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History of Cumberland County Maine

Below is an overview of several dates of value pertaining to Maine, its counties, and Cumberland County municipalities. Each county and municipality has its own unique history. We want to share with clients and others, the kind of knowledge that a competent land surveyor working in Cumberland County should know in order to deliver exceptional professional service to a client.

Here Are a Couple of Examples

If a land surveyor is hired to perform a boundary survey in Scarborough, he or she should know that the pertinent documents relating to this parcel prior to 1760 would be located in York County. Cumberland County was not established until November 1, 1760. Also, both counties were still within the boundaries of Massachusetts until 1820.

The office of Nadeau Land Surveys is located in Portland. Our parcel prior to 1814 was part of a larger tract of land within the boundaries of ancient Falmouth, within the Province of Maine, but still within the boundaries of the State of Massachusetts.


From 1814-1871, it was within the boundaries of Westbrook and only from 1820, within the State of Maine. From 1871-1899, it was within the boundaries of Deering. In 1899, Deering merged into Portland. The deeds of conveyance within our chain of title would indicate four different towns and two different states, depending on the date of deed conveyance.

Photos from the book: Deering: A Social and Architectural History by William D. Barry and Patricia McGraw Anderson. Published by Greater Portland Landmarks, 2010.

The doors of Deering High School first opened in 1874 and the doors of Westbrook College (originally Westbrook Seminary) opened in 1831. Have you ever wondered why Westbrook College (the University of New England) is located in Portland? A large portion of current day Portland was formerly part of Deering and Westbrook. Now you know!

Also, the towns of Cape Elizabeth, Portland, South Portland, Westbrook, and former Deering were originally part of Falmouth, while the towns of Yarmouth, Cumberland, Pownal, Harpswell, and Freeport were originally part of North Yarmouth. Since Yarmouth is a former portion of North Yarmouth, the “North” in North Yarmouth was actually created to differentiate from Yarmouth, Massachusetts, since Maine was originally part of Massachusetts.

Historical chains of title are unique for each parcel of land. As the records lead us to the original documents of creation, we actually identify where the names of neighborhoods, streets, highways, buildings, etc. originated.

The Portland Harbor, 1823. From the book, Portland, a publication of Greater Portland Landmarks, Inc., 2006

“At the outbreak of the American Revolution the town had only three streets of any great length: Fore Street running along the waterfront, and inland Middle and Back Streets, which converged to form today’s Congress Street which was the principal route to the mainland.”

History of Maine and Cumberland County:

Dates/data shown on this page differ based on various sources used. This office takes no responsibility for any errors in fact. This page is only intended to give a general understanding as to the creation and history of the below listed counties and municipalities, while sharing information that may benefit a land surveyor performing competent records research. Verification of any of this information should be performed prior to its use.

The first patent establishing the Province of Maine was granted in 1622 to Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason by the Plymouth Council of New England, which encompassed land along the coast between the Merrimac River and the Kennebec River. In 1629, Gorges and Mason agreed to split the grant. Mason retained land south of the Piscataqua River as the Province of New Hampshire and Gorges retained land north of the Piscataqua River as New Somersetshire (Province of Maine). This patent failed due to lack of funds and settlers.

A second patent in 1639, the Gorges Patent, was a royal charter from Charles I of England for land which roughly encompassed the same land which encompassed New Somersetshire. This patent also failed due to lack of funds and settlers.

In 1652, The Province of Maine was annexed as a frontier territory as part of the Massachusetts colony for strategic importance as the first line of defense against potential French and Indian invasions. In 1677, the Province of Maine was sold to the Massachusetts Bay Colony for the sum of £1250. The area is known as the Province of Maine of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but formally was York County, Massachusetts.

The beginning of York County is considered by some historians to have established the first government of the Province of Maine and was considered to have had two districts, east and west, of which the Kennebec River was regarded as the dividing line.

The Province of Massachusetts Bay formally became a crown colony on October 7, 1691. This charter was enacted May 14, 1692 and included Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, the Province of Maine, and what is now Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia separated in 1696 and became the Province of Nova Scotia in 1713. The Province of New Hampshire gained its independence from Massachusetts Bay in 1691, at the time of the creation of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

In 1760, Cumberland County and Lincoln County were created from portions of York County, also still within the boundaries of Massachusetts. Years later, Cumberland County was further divided creating Androscoggin and Franklin Counties, and parts of Oxford, Kennebec, and Somerset Counties.

In 1778, the Continental Congress created the District of Maine which was comprised of York, Cumberland, and Lincoln Counties as the three northernmost districts of Massachusetts. The State of Maine became the 23rd state on March 15, 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise. During the War of 1812, the British conquered a large portion of Maine including everything from the Penobscot River east to the New Brunswick border, which contributed to the ultimate division of Maine from Massachusetts in 1820.

This small summary excludes many parts of Maine history including northern Maine, early European voyages, and the wonderful history of several American Indian tribes. The intent of this summary is to only establish a general understanding of how history plays perhaps the most important aspect of boundary line determinations.

A land surveyor understands that many muncipalities are former portions of abutting municipalities and current counties may be former portions of an abutting county. If a municipality pre-dates the county it is currently part of, then that municipality was formerly part of another county. All these boundary changes would be a very laborous task to itemize in detail. A land surveyor performing a boundary survey may have to define data of this nature to accurately determine a boundary line.

Scarborough

The first settler was John Stratton about 1630 located on a couple islands that bore his name. Named after Scarborough, England. Formerly known as Black Point and Blue Point. The American Indian name was Owascoag, meaning “the place of much grass”. The tract of land between Black Point and Spurwink River was granted to Captain Thomas Commock, nephew of the Earl of Warwick, making him the first legal proprietor of Scarborough.

Falmouth

7th town established within the Province of Maine. Named after the ancient seaport Falmouth, England. Extended from Spurwink River to the Town of North Yarmouth, also encompassing the current municipalities of Portland, Westbrook, South Portland, and Cape Elizabeth. The first resident to settle within the limits of the town was Walter Bagnall on Richmond’s Island in 1628 (current Cape Elizabeth). The first settlement within present corporate limits was Arthur Mackworth in 1632. In July 1658, Falmouth submitted to become part of the Massachusetts Jurisdiction. The Province of Maine was then bisected by the Kennebunk River into the eastern and western, with courts held in Falmouth and York.

North Yarmouth

8th town established within the Province of Maine. North Yarmouth named after Yarmouth, Massachusetts, which was named after Yarmouth, England. The territory of the present town was included in a grant made to Joseph Phippon and others in 1680. The towns of Yarmouth, Cumberland, Pownal, Harpswell, and Freeport were originally part of North Yarmouth. William Royall came over in about 1630, purchased in 1643 a tract of land (from Sir Ferdinando Gorges) along the Royal River (formerly Wescustogo River, meaning “gullied river banks”), and then settled in 1658.

Brunswick

11th town established within the Province of Maine. Thomas Purchas settled at Stevens River about 1625. Pejepscot, meaning “the long, rocky rapids” part [of the river], the American Indian name for this area. Believed to be named after one of the 12 states of the German Confederation.

Harpswell

13th town established within the Province of Maine. Set off from North Yarmouth and made a precinct in 1750. The neck formerly bore the American Indian name of Merryconeag, and Great Island was called Erascohegan and Sebascodiggin. Has over 150 miles of coast, more than any other town in Maine. Tradition says named by the Denning Family for Harpswell, England.

Windham

16th town established within the Province of Maine. The grant of this township was made in 1734 to 60 citizens of Marblehead, Massachusetts, taking the name of New Marblehead. First settled in 1737 by Captain Thomas Chute on the banks of the Presumpscot River. Named and incorporated for Windham, England.

Gorham

Originally named Narragansett No. 7, one of the seven townships granted in 1728 to the soldiers (or heirs) who served in the Narragansett War of 1675. First settled in 1736 by Captain John Phinney. The township was later changed to Gorhamtown, in honor of Captain John Gorham, one of the early inhabitants who served in King Phillip’s War. Gorham would later annex land from Standish in 1831 and 1839, and from Scarborough in 1864.

Cape Elizabeth

23th town established within the Province of Maine. Set off from Falmouth in 1765, but only with District privileges relative to representation in the legislature. The first resident to settle within the limits of the town was Walter Bagnall on Richmond’s Island in 1628 occupying the island, but without title. The next residents within the limits of Cape Elizabeth were Richard Tucker and John Cleeves, who located along the Spurwink River in 1630. In 1631, the Plymouth Company granted Richmond Island and certain territory to Robert Trelawney and Moses Goodyear. In 1632, Tucker and Cleeves were driven away by the agent of Sir Alexander Rigby, owner of the Plough, or Lygonia Patent covering this section of coast. See Portland for additonal information for Tucker and Cleeves. Cape Elizabeth named for Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of King James I.

New Gloucester

Granted in 1735 to 60 Inhabitants of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Settled in 1739 by Jonas Mason. “New” Gloucester was originally half shire with Portland. The courts of Common Pleas and Sessions sat here from 1791 to 1805, when Oxford County was set off from Cumberland County. Gloucester, Massachusetts was named after Gloucester, England.

Gray

Granted in 1735 to certain inhabitants of Boston, Massachusetts. The township was without name until 1756, when it became New Boston. In 1762, the first settler with family was Moses Twitchell. In 1778 it was incorporated under the name of Gray in honor of one of its original proprietors, Thomas Gray.

Standish

45th town established within the Province of Maine. It was formed of the townships of Pearsontown and Hobbstown since it was granted in 1750 to Captain Humphrey Hobbs and Captain Moses Pearson and their companies for services in the siege of Louisburg. It was first settled in 1760. In 1785 it was incorporated under the name of Standish in honor of Miles Standish, one of the original founders of Plymouth Colony.

Portland

Established as a town in 1786 when set off from Falmouth. Adopted a city charter March 26, 1832. First settlers were George Cleeves and Richard Tucker in 1632. The original Portland would more or less encompass only the current peninsula and at that time was the smallest municpality in the state by area. The peninsula has been called Machigonne by the American Indians, which according to some means “bad clay”, while others contend that its interpretation should be “knee or elbow”. Also formerly called Casco Neck until its incorporation in 1786. In 1735 it was made half shire town with York when Portland (Falmouth) was still part of York County. Portland was the original state capital upon Maine’s admittance into the Union as a state in 1820, until 1827 when Augusta became capital of the state. Portland is named for Portland, England, and is the largest city in the state.

Freeport

Established as a town in 1789 when set off from North Yarmouth. Once called Harraseeket, after the Harraseeket River, meaning “full of obstacles”. First settled about 1700, it was set off and incorporated on February 14, 1789 as Freeport. It is believed to be named after Sir Andrew Freeport, the fictional London merchant in Joseph Addison’s play, “The Spectator”. Freeport developed as four villages — Mast Landing, Porter’s Landing, South Freeport and Freeport Corner.

Bridgton

Granted in 1761 by Massachusetts to Moody Bridges and others, being divided into 86 shares. In 1767, the proprietors named their town Bridgetown Plantation, in honor of Moody Bridges of Andover, Massachusetts. It had been called Pondicherry, for a town in Ireland. Incorporated as Bridgton in 1794. In 1847, in an effort to restore it’s original size, acquired by annexations from the towns of Fryeburg and Denmark, about 3,500 acres – which territory was known as Texas, perhaps in reference to the State newly annexed in 1845.

Baldwin

The township of Baldwin, together with Sebago, was granted in 1774 to the survivors of Captain Flint’s company, of Concord, Massachusetts. Incorporated in 1802 in honor of Loammi Baldwin, one of the early settlers. Previously called Flintstown after Captain Flint.

Raymond

The township of Raymondtown was granted in 1767 by Massachusetts to the heirs of Captain William Raymond’s company of Beverly, Massachusetts, in consideration of their services in the expedition to Canada, under Sir William Phipps. Captain Joseph Dingley started the first settlement of Raymond in 1771, but few families came until after the Revolution. Raymond was the 146th town incorporated in the District of Maine, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It annexed a gore of land between Raymond and Gray in 1859, and another gore, along with Standish Cape, in 1869.

Harrison

Incorporated as a town in 1805 when set off from Bridgton and Otisfield. Being the former part of Bridgton lying on the easterly side of Long Pond, about 8,500 acres. Harrison derived it’s name from Harrison Gray Otis, of Boston, who was a large proprietor of this township.

Pownal

Settled in 1680, set off from Freeport and incorporated in 1808. Named after Thomas Pownall, an englishman, and Royal Governor of Massachusetts.

Westbrook

Established as a town when set off from Falmouth. Once known as Saccarappa, incorporated as Stroudwater in 1814 after Stroudwater, England, and then renamed Westbrook later that year, in honor of Colonel Thomas Westbrook, who distinguished himself in the Indian Wars. Deering was set off from Westbrook in 1871. Westbrook was incorporated as a city March 1, 1889.

Cumberland

First settled in 1640 by George Felt, it was incorporated as a town in 1821 when set off from North Yarmouth. Named for William, Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II.

Sebago

The township, together with Baldwin, was granted by Massachusetts in 1774, to Whittemore, Lawrence, and their associates, survivors of John Fitch and Company. In 1826 this territory was divided, the northern portion incorporated as Sebago. 1000 acres was annexed from Denmark in 1830 and 400 acres added from Baldwin. Named for Sebago Lake, meaning “big lake”.

Naples

First settled in 1790, it was named for Naples, Italy. In 1834, a part of southeast corner of Bridgton, about 2,500 acres, was set off and 4,700 acres was set off from Sebago to form part of Naples. Also includes part of Otisfield and Harrison. Between 1845 and 1856, it annexed more land from Sebago, Otisfield, and Bridgton.

Casco

Established in 1841 when set off from Raymond. One of the smallest towns of the county. Crooked River and Songo River separate it from Naples. Casco means “great blue heron” (Abnaki) or “muddy” (Micmac).

Yarmouth

Incorporated in 1849 when set off from North Yarmouth. Within the boundaries of Yarmouth comprises the localities of the earliest settlements and history. In 1646, William Royall purchased a farm on the river which has since borne his name.

South Portland

First settled in 1630, and incorporated in 1895 when set off from Cape Elizabeth. The reason of separation from Cape Elizabeth was disagreement on a future source of public drinking water. Incorporated as a city December 5, 1898, South Portland began receiving it’s drnking water from Sebago Lake like Portland.

Long Island

Incorporated in 1992 when they seceded from Portland. Like many of the other Casco Bay Islands, Native Americans inhabited the island during the warm months until settlers first arrived in the 1600′s. Colonel Ezekiel Cushing purchased the island in 1732 and is credited as the first westerner to settle and build a house on the island.

Frye Island

Incorporated in 1998 when they seceded from Standish. The island name was found first recorded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony proprietors achives in 1750. Named after Joseph Frye, who returned from the American Revolution to develop his land grant into the Town of Fryeburg.

Chebeague Island

Incorporated in 2007 when they seceded from Cumberland. The 2nd largest island in Casco Bay. According to island lore, the name “Chebeague” come from a Native American word meaning “Island of Many Springs”. The Abnaki meaning is “almost separated”, with Little Chebeague being accessible by foot from Great Chebeague at low tide. Originally settled around 1730 for farming.