Maine: An Encyclopedia


Location Map for Machias

Location Map for Machias

Year Population
1970 2,441
1980 2,258
1990 2,569
2000 2,353
2010 2,221
Machias Population Chart 1790-2010

Population Trend 1790-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 44:41:04
W. Latitude 67:27:48
Maine House District 139
Maine Senate District 6
Congress District 2
Area sq. mi. (total) 14.8
Area sq. mi. (land) 13.9
Population/sqmi (land) 159.8
County: Washington

Total=land+water; Land=land only

Sign: Welcome to Machias (2004) [mah-CHI-uhs] is a town in Washington County, incorporated on June 23, 1784 but divided into three towns on June 26, 1826: West Machias, East Machias, and Machias Port, now Machiasport.

The Indian term “machias” has been taken to mean “a little run of bad water” or “bad little falls.” The falls are in the photo below.

Machias River in Downtown (2004)

Machias River in Downtown (2004)

The current town emerged from West Machias as it changed its name back to Machias on March 12, 1830.

The town, and its Burnham Tavern in particular, was the site of anti-British plotting that resulted in the capture of the schooner Margaretta.  The Tavern was built in 1770, the only building in eastern Maine  directly connected with the American Revolution. The townsmen met there to discuss the battles at Concord and Lexington. There they decided to erect a liberty pole and to capture the British vessel Margaretta.

The Washington County seat, it is located on the Machias River, the engine moving its earlier lumbering and shipbuilding industries.

The Clark Perry house was built for a successful nineteenth-century businessman. According to Beard and Smith, the Italianate structure “is without question the most ambitious house of its period in Machias and probably Washington County.”

It is the birthplace of 19th century U.S. Representatives Jeremiah O’Brien, and Stephen Clark FosterClara Hapgood Nash was only the fifth woman admitted to the bar to practice law.  She was admitted in Machias in 1872.

Once a haven for pirates, and now a commercial center, it is also home to the University of Maine at Machias, formerly Washington State College.

Form of Government: Town Meeting-Select Board-Manager.

Additional resources

Beard, Frank A. and Bette A. Smith. Maine’s Historic Places: Properties on the National Register of Historic Places. Camden, Me. Down East Books. c1982.

Gray, Agnes Arline. A Social History of Machias, Maine, from 1800 to 1900. 1954. (Thesis (M.A.) in History–University of Maine, 1954.)

Images from the Past: Machias Area: postcards and photos from a bygone era. From the collection of Michael C. Hoyt. Machias, Me. c2007. (Cataloger Note: Postcards and photos from Machias, Marshfield, Bog Lake, Whitneyville, Jonesboro, Roque Bluffs, East Machias, Jacksonville, M.I.T. summer camp, Machiasport, Bucks Harbor. Larrabee, Starboard, and Machias River log drive.) [University of Maine at Machias. Merrill Library]

Machias Cargo Book. 1855-1864. (Cataloger Note: A volume by an unidentified compiler used to record amounts of lumber shipped from Machias, Maine. Information given includes the names of the vessels used, their destinations, and the amount and type of lumber shipped. The volume also gives an account of lumber sawed at Harwood Mills by Joseph Getchell in 1854-1856.) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Machias (Me.) “Materials for a History of Machias, Maine from the Town Records.” Historical Magazine. 1870.

*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.   Text and photos from National Register of Historic Places: and

Machias Railroad Station: 92001293.PDF
Machias Valley Grange: 07000410.PDF
Perry, Clark, House: 79000169.PDF
Washington County Courthouse: 76000119.PDF
Washington County Jail: 88000393.PDF

Mawhinney, Eugene Alberto. A Social History of Machias, Maine, previous to 1800. 1949. (Thesis (M.A.) in History and Government–University of Maine, 1949.)

Memorial of the Centennial Anniversary of the Settlement of Machias. Machias. Printed by C. O. Furbush. 1863.

Sherman, Andrew M. Life of Captain Jeremiah O’Brien, Machias, Maine: Commander of the First American Naval Flying Squadron of the War of the Revolution. Morristown, N.J. G.W. Sherman. 1902.

Switzer, Katharine C. Chief Incidents in the Early History of Machias. Machias, ME Union-Republican Press. 1929.

The Battle of the Margaretta [sound recording] The story of Fort Foster. Prepared with the cooperation of the East Machias Historical Society, University of Maine at Machias, and WMCS Radio Station. 1973. [University of Maine at Machias, Merrill Library]

The Story of Hannah Weston: and Her Part in the First Naval Engagement of the Revolution, June 12, 1775. Machias, Me. The Daughters of the American Revolution. Hannah Weston Chapter. c1925. Machias, Me. Union-Republican Press.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Burnham Tavern, Main Street

Centre Street Congregational Church, Centre Street

Lion, The (locomotive), University of Maine at Machias

Machias Post Office and Customhouse, Main and Center Streets

Machias Railroad Station

[27 E. Main Street] Built in 1898 by Jonesboro contractor Howard Varney, the Machias Railroad Station is a modest wooden frame building which stands on its original trackside location along U.S. Route 1. It is one of only five surviving station buildings erected by the Washington County Railroad along its 100 plus mile route from Calais to Washington Junction in Ellsworth.

Machias Railroad Station (2004)Although it was not the first railroad developed in Maine’s expansive easternmost region, the Washington County Railroad was certainly the most ambitious. The company began construction late in 1895. The railroad officially opened in December of 1898. The first through train was operated on January 2, 1899.

Despite the high expectations of profitability, it failed to generate sufficient income to pay its heavy debts. As a result, in 1903 the line was auctioned, subsequently reorganized as the Washington County Railway Company, and leased to the Maine Central Railroad in 1904. In 1911 the railroad was fully absorbed into the Maine Central system. Passenger service was discontinued in late 1957 and the line was abandoned in 1985.

The station in Machias is one of twenty-four station buildings erected by the Washington County Railroad in 1898. The stations were generally patterned on a single design. Covered by gable roofs whose expansive eaves were supported by pronounced bracing, the stations were sheathed in weatherboards and featured wainscotting around four sides as well as projecting ticket booths. Alterations to the Machias station, including an addition in 1910 and conversion to a freight depot in 1957, resulted in the loss of some of this detail. Chief among these is the removal of the platform shelter. However, the station continues to retain a high degree of its historic character.*

Machias Valley Grange

Machias Valley Grange No. 360 (2004)[3 ElmStreet] The former Machias Valley Grange, #360 served the community of Machias for over 100 years. Built by members of the Grange in 1907 to serve as their meeting hall, the ordinary building with Queen Anne details and a projecting second story is outfitted with a beautiful second story hall, complete with balcony and stage, and a spacious dining room and convenient kitchen.

Its design not only offered the members of the Grange with facilities in which to conduct their meetings and rituals, but made the property valuable as a social and cultural facility for the greater Machias region. The Machias Valley Grange was organized by 1903 and met in the third story hall at the Pennell Block. On November 15th 1904 the Pennell Block burned, destroying all Grange property. The members immediately regrouped, and over the next two years held their meetings in local venues, including the Knights of Pythius Hall, Harman Hall and Walling Hall. Shortly after the fire the Grange received its charter as Patrons of Husbandry Grange # 360. In September of 1905 the Grange purchased the Pennell Block lot, using the foundations and the footprint of the earlier structure. By November of 1905 construction of their new building was underway, with completion by the end of February, 1907.*

Perry, Clark, House

Clark Perry House (2004)

[Court Street] This Italianate home built for Machias native Clark D. Perry in 1868. At the time the Machias Union described the house as “odd looking, being quite different in style from any other house in town.”

Perry was a very successful businessman in the lumber and shipping industries. Much of the lumber for the house came from his own business. He also owned a local general store.*

Porter Memorial Library, Court Street

Washington County Courthouse

[Court Street] The Washington County Courthouse was designed in 1853 by Col. Benjamin S. Deane. In the same year he also served as architect of the Waldo County Courthouse in Belfast. The two buildings are very similar in design and both still exist today. They reflect the transition of Greek Revival and Italianate styles in Maine architecture during the 1850’s, as interpreted by Col. Deane, a pioneer designer in Eastern Maine.

The Courthouse was the first brick building in Machias and probably the only brick building in the area for miles around. The Courthouse replaced a smaller building on the same site which had previously housed the county offices and jailer’s residence. The court sessions had been held in privately owned buildings which were rented by the county. The new building was to have been completed for the October court session of 1854, but the opening was delayed until the following January.

In 1864 the Courthouse was the setting for the trial of three Confederates charged with the attempted robbery of the Calais Bank. The three were found guilty and sentenced as common criminals which caused considerable surprise since it was generally believed they would be treated as prisoners of war.

Mrs. Clara H. Nash of Columbia Falls was the first woman admitted to the bar in New England. She began her law practice in the Washington County Courthouse on October 26, 1872. The Courthouse is still a public building which serves the entire county. It is an important example of Maine architecture from the 1850*s in an area where few public monuments from this period exist.

Benjamin Deane was born in Thomaston in 1790. During the 1820’s Deane’s career included service with the Thomaston militia. Starting as a lieutenant in 1821 he rose in rank, eventually receiving a colonel’s commission. His first known architectural work was the planning and direction of the construction of the Thomaston Congregational Church in 1827. The success of this building gained him the commission for the North Church in Belfast in 1831.*

Washington County Jail

Washington County Jail (2004)[Court Street] Built in 1858 from plans drawn by Gridley J. F. Bryant, the Washington County Jail is one of the most significant county governmental facilities in eastern Maine. Bryant’s design used a plan that he had developed previously for use at the Kennebec County Jail in Augusta, one that was heralded in an 1867 study on reformatories and prisons as “the best yet submitted to the inspection of the public.” This called for a tri-partite division of the interior into jailer’s quarters in the front, a guard room with projecting bays in the middle and the cell block at the rear. New innovations included the use of speaking tubes, a bell system, self-locking doors, and an improved ventilation system.*

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