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Thomaston: The Town that Went to Sea

Thomaston is Incorporated - 1777

District of Maine map, 1795
District of Maine map, 1795Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

Local settlers cultivated potatoes and vegetable gardens, hunted game in nearby woods and lived on fish and clams from the river under the watchful eyes of armed guards along the river. After the war, about 175 remaining settlers left the fort and went back to their farms, and the garrison at the fort was discontinued by 1762. About this time, Mason Wheaton arrived from Providence, RI, settling in the vicinity of Mill River, where he started many industries, resuming the quarrying of lime and trading at Limestone Hill and the wharves at the river. Sloops were built, making regular trips to Boston to transport lime, staves and cordwood, returning with cargoes of flour, bolts of cloth and manufactured goods. Profitable trading necessitated the shipbuilding industry, which later was to become synonymous with the name of Thomaston, well known in all principal trading ports of the world.

By 1777, Thomaston had incorporated and included, until 1848, the towns of Rockland and South Thomaston. It is believed by many that the name of Thomaston was selected in honor of Major General John Thomas of Massachusetts, an officer who died the preceding June at Fort Chambly, Quebec, and who was an acquaintance of the town’s first clerk, Colonel Mason Wheaton.

Fales Edgarton House, Thomaston, ca. 1870
Fales Edgarton House, Thomaston, ca. 1870Item Contributed by
Thomaston Historical Society

The beginnings of a prosperous village center, referred to as Crick Village for many years, was located at Mill River with a meeting house on the hill above, a bridge across the river, a post office, a few traders and some unpainted houses scattered about, although the surrounding area was still heavily forested. Shipbuilding activity picked up on the river, and wharves were built for the transfer of goods to the trading vessels.

Thomaston’s population increased from 799 in 1790 to 1402 in 1800. Framed houses had replaced log cabins, the first framed house being built on High Street above Mill River.

Montpelier Home of General Henry Knox
Montpelier Home of General Henry KnoxItem Contributed by
Montpelier, The General Henry Knox Museum

With the arrival of General Knox and his numerous industrious activities, several mechanics, laborers, farmers and businessmen were attracted from throughout New England with hopes of employment.

An exception to the more modest construction along the river was that of Montpelier, a stately mansion built in 1793-94 at the former site of Fort Wharf for Major General Henry Knox. Knox, commander of the American artillery in the Revolution, Secretary of War from 1785 to 1794 and close friend of George Washington, left his duties and retired to Thomaston in 1795, arriving on a sloop via the St. George River along with his wife, Lucy, and their five children. At the time they took up residence in Montpelier, Knox was 45 years and his wife 39.

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