Trails to the Past- Washington County Maine-Index



 Washington County



Washington County, as originally constituted, embraced the entire eastern frontier. of Maine. It was established June 25, 1789, by the same act which formed Hancock . Its western boundary was the eastern line of Hancock. It was bounded "south and south-east by the sea or western ocean, on the north by the utmost northern limits of this commonwealth, and easterly by the river St. Croix." In 1839 it surrendered to Aroostook County established at that date all the territory "north of the north line of the fourth range of townships, north of the 'lottery townships.  The area of the county is about 2,700 square miles. It has about 180 miles of sea-coast, abounding in bays and inlets which afford excellent harbors. The principal rivers are the St. Croix and its west branch, the Schoodic, Denny's, East and West Machias, Pleasant and the Narraguagus. Of its numerous lakes, the largest are the Schoodic series, Baskahegan, Meddybemps and Gardner's. The surface is gradually undulating or varied by swells of no great height, and the soil back from the seashore is usually fertile. Probably the first European visitor of Maine was Capt. John Rut and his crew of the English vessel called "The Mary of Guilford," in 1527, when he reconnoitered along our shores, sailing westerly from Liverpool, N.S. The next of whose landing-place we have definite knowledge was DeMonts, in 1603, who erected a fort and buildings and passed the succeeding winter on an island at the mouth of the St. Croix River. This is now known as Neutral Island. By him it was named St. Croix; and from this, probably, the river has acquired its name. His company was composed of Roman Catholics and Huguenots, or French Protestants, in about equal numbers; himself belonging to the first, as well as his chaplain. Here was preached the first European sermon in New England. "There is no authentic record," says the historian of Washington County, "of a settlement by whites on Machias River prior to  June, 1763. Richard Vines, however, set up a trading-house on the west side of Machias River, near Clark's Point, now Machiasport, in 1632 or 1633, leaving it in charge of five men. In less than one month, La. Tour, a French explorer, deputy and proprietor in Nova Scotia, seized the whole stock of Vines' trading-house, made prisoners of the men and sent the whole to France. The French planted a few habitations here in 1644, but were unsuccessful; and a similar attempt in 1674 also resulted in failure. In 1748 Richard Hazen was employed by the Governor of Massachusetts to make surveys and form a chart and plan of the coast. About 1753 Florentius Vassal, a resident of the island of Jamaica, proposed that Massachusetts should transfer the territory between St. Croix and Penobscot to him and his associates, on certain conditions of settlement. The legislative branches of the government assured him that if he would, within five years, obtain his Majesty's approbation, introduce 5,000 settlers, a proportionate number of Protestant clergyman, and satisfy Indian claims, the emigrants should have all the lands they would settle, and all the islands within 3 miles of the coast. In 1760 a similar proposition was made to Massachusetts h the Earl of Castlereagh and Francis Vassal in regard to lands upon Machias River, but nothing was done. About this time the King authorized the General Court of Massachusetts to make free grants of land to those officers and privates who had served in the French and Indian wars, just terminated. A captain was to receive 3,000, a subaltern 2,000, and a private 500 acres.

After the downfall of the French power in the north, in 1760, the Indians manifested a disposition to maintain peace and amity with the settlers, and to the present time this friendship has not been interrupted.

The rivers of this county are noted for their falls, and their ample lake reservoirs, forming abundant water-power. They were heavily timbered to their sources, and their extensive areas have been diked and reclaimed from the waters and made valuable hay producing lands. The bottom lands are rich, and there are many large tracts of fine arable soil, which are bearing heavy crops of corn, wheat, hay and potatoes. The rivers are prolific in pickerel, trout, togue, perch, and salmon. The sea fisheries are extensive and profitable, employing a large capital and great numbers of men and boys. The granite business is receiving increased attention, and excellent quarries are being wrought at Addison, Jonesborough, Marshfield, and Red Beach in Calais.

Machias, the shiretown of this county from its inauguration, is also the oldest town. By an act of Congress in 1789, all the coasts and ports of Maine were classed in nine commercial districts, in each of which a collector and other customs officers were appointed by President Washington. Machias was made a port of entry, Stephen Smith being appointed first collector. From the earliest settlement of the county its people have been largely engaged in building vessels, mostly of a small size, suitable for coasting and fisheries. In 1873, 9,482 tons of shipping were built in the Machias district. In 1856, 17 vessels, ranging from 100 to 1000 tons each were built at Robbinston. Pembroke, Calais, East Machias, Lubec, Millbridge, Columbia Falls and Addison are ship-building towns.

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


Cities and Towns

Baileyville (Woodland)
Baring Plantation
Centerville (disincorporated)
Codyville Plantation
Columbia Falls
East Machias
Grand Lake Stream
Indian Township

Pleasant Point
Roque Bluffs


Surrounding Counties
Hancock County, Maine - southwest
Aroostook County, Maine - northwest
Penobscot County, Maine - northwest
York County, New Brunswick, Canada - northeast
Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada - east



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