Waterville, Maine

Events in Waterville History

Evidence of prehistoric man does not exist in Waterville.  In fact, following the Indian wars of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, there is little evidence of any human life in Waterville.  Then in 1754, the first permanent white settlement of the area was established. It centered around General John Winslow’s Fort Halifax, where the Sebasticook joins the Kennebec below the Ticonic Falls.  11 families settled in the area, but as word spread that the area under the protection of the Fort was safe from attack, other settlers came.  The wilderness was rugged and the winters long and cold, but the bounty and power of the rivers of the area proved to draw those of sturdy stock.

Within ten years there were one hundred settlers on both sides of the Kennebec.  The East Side, the first side, became known as Winslow in Honor of the General, and the West Side, Ticonic for the Falls.  In 1771, Massachusetts incorporated both sides of the area as Winslow, and by the late 1790’s more people were living on the west side than the east, due to the superior mill sites along the Messalonskee Stream.  Without a bridge across the Kennebec, it made sense to incorporate the West Side as a separate municipality, and in 1802 Waterville became a town.

Over the next 86 years the Town of Waterville grew and prospered.  The first dam was built, by Dr. McKechnie on the Messalonskee, for operating a mill for grinding grain and a saw mill. There were numerous mills on the Messalonskee and following the building of the first dam on the Kennebec in 1792, from Ticonic Falls to Rock Island, Waterville was well suited for industry.  Fishing was an important source of revenues for the town, with salmon, shad and alewives shipped primarily to markets in Boston.  The Ticonic Falls made Waterville the northern most terminal on the Kennebec for receiving cargo as well as shipping lumber, goods, and foods south.  Even ship building, which started in 1794, flourished in the town for a time.  The Ship Yards of John Clark (at foot of Sherwin Street), Nathaniel Gilman, Asa Redington, and W. & D. Moor (built steamboats) – larger ships were launched during spring or fall freshets and floated down river to Hallowell of Gardiner.

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