Maine: An Encyclopedia


“In the fall of 1620 the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth during a disagreeable storm, and, noting the excellent opportunity for future misery, began to erect a number of rude cabins.”  — Bill Nye

Members of the Plymouth Colony began trading with fishermen and Indians in Maine within a few years of their arrival in 1620. In 1622 they dispatched a small expedition by boat to Damariscove Island where they obtained supplies and food which carried them through a difficult summer until their crops could be harvested.

Later, they began what was to become a substantial trade with the Indians on the Kennebec River. After an earlier limited grant, the Pilgrims obtained from the English government what was to be known as the Kennebec Patent. The Patent gave them exclusive trading rights in key sections of the river. At Cushnoc, now Augusta, they established a trading post in 1628.

In that year, the Pilgrims made the voyage in a 38-foof open-hulled, single-masted sailing vessel called a shallop. A replica of that vessel was designed from information about other shallops of the period and from the notes on its creation mentioned in William Bradford’s history of the Colony. In 2003 the Elizabeth Tilley, named for the original shallop, sailed from Plymouth, Massachusetts and arrived in Augusta at Fort Western on August 7th.

According to an announcement by Old Fort Western regarding the visit,

Constructed by the Howland Society at Plimoth Plantation under the guidance of Mayflower II Master, Peter Arnestam, the Elizabeth Tilley measures 38 feet in length, 11½ feet wide at the beam, and is four feet deep. Single-masted and sprit-rigged, she is partly decked-over (unlike most shallops) to protect the cargo of Indian corn and other goods she transported to Maine.

The Pilgrims came to Massachusetts as part of a joint-stock investment company formed not only to settle new lands but to return a profit to the investors. They soon looked to become involved in the fur trade and eventually built several trading posts in what are now Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine. Of all such posts, the one at Cushnoc proved most successful and by 1644, the Pilgrims had discharged their original and subsequent settlement debts. Trade afterwards, however, slowed, and by the early 1660’s the Pilgrims had sold their trading patent and Cushnoc post. The descendants of those who purchased the patent formed a new Plymouth Company in 1749 and, doing business as the Kennebec Proprietors, constructed Fort Western, also at Cushnoc, in 1754.

In 1630 Plymouth Governor William Bradford secured for himself a grant of fifteen miles on each side of the Kennebec River from the mouth to the present site of Gardiner. The grant included the area of the town of Jefferson, among others.

Today the Maine Mayflower Society has members who have documented their being descended from at least one of the original passengers on the Mayflower’s 1620 landing in Plymouth.

According to Robert S. Wakefield, “The first Mayflower passenger to spend any meaningful time in Maine would appear to be Henry Samson.” Samson was part of a fur trading expedition in 1630 and 1631. “It would appear that only two members of the first three generations of Mayflower families actually settled in Maine.”  James Samson in Wells in 1717 was the first. Ebenezer Eaton arrived in 1730 and acquired land in North Yarmouth in 1733.

Others who now live in Maine are related to the original passengers whose descendants moved to Maine in later generations.

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Additional resources

Burrage, Henry. “The Plymouth Colonists in Maine.” in Smith and Schriver. Maine: A History Through Selected Readings.

Chandler, E. J. Ancient Sagadahoc: A Narrative History. San Jose, Ca. Authors Choice Press. 2000. (Cataloger Note: Subtitle from cover: Story of the Englishmen who welcomed the Pilgrims to the New World.) [University of Southern Maine (Portland). The Albert Brenner Glickman Family Library.]

Cranmer, Leon E. Cushnoc: The History and Archaeology of the Plymouth Traders on the Kennebec. Augusta, Me. Maine Historic Preservation Commission. c1990.

Maine Mayflower Society. (accessed December 8, 2013)

Nye, Bill. Bill Nye’s History of the United States. Chicago, Il. Thompson & Thomas. 1906. p. 48.

Old Fort Western. “Pilgrim Shallop to Return to Augusta August 3.” News release. Augusta. July 19, 2004.

“The Shallop Elizabeth Tilley” at (accessed September 12, 2005).

Wakefield, Robert S.  “Mayflower Passengers in Maine.” The Mayflower Descendant. Vol. 42, No. 2, 1992. pp. 131-132. (accessed December 8, 2013)In the fall of 1620 the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth during a disagreeable storm, and, noting the excellent opportunity for future misery, began to erect a number of rude cabins. P.48

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