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Machias Town

Washington County, Maine

Machias Town Hall is located at 7 Court Street, Machias, ME 04654.
Phone: 207‑255‑6621.

Machias as described in 1937 [1]

Machias, seat of Washington County, lies along the Machias River; the town formerly included what is now the town of Machiasport. The gristmill in the center of the bridge across the river looks down on the narrow gorge through which the waters tumble and roar ceaselessly. From the bridge are seen the buildings of the Washington State Normal School on a high hill overlooking the town.

After the destruction of the Plymouth Colony trading post at Pentagoet by the French, the English in 1633 here established another post under command of Richard Vines, in a spot much closer to the French headquarters; La Tour, French Governor of Acadia, wiped it out almost at once. In 1675 Rhodes, the pirate, used the site as a base for repairs and supplies; a few decades later another pirate, Samuel Bellamy, came here for the same purpose, and, liking the place and deciding that it offered him security, determined to establish a permanent stronghold. Piracy was rampant along the Atlantic seaboard at this time, partly because of English and Spanish trade restrictions, designed to force colonists to buy from the mother country alone; this created a good market for stolen goods in the Colonies. Privateering provided good training for piracy, as Cotton Mather warned in 1704 in one of his 'hanging sermons,' and many men who started out to prey on shipping for their governments soon decided to keep the booty for themselves. Bellamy, from all reports, developed a Robin Hood philosophy on the matter; when he had captured a ship he would harangue its crew, invite them to join him, arguing that the men had as much right to rob as had the shipowners, who were merely powerful bandits who had laws made to protect their operations.

When Bellamy determined to settle on the site of the present Machias, he erected breastworks and a crude fort before leaving for another expedition with three objectives recruits, loot, and women. He had left the mouth of the river and was plundering along the Nova Scotian banks when, by mistake, he attacked a French naval vessel. His vessel, the Whidaw, was almost captured before he managed to escape. Sailing south, he had further bad luck; he captured a New Bedford whaler, whose captain pretended to join him and agreed to act as a navigator through the dangerous reefs and shoals. The whaling captain did his part for a time and then deliberately ran his ship aground on a sand bar near Eastham, Massachusetts. The pirate ship, following the lead of the whaler, went on the rocks, and Bellamy and most of his crew drowned.

In 1763 the first permanent English colony was established by settlers from Scarboro near Portland.

The Machias River has played an important part in the town's development as a commercial lumber and shipbuilding center. One of the few remaining 'long lumber' log drives in Maine takes place on the Machias River each spring. Logs are hauled over the snow to the landings, and when the ice goes out of the river they are shoved into the fast-moving water, which hurtles them downstream. When one of the numerous jams occurs, a daring river driver walks out on it to pry loose the key log; if this does not succeed the jam is blasted.

  1. Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, State of Maine Development Commission, Maine: A Guide 'Down East,' 1937, American Guide Series, Riverside Press, Cambridge MA; Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston

Nearby Towns: Machiasport Town • Whitneyville Town •