Damariscotta History: How to Begin Researching Damariscotta History

Damariscotta History: How to Begin Researching Damariscotta History

This view, circa 1908, shows buildings on what is now Elm Street Plaza, Damariscotta.  (Postcard from the Calvin Dodge Collection)

This view, circa 1908, shows buildings on what is now Elm Street Plaza, Damariscotta. (Postcard from the Calvin Dodge Collection)

When you start researching the history of the town of Damariscotta, things can get a bit complicated. The problem is that Damariscotta didn’t become a town until 1848. In previous years, the area that now makes up Damariscotta was part of Nobleboro and Bristol.

Therefore, when exploring Damariscotta, one must look back to Nobleboro and Bristol and the land area that eventually became the town of Damariscotta.

Some of the old maps, such as the 1857 Lincoln County map, clearly outline the boundaries and locality boundaries of Damariscotta and even give the names of the people who own the land.

Ephraim Rollins’ 1813 map is a great map of the Nobleboro area. The lots are stripped out in length and breadth, and the number of acres and their owners were recorded when Damariscotta was still part of the town of Nobleboro. The 1813 map does not show the area that was part of Bristol and is now part of Damariscotta.

I have a copy of the 1813 map on which the late Nobleboro historian George Dow drew Nobleboro’s southern boundary as it was in 1847. This section is now part of the town of Damariscotta. It also shows the size of each property and the person who owned the land in 1813 and the ponds and lakes.

In the book History of Bristol, Bremen, and Pemaquid by John Johnston there is a map showing the city limits of Bristol as they were in 1794 and the city limits of Damariscotta as assumed in 1848.

The map of Bristol also shows some of the surnames living there in 1751. Johnston’s book contains much written history of the area and the names and photographs of important men.

Another important source is the records of David Dennis, Justice of the Peace of Nobleborough, Lincoln County, June 28, 1796 to June 1, 1820; a period of almost a quarter of a century. The book in which Squire Dennis recorded the marriages he performed also contains many records of cases tried before him. I have a copy of this in my collection.

Now, for the benefit of all, the Damariscotta Historical Society has undertaken a very large project to restore all 31 cemeteries in the town of Damariscotta to good condition.

The Society hired Patti Whitten for the project. With the help of other members and people, she has recorded the names of all people who are buried in all 31 cemeteries. This is a huge, time-consuming job that requires thousands of hours of work from their entire team.

She also worked with other members to fix broken stones and she has had many of the marble stones cleaned so that almost all of the writing on each stone is clearly legible. She put flagsticks on all veterans’ graves in all our cemeteries. She also completed a list of the names of all veterans and the war they served in. This will truly be a great resource of information and history for the Damariscotta Historical Society.

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For those interested in learning more about the history of dockyards and shipbuilding in the Damariscotta area, the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport has a copy of Robert B. Applebee’s book. It lists ships built at Nobleboro, Newcastle, Damariscotta and Bristol and it includes a list of ships registered by Lowell Sidelinger, the customs officer here at Damariscotta. The Skidompha Public Library has a copy of this book.

Over the years, the Maine Maritime Museum has taught me a great deal about the history of ships built in Damariscotta. The people in the museum are always ready to help you.

I also found the book Greyhounds of the Sea, which is a history of the American clipper ship, written by Carl C. Cutler, which contains a lot of information about the Twin Villages clipper ships and even shows some color photos of various clipper ships, taken from Oil paintings around the world.

The book The Sailing Ships of New England 1607 to 1907, written by John Robinson and George Francis Dow, is also a great resource for information on early New England shipbuilding.

Another great book I like is called No Pluckier Set of Men Anywhere, written by the late Waldoboro historian and my longtime friend Mark Biscoe. This book gives a great overview of the history of shipbuilding in the Twin Villages, listing the names of many shipbuilders and details about locally built ships, including their size and tonnage, where they were built, who owned them and how long they were on the ship held open seas.

I also find that I go to the Old Bristol and Nobleboro Vital Records, Volumes 1 and 2, often. Volume 1 documents births and deaths and which cemeteries people are buried in. These records were carefully compiled into two books by Christine Huston Dodge and published under the authority of the Maine Historical Society in 1951. These two books can be of great help to anyone researching their ancestors, their occupation, and the place where they lived are buried in our area.

You can also look at the city registers that are published each year in Maine. I have one from Damariscotta, Newcastle, Bristol, Bremen and Muscongus Island, 1906. It lists prominent Damariscotta shipwrights, churches of the area and their pastors, early Damariscotta settlers and soldiers of the 1861-1865 Civil War.

It also lists Damariscotta’s chosen ones and assessors and professional men such as lawyers and doctors from 1848 to 1906. It gives the population in 1906 as 741.

Another great book is what is called the Maine Register, which lists every town in Lincoln County, including Damariscotta and all of its businesses and town officials. This is just a little information on how to start researching the history of Damariscotta.

Please enjoy your home. Always check on your neighbors and be friendly to everyone.

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