Maine: An Encyclopedia


Location Map for Mattawamkeag

Location Map for Mattawamkeag

Year Population
1970 988
1980 1,000
1990 830
2000 825
2010 687
Mattawamkeag Population Chart 1820-2010

Population Trend 1820-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 45:33:02
W. Latitude 68:18:46
Maine House District 141
Maine Senate District 5
Congress District 2
Area sq. mi. (total) 39.5
Area sq. mi. (land) 38.9
Population/sq.mi. (land) 18.4
County: Penobscot

Total=land+water; Land=land only
sign: Welcome to Mattawamkeag (2012)


[mat-ah-WAHM-keg] is a town in Penobscot County, incorporated on February 14, 1860 from Mattawamkeag Plantation on the site of an ancient Indian village.

The Mattawamkeag River, on which the town is located as it enters the Penobscot, is the largest eastern tributary of the Penobscot. The junction of the two rivers is marked by a gravel bar at the entrance to the Mattawamkeag, whose Indian name is often translated as “a river with many rocks at its mouth” or a similar phrase.

Mattawamkeag River nearing the Penobscot (2001)

Mattawamkeag River nearing the Penobscot (2001)

Railroad Tracks and Mill (2001)

Railroad Tracks and Mill (’01)

The area experienced early traffic on the river. A traveler arrived from St. John in 1624; English captive John Gyles was brought up the river in 1689.

Before 1812 a mill had been built, but it was burned by the Indians in that year.

The first settler, a Colonel Stanley, built a house in 1829, the year that the military road to Houlton had reached Mattawamkeag.

Henry David Thoreau, on his way to climbing Mount Katahdin, visited the area on September 2, 1846 making these observations before traveling to Molunkus the following day:

About noon we reached the Mattawamkeag, fifty-six miles from Bangor by the way we had come, and put up at a frequented house still on the Houlton road, where the Houlton stage stops. Here was a substantial covered bridge over the Mattawamkeag, built, I think they said, some seventeen years before. We had dinner,—where, by the way, and even at breakfast, as well as supper, at the public-houses on this road, the front rank is composed of various kinds of “sweet cakes,” in a continuous line from one end of the table to the other. I think I may safely say that there was a row of ten or a dozen plates of this kind set before us two here. To account for which, they say that, when the lumberers come out of the woods, they have a craving for cakes and pies, and such sweet things, which there are almost unknown, and this is the supply to satisfy that demand. The supply is always equal to the demand, and these hungry men think a good deal of getting their money’s worth. . . .

After dinner we strolled down to the “Point,” formed by the junction of the two rivers, which is said to be the scene of an ancient battle between the Eastern Indians and the Mohawks, and searched there carefully for relics, though the men at the bar-room had never heard of such things; but we found only some flakes of arrowhead stone, some points of arrowheads, one small leaden bullet, and some colored beads, the last to be referred, perhaps, to early fur-trader days. The Mattawamkeag, though wide, was a mere river’s bed, full of rocks and shallows at this time, so that you could cross it almost dry-shod in boots; and I could hardly believe my companion, when he told me that he had been fifty or sixty miles up it in a batteau, through distant and still uncut forests. A batteau could hardly find a harbor now at its mouth. Deer and caribou, or reindeer, are taken here in the winter, in sight of the house.*

Mattawamkeag Town Office (2012)

Town Office (2012) @

Downtown Mattawamkeag (2012)

Downtown (2012) @

Post Office and Masons (2012)

Post Office & Masons (’12) @

Route 2 in Mattawamkeag (2012)

Rt. 2, Mattawamkeag (2012) @

United Church of Christ (2012)

United Church of Christ (’12)@

In 1878, young Theodore Roosevelt boarded the train at a small depot on his way to meet William Sewall in Island Falls. George Varney’s observations in the 1880’s are as follows:

The “Gordon Falls” extend for a considerable distance along the Mattawamkeag, which, at this point, crosses the southern line of the town from different times. On the stream are a board, shingle, and lath mill, with planer. There are other manufactures common to country villages. The principal centre of business is near the mouth of the Mattawamkeag at the station on the European and American Railway, which here turns eastward along the north bank of the river. . . .

The town-hall is a neat, two-story, wooden building, having a school-room and dining-hall on the first floor. The Indians tell of a village and burial-place of their own on the north bank of the Mattawamkeag, near the present village; and some sonte-axes, arrow-heads and other relics have been found there.

Wilderness Park Road (2012)

Wilderness Park Road (2012)

Entering from Route 2 South (2012)

Entering Town from the North on Rt. 2 (2012) @

Today, a 1,000 acre Wilderness Park is situated between the two rivers with campsites, fishing, swimming and hiking available.

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

Additional resources

Chadbourne, Ava Harriet. Maine Place Names and The Peopling of its Towns.

*Thoreau, Henry David. The Maine Woods. 12-14.

Varney, George J. A Gazetteer of the State of Maine. 1886. pp. 356-357.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Smith, George W., Homestead, Main Street Mattawamkeag

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