HOMEMaine / History
The original inhabitants of the territory that is now Maine were Algonquian-speaking Wabanaki peoples including the Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscots. The first European settlement in Maine was in 1604 by a French party that included Samuel de Champlain, the noted explorer. The French named the entire area, including the portion that later became the State of Maine, Acadia. The first English settlement in Maine was established by the Plymouth Company at Popham in 1607, the same year as the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Both colonies were predated by the Roanoke Colony by 22 years.
Because the Popham Colony did not survive the harsh Maine winters and the Roanoke Colony was lost, Jamestown enjoys the distinction of being regarded as America's first permanent English-speaking settlement. The coastal areas of western Maine first became the Province of Maine in a 1622 land patent. Eastern Maine north of the Kennebec River was more sparsely settled and was known in the 17th century as the Territory of Sagadahock. A second settlement was attempted at a place called York, now Portland, in 1623 by English explorer and naval Captain Christopher Levett, granted 6,000-acres by King Charles I of England. That settlement also failed.
The province within its current boundaries became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1652. Maine was much fought over by the French and English during the 17th and early 18th centuries. After the defeat of the French in the 1740s, 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. American and British forces contended for Maine's territory during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, and British forces occupied eastern Maine in both conflicts. The treaty concluding revolution was ambiguous about Maine's boundary with British North America. The territory of Maine was confirmed as part of Massachusetts when the United States was formed, although the final border with British territory was not established until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.
Because it was physically separated from the rest of Massachusetts and was growing in population at a rapid rate, Maine became the 23rd state on March 15, 1820 through the Missouri Compromise. This compromise allowed admitting both Maine and Missouri (in 1821) into the union while keeping a balance between slave and free states. Maine's original capital was Portland, the largest city in Maine, until it was moved to Augusta in 1832 to make it more central within the state.
Four U.S. Navy ships have been named USS Maine in honor of the state.
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Last updated: June 26, 2010