Early Hallowell


First article in the series celebrating Hallowell’s 250th Anniversary, as published in the Capital Weekly on January 6, 2012

by Sam Webber 

Deacon Pease Clark, the first settler in what is now Hallowell, arrived from Attleboro, Massachusetts on the 2nd of May of 1762.  By 1770 there were two small settlements just three mile apart.  The one around Deacon Pease Clark’s home, near where the Cotton Mill is today, was called “The Hook” and the one around Fort Western to the north was called “The Fort”.  The two settlements became Hallowell in 1771 and the newly incorporated town encompassed nearly ninety square miles.  Rivalry between the two settlements came to a head in 1797 when “The Fort” was allowed to become the Town of Augusta.  Over the years Hallowell lost more land and by the end of 1850 was only 5.36 square miles.

By 1800 Hallowell had a population of 1,384.  In 1802 the Coos Trail opened between Hallowell and Errol, New Hampshire and by 1820 the population grew to 2,929.  Settlers left Hallowell to establish homes in parts of Franklin, Oxford and Cumberland Counties.  Lumber, farm animals and produce arrived back in Hallowell to be shipped to distant ports.  Hallowell rapidly became a trading center which attracted merchants, sea captains and shipbuilders.  Captain Shiebel West’s sloop Primrose began its Hallowell-Boston run in 1811.  The Primrose returned with flour, brass kettles, run, molasses, coffee and wine to be sold at West’s Wharf in the “Joppa” section of Hallowell.

Publishing began at “The Hook” in the 1790’s to support a growing community.  In 1791, Howard Robinson printed the first book of fiction printed in the District of Maine entitled Female Friendship or Innocent Sufferer: a Moral Lecture.  Three years later he publisher the Eastern Star, the first newspaper in what is now Kennebec County.

Benjamin Vaughan, a man of many interests, arrived at his new Hallowell “Homestead” in 1787.  He contributed to the community by importing and sharing new animal and horticultural stock, establishing a Hallowell library and giving medical help.  His personal library of over 10,000 volumes was the second largest in New England.  Through his friend Edward Jenner, Dr. Vaughan arranged to have a modern Smallpox vaccination packet sent to Hallowell.  Under his guidance, local physician Dr. Benjamin Page, Jr. administered the first Smallpox vaccination in the United States.

Others followed who would shape Hallowell’s future. Samuel K. Gilman came to Hallowell as a newspaper printer in 1815.   In a short time he became the editor and proprietor of the American Advocate.  He later studied law and served four terms in the Maine legislature, represented the railroad when it was built through Hallowell and ended his career as judge of the Hallowell Municipal Court.  He was followed by Henry Knox Baker who started as a newspaper apprentice and later became editor and publisher of the American Advocate, school board member, librarian, legislator and probate Judge.

Education was a high priority in early Hallowell.  The Hallowell
Academy opened at “The Hook” in 1795.  The course of studies centered around English, Latin and Greek.  Early American composer Supply Belcher, the Handel of Maine, instructed vocal and instruments music.  Graduates attended prestigious colleges such as Bowdoin and Harvard.

Old South Congregational Church was built in Hallowell in 1796.  It was the only church in Hallowell at the time and Reverend Eliphalet Gillet was its driving force.  He preached at Old South for thirty-two years and during that time helped found the Maine Missionary Society and the first statewide abolitionist society.  By 1826 the Baptist, Unitarian and Methodist churches were well established in the community.

Early settlers of Hallowell created the base from which Hallowell would grow into the 1800’s and beyond to become the great community it is today.