Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Castine is a town in Hancock County, Maine, United States. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total year-round population of 1,343.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,343 people, 372 households, and 222 families residing in the town. The population density was 66.5/km² (172.2/mi²). There were 649 housing units at an average density of 32.1/km² (83.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the town was 97.10% White, 0.67% African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.74% Asian, 0.22% from other races, and 0.67% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.60% of the population.
There were 372 households out of which 18.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.2% were married couples living together, 7.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.3% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.69.
In the town the population was spread out with 10.3% under the age of 18, 41.9% from 18 to 24, 15.0% from 25 to 44, 18.4% from 45 to 64, and 14.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 186.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 196.8 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $46,250, and the median income for a family was $65,500. Males had a median income of $36,250 versus $30,893 for females. The per capita income for the town was $20,078. About 3.2% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 4.7% of those age 65 or over.
Castine is one of the oldest towns in New England, predating the Plymouth Colony by seven years. Few places in New England can boast a more tumultuous or varied history than Castine -- which proclaims itself the "battle line of four nations."
Its commanding position at the mouth of the Penobscot River, a rich source of furs and timber and a major transportation route into the interior, made the peninsula now occupied by the town of Castine of particular interest to European powers in the seventeenth century. The area changed hands numerous times with the shifting tides of imperial politics. At one time or another, it was occupied by the French, Dutch, and England's Plymouth Colony.
The Castine peninsula appears on a 1612 chart submitted to King Henry IV of France by Samuel de Champlain, who called it the Pentagoët (sometimes spelled Pentagöet) Peninsula. As part of Henry's program to defend Acadia, Castine was founded in the winter of 1613, when Sieur Claude de Turgis de la Tour established a small trading post to among the Tarrantine Indians. John Smith charted it in 1614. At some point, some sort of crude defences were erected, and it was called "Fort Penagoët". Castine soon became a force in colonial trade and diplomacy.
Pentagoët was attacked and briefly held by the Dutch in 1674 and 1676, turning the fort's cannon on its own walls and destroying most of it after the second siege. Castin himself retook it in 1676 and renamed the town "Bagaduce".In 1692, the village was again seized by the English, who destroyed the fort and looted the settlement. With the return of Castine and his sons to France, the settlement became sparsely occupied, and peaceful, until the eve of the American Revolution.
At the end of the French and Indian War, which secured English title to North America, the unoccupied lands along the Maine coast were opened to settlement by Massachusetts colonists. By the late 1760s, farmers, artisans, and small traders were beginning to take title to properties in and around "Major Baggadoose." Though the fur trade was long dead, the region's abundant fisheries and timber attracted not only entrepreneurs, but also the attention of the British government, which was always on the lookout for store to supply its growing navy. Bagaduce was especially valuable for timber, which was suitable for masts on British warships.
In early July of 1779, nearly three years after the Americans had declared independence from Britain, a naval and military force under the command of General Francis McLean, sailed into the settlement's commodious harbor, landed troops, and took control of the village. They began erecting Fort George on one of the highest points of the peninsula. Alarmed by this incursion, the Massachusetts legislature dispatched an expedition -- consisting of a fleet of 19 armed vessels and 24 transports, carrying 344 guns, under Dudley Saltonstall, and a land force of about 1,200 men, under Gen. Samuel Lovell, seconded by Gen. Peleg Wadsworth; Col. Paul Revere having charge of the ordnance.
Though badly outnumbered, the British soldiers of the 74th Regiment of Foot (Argyle Highlanders), managed to repel American attacks for nearly three weeks. In mid-August, British reinforcements appeared at the head of the bay. The Americans eventually abandoned the fight and retreated up the Penobscot River, destroying their entire fleet along the way to keep it out of British hands. The failed Penobscot Expedition, which cost the revolutionaries eight million dollars, proved to be the greatest American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor (December 1941). The 74th Regiment held Majabagaduce until the end of the war, when it was ceded to the Americans as part of the peace settlement. Saltonstall and Revere were later court-martialed, charged with cowardice and insubordination; Saltonsall was found guilty, but Revere was acquitted.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, many loyal British subjects in the area, subsequently known as United Empire Loyalists, migrated eastward; many of them towing their houses behind their boats. These Penobscot Loyalists crossed the newly established international boundary line of the St. Croix River and established St. Andrews, one of the oldest towns in New Brunswick. In addition, many soldiers of the 74th chose to be disbanded in St. Andrews (last muster 24 May 1784), and took up land grants there along with the Loyalists, rather than return home to Britain.
With the growth of the postwar economy, the town became a prosperous place: the seat of Hancock County and a center for shipbuilding and coastal trading. The town was occupied by the British for eight months during the War of 1812. By the 1820s, it had become a major entrepot for American fishing fleets on their way to the Grand Banks. The town also prospered from the lumber industry, for which eastern Maine as become the national center in the years before the Civil War. During this period of growth and prosperity, many of the handsome mansions that still grace the village's streets were constructed.
Castine declined after the Civil War. Its fleet, which once sailed the globe, now carried coal, firewood, and lime to coastal ports, competing with railroads and steamships. Ambitious young people sought their fortunes elsewhere. The Hancock County seat moved to Ellsworth in 1838.
By the 1870s, its quaint old houses were becoming attractive to "rusticators" -- well-to-do urban families in search of summer rest and recreation. The town attracted a number of notables, among them Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose writings helped to romanticize its past. By the 1890s, wealthy families from Boston, Hartford, and Chicago, were buying up old farms and sea captains' houses and establishing a flourishing summer colony. Castine also became the location of the Eastern State Normal School.
Castine reached its economic nadir in the 1930s. The Depression and the automobile had killed off the hotel trade, the steamship lines that had linked coastal towns and islands, and the local fishing industry. Its fortunes did not revive until the 1960s, with the rediscovery of the town's charms by a new generation of summer people -- including such notables as poet Robert Lowell, critic Elizabeth Hardwick, novelist Mary McCarthy, singer-songwriter Don McLean, and Nobel Prize winning biochemist Carl Ferdinand Cori.
A key element in the town's revival has been the expansion of the Maine Maritime Academy .
Established in 1941 to train merchant seamen, by the 1980s the Academy offered a range of courses in engineering, management, transportation, and nautical and ocean science. Its handsome campus, once the home of the Eastern State Normal School, boasts an excellent library (which is open to the general public) and extensive athletic facilities.
By the 1980s, many of the old hotels had reopened, boasting first-rate dining facilities. The harbor, almost entirely empty in the 1950s, filled with luxury yachts. Prosperity was given an added boost by the willingness of financially comfortable retirees to brave Maine winters in their golden years. (Though some cynics now call the town "New Canaan-by-the-Sea").
Nonetheless, Castine has pleasant tourist amenities: several historical parks (such as the ruins of the British earthworks at Fort George), an excellent deep water harbor (with tie-ups for small boats outside the current of the Penobscot and Bagaduce rivers), a non-exclusive club offering golf, tennis, and yachting facilities , good restaurants, and four churches (Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Trinitarian Congregational, and Unitarian Universalist). In addition, the town boasts a fine public library, an active historical society , and a unique museum  featuring exhibits of anthropological, natural, and local artifacts. Castine's streets are still lined with large elms which are being replaced with disease-resistant strains as they die. The area has numerous marked historical sites and streets of lovely Cape and Federal style houses. The Castine Post Office is the oldest post office (in continuous operation) in the United States.
Buker, George E. 2002. "The Penobscot Expedition: Commodore Saltonstall and the Massachusetts Conspiracy of 1779." Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.
Bourne, Russell. 1989. "The View from Front Street: Travels through New England's Historic Fishing Communities." New York : W.W. Norton.
Bourne, Russell. 1990. 'The Red King's Rebellion: Racial politics in New England, 1675-1678." New York, NY: Atheneum, 1990.
Doudiet, Ellenore. 1978. "Majabigwaduce: Castine, Penobscot, and Brooksville." Castine, ME: Castine Scientific Society.
Faulkner, Alaric, 1987. "The French at Pentagoet, 1635-1674: An Archaeological Portrait of the Acadian Frontier." Augusta, ME: Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
Maine League of Historical Societies and Museums (1970). in Doris A. Isaacson: Maine: A Guide 'Down East'. Rockland, Me: Courier-Gazette, Inc., 349-351.
Wasson, George Savary. 1932. Sailing Days on the Penobscot: The River and Bay as They Were in the Old Days; with a Record of Vessels Built There, Compiled by Lincoln Colcord. Salem, MA: Marine Research society, 1932.
Wheeler, George A. 1923. "History of Castine: Battle Line of Four Nations." Cornwell, NY: privately printed.
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