History of Gorham, Maine
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine

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

Gorham is one of the pleasantest and most substantial towns in the State. It is situated on the south-western side of Cumberland County, 10 miles from Portland. Windharn bounds it on the north, being separated from it by Presumpscot River. On the south-east is Westbrook, on the south Scarborough, on the north-west Standish, and on the south-west Buxton. in York County. The Oxford and Cumberland Canal passes through the town nearly parallel to the Presumpscot River from Casco Bay to Sebago. Stroudwater Pond and River drain the southern part of the town, and Little River drains the centre. The Portland and Rochester Railway crosses the southern part of the town, having a station at Gorham Village; and the Portland and Ogdensburgh crosses the northern part, having a station at White Rock, and at Gambo Falls, in Windham, adjoining. Gorham village, Little Falls, Great Falls and West Gorham are the principal business centres. There are numerous manufactures in town and at its borders. At Gorham village are a tannery, a carpet, clothing and carriage factories, granite and marble works, saw and grist mills, a canned-food and a corn-canning factory, etc. At Little Falls (South Windharn P. 0.) is a saw-mill and a brick-yard; at Mallison Falls, half a mile below, are a saw and a grist-mill. In North Gorharn are a clothing factory, box and shook, and long and short lumber mills, a wagon and sleigh factory, a paper-pulp and ware-mill, etc. There are small mills on Little River and at Parker's Corners; at Great Falls are a saw-mill, barrel-factory, chair-factory, and a grist and plaster-mill.

Other localities are South Gorham and Gambo Falls. The Gorham Savings Bank at the close of the year 1879 held in deposits and profits $133,633. Gorham was one of the seven townships granted in 1728 to the men (or their heirs) who bore arms in the Narraganset war, in 1675. The first clearings were made by Captain John Phinney, of Plymouth blood, who with his boy paddled up Presumpscot River and fixed upon Fort Hill for his home. There were Indians living in wigwams near by, but for two years this was the only white family in the township. The oldest daughter aided in the transportation of provisions to and from Portland, rowing a boat and carrying the bags of corn and meal around the falls. Messrs. Bryant, Cloutman, Read and MeLellan followed a year or more later. They early built a block-house; but in 1746 Bryant was killed in his field, his house was assailed, live of his children were killed and scalped, and the mother taken captive and carried away to Canada. The township was at first called Narragansett No. 7, but was later changed to Gorhamtown. in honor of Captain John Gorham, one of the early inhabitants. The township was surveyed in 1762, and incorporated as Gorharn in 1764. In 1780 appeared here a sect called New Lights, who protested against congregational taxation, ministerial education, and other established customs. The Freewill Baptists, Methodists, Friends and Shakers also formed societies here about this time. When there were only thirteen families in town the first meeting-house was built, the material being logs. Rev. Benjamin Crocker, from Ispwich, and a graduate of Harvard College, was settled as first minister in 1743. In 1750, Rev. Solomon Lombard was ordained pastor of the church which had been organized that year.

In 1803 Gorham Academy was incorporated, and many of its pupils have become distinguished in the professions and public affairs. It was a few years since changed into the Western Normal School; and by an appropriation from the State, and generous gifts from the citizens, a new building was erected, and the former one improved.

The scenery of Gorharn is quite varied, and there are some commanding views, especially that from Fort Hill. The flow of the river and streams is remarkably equable; and the natural advantages of good soil and water-power and the nearness of market render this a favorable field for manufacturer and farmer.

Hon. Hugh D. McLellan was for many years the historic authority of the place. It was the wife of an ancestor of his of the same name, who, "when the savages attacked the little settlement in the absence of the men, gathered the women into the garrison, mounted the walls, and by pluck and powder won a brilliant victory over the Indians," and held them in check till their lords returned. Hon. Stephen Longfellow, LL.D., was a native of Gorham, where he was born in 1776. He practised law in Portland, and was sent to Congress in 1822. He died in 1849. His wife was the daughter of Gen. Peleg Wadsworth, an officer of the Revolution. Their eldest surviving son is the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The distinguished Sargeant S. Prentiss, was educated at Gorham Academy.

Gorham Village forms a convenient and agreeable suburb for the neighboring City of Portland. Its dwellings here and there show marks of the ancient time; but the place has a thrifty look, the dwellings in general have ample grounds, and there are several elegant residences.

One Congregational church, two Methodist churches and two Free Baptist, afford opportunity for moral and religious instruction. Gorham has nineteen public schoolhouses, valued at $12,400. The valuation of estates in 1870 was $1,445,968. In 1880 it was $1,398,524. The population at the same date was 3,351. The census of 1880 sets it at 3,233.

Return to [ Maine History ] [ History at Rays-Place ] [ Rays-place.com ]

Maine Counties - Androscoggin - Aroostook - Cumberland - Franklin - Hancock - Kennebec - Knox - Lincoln - Oxford - Penobscot - Piscataquis - Sagadahoc - Somerset - Waldo - Washington - York