Trails to the Past- Hancock County Maine-Index



  Hancock County




Hancock County was organized in 1789, with Penobscot for its shire town. It then included portions of Penobscot and Waldo counties, and extended northward to the Canada line. In 1791 a portion was set off and annexed to Lincoln County. In 1827, a portion was taken off for Waldo. In 1831, and again in 1844 a change was made in the partition line between Hancock and Washington Counties. In 1858, Greenfleld was set off and annexed to Penobscot.

The first European who made definite mention of the Penobscot bay and river, which wash its western side, was Thevet, a French explorer, in 1556. Martin Pring amid Captain Weymouth, the English explorers, sailed along its shores in 1603 and 1605, and DeMonts, the Frenchman, explored some portions of the coast in 1604 and 1605. There is a tradition that Rosier, the historian of Weymouth's expedition, explored Deer Island thoroughfare, making a halt at the bold promontory in Brooksville, known as Cape Rosier. They found the county occupied by a tribe of Indians, who with those on Passarnaquoddy waters, were noted for their long journeys in canoes; whence the general name for these Indians, Etechmins. DeMonts claimed the country in the name of the King of France in the true catholic style, setting up a cross and calling the country “Acadie.” By this name it continued to be known until the capture of Quebec by general ‘Wolfe in 1759. When Weymouth came in 1605, he also claimed the country in the name of his King, James I. of England. Thus the two leading powers of Europe became adverse claimants of the soil of Hancock County, and the wars these claims occasioned kept the county an almost unbroken wilderness during the provincial history of Maine. Indeed, it was not until after the war of the Revolution that the French claim to the territory between the Penobscot and St. Croix was relinquished. The patent of Acadia granted to DeMonts in 1603 was surrendered two years later to Madame de Guercheville; who, in 1613, sent over Saussaye with 25 colonists. This lady was a zealous Catholic, and wished to convert the Indians to that faith. Her colony landed on Mount Desert on May 16, 1613, where they built a fort, erected a cross, celebrated mass, and named the place “St. Sauveur.” The exact locality is now supposed to be that now known as Ship Harbor, in the town of Tremont. The “Pool” at Somes Sound, is supposed to have been the place where the Jesuit missionaries, Biard and Masse, located themselves in 1609. This colony was attacked, captured, and removed from the island in the same season by Captain Argall, of Virginia.

The first English possession was a trading post of the Pilgrims at Pentagenet (Castine) in 1625—6. This, however, soon fell into the hands of thr French, and the flag of France floated over it during nearly the whole of the 17th century. The indications of old French settlements have also been found at Castine, Newbury Neck, Surry, Oak Point, Trenton, East Lemoine, Crabtree’s Neck, Hancock, Butler Point, Franklin, Waukeag Neck and Sullivan. No permanent English settlements were made until after the fall of Quebec, in 1759.

The first grants of land in the county were six townships, each six miles square, between the rivers Penobscot and union (then known as the Donaqua), which were granted to David Marsh, et. als., by the General Court of Massachusetts, upon conditions, one of which was that they should settle each township with 60 Protestant families within six years. These grants were No. 1, Bucksport; 2, Orland; 3, Penobscot; 4, Sedgewick; 5, Bluehill; and 6, Surry. Six other townships east of the Union River were granted on the same terms; three of which are in this county, viz.: No. 1, Trenton, granted to Eben Thorndike, et als; 2, Sullivan, to David Bean, et als; and 3, Mount Desert (Island) to Governor Bernard. The surveys were made by Samuel Livermore; and as there were three of the townships on each side of the river, it gave rise to the name which the stream now bears. The grantees individually bound themselves in a penal bond of $50, conditioned to lay out no one of the townships more than six miles in extent on the banks of the Penobscot, or on the sea-coast; to build sixty dwelling-houses, at least 18 feet square; to fit for tillage 300 acres of land, erect a meeting-house and settle a minister. There were reserved in each township one lot for a parsonage, another for the first settled minister, a third for Harvard College, and a fourth for the use of Schools; making 1,200 acres in each township, reserved for public uses.

The King of France, about the year 1688, gave to a French gentlemen named Cadilliac a tract of land in Acadia embracing the whole of Mount Desert Island, and a portion of the mainland. This he held till 1713, styling himself “Lord of Donaqua and Mount Desert.” After the war of the Revolution, one M. Gregoire claimed the whole island in right of his wife, Maria T., a grand-daughter of Cadilliac. Governor Bernard, to whom the island had been granted lost his title by confiscation, but one half of it had been restored to his son John. In consideration of a request made by Lafayette in favor of the Gregoire’s claim, Massachusetts recognized it as valid; and this is the only French claim ever sustained to lands in Maine. The heir of Cadilliac therefore received a quit-claim deed for 60,000 acres on the mainland. This included the present towns of Trenton and Lemoine, with a part of Sullivan, Ellsworth, Hancock, Eden and Mount Desert, with the islands in front of the seaboard. A survey of this grant was made by John Peters in 1789.

In 1786, Massachusetts attempted a lottery sale of fifty townships of land between Penobscot and Passamaquoddy. These were exempt from taxes for fifteen years. There were 2,720 tickets, and the price was $2 each. Every one was a prize ticket; the smallest prize being a tract of land a half mile square, and the largest six miles square. Leonard Jarvis of Surry, was one of the five managers. On the drawing of the lottery, only 437 were found to be sold and 165,280 acres drawn; while 942,112 acres remained unsold. The average price realized by the government for the lands drawn was about 52 cents per acre. The lots not drawn, and also the greater part of the prize lots were purchased by ‘William Bingham, of Philadelphia, a man of great wealth. He died in England in 1803, leaving one son and two daughters. One of the daughters married Alexander Baring, of London, who subsequently became Lord Ashburton; and as ambassador to the United States in 1842. framed with the secretary of state, Daniel Webster, the treaty fixing the eastern and western boundary of Maine, known as the "Webster-Ashburton Treaty.” The lottery townships in Hancock County sold to Mr. Bingham were Nos. 14, 15 and 16, (possibly, also, those "up river” townships sold to him,) each containing 23,040 acres. The conveyance of these three was made January 28, 1793, by Samuel Phillips, Leonard Jarvis and John Reed, a committee appointed by the General Court of Massachusetts. In 1792, Barthelemy de Gregoire sold 23,121 acres of his grant to Henry Jackson, of Boston; which in 1796, was purchased by Mr. Bingham, who about the same time also purchased the residue of the Gregoire grant. Col. John Black, an Englishman by birth, who resided at Ellsworth for many years, was agent for the Bingham heirs.
Source: Varney, George J., Gazetteer of the State of Maine.  Boston: B. B. Russell, 1886.


Cities and Towns

Bar Harbor
Blue Hill
Cranberry Isles
Deer Isle
Great Pond
Mount Desert
Prospect Harbor
Southwest Harbor
Swan's Island
Winter Harbor


Surrounding Counties
Penobscot County , Maine—north
Washington County, Maine—northeast
Waldo County, Maine—west


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