Native Americans originally called the Portland peninsula Machigonne. The first European settler was Capt. Christopher Levett, an English naval captain granted 6,000 acres (2,400 ha) in 1623 to found a settlement in Casco Bay. A member of the Council for New England and agent for Ferdinando Gorges, Levett built a stone house where he left a company of ten men, then returned to England and wrote a book about his voyage to drum up support for the settlement.] The settlement failed, and the fate of Levett’s colonists is unknown. The peninsula was first permanently settled in 1632 as a fishing and trading village named Casco When the Massachusetts Bay Colony took over Casco Bay in 1658, the town’s name changed again to Falmouth. In 1676, the village was destroyed by the Abenaki during King Philip’s War. It was rebuilt. During King William’s War, a raiding party of French and Native allies attacked and largely destroyed it again in the Battle of Fort Loyal (1690). On October 18, 1775, Falmouth was burned in the Revolution by the Royal Navy under command of Captain Henry Mowat. Following the war, a section of Falmouth called The Neck developed as a commercial port and began to grow rapidly as a shipping center. In 1786, the citizens of Falmouth formed a separate town in Falmouth Neck and named it Portland, after the isle off the coast of Dorset, England. Portland’s economy was greatly stressed by the Embargo Act of 1807 (prohibition of trade with the British), which ended in 1809, and the War of 1812, which ended in 1815. In 1820, Maine became a state with Portland as its capital. In 1832, the capital was moved north to Augusta. In 1851, Maine led the nation by passing the first state law prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for “medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes.” The law subsequently became known as the Maine law, as 18 states quickly followed. On June 2, 1855, the Portland Rum Riot occurred.
On June 26, 1863, a Confederate raiding party led by Captain Charles Read, entered the harbor at Portland and the Battle of Portland Harbor ensued, one of the northernmost battles of the Civil War. The 1866 Great Fire of Portland, Maine of July 4, 1866, ignited during the Independence Day celebration, destroyed most of the commercial buildings in the city, half the churches and hundreds of homes. More than 10,000 people were left homeless.
In 1853, upon completion of the Grand Trunk Railway to Montreal, Portland became the primary ice-free winter seaport for Canadian exports. The Portland Company manufactured more than 600 19th-century steam locomotives. Portland became a 20th-century rail hub as five additional rail lines merged into Portland Terminal Company in 1911. Following nationalization of the Grand Trunk system in 1923, Canadian export traffic was diverted from Portland to Halifax, Nova Scotia, causing marked local economic decline. In the 20th century, icebreakers later enabled ships to reach Montreal in winter, drastically reducing Portland’s role as a winter port for Canada.
By act of the Maine Legislature In 1899, Portland annexed the city of Deering despite a vote by Deering residents rejecting the annexation greatly increasing the size of the city and opening areas for development beyond the peninsula.
The construction of The Maine Mall, an indoor shopping center established in the suburb of South Portland during the 1970s, economically depressed downtown Portland. The trend reversed when tourists and new businesses started revitalizing the old seaport, locally known as the Old Port. Since the 1990s the historically industrial bayside neighborhood saw rapid development. The emerging harbor side Ocean Gateway neighborhood at the base of Munjoy Hill. The Maine College of Art has been a revitalizing force downtown, attracting students from around the country. The historic Porteous building on Congress Street was restored by the College. If you have time and are looking for some great shopping or restaurants, check out the old port area. Cruise ships docks in the old port. There were a few movies filmed in Portland, the Man Without a Face, Message in a Bottle, and The Preacher’s wife.
Carroll A. Deering
(A Ghost Story from Portland, Me)
A young woman swam beyond the breakers, away from the wet rocks in the surf. She was out bathing in the brine with a younger companion, a local girl. The woman wore her long hair pinned up and her skirted swimming suit was navy blue, as befitted a child of in the nation’s merchant marine.
The Captain himself, a tall, heavyset man well past sixty, with light wavy hair and a light mustache, stood alone on the rock strewn beach, pleased to be here with her and her friend rather than far away, as he had spent so much of his life before his retirement.
Were they out too far? Now he paced the beach briskly, as if he was back on the quarterdeck. He was a man never given to staying still, to lighting anywhere long, his arms down at his side, by habit he flexed his hands, from fists to open palms flat down, what he usually did when his men were getting at sixes and sevens with his ship, but now out of nervous excitement of being with his grown daughter. What pleasure it was. Though, being here and see her and witness her health, her strength and her bearing.
His wife stayed back at the cottage, not far from the beach but far enough. She would not swim, she would not watch, nor would she venture seaward at all during their respite at South Harpswell, their fourth season here. She much preferred the family’s life in the city of Portland, in their lawn avenue home miles from the sea.
There, through she still feared the ocean that she and her family and her whole city lived upon (as did all along the involuted and raggedy-rocked coast of Maine), she need never look upon it, and she did not. The family was on vacation the third summer following the armistice that ended The Great War, and it was hot now even in Maine, even here on the coast of Casco Bay. The women swimming was Lula Wormell and her father, a well known veteran of the coast wise and the West Indies schooner trade, was, Captain Willis B. Wormell
Carroll A. Deering was a five – masted commercial Schooner that was found run aground off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 1921. Its crew and cargo was missing and remains a mystery today. This story goes down as one of the all-time maritime mysteries and another victim of the Bermuda Triangle, although the evidence points towards a mutiny or possible pirates. The story goes like this:
The Carroll A. Deering was built in Bath, Maine, in 1919 by the G.G. Deering Company for commercial use. The Deering Company was located at 145 to 225 Washington St. Bath, Me., currently where Bath Iron Works (BIW) is located. The owner of the company named the ship after his son. The vessel was designed to carry cargo and had been in service for a year when it began its mysterious final voyage. It was soon going to go to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On August 19, 1920, the Deering prepared to sail from Norfolk, Virginia with 3274 tons of coal to Rio de Janeiro.. The ship was captained by William H. Merritt (nicknamed Hungry Bill) . Merritt’s son, Sewall, was his first mate. He had a ten-man crew made up entirely of Scandinavians (mostly Danes). On August 22, 1920, the Deering left Newport News. In late August, Captain Merritt fell ill and had to be let off at the port of Lewes, Delaware, along with his son. The “Deering Company” hastily recruited Captain W. B. Wormell, a retired, 66-year-old veteran captain, to replace him. Charles B. McLellan was hired on as first mate.
The vessel set sail again for Rio on September 8, 1920, and arrived there, delivering its cargo without incident. Wormell gave his crew leave and met with a Captain Goodwin, an old friend who captained another cargo vessel. Wormell spoke of his crew with disdain, though he claimed to trust the engineer, Herbert Bates. The Deering left Rio on December 2, 1920, and stopped for supplies in Barbados. First Mate McLellan got drunk in town and complained to Captain Hugh Norton of the Snow that he could not discipline the crew without Wormell interfering, and that he had to do all the navigation owing to Wormell’s poor eyesight. Later, Captain Norton, his first mate and another captain were in the Continental Café and heard McLellan say, “I’ll get the captain before we get to Norfolk, I will.” McLellan was arrested, but on January 9 Wormell forgave him, bailed him out of jail, and set sail for Hampton Roads.
The ship was next sighted by the Cape Lookout Lightship in North Carolina on January 28, 1921, when the vessel hailed the lightship. The lightship’s keeper, Captain Jacobson, reported that a thin man with reddish hair and a foreign accent told him the vessel had lost its anchors. Jacobson took note of this, but his radio was out, so he was unable to report it. He noticed that the crew seemed to be “milling around” on the fore deck of the ship, an area where they were usually not allowed.
On January 31, 1921, the Deering was sighted run aground on Diamond Shoals, an area off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina that has long been notorious for its reputation as a common site of shipwrecks. Rescue ships were unable to approach the vessel owing to bad weather. The ship was not boarded until February 4, and it became clear that the ship had been completely abandoned. The ship’s log and navigation equipment were gone, the crew’s personal effects and the ship’s two lifeboats were gone as well. In the vessel’s galley it appeared that certain foodstuffs were being prepared for the next day’s meal at the time of the abandonment. The Coast Guard vessel Manning attempted to salvage the Deering, but found this impossible. The vessel was scuttled, using dynamite, on March 4 to prevent her from becoming a danger to other vessels.