Cultural History

a project of
V. F. Thomas Co. - P. O. Box 111 - Shawmut, Maine  04975

(updated 22 February 2021)

Welcome to a summary of the cultural history of Maine. Each item below marks a highlight of Maine’s history. Sometimes a sentence or two is sufficient to convey what happened on a particular date. In other cases a link is provided to take you to a page with more information. Following most entries [and in brackets] is an abbreviated reference to the source of the information. The full citations are at the bottom of this page.

How you can help: If you have additional information (including/especially images) or corrections, please e-mail, or send what you have by traditional mail to the address at the top of this page.

A little work by each of us will save a lot of work for all of us.

Read one of the many Maine town histories written during the past 125 years or so, and you would be forgiven for thinking that the first residents in what is now the State of Maine, arrived in the early 17th century. But there is a running joke in genealogical circles that when someone states that one or more of their ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, someone else will inevitably respond that their ancestors were on the shore to meet them. Never mind for now that many claims of Indian/Native American/Indigenous ancestry are spurious, the point is well taken.

Now one might argue that the Indigenous people traveled from place to place during the course of the seasons and were not, therefore, technically “settlers”, but that is to miss the point (accidentally or otherwise). The fact is that long before the first European immigrants came to what is now Maine, in fact many thousands of years before, there were well-developed societies/cultures of Indigenous people here. Contemporaneous accounts of their (his)stories were not written because only until relatively recent times did their languages have a written alphabet. And a later opportunity for some of those cultures to write their own history was not forthcoming because they were exterminated by the European immigrants.

Below, I will try to compensate in a small way for the unbalanced treatment of printed histories, but for a good account of the vast majority of Maine’s history, you will do well to read Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians in Maine by Bruce Bourque (2001, Univ. of Nebraska Press).

approx. 18,000 B.P.
(before present)
Beginning of the end of the most recent glaciation of northeastern North America.

12,000–10,000 B.P. “first evidence for human presence in Maine” [Bourque (2001), p. 14.]

11,500–8,500 B.P. Paleo-Indians - Important finds have been made in the vicinity of Munsungan Lake and Chase Lake (north of Baxter State Park), along an old channel of the Magalloway River that is now generally under Aziscohos Lake (Vail and Adkins sites; near New Hampshire border northwest of Rangeley), near the Lewiston-Auburn airport in Auburn (Michaud site), Wayne (Dam site), and Turner (Varney Farm site, near Nezinscot River). [Bourque (2001), pp. 20–32].

10,000–3,000 B.P. Archaic Period - the range of dates at the left and those below are approximate.
   Early Archaic (10,000–8,000 B.P.)
   Middle Archaic (8,000–6,000 B.P.)
   Late Archaic (6,000–3,500 B.P.)

1498 Uncertain if John Cabot, an Italian sailing for England, landed on Maine coast. Possible landing was Newfoundland. [Judd et al. (1995), p. 37.]

1524 Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian sailing for France, explored Maine coast. [Judd et al. (1995), p. 37.]

1527 John Rut, an Englishman sailing for England, explored Maine coast. [Judd et al. (1995), p. 38.]

1583 Étienne Belenger, a Frenchman sailing for Franch, sailed along (and explored?) eastern portion of Maine coast. [Hornsby and Judd (2015), Part I, Plate 5.]

September 1604 Samuel de Champlain described Mount Desert Island as “L’isle de monts deserts”

May 1605 George Waymouth, secretary/clerk James Rosier, and crew of ship Archangel sailed past Monhegan Island.

11 June 1605 George Waymouth et al. sailed up (Saint) George’s River.

1606 King James I of England established, by charter, two companies, The London Company and The Plymouth Company, with the purpose of settling North America. The London Company focused on the southern North American coast and settled Jamestown (Virginia). The Plymouth Company, known today primarily for the 1620 voyage of the Mayflower and the landing at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, originally created the Popham Colony in Maine (more below). [Judd et al. (1995), p. 43.]

31 May 1607 The Gift of God, under the command of George Popham, and the Mary and John, under Raleigh Gilbert, sailed from Plymouth, England. [Judd et al. (1995), p. 43.]

early August 1607 The Mary and John arrived at Georges Islands, part of what is now the town of St. George (Knox County), after a brief stop along the coast of what is now Nova Scotia. The Gift of God arrived two days later. [Judd et al. (1995), p. 43.]

April 1614 John Smith, [Judd et al. (1995), p. 43.]

1623 Kittery settled. (see 1647 October 20 below)

1647 October 20 Kittery incorporated. (see 1623 above)

1675–1678 King Phillip’s War - concluded by Treaty of Casco

1688–1697 King William’s War

1703–1713 Queen Anne’s War - concluded by Treaty of Utrecht (also called Treaty of Portsmouth)

9 May 1725
(old style)
Lovewell’s War

1744–1748 King George’s War

1754–1763 French and Indian War

1775–1783 American Revolution - concluded by Treaty of Paris

1820 March 15 Maine separates from Massachusetts and becomes 23rd state.

5 February 1821 Canton set off from Jay and incorporated. [Attwood (1946), p. 120.]
   (For further information, please see Canton, Maine, Cultural History.)

   Attwood, Stanley Bearce. 1946 The Length and Breadth of Maine. Orono: University of Maine Press.
   Bourque, Bruce. 2001. Twelve Thousand Years: American Indians in Maine. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.
   Hornsby, Stephen J., and Richard W. Judd, editors. 2015. Historical Atlas of Maine. Orono: The University of Maine Press.
   Judd, Richard W., Edwin A. Churchill, and Joel W. Eastman, editors. 1995. Maine: The Pine Tree State from Prehistory to the Present. Orono: University of Maine Press.