• *According to the history of the Passamaquoddy Indians, the Ellsworth area was originally inhabited by members of the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes: "Both groups speak closely related Algonquian languages, although anthropologists generally group the Passamaquoddies linguistically with the Maliseets and the Penobscots with the Abenakis." *Modern historians now believe that Norse and other sailors explored the Maine coast before the voyages of Columbus, and may even have settled there. However, the earliest recorded European settlers in the general area of Ellsworth were the French, perhaps as early as the 1500s. *George J. Varney, in the 'Hancock County, Maine' section of his famous GAZETTEER OF THE STATE OF MAINE, published in Boston in 1886, wrote: "The first European who made definite mention of the Penobscot bay and river, which wash its western side, was Thevet, a French explorer, in 1556. Martin Pring amid Captain Weymouth, the English explorers, sailed along its shores in 1603 and 1605, and DeMonts, the Frenchman, explored some portions of the coast in 1604 and 1605. There is a tradition that Rosier, the historian of Weymouth's expedition, explored Deer Island thoroughfare, making a halt at the bold promontory in Brooksville, known as Cape Rosier. They found the county occupied by a tribe of Indians, who with those on Passamaquoddy waters, were noted for their long journeys in canoes; whence the general name for these Indians, Etechmins. DeMonts claimed the country in the name of the King of France in the true Catholic style, setting up a cross and calling the country “Acadie.” By this name it continued to be known until the capture of Quebec by General Wolfe in 1759. When Weymouth came in 1605, he also claimed the country in the name of his King, James I of England. Thus the two leading powers of Europe became adverse claimants of the soil of Hancock County, and the wars these claims occasioned kept the county an almost unbroken wilderness during the provincial history of Maine." *It is very likely that the French who founded a colony at Somes Sound on Mount Desert Island in 1613, under the patronage of Madame de Guercheville, explored the Ellsworth area and what is now the watershed of the Union River. (Varney believes that there were French settlements of some kind or another as close to Ellsworth as Trenton, Oak Point, Newbury Neck and Surry.) *The Ellsworth area was disputed between the English and the French throughout the 17th century and well into the 18th century, during period of intermittent warfare which has generally been known as the "French and Indian Wars." Native American inhabitants of the Ellsworth area may have converted to Roman Catholicism and fought with the French against the English until the fall of Quebec City to the English in 1759. After the 1763 signing of the "Treaty of Paris" by the governments of England, France, Spain and Portugal, Ellsworth became part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. *The modern history of Ellsworth begins with the settlement of the Union River area around 1763 by a party of English led by entrepreneurs Benjamin Milliken and Benjamin Joy, from southern Maine and New Hampshire, who intended to build dams and saw mills to exploit the area's timber and water power. They applied for grants offered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to encourage settlement of the Hancock County area. Historian Albert H. Davis -- in his HISTORY OF ELLSWORTH, MAINE, published in Lewiston, ME in 1927 -- relates what is known of this early expedition and points to the northern end of the present Water Street, just to the south of the present bridge across the Union River, as the site of the earlier crude buildings erected by the pioneers. *George J. Varney describes the process of land grants by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as follows: "The first grants of land in the county were six townships, each six miles square, between the rivers Penobscot and Union (then known as the Donaqua), which were granted to David Marsh et als, by the General Court of Massachusetts, upon conditions, one of which was that they should settle each township with 60 Protestant families within six years. These grants were No. 1, Bucksport; 2, Orland; 3, Penobscot; ; 4, Sedgwick; 5, Bluehill; and 6, Surry. Six other townships east of the Union River were granted on the same terms; three of which are in this county, viz.: No. 1, Trenton, granted to Eben Thorndike, et als; 2, Sullivan, to David Bean, et als; and 3, Mount Desert (Island) to Governor Bernard. The surveys were made by Samuel Livermore; and as there were three of the townships on each side of the river, it gave rise to the name which the stream now bears." *In 1773 the first schooner was built at Ellsworth. This was the "Susan and Abigail," named after the daughters of the two most prominent citizens, Benjamin Milliken and Benjamin Joy. The vessel carried pine shingles and oak staves in annual voyages to the West Indies. In the years that followed, up to the beginning of the 20th century, a great many schooners of various sizes were built in Ellsworth shipyards along the Union River. *Albert Davis records that in the latter part of the 18th century, Ellsworth was known as the 'Union River Settlement' and was adjacent to the settlements of Surry (to the east) and Trenton (to the south). Later it was organized as 'Plantation No. 7' and at times called 'Bowdoin' and 'New Bowdoin.' In 1798 the local inhabitants petitioned to be formally incorporated under the name 'Sumner.' That name having been already taken by a settlement in Oxford County, Maine, the town was finally incorporated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1800 as Ellsworth, named for Oliver Ellsworth, the Connecticut delegate to the 1787 National Convention that was then working on a Constitution for the new United States of America, and later the 3rd Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. (Oliver Ellsworth is thought to be the person who first suggested the name "United States of America" for the newly formed country.) *Davis reports that in the late 1770s there were British raids on the Union River Settlement, with attempts to appropriate the local cattle. However, there were no formal battles in the Ellsworth area during the Revolutionary War. *In 1838 Ellsworth became the county seat of Hancock County, replacing Castine in that role. The original 1838 county buildings still stand, west of the Union River, on Bridge Hill. *Between 1860 and 1865 Ellsworth sent 653 soldiers to fight in the Civil War, according to historian Albert Davis. This was at a time when there were only 847 (male) voters in the area. Military training was held in front of the county buildings on Bridge Hill, west of the Union River, at the site of the present Civil War Monument. *In 1869 Ellsworth was incorporated as a city by the Maine Legislature. The first City Hall was Hancock Hall, which stood at the corner of Main Street and School Street. It was destroyed by the Great Ellsworth Fire of 1933. *In 1888 electricity was first introduced into the Ellsworth area. *The disputed city elections in 1896 resulted in the appointment of two separate Ellsworth police forces, each of which threatened to arrest the other! *Work on the famous Ellsworth hydro-electric dam was begun in 1907, at the site of one of the original Benjamin Milliken Union River dams. This led to the creation of the present Leonard's Lake just to the north of the city. *Ellsworth's first great disaster of the 20th century was the Great Flood of 1923. A spring freshet rushed over the dam and carried off the metal Union River Bridge, along with many buildings located along the river, such as the well-known Dirigo Theater, the Foundry and many wharves and warehouses. This event marked the end of Ellsworth's prominence as a shipping center. The present concrete bridge was finished in 1924. *The Great Fire of 1933 destroyed most of Ellsworth's Downtown commercial district, on the east side of the Union River. New buildings were re-built in brick, mainly in the Art Deco style. The unique Ellsworth City Hall dates from this period. Fortunately, many of the old houses outside the business district survived the conflagration. *The 1960s and 70s saw the development of a new Ellsworth business district on High Street, which is the direct route to and from Bar Harbor (town), Maine and Acadia National Park. This area is now the largest shopping district in Hancock County, with several shopping centers and many large stores, stretching nearly to the Ellsworth-Trenton boundary. Congested traffic during the summer months has led to attempts in recent years to change the road network, especially at the busy intersection of Route 1 and Route 3, known as "The Triangle." Source:

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