Maine State History

Maine is in the northeast corner of the United States and it has the biggest area of any of the six states that make up New England. In fact, Maine makes up nearly half of New England’s total size. That includes about 2,270 square miles of waterways within the state of Maine. Maine shares northern borders with the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec. It also shares a western border with the state of New Hampshire. The state’s famous rocky coastline runs along the Atlantic Ocean from northeast to southwest.

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The capital of Maine is Augusta. On March 15, 1820, Maine became the 23rd U.S. state. One theory of how Maine got its name is that it was considered to be the “mainland.” Another theory states that it got its name from a province of the same name in France. The Algonquian people referred to Maine as the “Land of the Frozen Ground.”

Of all of the states to the east of the Mississippi River, Maine has the lowest population. Over 4/5 of Maine is forest land.

In 1819, Maine’s constitution was adopted. It contained a system of checks and balances, as well as several colonial influences from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ constitution. The primary court system in Maine is made up of district courts, superior courts and the supreme court. However, county probate courts also exist.

Maine was considered to be part of Massachusetts for almost half of the time that it has been in existence. Religious dissenters settled “Downeast” and wealthy businessmen also contributed to the earliest Maine settlements. European settlers in Maine in the 1600s often had to move back to the lower colonies due to problems in the northern part of the state. Some of those problems included conflicts with Native Americans, war threats, weather issues, and French influences. By the middle of the 1800s, settlers were living in most parts of Maine. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Scotch-Irish, Acadians, and French-Canadians all settled in Maine.

Maine was part of Massachusetts from 1667 to 1780. Maine’s only county was York County until 1760, when other counties began to be established. From 1760 until 1820, the area was known as the District of Maine in Massachusetts. The Revolutionary War cost the state of Massachusetts a lot of money. So, settlement was encouraged in the Maine region to help offset those costs. In fact, a lot of Revolutionary War soldiers from New Hampshire and Massachusetts later moved to Maine. However, they found themselves having to argue with the original owners of the land, in many cases. Settlers hoped to utilize the natural resources in Maine, but they soon found harsh weather conditions and an unforgiving wilderness. Ironically, it’s that very wilderness and being close to nature that attracts a lot of people to Maine today.

Maine is a large state full of many mountains and harsh terrain. Most of its population can be found near the New Hampshire border and along the Maine coastline. Other highly populated areas can be found near the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers. More than half of the state is wilderness and lies in high elevations.

Maine is also a state that is highly politically divided. It has around 200 unpopulated land divisions designated only by range and township. It also has 12 populated townships, 3 voting districts for Indians, 433 towns, 36 plantations, and 22 cities. It has also undergone border disputes with Canada to the north and east.

Maine record keeping style changes and government changes have occurred so many times that genealogical research can be a challenge. Nevertheless, the Maine Historical Society and the Maine State Archives both have large collections of valuable records. Maine record research centralization is also being greatly helped by the addition of microfilming and data processing procedures at the Maine Historical Society and the Maine State Archives.

Maine Ethnic Group Research

State Genealogy Guides

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