District of Maine
|District of Maine|
|Part of Massachusetts|
|-||Missouri Compromise: Statehood||March 4, 1820|
|Today part of||Maine|
The District of Maine was a legal designation for what is now the U.S. state of Maine from American independence until the Missouri Compromise on March 4, 1820, after which it gained its independence from Massachusetts and became the 23rd state in the Union.
Maine colonial history
Originally settled in 1607 by the Plymouth Company, the coastal area between the Merrimack and Kennebec rivers, as well as an irregular parcel of land between the headwaters of the two rivers, became the Province of Maine in a 1622 land patent. In 1629, the patent was split, creating an area between the Piscataqua River and the Merrimack River named the Province of New Hampshire. By 1658, the Massachusetts Bay Colony had assimilated the Province of Maine into its jurisdiction.
The northeastern portion of present-day Maine was first sparsely occupied by French colonists as part of Acadia. The lands between the Kennebec and Saint Croix rivers were granted to the Duke of York in 1664, who had them administered as Cornwall County, part of his proprietary Province of New York. In 1688 these lands (along with the rest of New York) were subsumed into the Dominion of New England. English and French claims in western Maine would be contested, at times violently, until the British conquest of New France in the French and Indian War.
With the creation of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1692, the entirety of what is now Maine became part of that province. Under Massachusetts’ administration, it was first administered as York County, which was subdivided by the creation in 1760 of Cumberland and Lincoln counties.
As divided by the Continental Congress in 1778, the District of Maine was the northernmost of three districts in Massachusetts, bounded on the west by the Piscataqua River and on the east by the Saint Croix River. By 1820, the time of its statehood, the territory had been further subdivided with the creation of Hancock, Kennebec, Oxford, Penobscot, Somerset, and Washington counties. During the War of 1812 the British conquered a large portion of Maine including everything from the Penobscot River east to the New Brunswick border. The weak response of Massachusetts to this occupation contributed to increased calls in the Maine district for statehood.
State of Maine
Maine became the 23rd state on March 15, 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise.