All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Pownalborough Court House

Cumberland and Lincoln Counties celebrate their 250th anniversaries this month. Both were carved off from Maine's original county, York, on June 19, 1760. Cumberland lost land with the formation of Kennebec (1799), Oxford (1805) and Androscoggin (1854) Counties, but it was Lincoln that had most to lose. It originally embraced 60% of the land of Maine—from Casco Bay to that part of Nova Scotia now known as New Brunswick, and north to the limits of the province. Residents of all this area were obliged to take much of their county business to Pownalborough.

It was voted in 1761 to build a court house in Pownalborough, on the parade ground of Fort Shirley in that part of town now known as Dresden.

In 1765, a young attorney named John Adams made the trip from Boston to try a case in Pownalborough.
Perhaps a desire to see his classmates there, with two of whom, at least, he had corresponded since their college days, was an additional inducement for the journey. At that period intercourse was maintained almost wholly by boats, as no roads existed. It was not until the present century that rivers and other watercourses ceased to constitute the most feasible means of communication between Maine settlements. Mr. Adams, however, traveled on horseback, finding his way through the woods from Brunswick to Fort Richmond by the aid of blazed trees. His biographer relates that "Pownalborough was then at almost the remotest verge of civilization, and it was with the utmost difficulty that he was enabled to reach it." After encountering the obstructions of nearly impassable roads, through an inhospitable region, he succeeded in arriving at the place, and gained his case, which was of magnitude, much to the satisfaction of the client who employed him. The verdict promoted his interest and reputation. It induced the Plymouth company, Doctor Gardiner, and other land proprietors, to retain him in their actions, which were numerous, causing his annual attendance at the appellate court in Falmouth, during the next nine years. [Link]
The courts were moved to another part of town, now called Wiscasset, in 1794. A 1767 petition suggests one possible reason for the move:
The inhabitants of Muscongus and Medumcook Plantations, represent that the Courts are held in Frankfort [Dresden], now in the western part of the County, and that a great part of the people who attend there have to lodge on the floor, or in barns, or set up all night by the fire; and they ask that the Courts may be removed to near the centre of the County. [Link]
The courts moved, but Pownalborough Court House remained, and still stands on Route 128 in Dresden. A celebration of Lincoln County's anniversary will be held there on Saturday.


At 9:23 PM, June 15, 2010, Blogger Kathy said...

Thanks again for a nice post about I place where my ancestors lived but where I have never been.


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