Maine: An Encyclopedia
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Timeline of Maine History 02: Exploration and Early European Settlement

1492-1650

European explorers cruise the Maine coast in search of opportunities for their patrons, especially in the rich fisheries of the Gulf of Maine. Missionaries and settlers follow, bringing diseases that devastate Native American populations.

1492

Christopher Columbus “discovers” America.

1497

John and Sebastian Cabot sail from England to North America and return to England

1498

Sebastian Cabot explores North American coast, establishes England’s claim.

1500

Gaspar Cortereal, sailing for Portugal searching to find the fabled “Northwest Passage” to the Far East, travels along the Maine coast.

1524

Giovanni da Verrazano establishes claim for France, describes Maine coast. He also described “high country full of very dense forests, composed of pines, cypresses, and similar trees which grow in cold regrions.”*

1525

Estevan Gomez, sailing for Charles V of Spain and seeking the Northwest Passage, enters many Maine harbors.

1527

John Rut explores the interior of Maine for England.

1556

Andre Thevet explores the Penobscot River for France.

1583

Sir Humphrey Gilbert explores the Maine coast for England.

1602

Bartholomew Gosnold explores the Maine coast, seeking a suitable location for a British colony and making his first landfall at Cape Elizabeth.

1603

Martin Pring explores Penobscot Bay for Bristol, England businessmen.

1604

First French settlement in Maine at St. Croix island in the St. Croix river. Samuel de Champlain explored the Maine coast, including Mount Desert Island.

1605

Weymouth Cross, Allen Island

Weymouth Cross, Allen Island

George Weymouth sails from England on March 31. His expedition lands on Monhegan Island; explores the Maine coast;  and kidnaps five Indians to England.

He explores Allen Island where a cross was erected in 1907 to commemorate, 300 years later, Maine’s first church service held by Weymouth on the island.

1606

Southern Maine granted to Plymouth Colony under the first Virginia Charter.

1607

Popham colonists land and begin to organize their colony in Maine. Jamestown colony in Virginia founded as first permanent English settlement.

1608

The pinnace Virginia, first ship built in Maine, launched at Popham. After a hard winter, Popham colonists return to England.

1609

Jesuit mission established by French on Penobscot Bay

1613

Jesuit mission established by French on Mount Desert Island.

1614

Captain John Smith maps the New England Coast

1616

An epidemic spreads through the Native American tribes, from Penobscot Bay westward. Called “The Great Dying,” an estimated 70-90% of the Native population dies from European diseases during 1616-1619.

1620

Pilgrims establish Plymouth Colony; draft the Mayflower Compact.

1622

Starving Plymouth Pilgrims get supplies/food from fishermen at Damariscove Island. All land between Merrimac and Kennebec rivers granted to Gorges and Mason.

 1624

John Smith describes the coast north of the Penobscot: “a Countrey rather to affright than delight one, and how to describe a more plaine spectacle of desolation, or more barren, I know not.”*

1625

Pilgrims begin trade with Indians on the Kennebec River. First deed of Maine land, from Indians to John Brown of New Harbor.

1628

First charter issued for the government of MassachusettsFur trading post built by the Pilgrims at Cushnoc (Augusta) after a trip in a small sailing vessel – a shallop – by John Howland, a Plymouth-Colony leader and later manager of the post.

1630

Settlement begins in the town of Agamenticus, now the Town of York.

1632

England cedes Acadia to France.

1635

French Fort Pentagoet constructed in Castine. First hurricane to hit North American settlers strikes Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies.

1639

King Charles I officially changes the name to Province of Maine. Grant of the Province of Maine exclusively to Sir Fernando Gorges.

1641

Incorporation of the first Maine city of Agamenticus, now the Town of York.

1642

Name of Agamenticus changed to Georgeanna for Sir Fernando Gorges.

1646

First mill built on the Presumpscot River near present day Portland and Falmouth

*Quoted in Cronin, William. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New York. Hill and Wang. 1983. p. 26.

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