The first European settlers in Maine depended on fishing, farming, furs, and lumbering. As early as the 16th century, Europeans fished off the coast of Maine, salting or sun-drying the catch before taking it back to Europe. In the 17th century, the Pilgrims, colonists in Massachusetts, engaged in both fishing and fur trading in Maine to pay debts they owed in England. However, the fur trade declined by the mid-17th century when the beaver supply was exhausted. Settlements turned increasingly to farming, though the harsh climate, together with a lack of roads and markets, meant that farms remained at the subsistence level. By 1650 permanent settlements existed at Kittery, Wells, Scarboro, and York. Settlements extended along the coast but not far inland, except along rivers that afforded transportation to the coast. Early settlers felled trees, planted crops, and chopped firewood in a continuous cycle of work to produce food, shelter, and warmth in the Maine environment.
From the late 17th century to the mid-18th century, Maine experienced a series of wars that pitted the Abenaki and the French against English settlers. In the first of these wars, King Philip’s War (1675-1678), the English settlers fought native people throughout New England. The principal cause was English settlement on native lands, though local tribes also had specific grievances against the settlers in their regions. Fighting in Maine continued until 1678, two years after Philip’s death ended hostilities in southern New England.
Imperial wars between European powers also influenced hostilities in Maine, which was located between the claims of the French and the English in North America. These conflicts along the frontier included King William’s War (1689-1697), Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), King George’s War (1744-1748), and the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
Linked to the wars between the European powers, fighting flared between the Wabanaki and English settlers during these same years, as the native people tried in vain to keep the whites from encroaching on their land, resources and sovereignty. The wars devastated Maine’s towns and people, both native and European. Atrocities were committed on both sides. In 1691 there were only four English settlements left, all of them in the southern corner of the state, but settlers persisted in their efforts, returning again and again to build forts, blockhouses, stockades, and garrison houses.
The Treaty of Paris, which finally ended the French and Indian War in 1763, ousted the French from North America and marked the end of the native peoples’ resistance in Maine. The Penobscot and Passamaquoddy remained in eastern Maine, and were eventually moved to reservations, while other groups moved to join Abenaki villages in Canada or continued to live in small groups in western Maine. After the wars, European settlers increased rapidly from 23,000 in 1765 to 47,000 in 1775. "Maine" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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