Maine History

Before you plan your New England trip, why not make your vacation a lot more interesting by learning a bit about Maine State history and Maine culture? The history of Maine actually begins in the Ice Age. The last glacier of this period could be held responsible for cutting what had once been a relatively straight coastline into the bays, inlets and scenic harbors that we visit today. The receding ice sheet formed the 2,000 spectacular islands that can be found off the Maine coastline.

The “human” element of Maine State history begins with its earliest inhabitants. Most archeologists believe that they were descendants of the Ice Age hunters. They are referred to as the "Red Paint" people because of the red clay with which they lined their graves. Maine's two earliest Native American inhabitants were the Micmacs of eastern Maine and New Brunswick. For the most part, they were a warlike people. In contrast, the Abnakis, who inhabited other parts of Maine, were a peaceful nation.

It was not until 1602 that the first European settlements arrived in Maine. Samuel de Champlain, the famous French explorer was a member of this party. They named the area Acadia. The next significant event in Maine State history occurred in 1607, when English colonists sponsored by the Plymouth Company settled in the area. Of course, this caused frequent battles between the French and English during the 17th and 18th century. To make matters even more complicated, this period in the history of Maine was also marked by a series of Indian raids on white settlements. Since the French wanted to see the English driven from the land, in a true Machiavellian spirit of divide and conquer, they supported these raids.

When the French were defeated by the British in the 1740s, Maine eventually fell under the authority of the Province of Nova Scotia. After the threat of Indian raids was diminished the population of Maine began to increase. Massachusetts offered 100-acre lots free to anyone who would settle the Northern Province. This caused the population to double from 12,000 to 24,000 between 1743 and 1763.

Resistance to the oppressive colonial tax policies of the British Parliament became an important element of Maine culture. In 1765, a defiant mob seized a large quantity of tax stamps at Falmouth. A year after the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773, the people of Maine organized their own version of that incident when a group of men burned a shipment of tea that was stored at York.

The next turning point in the history of Maine happened after the War of 1812, when Maine became part of the State of Massachusetts. However, since it was physically separate from Massachusetts, on March 15 1820, Maine became America’s 23rd State as a result of the Missouri Treaty.

The Maine culture of rebellion continued during the Civil War. The abolitionist societies that had been active for 25 years began to flourish. During this period, Harriet Beecher Stowe of Brunswick wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the famous novel that dramatized the horrors of slavery.

Today, you can learn more about Maine history and Maine culture at the Maine Historical Society which is located in Portland.

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