Skowhegan, Maine

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Skowhegan, Maine
Town
Water Street in 1906
Water Street in 1906
Official seal of Skowhegan, Maine
Seal
Motto: A Place to Watch
Skowhegan, Maine is located in Maine
Skowhegan, Maine
Skowhegan, Maine
Location within the state of Maine
Coordinates: 44°45′53.31″N 69°43′6.20″W / 44.7648083°N 69.7183889°W / 44.7648083; -69.7183889
Country United States
State Maine
County Somerset
Settled 1773
Incorporated (town) February 5, 1823
Area[1]
 • Total 60.47 sq mi (156.62 km2)
 • Land 58.85 sq mi (152.42 km2)
 • Water 1.62 sq mi (4.20 km2)
Elevation 223 ft (68 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 8,589
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 8,552
 • Density 145.9/sq mi (56.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 04976
Area code(s) 207
FIPS code 23-68910
GNIS feature ID 0579029

Skowhegan /skˈhɡən/ is the county seat of Somerset County, Maine, United States.[4] As of the 2010 census, the town population was 8,589. Every August, Skowhegan hosts the annual Skowhegan State Fair, the oldest continuous state fair in the United States. Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture is an internationally known residency program for artists, though it is technically located in neighboring East Madison.

History[edit]

The Skowhegan Falls (which have since been replaced by the Weston Dam) descended 28 feet over a half mile on the Kennebec River. This was once territory of the Norridgewock tribe of Abenaki Indians, whose village was located in Madison until 1724, when it was sacked during Dummer's War. From spring until fall the tribe fished here, where abundant salmon and other species could be caught by wading. Consequently, they named the area Skowhegan, meaning "watching place [for fish]." [5]

The land was settled in 1773 as a part of Canaan. Colonel Benedict Arnold and his troops passed through the village in 1775 on their way to the ill-fated Battle of Quebec. It would be set off from Canaan and incorporated on February 5, 1823 under the name Milburn. The first officials of the town were as follows: Moderator, Joseph Patten; Town Clerk, Samuel Weston; Selectmen, Benjamin Eaton, Joseph Merrill, Samuel Weston, and Josiah Parlin.[6] However, inhabitants preferred the old name of Skowhegan, as it would be renamed in 1836. In 1861, the town annexed Bloomfield across the river. Skowhegan became county seat in 1871.[5]

Farms produced hay, potatoes, wheat and wool. In 1818, the Skowhegan Fair was organized, with the first fair held in 1819. The Somerset and Kennebec Railroad (later part of the Maine Central Railroad) reached the town in 1856. Skowhegan Falls provided water power for industry, and Skowhegan developed into a mill town. Numerous mills were built on Skowhegan Island, which separates the river into north and south channels. In the 19th-century, the town had a paper mill, sawmill, two sash and blind factories, two flour mills, a wood pulp mill, three planing mills, a woolen mill, an oil cloth factory, two axe factories, a scythe factory, two harness and saddlery factories, a shoe factory and a foundry.[7] In 1976, Scott Paper Company opened a plant in Skowhegan which later became S. D. Warren Company, a division of Scott Paper Company. In 1997, the S. D. Warren mill was sold to Sappi Fine Paper. The New Balance Athletic Shoe Company operates a factory in the community.[8]

Among the town's features is the Swinging Bridge, a suspension footbridge first constructed in 1883 to connect Skowhegan Island with the south side of the Kennebec River. Another landmark is the Beaux-Arts style Municipal Building and Opera House, designed by noted Portland architect John Calvin Stevens, and built in 1907-1909. On the north side of the municipal parking lot stands a 62-foot-tall (19 m) sculpture depicting an Abenaki Indian, carved by Bernard Langlais. In 2003, Skowhegan was a major filming location for an HBO movie based on the 2001 book, Empire Falls, by Richard Russo. Skowhegan is the home of the annual KNEADING Conference established in 2007 where topics including local wheat production, milling, baking and wood fired oven building are highlighted. Skowhegan is one of ten nationally-designated Main Street communities in Maine, utilizing a strategic four point approach to downtown revitalization, a program developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[8]

Geography[edit]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 60.47 square miles (156.62 km2), of which 58.85 square miles (152.42 km2) is land and 1.62 square miles (4.20 km2) is water.[1] Skowhegan is drained by the Wesserunsett Stream and Kennebec River. Loomis Hill, elevation 870 feet (265 meters) above sea level, is the highest point in town.

Demographics[edit]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 8,589 people, 3,765 households, and 2,258 families residing in the town. The population density was 145.9 inhabitants per square mile (56.3/km2). There were 4,234 housing units at an average density of 71.9 per square mile (27.8/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.9% White, 0.4% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.5% of the population.

There were 3,765 households of which 28.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.0% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.0% were non-families. 32.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.80.

The median age in the town was 42.2 years. 22.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24% were from 25 to 44; 28.2% were from 45 to 64; and 17.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 47.2% male and 52.8% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 8,824 people, 3,716 households, and 2,363 families residing in the town. The population density was 149.6 people per square mile (57.8/km²). There were 4,165 housing units at an average density of 70.6 per square mile (27.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.56% White, 0.25% Black or African American, 0.43% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.73% of the population.

There were 3,716 households out of which 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.3% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.4% were non-families. 29.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the town the population was spread out with 23.5% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 23.7% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $28,390, and the median income for a family was $35,880. Males had a median income of $27,982 versus $21,011 for females. The per capita income for the town was $15,543. About 13.0% of families and 16.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.0% of those under age 18 and 13.4% of those age 65 or over.

Government[edit]

Skowhegan has a council-manager form of government, with a Town Manager and Board of Selectmen. There are five selectmen, each serving three-year terms. Betty Austin is the current chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and Newell Graf is the current vice chairman. Paul York, Donald Lowe and Steven Spaulding serve as the other three selectmen. Graf and Lowe's terms expire in 2015, York and Austin's terms expire in 2016 and Spaulding's term expires in 2014.[10]

The Board of Selectmen holds a public meeting on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, which all citizens are welcome to attend.[10]

The Selectman manages the Town of Skowhegan with the help of a town manager, a position currently held by John Doucette.[11]

Skowhegan has a total of 13 departments:[12]

  • Town Manager's Office
  • Town Clerk and Treasurer's Office
  • Finance & Human Resources
  • Assessor's Office
  • Code Enforcement
  • Solid Waste & Recycling
  • Pollution Control
  • Town Planner
  • Economic & Community Development Office
  • Fire Department
  • Police Department
  • Highway Department
  • Parks & Recreation

Notable people[edit]

Swinging Bridge c. 1908

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°45′53.3154″N 69°43′6.20″W / 44.764809833°N 69.7183889°W / 44.764809833; -69.7183889