Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site

Location: New Harbor, Maine

Webpage: Maine State Park

General Description: In the early 1600s the Gulf of Maine was used by English fishermen to harvest Cod and temporary fishing stations were established each year to dry and salt the catch before transport back to England.  The first permanent settlement was between 1625 and 1628, Pemaquid was the closest English settlement to the French in Acadia and thus was the most northeastern English settlement.  With an economy based on fishing, fur trade with the Wabanak and Etchemen Native Americans, timber, and agriculture, Pemaquid prospered and grew quickly.  However, the French also claimed this peninsula and had the support of the local Native Americans.  In 1664 the area was granted to James, Duke of York and was made part of the Province of New York.  At this time the village consisted of around 30 houses.  This grew to 40 houses by 1673 when it came under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  However, during King Phillip’s War, the French saw their opportunity to remove the settlement from the disputed land and the community was abandoned in 1676.  After the war, New York reasserted control and it was folded into the Dominion of New England in 1688.  To protect this settlement, Dominion Governor, Edmund Andros built a wooden fort, Fort Charles.  However, it was once again sacked during King William’s War in 1689 by the French and Indians.  When the Dominion of New England collapsed in 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony reasserted control and built the first stone fort, Fort William Henry.  This fort was a massive fort, but it was constructed with only a single bastion and did not include a water source or a large rocky outcropping that protected attacking Indians.  In 1696 the French and Indians once again threatened the fort which was more of a trap then a defensive position and was abandoned by the English.  Fort William Henry was dismantled by the French and Pemaquid was not resettled until 1729.  A third fort was built partially over the ruins of Fort William Henry and was named Fort Frederick.  This new fort included both the water source and the rocky outcropping within the structure.  When New France fell in 1759 during the French and Indian Wars, the threat from France greatly diminished and Fort Frederick was essentially abandoned.  During the Revolutionary War this abandoned fort was demolished by the local authorities to keep it out of the hands of the British.  Today the site consists of the results of archeological digs in the 1920s and again in the 1960s resulting in a large number of artifacts that are highlighted in the museum.  The located foundations of homes, warehouses, and shops are roped off for viewing.  Early archeological investigations located the foundation of Fort William Henry were found and the circular bastion was reconstructed in 1903.



1) While the museum in the Visitor Center is small, it is very well done with dioramas  of the different historical periods provide a picture of what life was like along with a sample of the artifacts found on the site.  I especially liked the room devoted to methods used to identify the artifacts using old paintings from the time period.  By matching the every day items included in the paintings to the pieces of pottery, glass, or metal you can understand one method used to identify them.


2) In front of the Visitor Center they have left the foundations of the houses, warehouses, and shops they have found so far along with an interpretive panel of their best educated guess of its use.


3) They have reconstructed a wattle and daub house on the property with parts of the interior wall exposed so you can see how it was constructed.  There are also park staff dressed in period clothing to provide verbal description of the building process, daily life for the colonists, and answer any historical question you have.  I learned a lot from them since they were more than happy to review the complete history of the site.


4) The remains of Fort William Henry and the reconstructed bastion was very interesting.  They have located the foundations of what they believe were the officer quarters within the fort.  The reconstructed bastion encompasses the rocky outcrop that was a problem for the previous fort.  It was strange to walk into the bastion only to find the entire first floor extending up 20-30 feet is this huge boulder.  On the second floor they have a number of exhibits giving the history of the forts at the site.

BastionOfFort RockInBastion

5) You can also access the roof of the bastion which gives some great views of the bay.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s