As one of the longest-settled states in America, Maine is just packed with amazing towns, large and small. But those towns didn’t just materialize out of thin air one day; every single one has a rich history, including an origin story. The next time you’re in one of these 9 towns, look around and think about what it must have been like to be there during its founding so many years ago.
The area surrounding Brunswick was known by its Native American name, Pejepscot, when it was settled by European fishermen in 1628. In 1714 a consortium from Boston and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, bought the land, and the Massachusetts General Court named it Brunswick in honor of King George I's family, the House of Brunswick.
Part of Wells until 1820, this area emerged as a trading center after being settled in 1621; later, shipbuilding, shipping and light manufacturing became local industries. When the town broke off from Wells, it was dubbed Kennebunk in reference to the long bank behind the beach. As a sign in town boasts, it is "the only village in the world so named."
The Massachusetts General Court granted this Abenaki land to Moses Pearson and Humphrey Hobbs in 1750 for their service in the French and Indian Wars. It was going to be called Pearson and Hobbs Town, but Hobbs died before he could move in. Pearsontown soon found itself constantly under attack by Native Americans, so the locals built a fort at Standish Corner, named after the Pilgrims' military adviser, Myles Standish. After hostilities ended, the town was incorporated and took the name of the fort.
The name Skowhegan is one that lives on from the time when the area was inhabited exclusively by the Abenaki tribe, who lived here for thousands of years; it means "watching place," as in watching for fish. Europeans started moving into Skowhegan in 1771, acting on a claim from King Charles I way back in 1629. The town was named Milburn when it was incorporated in 1823, but everyone still thought of the area as Skowhegan and the new name never caught on.
5. Old Orchard Beach
When Thomas Rogers settled this area in 1636, he called it "the Garden by the Sea." Rogers left for Kittery after Native Americans destroyed his home, but his abandoned apple orchard remained for about 150 years and was typically the first thing returning sailors would spot on land -- hence Old Orchard Beach.
English immigrant Edmund Littlefield is known as "the Father of Wells" for buidling the first mills on the Webhannet River. The area boomed due to the mills, and in 1653, Wells became only the third town in Maine to be incorporated, named after the small cathedral city of Wells, England.
Originally a part of Camden called Goose River Village, in 1852, residents voted to change the village's name to Rockport in reference to the rocky terrain. But it wasn't until 1891 that Rockport became its own town after a dispute with the rest of Camden over the cost of building a bridge. Rockport's departure was a big blow to Camden -- it took half of Camden's population, three-quarters of its land, and most importantly of all, its biggest industries: lime manufacturing and ice harvesting.
In 1736 Massachusetts granted land in New Hampshire to Joshua Fuller and 59 others in exchange for their service in the French and Indian Wars. However, the land turned out to be owned by someone else, so in 1771 -- by which point many of the soldiers had died -- Massachusetts attempted to make amends by giving them this land instead. It was incorporated as Paris in 1793.
After being settled by English colonists in 1780, this area was part of Winslow. In 1802, Winslow was split up, and modern-day Oakland became part of Waterville. But the district had a thriving industrial center of its own, and business leaders thought they were being taxed unfairly. So in in 1873 they split off again into a new town that was first called West Waterville until being renamed after the town's many oak trees in 1883.
Every one of these towns has history going back to the 18th or even 17th century. If you want to step back in time yourself, grab a table at
Maine’s oldest standing tavern.