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State of Maine


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General Maine State History

While there is evidence that Maine's earliest inhabitants were descendants of Ice Age hunters, the Micmacs and Abanakis (or Wabanakis) were credited with the earliest settlement of Maine. The Micmacs of eastern Maine and New Brunswick were largely a warlike people, while the more numerous Abnakis were a peaceful nation, given to farming and fishing as a way of life. Although dozens of tribes once inhabited the land, only two remain today. Passamaquoddies (1,500) live on two reservations, the largest of which is located Pleasant Point near Eastport. The Penobscots (1,200) live on Indian Island in the Penobscot River at Old Town.

The first white settlement was established by the Plymouth Company at Popham in 1607, the same year of the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Because the Popham colony didn't survive the harsh Maine winters, Jamestown enjoys the distinction of being regarded as America's first permanent settlement.

The question of Maine's ownership was a matter of continuing dispute between England and France throughout the first half of the 18th century. The period was also marked by a series of Indian raids on white settlements which had the active support of the French interested in seeing the English settlers driven from the land.

In the late-1700s, a number of battles flared up in Maine during the Revolutionary War. Maine opposed the oppressive colonial tax policies of the British Government. The Revolution cost Maine dearly. About 1,000 men lost their lives in the war, the district's sea trade was all but destroyed, the principal city had been leveled by bombardment, and Maine's overall share of the war debt amounted to more than would later be imposed upon it by the Civil War.

Congress established Maine as the 23rd state under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This arrangement allowed Maine to join the Union as a free state, with Missouri entering a year later as a slave state, thereby preserving the numerical balance between free and slave states in the nation.

Once Maine became a separate state there followed a period of tremendous economic growth in which a number of important mining manufacturing industries emerged. Lumbering, traditional fishing and shipbuilding pursuits entered a boom period and ice harvesting, granite and lime quarrying also developed as important industries.

Water-powered factories began to spring up beside the numerous sawmills already located along Maine's important rivers. Textiles, paper and leather products all became primary sources of manufacturing employment.

Fishing and farming were also important, but were subject to greater economic fluctuations. The overall economic picture - although periodically disturbed by such developments as the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution - continued on a relatively prosperous course throughout the remainder of the 19th century.

Maine's textile and leather industries enjoyed a dramatic upward surge following the Civil War, while farming activity correspondingly decreased. Responding to Thomas Edison's discoveries in the 1890s, Maine began utilizing its vast river resources for the development of hydroelectric power. Plants for the production of electricity were built principally on the Androscoggin, Kennebec, Penobscot and Saco Rivers.

Maine's industrial growth continued, although at a much slower pace, into the 20th century. Expansion of the pulp and paper industry offset the loss of textile mills to the South. Large potato-growing, dairy and poultry farms replaced the decreasing number of small family farms.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century' Maine has struggled to find a proper balance between resource-based industrial development and environmental protection. The state has come to rely heavily on tourism, small manufacturing enterprises defense-related activities and installations for much of its economic base.
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