All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Saturday, December 27, 2008

How Some Towns Got Their Names

1. Milbridge
The name is thought to have been suggested by John Gardner of Boston, who built the first bridge across the Narraguagus River.
The spelling of Milbridge has been a subject of much discussion. Some say that two "ls" should be used because the name is a blending of the two words, "mill and bridge." They further assert that the early incorporators meant it to be such. The one "l" supporters affirm that their spelling should prevail for if the town's namers did not mean it to be such, they would not have used the spelling with one "l" in the Act of Incorporation. They affirm that a mistake could not have been made, there, for the word was spelled too many times.
2. Norway
Petitioners in 1795 requested that their proposed town be named "Norage." Charles F. Whitman, in his History of Norway, suggests two explanations for this suggestion: Either it was an alternate spelling of "Norwich," the name of an English city; or it was an alternate spelling of "Norridge," a Native American word for waterfalls. Whatever the petitioners' intentions, the General Court interpreted "Norage" as an alternate spelling of "Norge," the Norwegian name for Norway.

3. Dixfield
Legend has it that Dixfield was named for Dr. Elijah Dix as a quid pro quo.
The good doctor had promised to build a library for the town if the citizens voted to change its name from Holmantown to Dixfield. The citizens voted to do just that, but the library never materialized. Dr. Dix in the meantime had moved, and mailed the citizens dusty, old boxes of medical books - printed in German, no less with which to found a library. [Link]
The town would not have a proper library until 1935.

4. Presque Isle
Presqu'île is French for "peninsula." The town center was located on a peninsula formed by the Aroostook River and Presque Isle Stream.

5. Damariscotta
Said to derive from an Abenaki term for "place where alewives are plentiful."

6. Embden
Named for Emden in what is now Germany. Town clerk Benjamin Colby, Jr., is credited with changing the spelling by adding a "b" a year after the town was incorporated.

7. Mars Hill
Named for the town's prominent mountain, which was named for the Areopagus in Athens.

8. Stoneham
Stoneham was incorporated and named for the Massachusetts town in 1834. A proprietor named Ellis B. Usher succeeded in having the name changed to "Usher" in 1841. The townsfolk protested, and had the change reversed two years later.

9. Orland
First settler Joseph Gross is supposed to have found an oar on the shore of the river when he arrived in 1764. By the time of incorporation in 1800, "Oarland" had become "Orland."

10. Roque Bluffs
Nearby Roque Island (in Jonesport) is said to have been named for Saint Roch by Champlain.


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