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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark NORRIDGEWOCK SITE

Location: Somerset County, on U.S. 201 Alt., about 7 miles north of Norridgewock Town, at Old Point.

Norridgewock, or Nanrantsouak, is the site of an Abnaki Indian village, where a French Jesuit mission was established in 1646 and served the Indians for decades. Enmity later arose between the English and French, and in 1701 English officials ordered that the mission be closed. In 1704-5, the British destroyed the mission buildings, but Father Sebastian Rasle had a temporary structure built while work was carried forward on a new church, completed in 1718.

In 1722, however, the English returned again; 200 Englishmen under Capt. John Harmon pillaged the church and carried off the manuscript of a dictionary of the Abnaki language on which Father Rasle had been working for many years. Two years later, Father Rasle was killed during another English attack, when the church and Indian village were destroyed. In fear of further attacks, the Indians abandoned the site, part of them going to Canada. Nothing remains of the settlement today. The site is now a camping area that is owned by the State of Maine and includes some privately owned land.

NHL Designation: 04/12/93


Location: Sagadahoc County, just off Maine 209, near Popham Beach in Phippsburg Town.

The first English colony in New England was founded at this site late in the summer of 1607 by the Plymouth Company in its effort to settle "North Virginia." Unlike the London Company's similar venture in "South Virginia," at Jamestown in the same year, this attempt was unsuccessful. The party of more than 100 colonists, led by George Popham and Raleigh Gilbert, landed on a point at the mouth of the Kennebec (then the Sagadahoc) River. They immediately constructed Fort St. George, after which they built a small ship. Severe weather and bad luck, however, plagued them. A fire during the winter destroyed most of their provisions, George Popham died, and Raleigh Gilbert had to return to England. This left the colony vulnerable and without effective leadership. Defeated, the survivors returned to England late in 1608.

The colony was located in the general area of Popham Beach on Sabino Head. The assumed site is on a 45-acre tract of land owned by the State. It is virtually unspoiled by modern intrusions, except for a few scattered framehouses and the concrete remains of Fort Baldwin, a World War I coast defense installation.

York Gaol
Built in 1653 by the townspeople of York, Maine, York Gaol now serves as a museum and contains colonial and Indian relics. A portion of the original stone wall may be seen in this photograph. Photograph by Douglas Armsden. (Courtesy, Old Gaol Museum Committee, York.)

Location: York County, Long Lands Road, York.

This is one of the oldest public buildings in New England. York was established in 1624 by the Plymouth Company. In 1641, it formed a government and adopted a city charter, and in 1652 reorganized into a town. The townspeople then constructed many public buildings, such as the gaol, which is the oldest extant building in York. Built of stone in 1653, its walls are now covered with wood siding, and a large gambrel roof has been added. The original prisoners' cells may be seen in the old part of the structure. The gaol, now a museum containing colonial and Indian relics, is open to the public during the summer.

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005