This is part of a timeline of significant events and important vessels of Maine maritime history. This first bit covers up through 1800. There are several more sections to come.


Maine Maritime Timeline

 ca. 10,000 BC – ca. 1500 AD: Native Americans became skilled at using Maine’s maritime resources.  They caught and ate many species of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans, as well as porpoises and whales.  They designed and built dugout canoes and bark canoes which were extremely well-adapted to local use, and were capable of lengthy coastal voyages.

1604-1605:A French expedition with Samuel de Champlain explored both the Penobscot and Kennebec Rivers and much of the coast, making the first real charts of parts of the Maine coast and wintering on St. Croix Island in the St. Croix River.

1605:  English captain George Weymouth explored part of the coast, and kidnapped five Natives.

1607-1608:A short-lived English colony was established by Plymouth Company at what is now Popham Beach, at the mouth of the Kennebec River. A shipwright named Digby built the pinnace Virginia there.  This 30-ton vessel was the first ocean-going vessel built by English colonists on the mainland of the New World, and the first European-style vessel built in Maine.

Circa 1650:Clark & Lake settlement on Arrowsic Island established a shipyard.

1669-1673:Woolwich-born William Phipps (later Sir William, the first native-born Royal Governor of Massachusetts) served his shipbuilding apprenticeship at the Clark & Lake shipyard on Arrowsic Island.

1676:A large ship nearly completed by William Phipps at his shipyard in Montsweag carried Sheepscot settlers to safety in Boston at the outbreak of King Philip’s War.

1695: H.M.S. Falkland (Fourth Rate, 2-decker) built at Kittery.

1775:Benedict Arnold’s army passed up the Kennebec River to attack the British at Quebec, buying a fleet of bateaux (220 of them) from boatbuilder Reuben Colburn at Pittston.

1777: John Paul Jones’s Ranger (a corvette) built at Kittery.

1779:The amphibious Penobscot Expedition, the largest of the Revolution, was assembled to attack the British fort at Castine, but failed.  All the Patriots’ vessels – about 39 – were sunk, captured, or destroyed by their crews to avoid capture. One of these wrecks – Defense – was investigated by archaeologists in the 1970s.

1800:First government shipyard set up at Kittery by the Navy, called Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Captain George Weymouth's vessel Archangel on the Maine coast in 1605

Each year at 12:45 on December 15th, we celebrate the anniversary of the launching of the six-mast schooner Wyoming, the largest and last of the six masters. She was launched in 1909, so this year was her 102nd birthday.  Last month more than a dozen MMM staff stood on the spot where she was built, in a steady cold rain, and hoisted glasses of various beverages (slowly being diluted by the rain) while reciting the names of the 13 men who went down with the schooner in 1924.

Seamen aboard the six-mast schooner Wyoming, some time before her loss in 1924.

The Percy & Small shipyard built Wyoming on their north ways, where this Museum has created a full-sized sculture of the bow and stern of this schooner, located on the spot where the original was built. The vessel’s register length was 329.5 feet, but her length from the tip of the jibboom to the taffrail (stern rail) was 426 feet, and this is what the sculpture shows. Percy & Small is the only intact shipyard in the country which built large wooden sailing vessels. It has been operated by this Museum as a historic site since 1971, and has been owned by the Museum since 1975. The shipyard built seven of the nine six-masters built on the east coast. We believe Wyoming to have been the largest wooden sailing vessel built in the U.S. For good descriptions of her launching, and her career and loss, read A Shipyard in Maine: Percy & Small and the Great Schooners by Ralph Linwood Snow and Captain Douglas K. Lee.

The men lost aboard Wyoming were as follows: Captain Charles Glaesel of Boston, First Mate Augustus Lundahl of Cambridge, Second Mate Orrin McIntyre of Boston, Engineer William Allen of St. John (NB), Cook J. Peterson of Boston, Seamen Edward Rollins of Cambridge, John Lopes of Boston, John Medina of Norfolk (VA), Frank Smith of Huntsville (MO), Jacob O. Gammon of Boston, Antonio Santos of Norfolk, E. Covineau of Boston, and Pedro Borrios of Boston. Note the many non-anglo names. Officers of American vessels were required to be American citizens, but many crew members were minorities, recent immigrants and foreigners or naturalized citizens.

It turns out the wheel of the bark Kaiulani, discussed in the last posting here, is now at the National Maritime Historical Society headquarters in Peekskill, New York. It was evidently removed from the vessel in Australia at the time it was converted to a barge, at the outbreak of World War II. It passed through the hands of a couple of private collectors before ending up where it is now. People associated with the NMHS were very hopeful at one time that the Kaiulani could be preserved, but that did not happen.