History of Wiscasset, Maine
From
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine
By Geo. J. Varney
Published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill,
Boston 1886
Transcribed by Doreen Crocker



Wiscasset is situated on the Sheepscot River, in the south-eastern part of Lincoln County. Wiscasset Bay, an enlargement of Sheepscot River, occupies about one-third of the eastern side of the town, and is one on the best harbors on our eastern coast, being thoroughly protected, capacious, deep, and open even when Boston harbor is closed as far as the Castle. A United States Surveying Commission, in 1813, strongly recommended to the navy department the propriety of establishing a navy yard in Wiscasset. One hundred vessels of the largest size can anchor here at once in from 12 ro 20 fathoms of water. A huge bridge has been thrown across the river to Edgecomb, directly above the harbor, which has a draw of 34 feet, through which vessels of 1000 tons pass without difficulty. The surface of the town is variable altitude, having many gorges, through which flow brooks, or inlets from the sea. The usual variety of forest trees are found in various parts of the town, some of them of old growth; and old and young are often in naturally picturesque arrangement. The town is about 10 miles in length from north to south, its southern extremity resting on Minsweag Bay. It is bounded on the west by Woolwich and Dresden, on the north by Alna; the island town of Westport, in the river, and beyond, Edgecomb, with the southern part of Newcastle, on the east. A stream, the site of early settlement, crosses the midst of the town to the Sheepscot.

On Monsweag Stream, which forms the dividing line between Wiscasset and Woolwich, are eight water-powers, all of which have been in time past improved, but all, except one, have now been washed away or burned, or are in ruins. Ona tidal cove, in the north-eastern part of town, are the picturesque ruins of a mill and dam. Clark's Point and Hill beyond are prominent objects. The view from the Hill is extensive and beautiful, embracing numerous hills, forests, dales foaming streams and shining arms of the sea. The hill was formerly a station of the United States coast survey. South of the village is a picturesque cemetery, and below it a grassy glen succeeded by a lofty hill called Cushman's Mountain, that looks down upon the river and Monsweag Bay. Away to south-west of this hill is Jewonke Neck, full of varied, picturesque scenery, including both sea and shore. The drives either up or down the river, or over the Monsweag road to Woolwich are very pleasing. The village has several fine residences,- one in full view from the cars as they approach from the west being particularly striking and elegant. The village park, shaded by old elms and surrounded by the Congrgational Church, the courthouse and pleasant residences, is an attractive spot. The Episcopal Church and the rectory adjoining, afford a contrast of old and new styles of architecture.

The principal mills in operation are near the village on the south side. They are run by steam-power; and vessels of large size load at the whaves beside them. Of these, the first, on Hobson's Island, produces lumber and box shooks. In connection with it is a grist-mill. The second and more distant mill, is situated on Birch Point, and is devoted mainly to long and short lumber. The principal other manufactures are sails and bricks.

The first settlement of Wiscasset was made by George Davis, who is said to have lived about half a mile north of the point where the jail now stands. He purchased of the Indians a tract of several hundred acres, embracing within its limits the present village of Wiscasset. During the summer of the year mentioned, he with his assistants erected several buildings, and made improvements of various kinds, as well as encouraged the location of other settlers. On the breaking out of King Philip's War, in 1675, the people were obliged to flee from their homes; and for nearly sixty years afterward the town was entirely depopulated. Robert Hooper came in with his family of four persons in 1730, and was thus the pioneer of the re-settlement. He erected his house by the side of a large rock on the eastern side of where Water street now runs. He had brough with him a small stock of cattle, and a number of fruit trees. In 1734, Michael Seavey, Robert Groves, Sheribiah Lambert, and a man by the name of Foye came in from Rye, N.H. Josiah Bradbury, Nathaniel Rundlett, Richard and Benjamin Holbrook, and Colonel Kingsbury arrived about the same time. A few years later, John Young and Messrs. Taylor, Boynton and Chapman settled on Cross River about two miles south of Wiscasset Point, the site of the village. Numbers increased yearly from this time, until in 1740 there was a plantation of 30 families, numbering 150 persons.

On ahill south-west of the village was erected, in 1743, a fortification, some relics of which are yet to be seen. It is related that in the latter part of Sept, 1744, a party of 20 Indians arrived before it, in a dense fog, for the purpose of an attack. The only persons in at the time were two women and a girl, the men being at work in the fields at some distance. A little clearing away of the mist revealed to the womwn their approaching enemies. They quickly barricaded the doors; and disguishing their voices, called to a number of imaginery persons to put the place in a state of defense. The Indians, believing that there was a large force within the fort, became alarmed and abandoned their design. In the summer of 1745, a man returning from the Seavey farm to the garrison, and while yet about 60 rods distant, from it was shot by an Indian concealed in the forest. Soon after this, two block-houses were built, one on what is now called Fort Hill, the other on Seavey's Hill. This settlement was included, together with Alna, Dresden and Perkins, in the town of Pownalborough, and incorporated in 1760, the name being adopted in honor of Thomas Pownal,-at this date, governor of Massachusetts. It was incorporated under its present name in 1802.

During the Revolution, the British sloop-of-war Rainbow came up the river, and, anchoring in the harbor, laid the town under contribution for supplies. The inhabitants were threatened with the halter and the town with destruction unless complied with the requisitions; and having no defenses, they were obliged to yield up their provisions.

Immediately on the conclusion of peace, an extensive business greq up between Wiscasset and foreign parts; and it was also the chief mart of trade for the home region. There were her palmy days. Most of her inhabitants were more or less interested in navigation, and her ships were found on every sea. But the embargoof 1807 on shipping was laid at an unfortunate time, and dealt a destructive blow to her business and prosperity; and the war of 1812 completed the mischief, so that the town has never to this day retrieved its fallen ofrtunes. Should the railroad projected to connect Wiscasset with Quebec by way of Point Levi be built, the commodions harbor and land-locked waters of the Sheepscot must became an entrepot between England and the Canadas, by a shorter route than would be afforded by any other port. Judges Bailey, Orchard Cook, Hons. J. D. McCrate and Abiel Wood, of this town, have been representatives in Congress; and Hon,. Samuel E. Smith, another citizen, was for three years govenor of Maine. Judge Lee, a citizen of the Revolutionary period, and Rev. Dr. Packard, a worthy Congregational minister of the same day, are the subjects of pleasing reminiscence,

Wiscasset has, since the Revolution, been the seat of a custom house for the river and contiguous portions of the sea. The number of vessels now owned in the district is 161, having a tonnage of 9,894 tons. The products of fisheries in this district in 1879 was $366,445. The Knox and Lincoln railroad passes through the town, having a station at the village, 10 miles from Bath. As Pownalborough and Wiscasset, this has been the shire town of the county since 1794.

The Episcopalians, Congregationalists and Methodists each have a church in the village. Wiscasset has seven public schoolhouses; and these, with other school property, are valued at $4,250. The village has a system of graded schools. The valuation of estates in 1870 was $689,554. In 1880 it was $319,773. The population in 1870 was 1,977. In 1880 it was 1,832.

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