Trails to the Past- Penobscot County Maine-Index



Penobscot County





Penobscot County was originally included in Hancock . The act establishing it passed the Massachusetts legislature Feb. 15, 1816. The southern boundary was fixed very much as it remains at present; but on the formation of Piscataquis County in 1838, Penobscot lost 5 ranges of townships north of the lines of Dexter and Bradford; and the following year Aroostook County received from it the ranges of townships numbered 3, 4 and 5, north of Mattawamkeag; and in 1843, it took ranges 6, 7 and 8, north f townships numbered 8. The area is now 2,760 square miles; and it embraces one city and 54 towns, 7 organized plantations and 42 townships. From 1814 to 1816 Bangor and Castine were half shire towns of Hancock County; but in Penobscot County, Bangor had the exclusive honor from its establishment. The population in 1870 was 75,150. In 1880 it was 70,478. The valuation in 1870 was $22,697,890. In 1880 it was $21,408,151.

Penobscot River and County were occupied, at the periods of discovery and settlement, by a branch of the Abenaqui nation called Tarratines by the English, of whom the Oldtown Indians are a remnant. When first known by the English they numbered more than 2,000 warriors. About 1680 there was a destructive war between the New England Indians and the Mohawks; and tradition asserts that the Tarratines took part in it, but were defeated, and in 1669 were followed to the banks of the Penobscot by their victorious foes. The principal settlement of this tribe was near the mouth of the Kenduskeag. The Penobscot Indians do not appear to have entered as a tribe into the first Indian war, but were actively engaged in most of the subsequent ones. In the war of the Revolution they fortunately adhered to the American cause, and rendered it some service. Roman Catholic missionaries came with the first French visitors, and mingling with the Indians, ere long converted them to that faith.

The General Assembly of Massachusetts in 1763 granted 13 townships, each 6 miles square, lying on the east side of Penobscot River, to 13 companies, or proprietors, who were to lay out the townships, settle 60 families in each, and make improvements, which was done. The earliest regular settlement of the township commenced at Bangor in 1769; and settlements in other’ towns following year by year. From 1774 to 1779, John Herbert, the first physician in Bangor, was the principal speaker in the religious meetings, and in the winter taught school. The first minister that preached steadily in this county was Rev. Mr. Knowles, from Cape Cod; who, about 1780-83, was with the people scattered along the banks of the river from Frankfort to Bangor. The next minister was Rev. Seth Noble, a Congregationalist, a native of Westfield, Mass., hut who bad resided in Nova Scotia; where by voice and influence he gave support to the cause of the colonies, and was therefore forced to flee. He came to Bangor in 1786, and was engaged as a religious teacher at 100 per year. He was installed on Sept. 10, in that year, under some ancient oaks near the corner of Oak and Washington streets, Bangor; Rev. Daniel Little of Wells, deputed by the church in Wells, giving him the charge and the right-hand of fellowship, Mr. Noble preaching the sermon. He remained five years, and died in Ohio in 1807. The first Congregational church organized in the county was at Brewer, Sept. 9, 1800. The Penobscot Congregational Conference was organized at Brownville (then in Penobscot County) in 1825, and embraced three ministers, 8 churches, and 400 members. Rev. Jesse Lee, the Methodist Apostle of New England, in 1793, spent a month in missionary work along the Penobscot. In 1795 societies of the Methodists were organized in the county by Rev. Joshua Hall, of the New London Conference (Conn). Rev. Timothy Merrill was placed on the Hampden Circuit in 1799, and preached in Bangor. The first Baptist church was formed in Etna in 1807, by Rev. John Chadbourrie of Shapleigh, missionary of the denomination in the county. About 1809 the first Free Baptist society of the county was organized in Dixmont. The first Episcopalian church was gathered in Bangor in 1834, and the first Universalist church in Hampden in 1825. The Unitarian church at Bangor was organized in 1818, and the Swedenborgian in 1840. The Christian denomination formed their first churches in Exeter and Newport in 1815, and the Adventists in 1842—43. The production of lumber has always been the most prominent industry of the county. The first railroad in the county and state was the Bangor, Oldtown and Milford, incorporated in 1833, opened in 1836. This was discontinued on the opening of the European and North American Railway. The Maine Central Railroad has 27 miles of its road, i. e. from Somerset County to Bangor in this county. The Dexter and Newport Railroad was opened in 1868 as a branch of the Maine Central. The Bangor and Piscataquis Railroad was chartered in 1861, the construction commenced in the spring of 1869 and completed from Oldtown (where it connects with the European and North American Railway), to Blanchard in the autumn of 1876. The length of this road in the county is 15 miles. The Bucksport and Bangor Railroad was chartered in 1870, the survey made in the autumn of 1872, the construction commenced in the spring of 1873, and trains began to run regularly over the whole length Dec. 21, 1874. Nine and one-half miles of its 19 are in Penobscot County. It was formerly operated by the European and N. A. road, when it was broad gauge. An extension of this road to Ellsworth is likely to be made the coming season.

The military of this county were first called into active service in 1814, to repel the British forces ascending the river; again in 1839, they were called out in large force to aid in keeping the peace in Aroostook County during the boundary dispute; and for a third time in the late civil war. The second Maine regiment, six companies of the Sixth Maine, the Eighteenth Maine regiment, and the First heavy artillery, were composed chiefly of regiments of this county. Monuments in honor of the fallen brave of this war stand in the cemeteries at Bangor, Brewer, Hampden, Dexter, Newport, and perhaps other places.

Source: Varney, George J., Gazetteer of the State of Maine.  Boston: B. B. Russell, 1886.


Cities and Towns

Carroll Plantation
Drew Plantation
East Millinocket
Indian Island
Mount Chase
Old Town
Seboeis Plantation
Webster Plantation

Surrounding Counties
Aroostook County, Maine - north
Washington County, Maine - southeast
Hancock County, Maine - south
Waldo County, Maine - southwest
Somerset County, Maine - west
Piscataquis County, Maine - northwest



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