A SAFE, SCENIC, PEACEFUL, HISTORIC MAINE COMMUNITY
(This page is provided for people who are perhaps unfamiliar with the immediate area and who may be contemplating a vacation or job interview that will bring them to Lincoln.)
The southern tip of Maine lies at 43°04′ north latitude, the northern tip at 47°28′. Maine, therefore, is bisected by the 45th parallel, or, to be precise, 45°16′. Northern Maine, geographically, lies above this line, and what’s below it, (geographically, not socially and politically), is southern Maine. To those in Aroostook County, Bangor is in southern Maine, which is true, geographically. Of course, to those in Augusta or below, northern Maine begins at Waterville. To those in Waterville, southern Maine means south of Portland. Eastern, western, and central Maine are similarly misdefined more by social and political perceptions than by geography.
The boundary of the town of Lincoln stretches northward from latitude 45°17′. So Lincoln might well claim to be the southernmost town lying completely in the northern half of the state. What’s more, the town stands squarely between Maine’s two great, practically uninhabited wilderness regions, one area bigger than Delaware, the other the size of Taiwan or Belgium — the largest expanse of wilderness east of the Mississippi. From Maine’s western border with Québec to its eastern border with New Brunswick, one could hike clear across Maine and, by passing through Lincoln, encounter only six paved roads: near Millinocket, Route 11; at Lincoln, Interstate 95, Maine Routes 116 and 155, and US Route 2; and US Route 1 between Topsfield and Woodland. One would cross many other tote roads, camp roads, and trails. But the only significant (and slight) interruption, including the concentration of four paved roads, and the only place on a cross-Maine trek that one would be assured even of seeing houses, occurs at and around Lincoln.
Maine’s motto, “the way life should be,” is no exaggeration. The town’s setting is, at the same time, tranquil and stimulating, provincial and cosmopolitan, traditional and changing. Lincoln is, in a word, one of Maine’s best-kept secrets. The public school system, which includes Mattanawcook Academy (the high school), is ranked among Maine’s best. With 78 square miles, Lincoln is the largest town (according to the “town” form of government) east of the Mississippi. While the municipality of Lincoln (the village) includes 5,700 people, the town, which is the New England term for what is called a “township” somewhere else, encompasses additional villages as well as 13 lakes, most with lakefront property available. Many people live on the lake shores year-‘round. There is a pleasing mix of forest and fields on rolling hills, with modest farms existing all through the area. The region supports both summer and winter recreation for residents and tourists. A local ski slope offers skiing on nights, weekends, and after school, while the nation’s best snowmobile trail system connects the town with the rest of Maine and with the neighboring Canadian provinces. Maine’s highest peak, Katahdin, 42 miles to the west, is prominently visible from many points in and around town — from the hospital as well. Interstate 95 passes within five miles of Lincoln, and the Penobscot River passes through town.
Mattanawcook Lake stretches from Main Street in the center of Lincoln, two miles to the east. For its proximity to the center of population in the region, its shoreline is largely uninhabited. Lincoln’s major employer used to be Lincoln Pulp & Paper, until it closed permanently in 2016. As explained further below, the mill was the only integrated producer of deep-dyed tissue in the world. The town’s largest employer now is Penobscot Valley Hospital.
Lincoln’s setting, at the core of the state and opening onto two great wilderness areas, greatly influences what much of the population chooses for recreation and what attracts others to the area. No one comes, and certainly no one stays, for the abundance of professional team sporting events, for the year-round tropical climate, for the museums and amusement parks, for the restaurants and all-night entertainment. People come for the simple, even breathtaking beauty of the summer and winter landscape, for the open spaces, for the utter peace of the forest (broken occasionally by the song of a chain saw or the hum of a snowmobile). They stay for the safety of a community that can’t support professional crime, where being fourth in line at a stop sign is called “stuck in heavy traffic,” where earthquakes and poisonous life forms are virtually unheard of. Local people talk about trout and flies, bass and lures, opening day (hunting season) and the lottery (moose permits). It’s a town where no one is unapproachable or unknowable and where you can identify half the population if you can rattle off the correct half dozen surnames. The high school is the cultural and social center of town, just edging out Walmart. Those who stay are those who are simply stubborn enough to out-last the bone-numbing arctic chill of January and February and the skin-stunning black fly and mosquito invasion of May to September.
A home in Lincoln is just about anything you want to build or haul onto a slab, take your pick. Martha Stewart could find a few places she’d approve and plenty more to work with. Indeed, there are many stately homes in town, and most neighborhoods are well-built and well-kept. The town’s water comes from drilled wells that provide just about the closest thing to pure, clear water that can be found on earth. The town of Poland sells it; Lincoln keeps it for itself.
Shopping for just about anything short of a Rolls Royce can be accomplished with an easy three-quarter hour’s ride to Bangor or an easier three-quarter hour’s browse of the Internet. A trip to Bangor, though, often includes a dinner out and a movie.
Bangor, 40 miles away, is a community that has “everything,” including Stephen King — you never know who would find that important! “Everything” includes, as well, Eastern Maine Medical Center and the Bangor International Airport. At the University of Maine in Orono, 35 miles from Lincoln, NCAA basketball, baseball, and hockey (okay, football too) satisfy the obsession of many sports enthusiasts who can’t get enough from the local high school teams. And even for someone who has been accustomed to regular nights at the symphony or enjoying the work of other renowned performing artists, there is a full schedule of events at the University’s Performing Arts Center. The Bangor Symphony Orchestra is the oldest continuously-running city orchestra in the country and performs a repertoire of all manner of classical as well as modern works, often with renowned guest artists.
By car, the border with New Brunswick is about an hour away from Lincoln. The coast, at Bar Harbor, can be reached in about two hours. Caribou is about three hours away, and so is Portland, if one ever had the need to go that way.
Property along this stretch of the Penobscot River is inexpensive. Heat in winter is not, but one can be creative in staying warm. A lot of people burn wood for some or all of their warmth. A gas-fired fireplace can do wonders to reduce an oil bill. We have a lot of snow, but there are no traffic jams. S chools, as mentioned, are good, and so is the fishing, in fact just about the best small-mouth bass fishing in the east. And there is an astonishing range of fishing possibilities elsewhere within the town limits. A lot of talented, friendly, generous people inhabit the area. So do a few eastern panthers, according to reliable witnesses, plenty of black bears, coyotes, and a lot of not-so-talented moose. The only non-human creatures that pose any threat whatsoever to humans are skunks and moose on the highway. But there are no poisonous snakes. Even Lyme disease hasn’t made much of an appearance here.
People stop their cars anywhere on Main Street to let pedestrians, even jay-walkers, cross. We leave our key in the car when we park it so someone can move the car if they need to — it might be in the way of something. If I tell my wife I saw three moose on the way home from camp, she’d be likely to say, “So, what’s your point? Were they hanging upside down from swing sets or something?”
We usually get a dusting of snow in October, and by the end of November it has settled in until spring thaw around the first of April. Ice goes out of the lakes by the end of April, and Katahdin, Maine’s mile-high mountain, often carries a patch of snow, readily visible from Lincoln, until well into June. In the wintertime, lips and fingertips need lots of lotion, and when we come in from the cold we understand why wood smoke smells good and why cocoa and marshmallows were invented.
Summertime is such a contrast it’s as if you live in two different countries. With luck you can even grow peaches and watermelon in northern Maine. The apples and wild raspberries are the best, though. And so is the maple syrup. And come the end of September the leaves are so brilliant that even colorblind people can see them.
Some observations about Lincoln’s place in Maine
Many states in the USA each claim to have a distinct culture. For some states this claim is strikingly true, others it’s more claim than fact. Maine does indeed have a distinct culture, and one that includes some regional variety.
Areas with distinct cultural variations include:
1. the very south of Maine, including Portland and Freeport (LL Bean), what the rest of Maine calls “spillover from Massachusetts,” which is urban and suburban with heavily-used beaches
2. the western mountain region from the border with New Hampshire through Greenville, which is our “ski country” but which is also a wild frontier between Maine and Québec
3. the mid-coast from about Bath to Bar Harbor, up to maybe25 miles inland, which is the “coastal Maine” depicted in travel brochures and movies
4. far eastern Maine, which is the true “Down East” and is not much developed economically, but includes some agricultural land, some forest products harvesting, some wilderness, and an “undiscovered” one-third or more of Maine’s coast
5. a vast forested wilderness laced with mountains, rivers, and lakes, the largest distinct region of the state and the least populated, where a tradition of hunting, trapping, and fishing shares space with eco-tourists in land until recently cared for by the paper-and-lumber industry
6. Aroostook County, the largest county east of the Mississippi (with more land area than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined), the county with the longest border on Canada, with its high percentage of French-speaking people and its open, rolling farmland to the east and forestland to the west
Some places lie between two or more of these regions. Bangor is in a pocket between the third, fourth, and fifth of the regions listed above. (As of 2006, two recent editions of MacMillan’s Places Rated Almanac have rated Bangor the best North American metro area with a population under 100,000. Bangor has also been among the top 20 best places to raise a family in a Reader’s Digest poll scoring communities on schools, level of crime, health care, and the environment.) Lincoln, which to some observers is the most friendly town in Maine and the most welcoming to newcomers, lies about 40 miles up I-95 from Bangor and about 35 miles north of the University of Maine at Orono, the university system’s original land-grant campus.
For all of Lincoln’s great features, though, one does give up some conveniences found elsewhere. Public transportation — never heard of it. We have one year-’round meat-and-potatoes restaurant and three Oriental places, but for reliable fine dining it takes 45 minutes to drive to Bangor. Shopping — we do have a small Wal-Mart, two hardware stores, and four or five car dealerships. Bangor has the rest, but then, so does the Internet.
David A. Woodbury
Some History of Lincoln Maine (Compiled by the Lincoln Historical Society)
On January 30, 1829, by legislative authority, the municipality’s name was changed from “Mattanawcook” to “Lincoln” and incorporated as the 284th town in Maine. Named for Enoch Lincoln, the sixth governor of Maine, the town’s early growth was considered better than that of many towns due to its intelligent and enterprising newcomers. Census records show that, during the ten-year period beginning in 1830, Lincoln’s population grew from 404 to 1,121- a 177% increase.
The primary activity in the early days was lumbering. Farming was also an important activity with wheat and corn as the principal crops in the early years, and potatoes and beans later. With the rapid increase in population during the first twenty years since the arrival of Lincoln, Maine’s first settler, Aaron Woodbury, of Orrington, the building trades, blacksmith shops, harness makers and mercantile enterprises began to flourish. In the 1930’s, Lincoln, as many other communities across the country, was hit hard by the depression. These years of economic devastation changed forever the importance placed on the agrarian way of life to one of manufacturing for the Town of Lincoln. Pulp and paper production became the primary economic activity, followed by a healthy increase and growth in retail activity and municipal services.
Lincoln’s form of government changed during the late 1930’s when the first town agent was hired. In 1942, the first town manager was hired and the selectmen/manager/town meeting form of government continued for over twenty years, until April 4, 1969, when Lincoln was granted a municipal charter establishing a council/manager form of government. For the first time in over 140 years, the people did not have a direct voice in the town’s affairs.
In the fall of 1825, Ira Fish came to Mattanawcook from New Hampshire and immediately began to build sawmills on Mattanawcook Stream. Work began on the upper mill in September 1825 and was completed the following spring. This mill was on the east bank of the stream near the present day location on the Lincoln Memorial Library. In June 1826, a second sawmill was completed and this was known as the lower mill. More than five million feet of pine logs were put into Mattanawcook Stream during the winter of 1825-1826.
The spool mill in South Lincoln was an important and profitable industry in the community. In 1871, James Emerson built a small sawmill on the site of the future spool mill and engaged in sawing lumber for various purposes, especially white birch for spool bars. The lumber was shipped to the Clark Company of Newark, NJ, to be manufactured into spools. John MacGregor, who came from Scotland in 1869, moved to Lincoln permanently in 1875 and built the first spool mill. The first carload of spools was shipped on February 28, 1876. The mill burned on August 21, 1885 and was rebuilt with the work starting again on January1, 1886. In February 1898, the business was incorporated as the John MacGregor Company.
Quarrying for granite was also a well established and busy enterprise around 1880 and was a profitable business for many years in the Town of Lincoln. Many of the foundations of the older homes we see in Lincoln today probably came from one of the quarries here. They included the Jewell Granite Company, operated by V.E. Libby, as well as others operated by A.E. Hurd, W.W. Wells, and E.A. Stinson.
Lincoln Pulp and Paper Company, under the control of the Mattanawcook Mill Company, was organized on August 11, 1882, with its chapter approved on February 21, 1883. Pulp mill construction was completed that year, and a paper machine, which was actually a crude pulp dryer, was installed. Business continued until 1888 when, that year, operations were suspended. The mill remained idle until 1893 when purchased by N.M. Jones, James B. Mullen, and others, who made extensive repairs, erected some new buildings, installed four small digesters, and engaged in the manufacture of sulfite pulp under the name of Katahdin Pulp and Paper Company. Various improvements were made during the next twenty years, and in October 1914, the mill was purchased by Eastern Manufacturing Company of Brewer, Maine. Operations continued under the name of Katahdin Division of the Eastern Manufacturing Company. At that time the mill employed approximately 250 people. Over the next fifty years new machinery was added and buildings constructed. In 1964, tissue production began, ushering in a new and profitable enterprise for the mill. Six years earlier, in 1958, Eastern Manufacturing merged with Standard Packaging Corporation, becoming Eastern Fine Paper and Pulp Division, Standard Packaging Corporation. This relationship lasted ten years until March 8, 1968, when Eastern Division’s Lincoln and Brewer mills closed. This was a frightening and anxious time for the people of Lincoln; however, through this adversity, the people of Lincoln showed their true character. On June 24, 1968, Lincoln, in less than three weeks, had raised its needed share of $350,000 to secure financing. In August that same year, Standard Packaging transferred ownership to the Premoid Corporation (later known as Preco), which renamed the mill Lincoln Pulp and Paper. Since that time, Lincoln Pulp and Paper continued to modernize until it was the only integrated producer of deep-dyed tissue in the world. Tissue production continued, with some fits and restarts, eventually employing approximately 525 people. All production stopped, apparently permanently, in 2016.
The first schoolhouse in the Town of Lincoln was built around 1827 and was located on what was known as the “hay scales lot,” near the present location of the WWI monument on lower Main Street, (near where the gazebo stands). In 1830, the Town bought the building for $142 and $9 for “necessary articles” and used it as a place for town meetings as well as a schoolhouse.
Other schoolhouses sprang up throughout the community in the ensuing years. From Lincoln Center (1833), Transalpine (1835), East Lincoln (1838), South Lincoln (1838), North Lincoln, Enfield Road, and other locations, the citizens of Lincoln realized, even then, the importance of education. In 1870, a series of enactments began which radically changed the management of the schools. At the annual town meeting in March 1888, Lincoln abolished the school districting system and adopted a town school system. The various school locations remained, however, they now were placed under the management of the Town.
The second schoolhouse to appear in Lincoln village was built in 1839 on the Common on School Street (located opposite to what is now Lincoln Court Apartments). It was repaired two or three times until 1903, when it was moved to Mattanawcook Lake and used as a fire station.
At the annual town meeting in 1902, the townspeople approved the $10,000 appropriation to build a new school house. On September 10, 1903, the Primary School was officially dedicated. It functioned, at different times, as a primary and grammar school, and continued to do so for seventy years, until 1973, when it closed. Later, it was turned back to the Town and used as a museum by the Lincoln Historical Society until it was sold to a private developer in June 1985. The building was torn down in December 1985 and replaced with a new senior citizen housing structure.
The building of the Ballard Hill School was authorized March 17, 1919, with classes beginning January 19, 1920. For a short time it housed grades 3-9, but for many years grades 4-8 and, later K-5 went to school there. It permanently closed as a school in 1984. The building received much needed work and is currently used as a community center.
In 1954, the Ella P. Burr School was built and named in honor of a long-time Lincoln educator. It has been expanded and renovated extensively during the late 1980s and early 1990s and, today, children from kindergarten through grade 4 attend classes there.
Lincoln High School was incorporated by a legislative act on July 29, 1846, and built in 1847 at a cost of $1000. It continued under this name through the academic year ending November, 1849, and was officially changed to Mattanawcook Academy on June 26, 1850, its date of incorporation. For the first twenty years, Mattanawcook Academy offered a curriculum designed to provide a degree of culture as well as competence in business affairs. However, in 1871, it began to offer normal (teacher training) classes in an effort to increase enrollment. For twenty years, until 1892, the Academy was useful as a provider of teachers. However, that year, the emphasis shifted from teacher training to a college preparatory curriculum. Normal classes were reintroduced in 1909 but ended fifteen years later in 1924. Within a decade, Mattanawcook Academy began to show signs of age, and talk had began about a new and modern academy building. The Community’s dream was realized with the dedication of a new $100,000 building on October 15th, 1933. The Academy building was expanded in 1962 and again in 1993. Since 1974, it has been used as a junior high school.
On July 1st, 1968 the towns of Chester, Lincoln, and Mattawamkeag joined together for mutual benefit and formed School Administrative District #67. Six years later, on November 24, 1974, the new (present) Mattanawcook Academy was dedicated just off North Main Street.
Former schools still standing include the Webber’s Mill School, built in 1891, and last used by the Lincoln Credit Union during the 1970s, currently located across from the Lincoln Memorial Library, the South Lincoln School, built in 1923, and closed in 1955, now used as a community building and owned by the Community Progress Club, and, the Lincoln Center School, built in 1925, and now owned by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
In March 1847, the Mattanawcook Observer was the first periodical ever printed in Lincoln. It was published once a week by J.R. Hopkins at seventy-five cents a year, or about a penny and a half per edition. It probably remained in existence for no more than two to three years. The Up-River Weekly News was the next paper to appear in Lincoln. It was “a weekly paper devoted to the interest of Northern Penobscot County and vicinity” and was first issued on June 12, 1885. It was published in Bangor and then sent to Lincoln for circulation. This paper continued to about 1889 when it merged with the Semi-Weekly News. After the Bangor Daily News, which began in 1892, consolidated with the Bangor Whig and Courier in 1900, the Up-River News probably was unable to compete and was discontinued soon afterward. Five years later, in September 1905, the Lincoln Chronicle appeared. It apparently sprang from the Millinocket Journal and at one time carried the double title, The Lincoln Chronicle and Millinocket Journal. It remained in circulation for ten years. Other papers have come and gone at one time or another, including the Lincoln News of the 1930s and late 1940s, the Lincoln Sun, Gateway News, and possibly others. However, since 1959, the Lincoln News has been the local paper. It is published every Wednesday and available the following day. It currently has a circulation in excess of 5000.
The Lincoln Memorial Library was founded in 1879 and for many years was housed in stores and homes until book display space became inadequate. Through the generosity of many, but most notably Ella Pickering and the family of John MacGregor, the building of the library became reality. On March 25, 1925, the splendid new colonial brick building was opened to the public. For its time, the library had no equal in the other towns within the region. It was, and is, a building of which the Town of Lincoln can be justly proud. Today, the library is a valuable asset, not only to Lincoln, but to the surrounding communities as well. It works in close cooperation with the various schools in the area and many services are free to those wishing to avail themselves of them. The library also works very closely with the Lincoln Historical Society in helping to preserve important records for genealogical research and general historical information.
The Lincoln Historical Society was organized June 10th, 1935, and incorporated December 10th, 1962. From 1973-1985 it supervised and managed the Town Museum. Housed in the former Primary School, the museum was visited by citizens of Lincoln and the surrounding communities, as well as people from other states and countries. As curators, the Lincoln Historical Society had on display items such as Indian birch bark canoes and war clubs, farm implements, tools, schoolroom items, a 19th-century hearse, early 20th century clothing and many other interesting and historical artifacts. For a period of years, the town had no museum, which caused the historical society either to return many items or find other locations for their display. Since about 2012, the museum has been located at the Corro House on West Broadway, the oldest house in Lincoln.
The fist organized church in Lincoln was the Congregational Church, organized in 1831. However, an actual building was not constructed until 1851. The first organized service occurred on August 28, 1831, led by the Rev. J. Sawyer. The Methodist Church, organized in 1836, was the first to have an actual church building, having constructed a building in 1839. Its first preacher was the Rev. Elliot B. Fletcher, who came in 1836 before the building of the church. The Baptist Church, located in Lincoln Center, was dedicated on January 1, 1846. Its first minister was the Rev. Sylvester Besse of Paris, Maine. The Roman Catholic Church was completed in 1902, and the first mass was celebrated on November 30th, 1902, by the Father Matthew W. Reilly. Since that time, many other churches have been organized and built through out the community, each with a faithful following.
The Chesley Hayes House, built in 1830, was the first hotel in town. Other early hotels included the Mansion House, Lincoln House, and Penobscot House. The latter, located in Lincoln Center, was a stopover for many people traveling by steamboat along the Penobscot River during the mid-19th century. The first steamboat, under the ownership of the Penobscot River Navigation Company, to make it to Lincoln and beyond was the Governor Neptune, which passed by on November 27, 1847. The following summer, on August 1, 1848, a second steamer, the Mattanawcook, traveled to Lincoln for the first time and continued to do so for approximately ten years. A third steamer, the Sam Houston, built in 1849, also made frequent trips to Lincoln.
Nearly twenty years prior to the first steamer stopping in Lincoln, the Brewer and Sunkhaze Daily Stage began running August 18, 1829, between Bangor and Houlton. The trail along the Penobscot, at that time, was rough and broken at best, so traveling was often slow and, at times, dangerous. With the building and expansion of the railroad, the stage and steamer business slowly died and rail became the largest mover of passengers and freight. In the early 1850s there was talk of building a rail line from Old Town to Lincoln. This finally occurred in 1869. The rail line was managed by the European & North American Railroad for over eleven years after it reached St. John, NB, in 1871. However, later, some difficulties arose and, in October 1882, the Maine Central Railroad leased the track and eventually controlled the line through Lincoln. The Maine Central was later acquired by Guilford Transportation until ownership of Guilford became part of Pan Am Systems. The Maine Central Railroad is still listed as a subsidiary of Pan Am.
In 1825, a forest fire started in the Piscataquis River valley and did immense damage. Strong northwest winds fanned the fires and they soon became uncontrollable. It was said that it crossed the West Branch of the Penobscot and came to the river again at the Town of Chester, sweeping down the river to the Old Town line. It evidently did not touch Lincoln, but approximately 1,300 square miles of forest land was burned. Other fires, both large and small, have, over the past 170 years, affected Lincoln businesses and homes. Most recently, on February 28, 1995, a fiery explosion at the Tibbetts Building and Fuel Supply proved to be devastating. The resulting fire spread so rapidly that the concrete building was nearly totally destroyed along with all its contents. Had a safety relief valve on a propane truck not worked properly, a catastrophe in one of Lincoln’s busiest areas would have resulted.
The name Mattanawcook, a word given to a lake, stream, island and, later, other Lincoln landmarks, has an interesting history. As early as 1793 on a survey map by Maynard and Holland, they note a stream as Mordenarcooch Stream. In 1822, it appears again on another survey map as Matenorcook. A year later, in a letter written by Moses Greenleaf, it is spelled Madanaukook. It appears in its present form in 1829 in a survey by Moses Greenleaf. The Abnaki meaning of Mattanawcook, as applied to the lake, is “lake that ends almost at the river.” The island translation of Mattanawcook is “small, broken islands.”
For more information on the history of Lincoln, see the book, History of Lincoln, by Dr. Dana Fellows, available at the Lincoln Memorial Library. Other readings include The History of the Transalpine, by Mae Edwards Bailey, the Pictorial History of Lincoln, as well as various reports and papers available from the archives of the Lincoln Historical Society and the Lincoln Memorial Library. Or visit the following links.