CHAPTER 1. HISTORY OF SCARBOROUGH

Seventeenth Century Eighteenth Century Nineteenth Century Twentieth Century

Seventeenth Century (1600s)

The settlement at Scarborough was one of the earliest made on the New England Coast. In 1623, Christopher Levitt wrote of this area, "There hath been more fish taken within two leagues of this place this year than in any other in the land." Fisherman could easily procure the material for stages and fishhouses. The fine harbor, forest, and abundance of fish and wildlife lured the settlers to this area.

John Jocelyn, writer, botanist and English nobleman, came to Scarborough in 1663 to visit his brother, Henry Jocelyn, who had settled at Prouts Neck. His visit lasted eight years. His writings offer the best history of that time. He wrote that the province of Maine had plenty of magistrates, husbandmen and planters, but there were very few skilled craftsmen. He also wrote, "Those were rare days for sportsmen. Half a score of foxes killed in one night. Bears numerous, millions and millions of pigeons. In April two men, in two hours, without any weirs, take ten thousand alewives. Trouts in every brook, two to twenty inches long. A wonderful number of herring cast upon the shore at Black Point Harbour for a mile."

In the early 1600s, John Stratton had his trading post upon the island off Scarborough's shore which still bears his name. This island also saw many of the other first settlers.

In the 1630s, the first settlement at Black Point was the 1500-acre Cammock's grant; by 1650 there were 50 homes. This grant is now known as Prouts Neck.

All the country between the Saco and the Spurwink rivers was originally called Black Point. Just when the narrow tongue of land now known as Pine Point was first called Blew Point and/or Pine Point is uncertain, but it is said that the spruce trees covering the eastern shore of the Nonesuch River appeared black to ships, and the hardwood on the western shores of the Nonesuch and Dunstan rivers appeared blue. In 1636, Richard Foxwell built his homestead a little south of where Mill Creek (Foxwell's Brook) saunters into Dunstan River. Henry Watts built nearby the same year. Thus began the second settlement.

The third principal settlement of old Scarborough was Dunstan in 1651. Andrew and Arthur Alger purchased more than one thousand acres from Uphannum, daughter of Wackwarreska, Sagamore of Owascoag County. Owascoag was the Indian name for Scarborough, meaning "place of much grass."

The town was incorporated in 1658 and named for Scarborough, England. It included those lands formerly called Black Point, Blew Point, and Stratton's Island and extended back eight miles from the sea. These boundaries have changed almost every century.

In 1647, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony anxious "that learning may not be buried in the graves of our fathers," enacted a law requiring every town of fifty or more households to maintain a "petty" school to teach reading and writing; and every town of 100 families also to support a Latin grammar school to prepare boys for the university, both types to be sustained by local taxation. Because these schools supplemented the family role in education, attendance was not compulsory for children taught at home.

In 1658, the first Anglican Church was erected in Maine on the ground which is now the site of the Prouts Neck Country Club. In 1685, this building was hauled by oxen nearer to Scottows Fort on the Plains near Moore's Brook.

The first mill was Henry Jocelyn's corn mill, built at Black Point in 1663; two more mills were later built at Dunstan and Algier Falls.

Transportation was conducted across Saco Bay by boat from the village there. Travel by land was over the King's Highway which followed the coastline. By court decree, Ambrose Boaden ferried passengers over the Spurwink River for two pence.

By October 1676, Scarborough, a town with three settlements of more than 100 houses and 1,000 head of cattle, had been destroyed, some of its people killed, and others taken captive by Indians. These inhabitants tried repeatedly to rebuild but peace with the Indians was impossible. In 1690, the town was abandoned due to Indian uprisings, with inhabitants going to Portsmouth and other settlements farther south.

Eighteenth Century (1700s)

The second settlement of Scarborough is regarded as dating 1702. A fort was erected on the western shore of Garrison Cove, Prouts Neck. Other stockades were at Spurwink and Blue Point. The Hunnewell House was known as the "outpost for the defense of Black Point." The Indian fighter, Richard Hunnewell, and eighteen other men were killed in 1703 at Massacre Pond. This incident took place after peace negotiations had been made with the Indians.

In 1720, town meetings were reestablished, roads were laid out, a church organized, a school master hired, and forts and garrison houses were built nearer together.

The Dunstan area became more prominent and was very prosperous because of the shipping and trading at the landing. The first U.S. census taken in 1790 showed Scarborough had 2,235 inhabitants and Portland had 2,246.

Old Dunstan area was a noted place for well kept and well stocked taverns as it was the stopping place for four lines of daily stage coaches between Portland and Boston. In 1787, when stage coaches began operation between Portland and Portsmouth, it is said that every mile of the Post Road had a granite marker and a tavern. One of these markers may be seen near the K-Mart [Maine Medical Center] parking lot where a bronze plaque shows that in 1761, Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin ordered a stone marker placed on the King's Highway in Scarborough, denoting the 120-mile distance from Boston.

The Scarborough Post Office was established in 1795 at Dunstan Corner. Before this, mail was brought once a week and left on a table in the front hall of a tavern to be picked up by the citizens.

The Churches were very important in this century; they were not only the religious centers, but were also sources of intellectual and social entertainment. In 1725, worship services were held at homes in Dunstan, Black Point, and Oak Hill. Later, three churches were built to serve these same areas.

In 1730, the people voted at the town meeting to hire a school master who would alternate between the settlements of Dunstan and Black Point each quarter of the year. In 1737, the court petitioned the selectmen for not having any school in town. No fine was given because there were not the number of families required under the federal statute. In 1790 there were two school districts below the Nonesuch River, the causeway school located near Robert Hunnewell's and the other on Beech Hill.

In 1749 there were over a dozen sawmills located on the many rivers of Scarborough. A grist mill was located on the Libby River.

What is now the part of U.S. Route #1 by Dunstan and the marshes was known as the Cumberland Turnpike and was the first turnpike in the state. It was constructed just prior to 1800 by a group of influential Scarborough citizens headed by Dr. Robert Southgate. The Toll House was located on his property next to his brick home which remains today. The turnpike superseded the Old State Road which led from Dunstan and over the western side of Scottow's Hill. Horses had to be changed at the top of Scottow Hill because fresh horses harnessed at the foot of the hill would have tired before they even started on the full day's journey to Portland.

This century saw many Scarborough people leave to make new settlements north along the Saco River and east to Machias.

Nineteenth Century (1800s)

At the turn of this century communities were developing all over the town, and schools and churches were being built locally because of the lack of easy communication and travel.

The latter part of this century saw twelve school districts -- Black Point, Libby School, Blue Point, Dunstan, Scottow Hill, Beech Ridge, Pine Point, Broadturn, Oak Hill, North Scarborough, Beech Hill, and Union District which was located at Scarborough-Buxton Corner. At a town meeting in March of 1877, it was voted to establish free high schools at Oak Hill and Dunstan. In 1897, the town voted to raise $1,000 to build a new school on Scottow Hill.

The Methodists incorporated in 1806 and built a church on the Broadturn Road about a mile from Dunstan Village to accommodate the "over-the-river" people who started their own Universalist Society in the 1830s in Buxton. The Free Will Baptist Church on the corner of Mussey Road and the Gorham Road was built in 1841. The First Parish Church of Oak Hill was torn down in 1850 and another was established just east of the Nonesuch River on Black Point, but the railroad disturbed the worship service, and eventually the present First Congregational Church was built in 1892.

In 1815, Josiah Paine, owner of a line of stages, so objected to paying the toll across the marsh that he laid out a direct road from Dunstan to Stroudwater, which is the Payne Road of today. In 1818, stage coaches were running regular trips from Portland and Boston, and continued operations until steam railroads were built subsequent to 1840.

Around 1850, a town house was built near the geographical center of the town, at the corner of Payne Road and Two Rod Road to satisfy all townspeople. The railroad made a great change in the activity of the town and by 1883, a Town Hall was built at Oak Hill. It subsequently housed the high school at Oak Hill also.

After the Revolutionary War, there was a great decline in the shipping at Dunstan Landing because the masts were no longer being cut from the forests for the King and there was no longer a need for the secluded harbor that Dunstan Landing had provided from the British. The shipbuilding did continue until the middle of the 1800s, probably 1853.

After the dyke just above the Eastern Railroad was put in, in 1877, to shut out the overflowing tides from the marshes, all the streams shrank to small proportions of their former size, and the once busy landing lost all resemblance to a port. The project of dyking the marshes between the two railroads was opposed by some; the farmers were in favor of it, as it allowed them to cut the hay, while the clammers felt they were losing flats from which clams, worth more by thousands of dollars than hay, could be harvested on the track.

It was noted in papers of the 1880s that the town voted to close the flat from May 1st to October 1st, except for home consumption, with no more than three bushels by the same person at one tide. In January 1883, Burnham & Morrill canned 8,000 bushels of clams at Pine Point, and G.E. Deering Co. baked 5,600 bushels. The smelt houses on the Dunstan River were popular and the catch good.

Farming has been one of the foremost occupations in Scarborough over the centuries, first from necessity and then as a livelihood. Businesses derived from this occupation, such as blacksmith shops, grain stores, farming equipment, slaughter houses, carriage makers and cattle dealers, flourished within the town.

For a quarter of a century from 1875 to 1900, an agricultural fair was held in Scarborough at Nutters Field on Pleasant Hill. There was an exhibition hall and a half-mile track with a grandstand. It was perhaps the only time that the women from different sections of the town and other towns met. Men, of course, met at Town Meeting.

Twentieth Century (1900s)

The twentieth century has seen many rapid changes, especially in transportation. Electric car service, between Portland and Saco, via Scarborough, opened July 9, 1902. Service was on a thirty minute schedule, and running time from Monument Square in Portland to Saco was one hour and ten minutes. In 1911, a modern brick substation was built. This building now houses the Scarborough Historical Society. The trolley line was in operation through Scarborough for thirty years.

Besides passenger service, the trolley line also offered freight, and express services along with a funeral car which could be hired. It connected with the Interurban trolley line which ran between Portland and Lewiston.

Residents used the trolley service as a means of transportation to their places of employment, to school, and in some instances for pleasure. The trolleys also brought an influx of people into the town for recreation. In the summer, open cars made the run to Old Orchard via the Old Blue Point Road. The Odd Fellows built a large club house and recreation area beside the Nonesuch River on Route 1 (in back of Martha's Do-Nut Shop [no longer exists]). People also used the trolley to go to the famous shore dinner houses then very popular.

The trolley service began to fade in 1925, the year the Dunstan Car Barn was closed. The Company had proposed to abandon the entire Saco Division as early as March 1929, but the frantic protests from the regular year-round commuters kept the road in operation. The depression of the early 30s saw the end of the suburban trolley lines. The Saco line was abandoned on April 16, 1932. Service was cut to Dunstan Corner; then a week later to Nonesuch Corner at the South Portland-Scarborough line.

The brick substation was conveyed to the Town of Scarborough for use as a fire station. Bus service filled the need for transportation after discontinuation of the trolley cars. The tracks were torn up and Route 1 became a cement three-lane highway. The early 1900s saw the automobile come into its own. Filling stations and garages replaced the livery stables. Taverns were again popular in Scarborough but were now called Shore Dinner Houses and with them came the advent of tourist homes and overnight cabins. The Danish Village built on Route 1 in 1929 was the first motel in America. Only the main building still stands. The hotels and motels at the beaches serving summer visitors have continued to be very popular and have provided jobs for the people in Scarborough for a century.

The first housing development, called Green Acres, was developed in the 1920s. In the late 1920s and 1930s, Scarborough folks were caught up in the flying machine's adventures. The "Atlantic Fever" saw many notable airplanes using the Pine Point Beach as a runway for attempted transatlantic flights.

In the 1930s, the Portland Airport was developed and located just south of the present Willowdale Golf Course. Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart landed at this airport. The Boston & Maine and Central Vermont Airlines, later known as Northeast Airlines, first flew from here. The hangars, office buildings, and beacon tower have long since disappeared and the runways have become overgrown.

The Port-of-Maine Airport, located off the Pleasant Hill Road, was opened after the war in the 1940s when the blackout along the coast was lifted. Flying schools and service operations were continued there for approximately twenty five years.

The Maine Turnpike, which opened in December 1948, is an important factor in the growth in population and business of southern Maine. Scarborough's year-round population has grown annually. The seasonal population increases substantially in the summer months.

Through the 1920s and 1930s, there were a half dozen large dairy farms in Scarborough. Only one remains today. These provided jobs for many in their respective neighborhoods, and provided fresh products for the residents.

Lumber operations were still profitable. Portable sawmills with steam engines were brought into town by a large team of horses. A water hole would be dug to provide water for the steam engine, the sawmill would be set up, and lumber cut from area woodlots. When the jobs were finished, the men moved on to the next location.

The 1970s and 1980s has been another period of transition for Scarborough. It has been a period of growth: a period in which citizens of the region increasingly looked to Scarborough as a place of quiet residence, but also a period in which a substantial contemporary job base took hold. Much of the Town's efforts of the last decade and into the 1990s have been to foster this growth and at the same time expand its capacity to accommodate it. Representative of this period from the early 1970s to early 1990s were the construction of a new sewage treatment plant, a new Public Safety Building, a new Municipal Building, a new Public Library, and new fire stations and schools.

Through all the years of changes there have also been many constants: Granges, fraternal clubs, and civic groups have been and continue to be popular in the town. Each maintains meeting halls and buildings in all the residential neighborhoods, providing fellowship as well as carrying on town projects.

Our thousands of acres of salt water marshlands, which are under a State Game Management Program, are admired by everyone. These marshes provide feeding grounds for many migratory birds, and it is a beautiful sight to see Canada Geese and Snow Geese in the spring. A Nature Center managed by the Audubon Society on the Pine Point Road is an attraction for many tourists and residents alike, as well as school children by the bus load.

At this point in the twentieth century, Scarborough continues to offer places of work, shopping areas selling all the necessities, medical facilities, churches in all neighborhoods, schools, and a local government that seeks to protect the health, safety, welfare, and quality of life of its citizens.


Taken from: "Update of the Scarborough Comprehensive Plan 1994" by Comprehensive Plan Review Committee; Scarborough, Maine; 1994; please note that some changes have been made to the original text and are in italics.

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