriers to Somali Immigrant Employment in Lewiston - A Supplement to Maine's Department of Labor Report
  48. ^ The New Yankees, Mother Jones, March/April 2004
  49. ^ United Somali Women of Maine website
  50. ^ Somali stores bring people back to Lisbon Street Lewiston Sun-Journal, August 30, 2010
  51. ^ a b Somali Bantu Community Mutual Assistance Association of Lewiston/Auburn Maine
  52. ^ Sarah Dryden-Peterson, "Bridging Home: Building Relationships Between Immigrant and Long-Time Resident Youth," Teachers College Record, Sept 2010, Vol. 112 Issue 9, pp 2320–2351
  53. ^ Mark Paul Richard, "'This Is Not a Catholic Nation': The Ku Klux Klan Confronts Franco-Americans in Maine," New England Quarterly Jun 2009, Vol. 82 Issue 2, pp 285-303.
  54. ^ George H. Lewis, "The Maine that never was: The construction of popular myth in regional culture," Journal of American Culture Summer 1993, Vol. 16 Issue 2, pp 91-99
  55. ^ Richard W. Judd, "Reshaping Maine's landscape: rural culture, tourism, and conservation, 1890–1929," Journal of Forest History, Oct 1988, Vol. 32 Issue 4, pp 180-99
  56. ^ Hartford, William F. Where Is Our Responsibility?: Unions and Economic Change in the New England Textile Industry, 1870–1960; p. 72 ISBN 1558490221
  57. ^ "1937 shoe worker strike hits milestone".  
  58. ^ Garreau, Joel; The Nine Nations of North America; p. 16 ISBN 0395291240
  59. ^ Maine's Dependency Crisis
  60. ^ Lewiston Daily Sun; February 2, 1981; p. 1
  61. ^  


See also

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. By some accounts, adjusting for its high taxes and living costs, Maine has been since at least the 1970s the poorest state in the United States.[58] The notion that Maine is indeed the poorest state in the US is supported by its exceptionally high levels of welfare dependence[59] over the past half century.[60]

In response, the state attempted to buttress retailing and service industries, especially those linked to tourism. The label 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.

By the middle of the twentieth century, the textile industry was establishing itself more profitably in the American South, and some Maine cities began to de-industrialize as wages rose above those of the South.[56] In 1937, the Lewiston-Auburn Shoe Strike involved 4,000 to 5,000 textile workers on strike in Lewiston and Auburn. It was one of the largest labor disputes state history.[57] 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.

Modern Maine

The Bush family and their compound in Kennebunkport are a notable example of this demographic. The Rockefeller family were conspicuous members of the summer community at Bar Harbor. Summer residents who were painters and writers began to define the state's image through their work.

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.[54] Summer resorts such as Bar Harbor, Sorrento, and Islesboro sprung up along the coast, and soon urbanites were building houses—ranging 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.[55]

Summer residents

The immigrant population was largely responsible for the steady growth of the Democratic Party, however, which gave Maine a true two-party system in the years after World War II. The election in 1954 of Governor Edmund Muskie, a Catholic Polish American tailor's son from the mill-town of Rumford, was a major watershed. The governor from 2003 to 2011, John Baldacci, is of Italian American and Arab American ancestry from Bangor.

Largely because of Irish and French-Canadian immigration, 40% of Maine's population was Catholic by 1900; the Catholic Church ran its own school system in the cities, where almost all Catholics lived. This demographic and its resulting social and political ramifications led to a backlash in the 1920s, as the Ku Klux Klan formed cells in a number of Maine towns.[53]


The state's Bantu community is served by the Somali Bantu Community Mutual Assistance Association of Lewiston/Auburn Maine (SBCMALA), which focuses on housing, employment, literacy and education, health and safety matters.[51]

Due to the Atlanta. However, they were mostly assigned to low rent, poverty-stricken inner city areas, so many began to look to resettle elsewhere in the US.[47] After 2005, many Bantus were resettled in Maine by aid agencies.[47] Catholic Charities Maine is the refugee resettlement agency that provides the bulk of the services for the Bantus' resettlement.[52]


In August 2010, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported that Somali entrepreneurs had helped reinvigorate downtown Lewiston by opening dozens of shops in previously closed storefronts. Amicable relations were also reported by the local merchants of French-Canadian descent and the Somali storekeepers.[50]

[49] Mainly concentrated in

In the 2000s, Somalis began a secondary migration to Maine from other states on account of the area's low crime rate, good schools and cheap housing.[47][48]


A large number of immigrants of English- and Scottish-Canadian stock relocated from the Maritime Provinces.

English and Scottish

Other immigrants

[46] Representative of the assimilation process was the career of singer and icon of American popular culture

[45] 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

The Franco-Americans became active in the Catholic Church where they tried with little success to challenge its domination by Irish clerics.[42] They founded such newspapers as 'Le Messager' and 'La Justice'. Lewiston's first hospital became a reality in 1889 when the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, the 'Grey Nuns', opened the doors of the Asylum of Our Lady of Lourdes. This hospital was central to the Grey Nuns' mission of providing social services for Lewiston's predominantly French Canadian mill workers. The Grey Nuns struggled to establish their institution despite meager financial resources, language barriers, and opposition from the established medical community.[43] Immigration dwindled after World War I.

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 premigration 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.[41]

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.'[40]

French Canadians

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.[39]



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[37] to vote for the Republican candidate, Alf Landon in Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide re-election. Maine Republicans remain a force in state politics, but since the elevation of the Polish-American Catholic Democrat Edmund Muskie to the governorship in the 1950s, Maine has been a balanced two-party state. The most nationally-influential Maine Republicans in recent decades include former Senator William Cohen, and Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.[38]

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.

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.[36] 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.

Maine was the first state in the northeast to support the new anti-slavery 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.

Civil War

The California Gold Rush of 1849 and afterwards was a major boost to the lumber and coastal shipbuilding economies, as building lumber needed to be "shipped around the Horn" from Maine until the establishment of a West Coast sawmilling industry. Maine ships also carried gold-seeking migrants, however, and thus were many Mainers (and aspects of Maine culture, such as lumbering and carpentering) transplanted to California and the Pacific Northwest. Three 19th century Mayors of San Francisco,[32] two Governors of California,[33] a Governor of Oregon,[34] and two Governors of Washington[35] were born in Maine.

As the American frontier continued to expand westward, Mainers were particularly attracted to the forested states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and large numbers brought their lumbering skills and knowledge there. Migrants from Maine were particularly prominent in Minnesota; for example, three 19th century Mayors of Minneapolis were Mainers.[31]

Even before the tide of settlement crested in most of Maine, some began to leave for The West. The first large-scale exodus was probably in 1816-17, spurred by the privations of the War of 1812, an unusually cold summer, and the expansion of settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains in Ohio. "Ohio Fever" as the lure of the West was initially called, depopulated a number of fledgling Maine communities and stunted the growth of others, even if the overall momentum of settlement had been largely restored by the 1820s, when Maine achieved statehood.[30]

"Ohio Fever", the California Gold Rush, and westward migration from Maine

The Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad, Bridgton and Saco River Railroad, Monson Railroad, Kennebec Central Railroad and Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway were built with the unusually narrow gauge of 2 feet (60 cm).

Portland in particular prospered as the terminus of the Grand Trunk railroad from Montreal, essentially becoming Canada's winter port. The Portland Company built early railway locomotives and the Portland Terminal Company handled joint switching operations for the Maine Central Railroad and Boston and Maine Railroad. A railroad pushed through to Bangor in the 1850s, and as far as Aroostook County in the early 20th century, farming potato growing as a cash crop.

The third railroad in Maine was the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth Railroad, incorporated by the legislature on March 14, 1837.[29] This was a crucial step in the development of railroads in Maine because the new railroad connected Portland to Boston by connecting to the Eastern Railroad at Kittery via a bridge to Portsmouth. This railroad was opened on November 21, 1842 and was 51.34 miles in length.

The state's second railroad was the Bangor & Piscataquis Railroad & Canal Company incorporated by the legislature on February 18, 1833.[28] It ran eleven miles from Bangor to Oldtown along the west bank of the Penobscot River and opened in November, 1836. In 1854-55, it was extended 1.5 miles across the Penobscot River to Milford and the name was changed to the Bangor, Oldtown & Milford Railroad Company. In 1869, it was absorbed into the European and North American Railway.

Railroads shaped Maine's geography, as they did that of most American states. The first railroad in Maine was the Calais Railroad, incorporated by the state legislature on February 17, 1832.[25] It was built to transport lumber from a mill on the Saint Croix River opposite Milltown, New Brunswick two miles to the tidewater at Calais in 1835. In 1849, the name was changed to the Calais and Baring Railroad and the line was extended four more miles to Baring.[26] In 1870, it became part of the St. Croix and Penobscot Railroad.[27]


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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Loggers at Russell Camp, Aroostook County, ca. 1900


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.[24]

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 Webster–Ashburton 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.[23]

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.[22]

The Aroostook War

Maine gained its statehood from Massachusetts 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 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 Constitutional Convention and statehood

During the War of 1812, Maine suffered more from the effects of warfare than most sections of New England. Early in the war there was some Canadian privateering action and Royal Navy harassment along the coast. In September 1813, the memorable combat off Pemaquid between HMS Boxer and USS Enterprise gained international attention.[16] But it wasn't until 1814 that the district was invaded.[17] The U.S. Army and the small U.S. Navy could do little to defend Maine. The national administration assigned nominal resources to the region, concentrating its efforts in the west. The local militia generally proved inadequate to the challenge.[18] However, in the last months of the war, large militia mobilizations discouraged enemy interventions at Wiscasset, Bath, and Portland.[19] 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 stopped—a 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.[20] The British gave "New Ireland" to America 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, were important factors in the post-war momentum for statehood.[21]

War of 1812

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 the bloodless "Aroostook War" a half century later.

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".[15]


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