History of Bangor, Maine
From
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine

By Geo. J. Varney
Published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill,
Boston 1886



Bangor is situated in the southern part of Penobscot County, on the Penobscot River, about 60 miles from the sea and 30 from the head of the hay, and has a harbor deep enough to goat the largest vessels. It is 250 miles from Boston and 140 miles from Portland. It is the shire town and the only city in the county. It stretches along the bank for six miles, and has an area of about 20,000 acres. The surface of the town is generally uneven. The city proper Occupies the shores of the Kenduskeag and the western bank of the Penobscot at the junction of the two rivers. The latter river forms the south-western boundary, separating it from Brewer, while the course of the Kenduskeag through the town is from the North-North west.

The outcropping and underlying rocks are mostly slate. The soil is clavev loam, with small areas of gravelly loam, while there is generally a hard pan of clay ; so that much of the land is relieved of water only by thorough drainage. The water power of Bangor is a marked feature. On the Penobscot, one mile above the harbor proper, is “ Treat’s Falls,” where in the dryest time, besides the quantity required in the sluice for the passage of rafts of timber, there is available about 2,000 feet of water per second for manufacturing purposes. It is calculated that by the excellent dam of 15 feet in height, with flash-boards, the amount of flowage available in the dryest time will reach 9,000 horse-powers. On the Kenduskeag the powers are,—first, “Drummond’s Mills,”

MeQuestin’s Mills,” “Bruce’s Mills, “Hatch’s Mills," the “Four Mile Falls” and “Six Mile Falls.” The power of this series may he apprehended by the fact that Bruce’s Mills (now flour mill) could saw 3,000,000 feet of boards annually. Bangor stands midway between the great Maine forests and the sea. Her vesssels span the latter, while her rivers gather in their branches, and bring down the vast product of forest and mills from a wide belt extending nearly across the State. The booms to hold the logs extend for miles along the nver. Up to 1855, there had been 2,999,847,201 feet of lumber surveyed at Bangor; between 1859 and 1869, 1,869,965,454 feet of long lumber were shipped hence; in 1868, 274,000,000 feet of short lumber (clapboards, laths and shingles) were shipped; and in 1872, there were 246,500,000 feet of long lumber surveyed here. The total lumber crop of Maine in 1872 was about 700,000,000 feet of which 225,000,000 floated down the Penobscot. To transport these vast amounts of lumber to its markets, hundreds of vessels must ascend this great thoroughfare of Maine, the lordly Penobscot.

As might be supposed, many industries dependent or connected with the lumber business flourish here. There are one or more saw and water-wheel manufactures, three iron foundries, two brass foundries, three maichine shops; edge-tool, belting and boiler factories, ship-yards, a door, sash and blind factory, seven barrel factories, five brick-yards, a coffee and spice mill, four boot and shoe factories, three carriage factories, a broom and brush factory, etc.

Besides the lumber manufactures within her own borders, Bangor is the common shipping-place for the numerous mills arid quarries up the river and its branches, and has therefore extensive exports of lumber, roofing slate and agricultural products. The city has been the second lumber mart of the world. Besides her coastwise business, she has a large commerce with the West Indies and European ports; there are large entries as well as clearances at her custom house. No other city of New England is the trade centre of so large a number of rural towns as Bangor. The head of navigation in winter is at Bucksport, about 18 miles south,—with which Bangor is connected by the Bucksport and Bangor railroad. The city is connected with the southern interior and south-western portion of the State by means of the Maine Central railroad and its branches; with the central section of the State, embracing the slate region of southern Piseataquis County, by the Bangor and Piscataquis railroad; with the eastern, north and south-eastern parts and with New Brunswick and the St. Lawrence valley by the European and North American railway; with Mount Desert and intermediate points, and with Portland, Boston and New York, by steamboat lines; and with the surrounding regions by stage routes. Bangor is a central point of departure for Mount Desert, the Provinces, and Katahdin and the Maine Wilderness.

Naturally, under such conditions, much wealth would accumulate in the hands of prudent citizens, and such we find to be the case with Bangor. The numerous banks, the fine residences, the finished appearance of the city, and the style of living show it. The land gradually rises from the rivers, affording fine views from several points, especially from Thomas’ bill, on the west side. Just at the shore of the Penobscot there are level spaces, whereon stands most of the business portion of the city; but as it recedes from the larger river, the Kenduskeag forms a deep ravine, in which from the Valley road, and still within the compass of the city proper, are to be seen steep, woody banks and wild, almost insurmountable precipices. The heights on either side of the stream are lined with streets well-shaded with noble elms, and have many handsome residences. There are here, also, many churches of good architecture and construction. In the business part of the city are many massive and substantial buildings, conspicuous among which are Norombega Hall, a large wooden building resting on piles in the midst of the Kenduskeag. The lower part of this building is used for a market, while in the upper part is a hall capable of seating 2,000 persons. Opposite, on a bridge across the river, is the United States building, containing the Customs and Post Offices,—a neat structure of granite. Near by, in the broad, deep, quiet stream of the Penobscot, anchor the largest as well as the smallest ships, bearing the flags of all the great maritime nations; while beside them, floating down with the current, may be a great raft of logs or of sawed lumber, come down from the Upper Penobscot for a market or the mills.

The locality of Bangor seemed to attract the early voyagers of the French, Dutch, Spanish and English nations. As early as 1539 it was spoken of under the name “Norombega,” and was thought to be the site of a famous city of that name. The name is perpetuated by the principal hall of the city. Later it was known as Kenderqnit, Condeskeag, and Kenduskeag; and in 1769, it was “Kenduskeag Plantation.” The earliest record preserved in the archives of the city, is dated March 27, 1787. The aboriginal inhabitants of the region were known to the English as the Tarratines. Their principal seat in the vicinity was near what is now known as the Red Bridge, near Treat’s Falls, where, later, was the business quarter of the early settlers. The first post-office of the town was here (established in 1800), and the post-master was Major Treat, from whom the falls have their name. Jacob Bussell, Buzzell, or Buswell, from Salisbury, Mass., was the first settler; removing his family to the place in 1769. At this time there had been born to him. nine children. His son, Stephen Bussell, with his wife, Lucy Grant, and Caleb Goodwin with his wife and eight children, from Castine, followed in 1770. In 1771—2, the settlement contained twelve families, many of them from Woolwich and Brunswick, Maine. The first physician who practiced in Bangor was John Herbert, in 1774. From this time until 1779, Dr. Herbert led the meetings as exhorter, and taught school in the plantation.

In 1799 and 1800, to make up a deficiency in the lands held under the Waldo patent, the General Court assigned the township to General Knox, one of the proprietors of the patent, reserving, however, 113 lots of 100 acres each to the settlers. In 1779, a portion of the broken fleet of Commodore Saltonstall was pursued and captured at the mouth of the Kenduskeag; but the victors appear not to have harmed the inhabitants. In 1814, however, Bangor was taken possession of by a British force, ten vessels were burned; stores, othces and deserted dwellings were pillaged; and the inhabitants were rudely, and in some cases, outrageously treated. In 1791, having acqniredt 576 inhabitants, the plantation, through its representative, the Rev. Seth Noble, procured from the General Court an act of incorporation. They had chosen for it the name, Sunbury, as being descriptive of the attractive appearance of the place; but when the speaker called for the name of his town, Mr. Noble replied, “Bangor,”—which was the name of his favorite tune,—and this accidently or otherwise became the name of the town. It was first represented in the General Court in 1806, by James Thomas. The first bridge over the Kenduskeag was built in 1807, at a cost of $4,000; the Bangor Bridge Company was incorporated in 1828; and the first bridge over the Penobscot was completed by them in 1832. It was 440 yards in length, and cost $50,000. A portion of this was carried away by the great freshet of 1846, and was rebuilt in 1847. The court-house was built in 1812. Peter Edes established the first printing press in 1815; and near the close of the same year he began the publication of the first newspaper, named the “Bangor Weekly Register.” He died in Bangor, March 29, 1839, aged eighty-three years, being at that time the oldest printer in the United States. The Bangor Theological Seminary received its charter in 1814. It was at first located at Harnpden (1816), and bore the name of “Maine Charity School;” but in 1819 it was removed to Bangor. A classical school was connected with it for several years. The buildings front on a broad, grassy slope in the highest part of the city. It has five professors, about 600 alumni, and a library of 14,000 volumes. An academy was established in 1817, and the first bank in 1818. Bangor received her city charter in 1834,—the first mayor being Allen Gilman. The business of the place increased rapidly in i833—4, and there was much speculation. In common with other parts of the country the business of Bangor received a severe check, but by 1840 it had mostly recovered. Since the latter date the business and growth of the city have been steadily augmenting. Bangor became a port of entry in 1847, and the custom house was built in 1853—6. The Bangor Orphan Asylum was organized in 1839. By the aid of a legacy left by Mrs. Mary F. Pitcher, a larger and more substantial edifice was built, and dedicated in 1869. The Bangor Gas Company was incorporated in 1850, and the Bangor and Piscataquis Slate Company in 1855. The Home for Aged Women was incorporated in 1872. The Flolly Water-works at Treat’s Falls went into operation in July, 1876.

Among the more distinguished residents of Bangor we should mention, Francis Carr, member of Congress, in 1811; James Carr, son of Francis, congressman in 1815 William D. Williamson, governor of Maine in 1821, later a member of congress, and author of a history of Maine; Hannibal Hamlin, vice-president of the United States with [
INSERTED INFO] Lincoln, collector of the port of Boston in 1865, then United States Senator, and, later, Ninister to Spain; Jonathan P. Rogers and George W. Ingersoll, once attorney-general of the State; Edward Kent, a former mayor of the city, governor of the State in 1838 and 1840, and justice of the Supreme Court from 1859 to 1873; G. Parks, a member of Congress and United States minister to Peru; Elisha H. Allen, United States congressman in 1841—2, since chancellor of the Sandwich Islands, and now representative of the Islands at Washington; John Appleton, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court from 1862 to the present time; Charles Stetson, member of congress in 1849—50, Joshua W. Hathaway and Jonas Cutting, justices of the Supreme Court; Samuel F. Hersey, late United States congressman; John A. Peters, formerly member of Congress, now a judge of the Supreme Court; H. M. Plaisted, now governor of the State; John Godfrey, a valued citizen and local historian.

The first settled minister in Bangor was Rev. Seth Noble, who was installed by Rev. Daniel Little under an oak in 1786. He had been with Col. John Allan in Nova Scotia and Machias; and in 1791 represented the Kenduskeag plantation in the General Court. The first meetinghouse was built in 1788. Mr. Noble was succeeded in 1800 by James Boyd, who resigned the next year. In 1811 Rev. Harvey Loomis was settled, and retained the office until his death in his pulpit in 1825. His successor was Rev. Swan L. Pomroy. A new meeting-house was built in 1821—2, burnt in 1830, and rebuilt in 1831. It cost $12,500 including the organ. The first Unitarian meeting house was built in 1828, and those of the Methodists and Baptists the same year. The religious societies of Bangor are now thc Congregationalist, Episcopal, Baptist, Free Baptist, Methodist, Unitarian, Universalist, Christian and Catholic. The first have four church organizations and edifices; and some of the others have excellent buildings, that of the Catholics being especially noble in its architecture.

Bangor has a superior high school, and fifty-seven of a lower grade. There are thirty-six public school-houses, which together with their grounds, apparatus, etc., are valued at $125,000. The valuation of estates in 1870 was $10,036,561. In 1880 it was $8,738,605. The population in 1870 was 18,289. In 1880 it was 16,857.

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