Ellsworth, Maine, is known to many as the “gateway” to Down East Maine and Acadia National Park. It is the largest city in this region and is the county seat for Hancock County. Incorporated on February 27, 1869, Ellsworth is the largest city by area in the State of Maine at 93.4 sq. miles, followed by Caribou (75.8 sq. miles) and Presque Isle (68.8 sq. miles). Today, Ellsworth is the economic center for the region and has all of the services available that a small city provides. It is accessible from many directions. U.S. Route 1 passes through the city center with junctions to several Maine Routes.
One of the “stand-out” geographical features is the Union River and there is an interesting history surrounding it and the whole Ellsworth area. The original inhabitants were Native Americans of the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Tribes. The Passamaquoddy gathered along coastal areas during the summer to harvest seafood but hunted inland during the winter months. The Penobscot Tribe covered a large part of the northeastern United States (especially, Maine) and Maritime Canada.
The area was first settled along the Union River by the British in 1763 and was then called “New Bowdoin.” As more Europeans began moving into the area, its effect was to drive the indigenous tribes north and further “Down East.”
After 1776 and America's independence from British rule, what is now called Maine was actually part of Massachusetts. There were various attempts to develop the Ellsworth region including a land lottery but all failed. In 1791, large tracts of land were purchased for 10 cents an acre by speculators who thought they could attract wealthy French Noblemen. This also failed. Then, a wealthy Philadelphia citizen named William Bingham negotiated the purchase of the land claims from the previously failed enterprises, and began attempts at attracting European buyers. To protect his investment, he hired the well-respected General David Cobb, an aid to General Washington, as an on-site agent in 1795.
General Cobb's belief was that the key to the proper development of the region was in its use for agriculture and began purchasing even more land in Ellsworth, Trenton, and Mount Desert. An Englishman, John Black, was hired as General Cobb's clerk in 1799. When a sub-agent died in 1805, the now “Colonel” Black was appointed to take over the position. This turned out to be the right person at the right time as Black had a difference of opinion as to what potential the region had. His belief was that, rather than in agriculture, it was in lumber. This set the stage for a surge in development that eventually lead to the formation of the State of Maine. The Union River was a main thoroughfare that connected the region to the world. The Black Mansion (Woodlawn Museum), built in 1828, is preserved in historical detail in his honor and available for viewing.
Photos: Main Street | Union River | Woodlawn Museum | Autumn
Ellsworth, Maine, has a population of 6,456 (year 2000 census). Its zip code is 04605.
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