View of Main Street in Saco, Maine by Kenneth C. Zirkel - Own work

7 Oldest Founded Towns To Visit In Maine

Maine is the 23rd state of the United States, but its history stretches back much further than its establishment in 1820. Before Maine's creation as part of the Missouri Compromise, it was part of Massachusetts. Much of Maine's history crisscrosses Massachusett's history, with most of the first Europeans migrating north from this state. 

The various native tribes, like the Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet, were essential to local history. They were the first farmers, hunters, anglers, and sailors of the local streams to call this majestic state their home. Read on to learn all about Maine's prehistory, native impact, and the arrival of Europeans from the south. 


Boats parked at a marina on Badger's Island during a cloudy morning in Kittery, Maine, via EB Adventure Photography /
Boats parked at a marina on Badger's Island during a cloudy morning in Kittery, Maine, via EB Adventure Photography /

Kittery holds the record as the oldest city in Maine. Founded in 1647, it's only a few years younger than Plymouth, Massachusetts! Settlers came to York County in 1623. In 1635 settlers built the very first home in modern-day Kittery. 

Kittery wasn't always part of Maine. Until 1820 Kittery was part of the Massachusetts colony until Maine became the 23rd state of the United States. Home to Portsmouth, one of the greatest naval shipyards in the U.S., was an essential supplier of ships and vessels during World War II. Kittery remains a prominent shipbuilding community, with Portsmouth serving as a vital navy supplier. Visit the Kittery Historical and Naval Museum to fully appreciate this town's most significant product. They host exciting and immersive events throughout the year and have several great exhibits, including the Special Art Exhibit. They even have a presentation about catching lobster in Kittery!


historical street of downtown Biddeford, Maine, via Enrico Della Pietra /
Historical street in downtown Biddeford, Maine, via Enrico Della Pietra /

Biddeford is a scenic town along the Atlantic coast with many prominent outcrops protruding to the sea. Although not officially incorporated until 1653, European settlers came to the region in 1616. 

One of the town's most stunning and oldest standing original buildings is the First Parish Meetinghouse. This lovely building was built in the 1750s and barely changed! By entering this hall, you'll share the same space once filled with Biddeford locals hearing the Declaration of Independence for the first time. After exploring this charming structure, be sure to check out Clifford Park's Nature trails and the stretches of the coast. This town's natural beauty is sure to take your breath away.


Aerial view of colorful autumn foliage over the Scarborough Beach State Park in Maine
Aerial view of colorful autumn foliage over the Scarborough Beach State Park in Maine

Scarborough shares its name with a coastal village in Britain and a beautiful, rocky terrain city in Canada. Despite its relatively common name, its landscape, history, and modern culture are unique! 

While Scarborough wasn't incorporated until 1658, settlers came to the area several decades earlier, in 1631. The Sokokis people who lived in the region before European settlement called Scarborough Owascoag: "the land of much grass." This name is accurate since Scarborough is a very green region. 

The Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center at 92 Pine Point Road is the perfect place to experience this green natural beauty. They have hiking trails, boating on the lake, fishing, and plenty to do for the whole family. After a long day exploring the various local lakes and marshes, visit the Black Point Inn. Established in 1878, this lovely beachfront inn offers a relaxing and luxurious experience for all. 


Man viewing Otter Cliff from Gorham Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine
Man viewing Otter Cliff from Gorham Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine

Gorham is a small town in Cumberland County just north of Scarborough. Gorham was a land grant to the soldiers of the Narragansett War, so the city initially had the name Narragansett Number Seven in the late 1600s. 

Captain John Phinney was one of the first European settlers in the region. He was a soldier in the Narragansett War and thus had a right to land near modern-day Gorham. There were several delays before he finally received his land grant from Massachusetts (Maine was not a state yet). He traveled to the area with his son, Edmund Phinney, from Plymouth, and built the first European house in town. 

With a vibrant landscape full of history that predates European arrival, Gorham has a lot to offer visitors. Orchard Ridge Farms is a must-see site along with Babbs Covered Bridge. Orchard Ridge offers a fantastic immersive experience, pick-your-own vegetables, and tours of their 38-acre farm. Babbs Covered Bridge is one of nine remaining old-style covered bridges in Maine, giving the perfect view of the surrounding landscape. 


The historic brick buildings downtown Saco, Maine, via Enrico Della Pietra /
The historic brick buildings downtown Saco, Maine, via Enrico Della Pietra /

Saco began as Pepperellborough, owning to one of the first European founders in the area, William Pepperell. However, before William Pepperell's arrival in the early 1700s and European exploration in the mid-1600s, native peoples used the majestic Saco Falls for seasonal hunting. To this day, Saco Falls remains a favorite place for fly fishing and seasonal hunting. 

William Pepperell purchased 5,000 acres of wooded land in 1716, selling parts of the property to local mariner and millwright Humphrey Scamman and Nathaniel Weare. This purchase helped expedite the growth of local businesses and increase the overall wealth of the people living there. It also helped encourage road layouts in town, with Main Street, Buxton, Portland, and Ferry Road all established just a short time later. 

Most of downtown Saco is a National Registered Historic District since this is where most of the town started developing. One of the best ways to experience this vast, historically rich neighborhood is to partake in the historic walking tour. This tour will take you to several historic homes and sites, including the Solomon Coit House and the First Parish Congregational Church. 


Main street in Machias, Maine, via
Main street in Machias, Maine, via Zedmaster375CC BY-SA 3.0.

Machias is in Washington County, on the southern shores of the Machias River. It gets its name from the native Passamaquate word for "bad little falls," which is likely a reference to the small waterfalls of the Machias River. 

While Machias began as a much larger town, the area broke into several smaller towns throughout the 1800s. West Machias, East Machias, and Machiasport all sprang from the original, much larger township of Machias. Machias always had a strain of rebellion flowing through its veins and is the site of anti-British uprisings, resulting in the schooner Margaretta being captured in the Revolutionary War. 

You can visit this historical site today! The Burnham Tavern still stands as one of Machias's proudest landmarks within the Burnham Tavern Museum. Also, be sure to visit Bad Little Falls Park and experience some of the remaining landscape initially honored by the native peoples of the area. 

North Yarmouth

First Congregational Church in North Yarmouth, Maine,
First Congregational Church in North Yarmouth, Maine, By John Phelan - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, File:First Congregational Church, North Yarmouth ME.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

North Yarmouth has a long, diverse, and challenging history that spans over 400 hundred years. The Abenaki tribe settled the region long before Europeans arrived in the 1630s. The Abenaki tribe was part of the Wabanaki Confederacy, a key opponent to the Iroquois nation, along with the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and other native tribes. 

Europeans came to the region in the 1630s, mainly from Salem, Massachusetts, and parts of England. The area was once part of a massive plantation throughout the late 1600s that comprised modern-day North Yarmouth and several neighboring towns. The once semi-peaceful relationship between the natives and Europeans broke during the French and Indian War, destroying most of the city. 

However, setters were determined to be successful and later returned and rebuilt much of the region. Visit the Yarmouth Historical Society at 118 East Elm Street to thoroughly immerse into this area's vast history. Although this historical society is in Yarmouth, the neighboring town to North Yarmouth, much of the early history and shared experiences between these towns. Also, visit the North Yarmouth Old Town House to get a glimpse of the still rugged area of Maine. 


Maine is a fascinating and historically rich state in the U.S. Although starting its existence in America as part of Massachusetts, this connection only further enriches its tapestry of a past. Many native tribes hunted and farmed its vibrant landscape leaving their mark on the world and memorializing themselves in the names and features of Maine. Maine is a collection of its historical connection with the Pilgrims, Puritans, Natives, and explorers who first braved this cold region of America.

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