Lincoln County History

It All Started 251 Years Ago In 1760

The year 1760 witnessed France being fully and finally driven from Canada. A real sense of peace and hope soon settled upon mid-coast Maine. In Boston the Kennebec Proprietors, a group of well-connected businessmen with extensive land interests on the Kennebec River, succeeded in having the separate settlements of Frankfort (now Dresden and Swan Island), Wiscasset Point and Sheepscot west of the River (now Alna) incorporated into a new town to be known as Pownalborough. This name was chosen to honor Governor Thomas Pownall who signed this Act into law on February 13, 1760.

A few months later, on June 19th, in Boston, the House of Representatives and the Governor’s Council of the Province of The Massachusetts Bay passed and engrossed Chapter 7 of the Acts of 1760/1761: An Act for Erecting And Establishing Two New Counties In The Easterly Part Of The County Of York. Lt. Governor Thomas Hutchinson signed the Act the following day [Governor Pownall had been dismissed from Massachusetts and reassigned to the Governorship of South Carolina on June 3 for being too much a friend of the Colonies. He always remained so. Lincoln County was named in honor of Pownall’s place of birth in England.] This Act was to take effect on November first and named the new Town of Pownalborough as County seat.

All lands east of the New Meadows River (dividing Brunswick and West Bath), Merrymeeting Bay and the Androscoggin River, extending north and east to Canada (90% of what is today called Maine) became Lincoln County. We remained together all through the tumultuous times of the American Revolution until 1790 when Washington and Hancock Counties split off. Kennebec County (with the lands to the north) split off in 1799 followed by Waldo in 1827, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc in 1854 and finally Knox in 1860.

The Act creating both Cumberland County and Lincoln County was meant to encourage settlement. By bringing meaningful civil government to a more local level, citizens had better access to a legal system of Courts, Registries of Deeds and the enforcement of law. These institutions helped to create order and arbitrate community standards as the old military frontier quickly became civilized.

Shrewdly, in 1760 the Kennebec Proprietors offered to build a Court House for the new County on their lands at Fort Shirley on the Kennebec, and at no expense to the government. The palisade was torn down, the soldier’s barracks were converted into a house for the gaoler, a corner blockhouse was converted into a gaol and the largest building north of Portsmouth, NH arose on the parade ground. This Pownalborough Court House opened with a Grand Procession and Entrance of the Courts on 09 September 1761.

His Majesty’s Court of General Sessions of the Peace and Inferior Court of Common Pleas sat at Pownalborough in June and September. After the reorganization of the Courts in 1782, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also sat at Pownalborough from 1786 on.

This building served witness to some of the most important government decisions and actions in Maine as we progressed from the wilderness of the French and Indian War period, through the turmoil of the American Revolution and into the period of rapid settlement that eventually led to Maine Statehood. The Pownalborough Court House is currently kept open to the public as a seasonal house museum by the Lincoln County Historical Association. 

County services operated out of this Court House until 1794, when the physical seat of county government was transferred to the eastern parish (Wiscasset Point) of Pownalborough. At that time the western parish of Dresden and Swan Island, and the northern parish ofAlna (then known as New Milford) separated and became towns unto themselves. Coincidentally, Dresden and New Milford were incorporated on June 25th, exactly 34 years after the first Townmeeting of Pownalborough. On June 1, 1802, the now geographically smaller town of Pownalborough changed its name to Wiscasset.

Prepared by Jay Robbins for the County's 250th Anniversary. 

Exploring Lincoln County's Cultural Heritage...

Within the bounds of Lincoln County is an amazingly long and diverse heritage -- from native Americans on the coast and upriver, European fishermen at Monhegan and Pemaquid, "Liberty Men" confronting surveyors and Great Proprietors in Whitefield and Jefferson, to the shipbuilders and merchants in Waldoboro, Damariscotta, Bristol and Boothbay, and Wiscasset.

Museums and local historical societies (such as those listed below) provide opportunities to teach and learn about the County’s long history.  Colonial Pemaquid includes a reconstruction of Fort William Henry.  The museum exhibits artifacts found on the site dating from prehistoric times through the colonial period. Musket balls, coins, pottery, and early hardware are among items of interest, - reenactments, tours, archeological digs, and lectures bring history to life. There are two very popular and excellent railway museums. 

Explore and enjoy historical sites, buildings, homes, forts, railways, mills -- and preserves. Most every community has at least one historical or cultural organization, and many are listed below. While our website continues to grow, please visit the local chambers of commerce and newspapers for up-to-date listing of events.

Historical Societies:

Lincoln County
Boothbay Region
South Bristol

Additional Historic Sites:

Fort Edgecomb
Colonial Pemaquid
Frances Perkins Center
Monhegan Museum
Hendricks Hill Museum

297 Bath Road
Wiscasset, Maine 04578
T: (207) 882-4271 • F: (207) 882-5188