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York Town

The York Town Hall is located at 186 York Street, York ME 03909; phone: 207-363-1003.

Beginnings [1]

York, one of the most attractive old coastal villages, is the commercial center of the nearby beach resorts. Generally known as Old York and now under the township form of government, York was settled as Agamenticus about 1624 by the Plymouth Company and was given a city charter and government under name of Gorgeana in 1641 by Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Thomas Gorges, a nephew of Sir Ferdinando, was the first mayor, and the little wilderness 'city' had a full set of officials, including aldermen and sergeants. In 1652, Gorgeana was reorganized as a town and called York after the English county of that name. In 1716 it was made the shire town of Yorkshire, now York County, by the legislature of Massachusetts.

After the battle of Dunbar, Scotland, in 1650, Oliver Cromwell found himself with many prisoners on his hands. More than 1000 of them were sent to the Colonies, 150 being apportioned to New England to be sold at 20 and 30 each for service to last six, seven, and eight years; the proceeds of the sale went to the captain of the ship. A year later, after the battle of Worcester, England, more bondmen were sent over, 275 of them to Boston on the ship 'John and Sarah.' Many were brought to Maine. The prisoners, after having completed their terms of servitude, were free to settle where they chose and twelve of them remained in York. The first Scot to settle in York (1657) was Alexander Maxwell who had been sold to George Leader of Berwick. After him came others from Dover and Exeter to form the section of the town known as Scotland.

As the friction between the Colonies and the mother country increased, the people of York took sides, most favoring the Colonial cause. They even had their own 'tea party,' when the sloop 'Cynthia,' with James Donnell as master, anchored at Keating's wharf with a cargo containing 150 pounds of tea for his uncle, Deacon Jonathan Sayward. The Sons of Liberty, much incensed, seized the tea and carried it to Captain Edward Grow's store for safekeeping. The next night a roving band of ' Pequawket Indians ' entered the town, broke into the store, and carried the tea away.

This town, in which many important events in the State's early history occurred, saw the beginnings of industrial activity in Maine with the establishment of the first cotton mill. The York Cotton Factory Company was incorporated by the Massachusetts Legislature February 12, 1811.

York was once the home of Madam Wood, Maine's first novelist.

In the village is a beautiful white Church (1747), its clock tower and spire surmounted by a weathervane and cock. The stained windows were added many years after its construction.

The lichen-covered slate headstones of the Old York Cemetery, dating back to the early part of the 18th century, bear many old-fashioned inscriptions beneath such somber and conventional designs as the weeping willow and the Grecian urn. Many of the headstones have crude death's heads with wings over the inscriptions with their old English spelling. One grave, completely covered by a large boulder placed between the headstone and foot stone so the occupant could never escape, is called the Witch's Grave, said to be that of a woman executed for witchcraft and buried here in 1744.

  1. Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, State of Maine Development Commission, Maine: A Guide 'Down East,' 1937, American Guide Series, Riverside Press, Cambridge MA; Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston
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