Southern Aroostook Towns

The "Academy Grants"

"As early as 1647 Massachuetts passed a law that towns of one hundred families must have a grammar school. Then came the time when the people felt the need of higher eduation, so academies were established.

"By 1796 there were eleven such academies, seven of them in the Province of Maine. In order to support these academies grants of land were made, most of them in Maine. At that time many of the unpopulated townships were known only by numbers. Whole and sometimes half townships were given to the academies, the sale of the land going to support them." Rideout, pp.1-2

Ludlow (Belfast Academy Grant)

"Ludlow was formerly the Belfast Academy Grant. ... This half-township (Ludlow) was granted by the General Court of Massachusetts to the trustees of Belfast Academy on February 29, 1808 [the day the Academy was incorporated]. The half-township was surveyed by Park Holland in 1809 and the conditions of the deed bound the trustees to 'lay out and convey to each settler on said tract before Jan. 1, 1784 one hundred acres of land to be laid out so as best to include his improvements and be least injurious to the adjoining lands.'" Chadbourne, p.178

"By legislative enactment, a half-township, of 6 miles square, from unappropriated lands in the then-county of Washington, was granted for the use of the [Belfast Academy] ... This tract, subsequently known as 'Belfast Academy Plantation,' is now the town of Ludlow, 7 miles west of Houlton. . . . Lots were sold to settlers, in 1826, at one dollar per acre; and, in 1840, for one dollar and a half per acre. Eleven years afterwards, the Honorable James White gave $2000 for the remainder." Williamson, p.329

Bridgewater (Bridgewater Academy Grant and Portland Academy Grant)

"It was on January 7, 1803, that half a township in Aroostook County was given to the Portland Academy, Portland, Maine, and on February 4 of the same year the other half of the township was given to Bridgewater Academy, Bridgewater, Massachusetts. These were known as the Bridewater Academy Grant and the Portland Academy Grant, Bridgewater being the northern half and Portland being the southern half.

"Since there was one Portland in the Province of Maine there could not be another town by the same name, so it was called Bridgewater for the Massachusets town. Portland Lake takes its name from the Land Grant in which it is located.

"When the township was surveyed it was marked off into lots, those in the Bridgewater Academy Grant containing 160 acres. There were 72 lots in this Grant--twelve lots wide, est and west; and six, north and south. The lots in the Portland Academy Grant contain 120 acres, therefore there are many more lots somewhat smaller.

"The exact center of the town today is on the south line of the property now owned by Harvey A. Tompkins and at a point where the northeast corner of land owned by Harry Simonson and the northwest corner of land owned by Charles Simonson meet said Harvey A. Tompkins' land. A cedar post at this point, placed by surveyor Carpenter, is still standing, but the center may also be located by measuring 400 feet South from the center of Whitney Stream Bridge to a point where the center of Bootfoot Road intersects the Maine Road, then measuring east 512 feet to the center of the town. ...

"The first man to come here with the intention of making a home was Nathaniel Bradstreet of Palermo, Maine, who came in 1827. Having heard of the vast uncut forests in this part of the state, he, with his two sons John and Joseph, came searching for a mill site. .... On the Presquile (called today Prestile) [stream] ... he found his ideal mill site where another stream, then unnamed (Whitney) joined it, a swift-flowing stream between two hills with a narrow channel below. ... He then returned to Palermo, got a legal claim of the property and after settling up his business there returned with his family in the winter of 1829." Rideout, pp.2-3

"These first settlers traveled up the Penobscot, Mattawamkeag and Baskahegan rivers, crossing the old trail to the St. John which they ascended to the Presque Isle Stream, up which they made their way to its junction with Whitney Brook, where they built their dam and saw mill. ...

"Joseph Ketchum and James Thorncraft came from New Brunswick that year and took land west of the mill lots and began clearing farms. It is claimed that Mr. Ketchum cut the first tree on the land for farming purposes, although the Bradstreets afterward cleared a large farm near the mill. ... In the year 1835 Mr. Joshua B. Fulton came from New Brunswick and in 1840 bought a lot south of what is now Bridgewater Corner on the road now running from Houlton to Presque Isle. At the time he settled on his lot there was no road anywhere in the town and his nearest neighbor was in Presque Isle, twenty miles away. The road from Houlton was cut through soon afterward, and the settlers paid for their lands at $1.50 per acre in labor on the road.

"A few years after Mr. Fulton started his clearing, Jonathan Loudon, John Burns, and Thomas Kennedy came from New Brunswick and settled along the road in the Portland grant, now the south part of the town. In 1840 Mr. Joseph Ketchum bought 320 acres of land north of waht is now Bridgewater Corner, cleared the land, erected a frame house and began hotel-keeping. James Thorncraft left his place and went north in the wilderness some ten or twelve miles on the line of the Presque Isle road, where he took up a lot in the town of Westfield. In 1842 Mr. Samuel Kidder came from Kennebec County and took the lot next to the Thorncraft lot, the third lot west of the mill. Here he cleared a fine farm. Mr. Cyrus Chandler came from Winthrop in 1844 and bought the Thorncroft lot on wich he made an extensive farm and built comfortable buildings. Soon after Mr. Chandler, Mr. David Foster, also from Kennebec County, came in and developed one of the best farms in Town. In 1841 Messrs. Harvey and Trask bought the Bradstreet mill and about the same time Mr. Wm. Hooper and Mr. A.T. Moores started trading there. Mr. Moores stayed a short time and then moved to Ashland [T.11, R.5]. Mr. Charles Kidder, who was for many years one of the prominant citizens of Bridgewater, came from the town of Albion in 1845 and worked one year for Mr. Cyrus Chandler." Chadbourne, pp.176-177.

Houlton (formerly New Salem Academy Grant; also includes the southern half of what was the Williams College Grant)

"The first settlers of Houlton were two families named Houlton and Putnam, who removed thither about 1805 from Salem, Massachusetts. The town was incorporated in 1831.... In 1799 a resolve had been enacted by the Legislature of Massachusetts granting to New Salem Academy one half-township of land in some of the unappropriated lands in the District of Maine. This tract is the southern half of the present town of Houlton. Soon after the passage of this act, a company of thirteen men purchased the land from the trustees of the academy and began to take measures to have it lotted for settlement. on June 1, 1810, these proprietors voted that Joseph Houlton be agent to survey the half-township into square lots of 160 acres each, reserving two lots for public use. [Of the thirteen proprietors,]... only three became actual settlers of the grant: Joseph Houlton . . . for whom the town was afterward named, Aaron Putnam, and Joseph Putnam.

"The first to make actual settlement upon the tract was Aaron Putnam, son of Lydia Trask Putnam, who came with his mother and family in 1805. ... Mr. Joseph Houlton and his family came in the spring of 1807. ... In 1809 came John Putnam and in the same year Aaron Putnam returned and the following year built the first mill on Meduxnekeag Stream. ... Dr. Rice and his family came in 1811 and Mr. Wormwood and his family followed in 1812. In 1814 came Deacon Samuel Kendall and his family and with them Deacon Townsend. . . .

"After the War of 1812, many new settlers came from the provinces. ... The settlement was organized as a plantation in 1826. In addition to the New Salem grant, the town of Houlton includes the grant to Williams College given in 1815; this part of the town was known for along time as Foxcroft...." Chadbourne, pp.389-390

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Last revised 3 Feb 2002
© 2003 C.Gagnon