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BRIEF HISTORY OF NEWPORT


In 1792 Ephriam Ballard and Samuel Weston surveyed 23,000 acres of what is now called Newport. At the time of the survey the area was part of Lincoln County and called East Pond Plantation. In 1795, John Hubbard of Readfield purchased what later became the entire township. In 1800 the township was sold to David Greene of Boston for $5,635. The deed which changed the ownership from Hubbard to Greene also set up funds for a church and a school. Four lots, 230 acres each, were to be reserved as follows:
"...one lot for the first settled minister, his heirs and assigns; one lot for the use of the ministry; one lot for the use of schools; and one lot for future disposition of the General Court."

Before its settlement, the township was a great hunting and fishing area. Prior to 1800, trappers supposedly spent a great deal of their season in the area. The first settler, John Houstin, came from Fairfield, Maine in 1800. He built a log cabin on Birch Point. Later he built a camp for trapping near the junction of Martin Stream and the East Branch of the Sebasticook River. Although he died in the neighboring town of Palmyra in 1817, he was buried near his camp on Martin Stream.

In the summer of 1804 Deacon John Ireland, his wife, Sarah, son Daniel, his brother Joseph, came from Bloomfield (now known as Skowhegan). They settled on what is now known as the Clark's Hill Road (Russell Road) in North Newport. They were the first permanent settlers of the Town. Elam Pratt and Nathaniel Burrill followed some time later.

By 1808, as others arrived they settled in the Mill District (the village). The village, located at the outlet of Great East Pond (Lake Sebasticook), was settled by Esquire Benjamin Shaw and Iphidiah Ring. Ring cleared the highest elevation in the town (a hill outside the village known as Libby Hill.). Squire Shaw purchased all the land between the pond (Lake Sebasticook) and the present Main Street, and from the river (the East Branch of the Sebasticook River) to the present West Street. Squire Shaw built the first frame house, a part of the double tenement which may be seen today at the head of Shaw Street, on North Street. Today it is used as a warehouse.

During the early settlement of the area there was much concern over the native Indians. The Indians came from the Penobscot River up Kenduskeag Stream, then carried across to Stetson Pond, proceeded down Stetson Stream to Great East Pond (Lake Sebasticook) to the East Branch of the Sebasticook River, and finally reached the Kennebec River. This water system was the Indian highway between the two great rivers. Because of their Indian portage on Great East Pond near its outlet, the spot became known as New Port (Newport). The settlers concem over the Indians was unfounded, as their only motive for being in the area was for fishing and trapping purposes.

By 1810 there were sixty-two inhabitants in East Pond Township; in 1812,100 inhabitants. It was not until 1813 that forty-two voters signed a petition to incorporate the town. At the time the bounds of the town lay partly in Somerset County and partly in Hancock County. The town of Newport was officially incorporated in June of 1814.

In 1810 the first settled ministers came to Newport: the Rev. John Whitney, a Methodist minister, and the Rev. John York, a Free Baptist minister. The first church was built in 1837 by the High Street Union Meeting House Society. The few owners represented the Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalist and Universalist Societies. Each denomination was represented at the pulpit one Sunday per month. The Union Church was remodeled and rebuilt in 1902. In 1960 the name Union was changed to Congregational.

In North Newport, the Baptist Church held their first services in the school house in 1817. A Calvinist Baptist minister, Rev. Robert Coburn came to North Newport in 1824. His first services were also held in the North Newport school house, later known as the Coburn School.

In 1840 the Christian denomination began services in North Newport. They held their services in a different school house. The Hubbard School named for John Hubbard. In 1857 a church was built the west side for the Baptists and the east side for the Christian denomination. This church is still standing in North Newport today and is open for services four times a year, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The church is managed by the North Newport Church Association. Several other churches have been built since the 1800's and many are still in use today.

The first post office in Newport was established in 1817. There were three masters: one in the village, one in North Newport, and one in East Newport. After 1902 there was no longer a Postmaster in North Newport. They receive their mail by a Rural Free Delivery from Corinna. In 1960 the village Post Office was moved from the old bank block to its new location on Main Street.

By 1830 the town's center of activity was still located near the present middle bridge. A tannery, a grist and saw mill, a carding mill, a wagon maker, a village smith, and a potash plant accounted for being the center of town.

In 1838, Mark Fisher from Levant and Joseph Southwich built the largest tannery in the state on the east side of the river below the present bridge (Main Street Bridge). During his ten year stay in Newport, Mr. Fisher built a foundry on the little island just below the present lower bridge. He found it difficult to obtain the raw material needed for the foundry so he moved away. The foundry stayed in operation until 1868 when it burnt down.

Although the town was making steady progress it was not booming. By 1840 there were 160 dwellings within the town, forty-eight of which were in the village. The 1840 census stated that the population of Newport was 1,138. Around this time several businesses and industries began. Thomas Dexter began manufacturing carriages, sleighs and pumps. A shingle mill also started up in 1840.

In 1857 a mill was established which made boxes to export to foreign countries for the transportation of fruits. During the Civil War, however, so many vessels carrying their cargo were captured by the Confederates that the mill failed. Twenty years later the mill was destroyed by fire.

During the 1800's destruction by fire no doubt hurt businesses more than anything else at this time. In 1847 the tannery of Fisher & Southwick, destroyed by fire, was not rebuilt. In 1862 Prott's tavern and stables burnt. In 1866 the Masonic Hall, three stores, and two homes burnt. In 1868 the residence of W.A. Frye and the D. Dudley & Company Shoe Factory were destroyed by fire. Although fires seemed to be a major problem in town nothing was done about fire protection until 1886. In 1886 the Newport Fire Department was organized, at which time a hand tub and hose carriage was purchased. Since then the Fire Department has progressed steadily.

By 1873 the village had an auctioneer and two carriage makers. By 1874 there was a livery stable and the Newport Cheese Manufacturing Association was established. In 1889 the Sebasticook Ice Company was formed.

During the 1880's, East Newport had two general stores, two blacksmiths, two dressmakers, a wool puller, and the railroad buildings. Union Hall (later the Grange Hall), a community hall, was used for years as the setting of the religious services provided by the village's Methodist Church Society on Sunday afternoons. Eastville Grange was organized in 1904 and still meets in the old Union Hall. A grange was also organized in North Newport and it flourished for many years.

History has shown that the Lake has been the center of activity, especially during the summer months, since the town was first settled. Since the late 1800's, however, the lake was looked on with a different light. The residents began to enjoy the lake, not only as a source of power and food, but as a source of recreation. Many of the inhabitants owned and enjoyed canoes and rowboats, and in the early 1880's there was quite a sailboat fleet.

1891 marked the real beginning of industrial development for Newport. The woolen mill was built that year. The Aroostook Condensed Milk Company, which later became the Maine Condensed Company in 1894, and Borden's Condensed Milk Company in 1902, was built in 1891. The milk company announced that upon completion of the factory, the area would need 4,000 cows to supply their plant with the milk it would need.

On the shore of the lower cove of Lake Sebasticook, in 1892, the Cooper Brothers, built a large veneer mill which employed from fifty to sixty men. In 1893 a branch of the Portland Packing Company came to town. Today, Cooper Brothers is known as Banton Brothers, who established themselves in 1926 as manufactures of wool products.

The Newport Water Company was formed in 1895. Nokomis Pond, located partly in Newport and partly in the town of Palmyra, is the source of Newport's supply of public water.

Around the turn of the century there were at least five dairies in Newport. The Turner Center System, a creamery, operated from 1921-1928. Whiting's Dairy was open from 1929-1946. Herbert Turner and Edward Rowe started their dairies in 1938. H.P. Hood and Sons established themselves in 1946 and the Newport plant was soon the largest Hood plant in New England. They renovated and expanded the building formerly used by Borden's Condensed Milk Company.

In 1922 the Newport Bottling Company started manufacturing carbonated beverages. In 1934 the Daniel E. Cummings Company, Inc. (the woolen mill) located in Newport. In 1949 the mill employed about ninety workers. As of 1964 they employed only a few workers. The mill shut down in 1964, but maintained a mill outlet for the Guilford Mill for almost 10 years.

In 1949 the woolen mill, Banton Brothers, the milk factory, the bottling works and the canning factory (Portland Packing) were the active industries in Newport. Banton Brothers and the milk factory are the only ones left today.

In 1958 the Recreation Center was built on West Street. There had been an ice skating rink there since 1952. In 1959 the Town Hall was torn down and a Municipal Building was erected to house the Fire Department, the Selectmen's Office, and the Police Department. Shortly afterwards a town garage was also erected there on Water Street where the old Town Hall once stood. The town has since, in 1994, built a new municipal building adjacent to the one built in the late 1950's.

In 1992 the Recreation Program had out-grown the West Street facilities and moved to the old Armory.
The old Recreation Center now houses the Newport VFW Memorial Post #11191. .

 

 
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