Knox County is situated on the south-eastern side of
Penobscot Bay, and includes its islands south of Isleboro, and west of Isle au Haut Bay. It was organized in 1860,
being formed from Lincoln and Waldo, and named for General Knox, the friend of Washington, who was a resident of
the county during the later years of his life. It contains thirteen towns, one city, and two organized plantations,
viz.: Appleton, Camden, Cushing, Friendship, Hope, Hurricane Isle, North Haven, City of Rockland, St. George, South
Thomaston, Thom aston, Union, Vanalhaven Warren, Washington, Matinicus Isle Plantation, and Muscle Ridge Plantation.
Rockland is the shire town. The St. George’s River runs through the county in a general south course, dividing
it into two nearly equal sections. On this stream and its branches, the outlets of a large number of ponds, are
many waterpowers. The principal elevations of land are the Camden Hills, extending from Thomaston through the western
part of Rockland to the Penobscot on the north-eastern side of Camden. Of these, Mount Megunticook is 1,265 feet
high; Ragged Mountain, 1,230; Mount Pleasant, probably about the same height as the latter; Bald Mountain, 1,140
feet; and Mount Battie, nearly 1,000 feet. Mount Hatchet, in Hope is a considerable eminence, and another in Rockland,
558 feet in height, is known as Madambettox, Mathabesec, and also as Dodge’s and Marsh’s Mountain. The soil compares
well with that of other counties, being generally fertile in the valleys and on the interior slopes, and sterile
on the ridges and along the coast. St. George’s and its neighborhood was one of the earliest points visited and
occupied by Europeans. In 1630, Leverett and Beauchamp, two English merchants, received by grant from the Plymouth
Company, the territory lying between the Penobscot and Muscongus Rivers, extending north far enough to form a tract
30 miles square, or nearly 600,000 acres. This was first known as the Muscongus, and, subsequently, the Waldo patent,
from having passed into the ownership of that family. This patent forms the basis of most of the land titles in
Kirnx and Waldo counties. In 1694, Sir William Phips acquired a partial title to lands in the southern part of
Knox County, by purchase from Madockawando, a famous chief of the Tarratines. The two block-houses which, by subsequent
enlargements, became Fort St. George, were erected in 1719—1720.
Lovewell's, or the “Three Years’ War” with the Indians began in 1722 and continued into 1725. During this time
the inhabitants of Knox County suffered greatly; and in July of this year two Massachusetts commissioners held
a conference at the fort with thirteen Indian chiefs. This was adjourned to Boston, where for a month the discussion
of the differences between them and the settlers in this region were discussed by the State authorities and two
chiefs representing the tribe; the Indians denying Madockawando's right to make a sale of land here as he had to
Governor Phips. At length the chiefs were pacified by an agreement to establish trading-houses on the St. George’s,
where goods should be sold to the Indians at a slight advance on cost. This arrangement was known as the Dummer
Treaty, and was ratified in the following summer by a large concourse of Indians at what is now Portland.
It was at this epoch that we first hear of Samuel Waldo, a young Boston merchant, who, about this time, by inheritance
and by subsequent purchase came into possession of nearly the whole of the Muscongus patent, all, in fact, of Knox
and Waldo counties, except what is now included in the towns of Camden, Hope and Appleton. Thus Mr. Waldo became
sole patentee of half a million acres, whose northern boundary was claimed by him to be but very little south of
the site of Bangor. One of his first acts was to open the lime-quarry which was long afterward enclosed by the
walls of the Maine State Prison, where he commenced the manufacture of lime for the Boston market,—thus being the
pioneer of what has become a leading industry in the region. In 1735, Mr. Waldo contracted to deed to each settler
a lot 40 rods wide on the River St. George, and running back so as to contain 100 acres; the settlers on their
part agreeing to build houses, and clear four acres of land on the lots occupied within two years. The first party
consisted of 27 families of Scotch-Irish extraction.
Among the names of these were Patterson, Boggs, Creighton, Starrett, Spear, Lermond, McIntyre, Robinson, and
Kallock,—still represented in these towns. Mr. Waldo in the same year rebuilt the saw-mill at Mill River; in 1740,
he erected a grist-mill at Oyster River, and erected a house for religious meetings. About this time he also located
40 lots on the western side of the river, on what is now Cushing, about 30 of which were at once occupied. In 1743
a settlement was effected in what is now Friendship (then Meduncook), by several families of English Puritan extraction.
In 1744, an Indian war again visited the eastern regions, and the inhabitants again endured the horrors of savage
warfare. In 1745 occurred the famous expedition which resulted in the capture of Louisburg. In the laud force Waldo,
who had some time previously become a militia colonel, bore the rank of Brigadier General. With the return of peace,
prosperity again smiled upon the settlement. In 1753, General Waldo settled another colony of twenty Scottish families
some two miles from the river on the western side. Anderson, Dicke, Crawford, Malcolm and Kirkpatrick are the names
of some of them. They called their settlement Stirling, and the name still adheres to the locality. Again from
1754 to 1758 an Indian war raged in Maine, to the great distress of the St. George’s settlers. With the fall of
the French power in the north, the Indians realized that they could no longer contend with the English, and in
the treaty with them which closed this war they acknowledged they had forfeited their lands, and all contention
ceased. General Waldo died in 1759, and the larger part of this patent came into the hands of his son-in-law, Thomas
Flucker, of Boston.
At the breaking out of the Revolution, the inhabitants of this region were generally found on the patriot side.
All signed the “Solemn League and Covenant” binding to non-intercourse with Great Britain until the Boston Port
Bill should be repealed; and in June, 1775, they formed a Committee of Safety and Correspondence. After the failure
of the expedition against the British at Castine in 1779, General Peleg Wadsworth, the second in command of the
land forces, bad his headquarters as commander of the Eastern Department at Thomaston. It happened by the expiration
of enlistments that he was at one time left with only a body-guard of six men, when his house was attacked in the
night by twenty-five British soldiers from Castine. After brave resistance the General was wounded and carried
as prisoner to the British garrison at Castine. After being for some months in confinement there, he together with
a companion in misfortune—Majcr Benjamin Burton — escaped during a severe thunder storm; and, crossing the Penobscot,
quickly found safety among their countrymen.
At the close of the war, there was much uncertainty in regard to land titles. Thomas Flucker, the heir of General
Waldo, had espoused the cause of the king, and was theiefore included in the act of proscription. In a few years,
such portion of the patent as had not been disposed of, came into the possession of Flucker’s son in law, General
Henry Knox. On resigning his commission as secretary of war in 1195, he removed to the mansion he had prepared
in Thomaston. The mansion, to which Mrs. Knox had given the name, Montpelier, was opened with a grand feast, to
which were invited all the neighboring inhabitants—rich and poor; and here he continued for the remainder of his
life to dispense the most bountiful hospitality. Among his distinguished guests were Talleyrand and Louis Phitippe.
General Knox entered upon the development of his estate with energy. lie commenced the manufacture of lime, erected
mills, introduced new varieties of fruits and vegetables, and improved breeds of cattle and sheep. His extensive
operations brought in many new settlers; but his expensive establishment drew heavily on his income, and an ardent
temperament sometimes involved him in unprofitable schemes, so that the great estate was after his death found
to be insolvent. He died suddenly in 1805; and his remains now rest in the cemetery at Thomaston. In the war of
1812, the chief interest centred in the privateering on the coast and the importation of foreign goods in neutral
vessels,—which having run the British blockade were transported across the country to Boston by ox-teams. In the
war of the Rebellion, Knox County sustained her credit for patriotism and bravery. Major General Hiram G. Berry,
who fell at Chancellorsville, was the most eminent among her sons in this period of our history.
By the census of 1880, the amount of shipping owned in Knox County was 84,931 tons, having a value of $1,660,584.
The amount of personal estate was $4,032,582; and of real estate $6,846,154. The population in 1870 was 30,823;
and 1880, 32,862.