The first inhabitants of the land now called Maine probably arrived around 12,000 years ago. Over the course of this land’s history, Native American tribes such as the Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot lived on the land.
Viking explorer Leif Ericsson and his crew possibly sailed to the area in the year 1000. About 600 years later British and French colonists established some of Maine’s first permanent European settlements. In 1652 southwestern Maine became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
In defiance of Britain’s high taxes, Maine’s residents burned a shipment of British tea in 1774, one year after the Boston Tea Party. In response, British forces shelled and burned Falmouth, Maine. After the Revolutionary War started in 1775, Maine’s residents participated in the first naval battle of the war.
When the American Revolution was over, Maine joined the United States as part of Massachusetts. But many Maine settlers wanted to have their own state. In 1820 Maine separated from Massachusetts, becoming the 23rd state in the union. This was done as part of the Missouri Compromise, a deal that admitted Missouri as a state as well.
Several Native American tribes still exist in Maine, including descendants of the original Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Penobscot tribes.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
Some historians think Maine’s name came from the nautical term “mainland” or “the main,” which the colony’s founders may have used to differentiate Maine from the islands off its coast. Or it might have been named after an English village of the same name.
Maine was given the nickname the Pine Tree State in honor of its many white pine trees, which are the biggest eastern conifers (or evergreen trees that bear cones) in the United States.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
The biggest state in New England, Maine is bordered by Canada in the north and east, the Atlantic Ocean in the south, and New Hampshire in the west. The land can be divided into three geographic areas.
The Coastal Lowlands start at the Atlantic coastline and stretch inland between 10 and 40 miles. This region has sandy beaches, salt marshes, bays, inlets, and thousands of coastal islands, the largest of which is Mount Desert Island. The islands started out as mountains, but the rising sea level during the last Ice Age put them underwater! A set of islands in northern Maine are now home to Acadia National Park.
The Eastern New England Uplands are northwest of the Coastal Lowlands, a region with fertile soil, lakes, streams, and the Longfellow Mountains.
The White Mountains are in the northwest of the state and include Maine’s highest point, Mount Katahdin, as well as Baxter State Park.
The moose (the state animal), black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, and Canada lynx can be found in Maine. Bald and golden eagles, ospreys, great gray owls, and roseate terns are a few of the state’s many birds. Maine’s reptiles include northern redbelly snakes, smooth green snakes, and eastern garter snakes. And amphibians such as eastern painted turtles, eastern red-backed salamanders, and bullfrogs live here.
Maine is filled with black oaks, sugar maples, black walnuts, and American elms, in addition to its white pine trees. Wildflowers such as mountain wood sorrel, Canada violet, Queen Anne’s lace, and calypso orchid grow in Maine. But the state flower isn’t a flower at all—it’s a pinecone!
About 90 percent of Maine is covered in forests, so it’s no wonder that trees are among Maine’s most important natural resources. Some trees are used for their wood and others for their maple syrup.
The state also mines semi-precious stones including some of the world’s best tourmaline crystals. Maine produces a lot of gravel and limestone as well.
—Author Stephen King was born in Maine, and his hometown of Bangor was the model for many of the towns in his scary stories. Other famous Mainers include author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.
—Maine lobster is one of the state’s most famous foods. The state also serves up fiddleheads, which are the furled fronds of ferns and are eaten like any other vegetable.
—Because of its rocky coastline, Maine is famous for lighthouses—it has more than 60 of them. The oldest lighthouse in Maine is the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth.