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Maine State History

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1604—France establishes a colony on the St. Croix River

1607—English colonists establish Popham Colony on the Kennebec River

1622—England divides land and give Ferdinando Gorges Maine

1677—Massachusetts buys Maine from Gorges’ heirs

1775—Colonists capture the British ship Margaretta in Machias Bay

1820—Maine becomes the 23rd state

1842—Webster-Ashburton Treaty settles the Maine-Canada border

1851—Maine outlaws the manufacturing and selling of alcohol

1934—The prohibition law is repealed

1969—Maine adopts personal and corporate income taxes

1980—The U.S. government pays $81˝ million to the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians for lands seized in the late 1700s.

Thousands of Indians lived in Maine when France and England began their exploration of the area. Some of those tribes were the Abenaki, Etchemin, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians.

In 1498, France sent many explorers to Maine.  They claimed the area of Canada and Maine, calling it Acadia.  In 1604, the first French colony was established on the St. Croix River.

Two wealthy Englishmen, Ferdinando Gorges and John Popham, sent men to explore the Maine coast for England in 1605.  Two years later, colonists from England established Popham Colony near the mouth of the Kennebec River. 

In 1622, England gave the land of Maine and New Hampshire to Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason.  The land was divided between the two men in 1629, and Maine was given to Gorges.  Massachusetts bought Maine in 1677, from the heirs of Gorges after his death.

France and England fought for control of the New England area during the French and Indian Wars. With English victory, The Treaty of Paris ended all French claims to Maine and most of North America in 1763. 

Restricted trade and rising taxes led to the Revolutionary War in 1775.  British troops burned the city of Portland to punish the colonists for opposing the new laws.  Maine colonists captured the British ship Margaretta at Machias, during the first navel battle of the war. 

After the War of 1812, Maine wanted to separate from Massachusetts.  Maine became the 23rd state on March 15, 1820 with Portland as the first state capital.  Augusta became the capital in 1832.  The Missouri Compromise asked that Maine enter as a state without slaves, and Missouri enter as a slave state.  This would keep the number of slave and free states equal.

Between 1820 and 1860, Maine’s population grew by 300,000.  Fishing, mining and logging industries grew as well.  Wood from Maine’s pine forests was used to make ships and many other products.  Ice was also cut out of Maine’s rivers and shipped south.

In 1846, Maine became the first state to pass a law making alcoholic drinks illegal.  Manufacturing and selling alcohol remained illegal in Maine until 1856.

Over 72,000 Mainers fought for the United States during the Civil War (1861-1865).  Hannibal Hamlin, a former governor of Maine, served as Vice-President under President Abraham Lincoln.  After the war, textile and leather industries grew at record rates.  Large farms were started in Aroostook County that specialized in potatoes and dairy products.  The Bath Iron Works industry began building steel ships.

During World War II (1939-1945), factories produced uniforms and boots.  Shipyards built destroyers and cargo ships.  After the war, the state government passed laws helping new industries to come to Maine.  Tax rates were reduced and roads were improved.  In 1969, Maine approved state personal and corporate income taxes.

In 1980, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indian tribes sued the state of Maine to recover almost 12 million acres of land taken by white settlers.  These tribes dropped the lawsuit in exchange for $81˝ million from the federal government.