History Timeline 1600s

Picture above: Drawing of a Susquehannock Fort from original plate by Jacob van Meurs, 1671. Courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia via Wikipedia Commons. Right: Drawing of a Puritan Woman, 1897, Percy Moran, G.H. Buck and Co. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Puritan Woman

Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1600s


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  • 1642 Detail

    March 1, 1642 - York, Maine of the Plymouth, then Massachusetts Bay Colony (known as Gorgeana in colonial times) becomes the first incorporated city in the American colonies.

    York, Maine

    The Plymouth Colony had been growing since its founding in 1620, and lands to its north were being explored for other settlements by the English and French. In 1624, the Agamenticus plantation had been founded; its name meaning York River in Abenaki. On April 10, 1641, a patent was granted to Sir Ferdinando Gorges for the Colony of Maine, part of the Plymouth charter at the time. He would seat the head of government at Bristol, later called Gorgeana, and even later, 1652, named York. The boundaries of the borough would extend three miles in all directions from the church; the land belonging to the plantation of Agamenticus. Thomas Gorges, his cousin, was appointed Mayor. Edward Godley was the Justice of the Peace.

    But Sir Ferdinando Gorges had big visions of what Gorgeana (York), a seaboard town, could become. So within one year, he changed its charter, on March 1, 1642, into a city; the first such incorporation in the American colonies. He extended its boundaries.

    "From the beginning of the entrance of the river, commonly called and known by the name of Agamenticus, and so up the said river seven English miles, and all along the east and northeast side of the sea-shore three English miles in breadth from the entrance of the said river, up into the main land, seven miles, butting with the seven miles from the sea-side up the said river, the breadth of the said three miles opposite thereunto," Ferdinando Gorges, 1642.

    Gorgeana was to be a corporation, with a mayor, twelve aldermen, and twenty-four councilmen. Its name was changed to Gorgeana, and it was appointed to have a corporation, consisting of a mayor, twelve aldermen, and twenty-four common councilmen.

    The first settlements were made near the shoreline, though the town would grow over the years, particularly on the south side of the river. Growth of York would be significant, but not as much as Gorges had envisioned. After Sir Ferdinando Gorges passed, the colony was incorporated into the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

    As part of that, the city was besieged over the decades during the three wars with the Indians and French in the territory. On February 5, 1692, during what would become known as the Candlemas Massacre in King Williams War, three hundred Indians and a few French Canadians attack. It was a surprise, over one hundred and fifty York citizens were killed in an instant, more later, and one hundred taken prisoner. William Dummer, the Governor was killed; his wife and son taken prisoner. The raid laid destruction to the buildings of the city. York was mostly in ruins.

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    York in Future Years

    As the years of the French and Indian Wars passed and the American Revolution settled the conflict with the British, the town of York, Maine began to prosper, though remained small, much smaller than the importance Sir Ferdinando Gorges had envisioned. Prior to the revolution, it was a provincial capital, site of the Royal Gaol (Jail). It traded with the West Indies for sugar and molasses in exchange for agricultural products and lumber. John Hancock was one of the most important merchants. After the revolution, trade dwindled due to the Embargo Act of 1807 signed by President Jefferson.

    After the Civil War, York transitioned itself into a small port city and summer tourist town with sandy beaches, golf, Mount Agamenticus, John Sedley's Homestead, Nubble Light, and Hancock's Museum. York now includes the villages of York Village, York Harbor, York Beach and Cape Neddick. The 2020 census showed a population of just under 14,000 citizens, a significant increase from just over 3,000 in 1950. Even with those additional citizens, the charm of the town, or four towns, exceeds most expectations. Take in the Goldenrod in York Beach, a store selling candy, taffy, and cafe goods since 1896. Visit York's Wild Kingdom, New England's only zoo and amusement park.

    Image above: Postcard of The Square at Short Sands Beach, York Beach, Maine, 1915, Unknown author. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Postcard, color version, of the The Old Gaol, Jail, 1901, Detroit Publishing Company. Courtesy Library of Congress via Wikipedia Commons. Info source: "A History and Description of New England, General and Local, 1859, Austin Jacobs Coolidge; archive.org; yorkmaine.org; visitmaine.com; Wikipedia.

    York, Maine Jail

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