Maine History & Heritage
A (Brief) Maine History Timeline
The history of Maine dates back thousands of years, stemming from the first native inhabitants to encompass people and traditions from Europe, Africa and Asia that have shaped Maine’s cultural heritage.
Original Inhabitants and Later Settlements
Maine’s native peoples—collectively known as the Wabanaki—first occupied this land 12,000 years ago. In the 1600s, the earliest French settlers, the Acadians, settled on Maine’s northern fringe. Soon after, the English arrived, leading to an ongoing territory dispute between France and England. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended all French claims to the territory.
Maine Becomes a Free State
Following the Revolutionary War, Maine earned its right to statehood. (Did you know: Maine was a part of Massachusetts until 1820?) Admitted to the Union as a free state under the Missouri Compromise, Maine had a strong anti-slavery tradition led by 19th-century Black Mainers, making the state a considerable contributor to the Civil War.
Experience Maine’s History, Today
Much of Maine’s heritage revolves around the ocean, and our maritime heritage is a story told in museum, historic homes, working waterfronts and even in our food. For details, check out Somewhere Beyond the Sea.
From museums showcasing fascinating artifacts dating back thousands of years, to guided and self-guided tours, there are ample opportunities to learn about Maine’s richly patterned past.
- History and heritage museums: Jump into Maine’s diverse past with a visit to these museums and sites, like The Maine State Museum in Augusta, the Maine Historical Society in Portland, and The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor.
- Maritime and transportation museums: Learn about Mainers on the move—plane, trains, boats and automobiles! Interested in Maine’s lifelong connection to the sea? The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath is a must-visit.
- Art museums: Art has a long and storied history in Maine. To experience many of these museums and galleries is to experience Maine’s past. Follow along the Maine Art Museum Trail.
Historical Sites in Maine
- Historic Forts: When you visit Maine’s historic forts and sites, you can walk down seaside battlements, explore creepy stone fortresses and even enjoy sunny afternoons on the island retreat of Maine’s most famous explorer.
- Historic Districts: Maine’s history can be seen not just in its people, but in the turn of its streets and the shape of its buildings. You can enjoy and explore the past in Maine’s many historic districts.
- Lighthouses: With over 60 historical lighthouses in Maine, there are countless stories, secrets and mysteries to unearth at these scenic beacons.
- Historic Homes: The history of European settlement in Maine can be experienced through a visit to one of the state’s countless historic homes.
Maine Walking Tours
Seeking a guided experience? Learn from local experts about Maine's history and culture by taking a guided walking tour. Experienced guides will lead you to the best sights and tastes you might not have discovered otherwise.