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

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




Castine occupies a peninsula in the south-western portion of Hancock County, overlooking the eastern entrance of Penobscot River. The town of Penobscot bounds it on the north-east, and Castine Harbor separates it from Brooksville on the south and south-east. On the west is Penobscot Bay. Castine is 30 miles from Ellsworth, 18½ miles from the railroad station at Bucksport, and 36 miles from Bangor. The Boston steamers run regularly to this port through the year, rarely missing a trip. The foundation rocks are slate, trap, mica schist, gneiss and granite. The soil is a sandy loam. The principal crops are hay and potatoes.

The village of Castine occupies a commanding position on the eastern side of the peninsula, which gradually ascends from the shore to the height of 217 feet. On the north the shore is more precipitous. At the summit is a rectangular line of hillocks, the remains of Fort George. On the southward shore below are the nearly effaced ruins of Castine's fort, built as early, probably, as 1626; and at several points are the remains of batteries erected during the Revolution. The lighthouse and an old block-house are also points to be noted. The whole southward side of the peninsula formerly abounded in ancient relics, articles of Indian manufacture, cannon balls, shells, etc. There is an orchard in town, planted in 1784, which still bears good fruit. The streets of the village are set with shade trees of all ages, and the buildings are in good repair. Many of the dwellings are large and old, and there is an air of elegance and repose. Before it spreads out the grand harbor, dotted with islands. The depth of the water and the movement of the tide, make it an open harbor for large vessels at all seasons, with rare exceptions. The business is chiefly related to the fisheries. There is one saw-mill :md one grist-mill, a large brickyard, two canning-factories for putting up lobsters, clams and other fish; a rope-walk, and a cod and mackerel line factory,-the latter doing a business of $40,000 annually. At the head of the peninsula is a lighthouse of stone, having a fixed, white light. For a quiet summer resort, Castine is equal to any point on the coast. The climate is very healthy, and old people abound. It is now made the terminus of numerous summer excursions; and picnicking parties find it a very convenient and attractive locality.

The history of Castine goes back to the earliest settlement of our coast. The French exp]orer, Thevet who visited the Penobscot in 1555, refers to an old French fort in this vicinity. Its neighborhood was explored by James Rosier in 1605; and in 1626 a trading house was established here by Isaac Allerton, under the direction of the Plymouth colony of Massachusetts. in 1632, the house was surprised and rifled by the French under Rosillon. Having been re-stocked, in 1635 it was attacked and occupied by another Frenchman, D'Aulney, deputy governor in Acadia. From 1643 to 1651, it was sometimes the scene of the conflict waged between D'Aulney and La Tour, rival proprietors, the first a Romanist the latter nominally a Huguenot. In 1648 Friar Leo laid the corner stone of a Capuehin chapel. The place was taken by the English again in 1654. In 1667 Baron Castine arrived upon Penobscot Bay, the region being then known as Pentagoet; and in 1670 Fort Pentagoet, at what is now Castine, was was formally surrendered by Colonel Temple to Grandfontaine, who represented the French government. In 1673, the place had 31 white inhabitants; and the next year it was taken by a Flemish vessel commanded by Captain Jurriaen Aernoots.

Yet in 1687, we again find Castine in possession, when he was notified by the Government of New England to surrender the place to them. Two years later, it is said this peninsula was the scene of the torture of Thomas Gyles by the Indians. The locality began about this time to be called Biguaduce, later, Bagaduce, from Marche-Biguatus, an Indian term supposed to mean "no good cove." Sir William Phips took possession of the place in 1690. In 1693 Castine was again in possession, and temporarily gave in his adhesion to the English. In 1703, the English plundered the house of Anseim Castin, eldest son of the baron, the latter having returned to France. Anselin himself in 1722, went to France, to succeed to his father's estate, and another son, Joseph Dabadis St. Castin, was left in possession of the Acadian estate. In 1779, Bagacluce was assailed by General Francis McLean with 700 men, in a fleet of seven or eight sail. Their landing was made in front of Joseph Perkins' house, which stood on what is now the south-east corner of Maine and. Water streets. Having fortified the place, the British were attacked late in the following July, by a force fitted up byMassacliusetts, consisting of a fleet of 19 armed vessels and 24 transports, carrying 344 guns, under Dudley Saltonstall, and a land force of about 1,200 men, under Gen. Samuel Lovell, seconded by Gen. Peleg Wadsworth; Col. Paul Revere having charge of the ordnance. The most striking action of this siege was the storming of the bluff by the Americans, by which they gained a permanent lodgement on the peninsula, but with the loss of over 100 of their number. They advanced their works, with continued success, upon the extensive fortifications of the enemy; and the siege failed of its object only by the insubordination of the captains of the fleet, and the over-caution of the commander. At length a fleet of British ships arrived, and Saltonstall's ill-governed vessels made haste to escape, and were in consequence nearly all captured by the British, or run ashore and burned. The land force escaped across the river above, and thence through the woods to the Kennebec. This was the noted "Penobscot expedition," the greatest display and the greatest failure of the Americans in New England during the war. The escape of Gen. Wadsworth and Colonel Burton from their imprisonment in Fort George in June, 1781, is one of the oft-related incidents of Castine history. A fort was built here about 1811 by the Americans, which was occupied by the British in 1814-15, and called by them Fort Castine. During the late civil war it was rebuilt and garrisoned by a company of U. S. troops. It was at one time called Fort Porter.

The town of Penobscot, which included Castine, was incorporated. in 1787; and in 1788 it was first represented in the General Court, the representative being George Thatcher. Penobseot was made a collection district of the Unitet States in 1789. The town of Castine was set off and incorporated in 1796, and was also made the shire town of the county.

In 1814, the town was again occupied by the British, who held it undisturbed until April 28, 1816, more than four months after the treaty of peace. No place in Maine has experienced so many vicissitudes as Castine. It has been held successively by the Indians, French, Dutch and English; and many naval engagements have taken place in its harbor. After the Revolution, Castine became rapidly settled, and for a long time it was the most important mart of business in the eastern part of Maine. Shipbuilding was formerly a leading industry, and the fitting out of vessels for the Grand Banks was carried on largely. In 1838 the courts were removed to Ellsworth; later the bounty act for fishermen was repealed and shipbuilding declined, all contributing to the commercial injury of the place.

Isaac Parker, of Castine, was the first lawyer in the county, and represented the district in Congress from 1796 to 1798. Hezekiah Williams, also a respected member of the Hancock bar, was represen tative from 1845 to 1849. William Abbot, who settled in the town in 1801, was a sound, able and honorable lawyer. Dr. Joseph L. Stevens was for many years the leaching physician and a valued citizen. Dr. G. A. Wheeler, author of the excellent history of Castine, has succeeded to his practice. Others highly esteemed are C. J. Abbot, Esq., Deacon Samuel Adams, William Witherle, a well-known merchant. The town furnished 106 soldiers and 19 sailors for the Union in the war of the Rebellion, of whom 18 soldiers were lost.

Rev. William Mason, the first minister of Castine, was ordained as a Congregationalist, but became Unitarian; and Castine has now one of the two Unitarian churches in the county. There are now also Congregationalist (Trinitarian) and Methodist churches in the village. The church-edifices are fine buildings. A State Normal. School was opened here in 1873, with accommodations for 200 pupils. It is well patronized. The schools of the village are graded, and a high-school is sustained. The town has six schoolhouses, and the school property is valued at $10,000. The valuation of real estates in 1870 was $461,343. In 1880 it was $362,754. The rate of taxation in the latter year was $2.14 to $1,000. The population in 1870 was 1,303. In 1880 it was 1,215.

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