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Maine Town Reports: Town Highlights

Skowhegan Town Seal


Prior to European settlement, this region of Maine was home to the Kinipekw (later known as Kennebec or Norridgewock Abnakis) who referred to the area as “Skwahegan,” recorded as meaning “watching place [for fish].” The native Kinipekw population was massacred or driven from the area during Father Rale’s War of 1722-1725. The first permanent European settlement of the area began in 1771. The town of Skowhegan was formed through the annexation of land from the towns of Milburn, Canaan, Norridgewock, and Bloomfield between 1823 and 1861. In 1871, Skowhegan was named the seat of Somerset County.

Early European settlers cultivated hay, potatoes, grain, and raised sheep for wool. In 1818, the Somerset Central Agricultural Society organized the first Skowhegan Fair with exhibits emphasizing improved livestock breeding and agricultural methods. The Skowhegan State Fair remains the oldest, continuing agricultural fair in the United States.

Greenville Postcard
Main Street, Skowhegan, Maine
Davis & Iris Hoffman Collection, Fogler Library Special Collections

Located along the Kennebec River, Skowhegan became home to a number of water-powered industries including grist and saw mills, textile and paper mills, as well as a thriving timber industry. In the 1970s, a gradual industrial decline began and emphasis along the river front turned toward recreation.

Skowhegan is the birth place of Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995), the first woman elected to both houses of Congress who gained national prominence in June 1950 with her “Declaration of Conscience” speech denouncing Joseph McCarthy’s anticommunist crusade.

The town is also home to Skowhegan School of Art, a summer artists' residency program founded in 1949. Among the well-known alumni was Bernard Langlais (1921-1977), who carved a 62-foot fall depiction of an Abnaki Indian holding a salmon fishing spear and fish trap, standing atop a 20-foot fall base. The wooden sculpture was erected in 1969 in observance of Maine's Sesquicentennial with the dedication: "Dedicated to the Maine Indians, the first people to use these lands in peaceful ways."

Skowhegan resources
A Brief History of the Skowhegan Area from Maine Memory Network
Bernard Langlais, Kohler Foundation, Inc. Major Collections
Margaret Chase Smith Library 
Mitchell, H.E. The Skowhegan Register, 1905. Brunswick, Maine, 1905.

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Falmouth Town Seal


Falmouth, Maine is named for the town of Falmouth in Cornwall, England. (That town, in turn, is named for its location on the river Fal and has lent its name to at least six other Falmouths in the United States, as well as four other Falmouths, worldwide.)

In 1623, Christopher Leavitt of England was granted 6,000 acres located east of the Piscataqua River. Although Leavitt visited the region and may have established a temporary settlement, there is no record of his returning to settle the area permanently.

Jonesport Photo
Falmouth, Maine, in 1910

Some early Falmouth settlers are remembered today by the landforms that bear their names. Mackworth Island is named for Arthur Mackworth, who moved to the island in 1634. Martins Point is named for Richard Martin, who settled there in the 1640s.

Falmouth shares its early history with Cape Elizabeth, Portland, and Stroudwater (now Westbrook), since those towns were incorporated from parts of Falmouth between 1786 and 1819.

Like many New England river towns, Falmouth once had its share of mills as well as a shipyard. Today, Falmouth is primarily a residential suburb of Portland.

Over 40 years of Falmouth town reports have been digitized and are available through Fogler Library’s online holdings.

Falmouth resources:
Falmouth images from the Maine Memory Network
Falmouth, Maine 250th Anniversary. [Falmouth, Me.], 1968.
King, Marquis F. Baptisms and Admission from the Records of First Church in Falmouth, Now Portland, Maine. Portland: Maine Genealogical Society, 1898.

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Jonesport Town Seal


Jonesboro was incorporated as a town in 1809. By 1832, the population on the southern peninsula of the town had grown enough for it to be incorporated as a separate town. This new town, Jonesport, also included all the islands that had been part of Jonesboro. In 1925, Beals Island was set off from Jonesport as the town of Beals.

Jonesport Photo
Main St., Jonesport, early 20th century
Image courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum.

The town of Beals is named for Manwarren Beal, the first settler on Beal's Island. Jonesboro and Jonesport are named for John C. Jones, who was the principal land grant holder in the area, having been granted the land by the Massachusetts Commonwealth in 1789. According to one source, the grant was awarded as payment for a vessel owned by Jones which was lost in the Penobscot Expedition, a 1779 American naval expedition against British Army fortifications on Penobscot Bay.

Fishing and shipbuilding have historically been important industries in Jonesport, as is the case for many Maine coastal towns. Granite quarrying, lumbering, and manufacturing have also been of historical importance.

Around 25 years of Jonesport's annual town reports have been digitized and are available through Fogler Library's online holdings.

Jonesport resources:
Jonesport images from the Maine Memory Network
Jonesport Historical Society
Mitchell, H. E. and E. M. Campbell. The Jonesport Register, 1905. Brunswick, 1905.
A Pictorial History of the Town of Beals. Jonesport: Jonesport and Beals High School, 1975.

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Presque Isle Map Detail
Detail of an 1894 map of Presque Isle, Maine
Map drawn by George E. Norris; Image from the
Library of Congress Geography and Map Division


Presque Isle

Presque Isle, Maine is the largest city in Aroostook County. Early settlers included Dennis Fairbanks, who settled on the Aroostook River in 1828. However, because both the United States and Canada claimed ownership of the territory, it was not heavily settled until after the 1838-1839 "Aroostook War," a bloodless confrontation which led to the 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which formally set the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick.

Litchfield Photo
Potato float, October 1940
Photograph by Jack Delano; Image from the
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Presque Isle takes its name from a French word meaning "peninsula," referring to the peninsula created by the Aroostook River and the Presque Isle Stream. It was incorporated as a town in 1859, it annexed the town of Mayfield in 1883, and in 1940, it incorporated as Aroostook County's first city.

Potato farming is a major industry in the area. The city is also home to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, which was established as the Aroostook State Normal School in 1901.

About 10 years of Presque Isle town reports are newly available through Fogler Library's online holdings.

Presque Isle resources:
The History of Presque Isle at the Maine Memory Network
Presque Isle images from the Maine Memory Network

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Litchfield Seal


Litchfield, Maine was originally called Smithfield Plantation, after early settlers named "Smith." In 1795, the plantation was reorganized as a town and the name changed to Litchfield. Between 1817 and 1867, land was set off from Litchfield to the towns of Bowdoinham, Kennebec, Wales, Webster, and West Gardiner.

Litchfield Photo
Litchfield Corner, Maine, ca. 1900
Image courtesy of the Historical Society of Litchfield, Maine

Litchfield is the southernmost town in Kennebec County and is bordered by the Cobbesseeconte Stream. There are several villages in Litchfield, and the northernmost one is known as "Purgatory," despite official attempts to change the name.

The Litchfield town seal shows a piece of "Litchfieldite," a very rare type of igneous rock which is found in Litchfield and was named for the town. Litchfield is also the source for a rare type of blue sodalite, a specimen of which is housed at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washingon, D.C.

Annual reports from the town of Litchfield have been made available online through a special partnership with the Historical Society of Litchfield, Maine. Members of the society scanned printed town reports and converted them to a digital format (PDF), while staff at Fogler Library used OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to make keyword searching of the reports possible. Over 25 years of Litchfield town reports are now available through Fogler Library's online holdings and we hope that this is the first of many such partnerships with local libraries and historical societies.

Litchfield resources:
Historical Society of Litchfield, Maine
History of Litchfield, Maine

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Gardiner Seal


Gardiner, Maine was named for Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, a wealthy Boston physician and drug merchant who founded the Gardinerstown Plantation in 1754. At one time, he owned over 100,000 acres of land on the Kennebec River, but he was forced to flee to Nova Scotia and later England because of his loyalist sympathies during the American Revolutionary War.

Gardiner Photo
Free Baptist Church, Gardiner, Maine, ca. 1915
Image courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum.

In 1779, the Gardinerstown Plantation was incorporated as the town of Pittston. In 1803, some Pittston land was set off to form the town of Gardiner, which then incorporated as a city in 1849.

The Gardiner city seal shows a town on the banks of a river. As was the case for many New England towns, proximity to a river was vital for industry, both as a power source for mills and as a shipping channel to move goods and supplies. Gardiner is located between two waterways: the Kennebec River and the Cobbesseeconte Stream.

Gardiner is well represented in Fogler Library's online holdings of town reports with over 40 years of digitized reports dating from 1851 to 1901.

Gardiner resources:
Images and artifacts relating to Gardiner, Maine from the Maine Memory Network
The Gardiner Story: 1849-1949
History of Gardiner, Maine

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Greenville Town Seal


Issued as an 1812 land grant to Thornton Academy in Saco, the township that became Greenville, Maine was purchased by Nathaniel Haskell in 1824. In that year, Haskell, Oliver Young, and John Smith cleared 16-acres along Wilson Pond and stream. The region’s first lumber mills were built on Wilson Stream, providing sawn lumber to settlers.

In 1831, the community of farmers and loggers was organized as a township named Haskell Plantation. Incorporated in 1836, the town was dubbed Greenville. That same year saw the first influx of land speculators.

Greenville Postcard
Boat Landing at Kineo, Greenville, Maine, ca. 1910
David Hoffman Collection, Fogler Library Special Collections

Early economic growth in Greenville focused on farming and lumber. Farmers raised crops and livestock suppying logging camps. Mills produced lathes, clapboards, and shingles to sell on the booming Bangor market. Hotels served teamsters called “toters,” who hauled supplies around Moosehead Lake by horse and wagon. The arrival of the 90-foot steamer Amphitrite in 1844 prompted a shift in the supply stream. The boat found success driving timber in the spring and transporting livestock, men, and supplies in the fall opening the way for larger, faster vessels that also catered to the region’s growing sportsmen and tourist industry.

Capitalizing on the “Rusticator” trend of the Gilded Age, Greenville soon featured many resort hotels catering to seasonal residents and sportsmen coming to the region to fish and hunt. Greenville’s boom years faltered with the onset of the Great Depression. Completion of roads around the perimeter of Moosehead Lake in the 1930s opened the region to private vehicle traffic, simultaneously decimating the steam freight industry. Today, Greenville continues to attract tourists seeking to take advantage of year-round sporting activities.

Greenville resources:
Piscataquis County Historical Society. (1910). Collections of the Piscataquis County Historical Society, Vol. 1. Dover, ME: Observer Press.
Loring, Amasa. (1880). History of Piscataquis County, Maine: From Its Earliest Settlement to 1880. Portland, ME: Hoyt, Fogg, & Donham.
Town of Greenville

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Created by: Library Staff | Revised: 02/11/2015
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