Maine: An Encyclopedia

Aroostook County

Map of Maine Counties and Baxter Park

The Counties and Baxter Park

the rooftop of Maine  –John Steinbeck

Maine’s northernmost county, known as “the County” to its residents, is the state’s largest in area. It was established on May 1, 1839, in the midst of the dispute known as the “Aroostook War,” and 187 years after the creation of the first Maine County, York. See an 1899 map of the county area in the Map Cabinet.

Aroostook County is almost twice the size of the states of Rhode Island and Delaware together, and larger than the state of Connecticut. It is two-thirds the size of New Hampshire and of Vermont.

Aroostook County Courthouse, Houlton (Erik Jorgensen photo)

Aroostook County Courthouse, Houlton (Erik Jorgensen photo)

Maine Visitors Center in Houlton (2014)

Maine Visitors Center in Houlton (2014)

Houlton is the county seat, or shire town, where county government resides, including the sheriff’s office, the county jail, other county offices and the historic courthouse.  The county Registry of Deeds maintains offices in Houlton and in the northern town of Fort Kent. It is also the site of a State of Maine Visitors Center where Canadian tourists and others traveling north through the county find information about the state and “The County.”

Presque Isle, the largest city, hosts a branch of the University of Maine and is a major commercial center.

Farms in Sherman along the Golden Ridge Road

Farms in Sherman along the Golden Ridge Road

Famed for its potato growing, the County’s premiere crop has declined steadily, as has its population. Nevertheless, agriculture still dominates the County’s economy and its culture. Farm stands are frequent along U.S. Routes 1 and 1A, the major north-south highways.

Farmstand on U.S. Route 1

Farm stand on U.S. Route 1

The large tracts of land with both forests and open spaces have attracted snowmobile enthusiasts each winter as thousands ply the hundreds of miles of trails leading all across the County and connecting to state-wide routes.  The fall attracts sports looking for deer, moose and bear; spring and summer brings fishermen for the county’s many lakes, pond, brooks, streams and rivers.

People QuickFacts Aroostook County Maine
Population, 2009 estimate 71,488 1,318,301
Population, percent change, April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009 -3.3% 3.4%
Population estimates base (April 1) 2000 73,940 1,274,915
Persons under 5 years old, percent, 2009 5.0% 5.4%
Persons under 18 years old, percent, 2009 20.1% 20.6%
Persons 65 years old and over, percent, 2009 18.4% 15.6%
Female persons, percent, 2009 51.2% 51.2%
White persons, percent, 2009 (a) 96.1% 96.1%
Black persons, percent, 2009 (a) 0.7% 1.2%
American Indian and Alaska Native persons, percent, 2009 (a) 1.5% 0.6%
Asians percent, 2009 (a) 0.7% 1.0%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, percent, 2009 (a) Z Z
Persons reporting two or more races, percent, 2009 0.9% 1.1%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2009 (b) 1.3% 1.4%
White persons not Hispanic, percent, 2009 95.0% 94.9%
Living in same house in 1995 and 2000, pct 5 yrs old & over 67.8% 59.6%
Foreign born persons, percent, 2000 5.8% 2.9%
Language other than English spoken at home, age 5+, 2000 24.1% 7.8%
High school graduates, age 25+, 2000 76.9% 85.4%
Bachelor’s degree or higher, age 25+, 2000 14.6% 22.9%
Persons with a disability, age 5+, 2000 17,438 237,910
Mean time to get to work (minutes), workers age 16+, 2000 18.3 22.7
Housing units, 2009 39,586 704,578
Homeownership rate, 2000 73.0% 71.6%
Housing units in multi-unit structures, percent, 2000 18.2% 20.3%
Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2000 $60,200 $98,700
Households, 2000 30,356 518,200
Persons per household, 2000 2.36 2.39
Median household income, 2008 $36,107 $46,419
Per capita money income, 1999 $15,033 $19,533
Persons below poverty level, 2008 15.2% 12.6%
Business QuickFacts Aroostook County Maine
Private nonfarm establishments, 2008 2,124 41,7551
Private nonfarm employment, 2008 24,182 509,0931
Private nonfarm employment, percent change 2000-2008 -3.4% 3.5%1
Nonemployer establishments, 2008 4,613 113,522
Total number of firms, 2002 6,054 135,410
Black-owned firms, percent, 2002 F 0.2%
American Indian and Alaska Native owned firms, percent, 2002 F 0.5%
Asian-owned firms, percent, 2002 F 0.6%
Hispanic-owned forms F 0.5%
Women-owned firms, percent, 2002 15.0% 24.0%
Manufacturers shipments, 2002 ($1000) 1,095,667 13,851,915
Wholesale trade sales, 2002 ($1000) 239,166 10,371,084
Retail sales 2002 ($1000) 729,225 16,053,515
Retail sales per capita, 2002 $9,969 $12,370
Accommodation and foodservices sales, 2002 ($1000) 54,698 2,045,841
Building permits, 2009 132 3,1211
Federal spending, 2008 771,985 11,974,3611
Geography QuickFacts Aroostook County Maine
Land area, 2000 (square miles) 6,671.54 30,861.55
Persons per square mile, 2000 11.1 41.3
FIPS Code 003 23
Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Area None

U.S. Census Table Notes: F=fewer than 100 firms; S=supressed, data does not meet publication standards.Z=greater than zero, but less than 1/2 percent.
Source: (accessed February 23, 2011)

Additional resources

Aroostook County, 1920s. (moving image)
Assignment in Aroostook.
(moving image)

Aroostook County, One Hundred Years Old. Houlton, Me. Houlton Pioneer Times. 1939.

Aroostook Reflections. Edited by Oscar Nelder. Presque Isle, Me. Polar Star Associates. 1980.

Grant, Rena V. Three Men from Aroostook: The Story of the Hardison Family. Berkeley, CA. Brazelton-Hanscom. c1963.

Made in Maine: Aroostook County. [moving imahe recording] Lewiston, Me. Maine Public Broadcasting. c1999.

Maine. Dept. of Economic Development. Aroostook County, Maine: Industrial Fact Book. Augusta. 1960. 1965.

Maine Men and Women in Southern California: a volume regarding the lives of Maine men and women of note and substantial achievement, as well as those of a younger generation whose careers are certain, yet still in the making. Edited by Florence Collins Porter, Helen Brown Trask. Los Angeles, California. Kingsley, Mason & Collins, 1913.

Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley,  p. 63.

The Aroostook Scene. Presque Isle. Polar Star Associates. 1978.

The Sesquicentennial Souvenir Booklet Celebrating the 150th birthday, 1839-1989: Aroostook County, Maine. Presque Isle, Me. The Friends. 1989.

True North: Aroostook County. [moving image recording] Lewiston, Me. Maine Public Broadcasting. c1999.

Turner, Philip B. Affie: A Story About the People Who Were the Aroostook Federation of Farmers. Madawaska, Me. St. John Valley Times. The Author. c1983.

Wilson, Charles Morrow. Aroostook: Our Last Frontier: Maine’s Picturesque Potato Empire. Brattleboro, Vt. Stephen Daye Press. c1937.

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