Waterville, Maine is a small city nestled along the banks of the scenic Kennebec River. While it may not be the most well-known destination in the state, it has been the site of several important historical events over the years. Here are seven of the most significant:
1. Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec (1775)
In 1775, future traitor Benedict Arnold led a force of American soldiers through the wilderness of Maine on a mission to capture the city of Quebec from the British. Waterville served as a staging ground for Arnold’s troops, and the remains of some of his encampments can still be found in the area today.
2. The Kennebec Proprietors (1753)
Before Waterville was even founded, the area was the site of a contentious land dispute between the British government and a group of wealthy investors known as the Kennebec Proprietors. The Proprietors claimed ownership over a vast tract of land along the river, which they hoped to develop into a profitable logging and farming operation.
3. The Maine Central Railroad (1867)
The arrival of the Maine Central Railroad in Waterville in 1867 brought new economic opportunities to the city, allowing goods and people to be transported more easily between Maine and the rest of the country. The railroad also helped spur the growth of the Augusta-Waterville corridor, which remains one of the busiest commercial areas in the state today.
4. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway (1966)
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a scenic river corridor that winds through the forests of northern Maine, was established in 1966 as a protected area for fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities. The headwaters of the Allagash River start near Waterville, making the city an important gateway to this pristine wilderness.
5. The Waterville Opera House (1902)
The Waterville Opera House, an ornate performance venue that has hosted everything from vaudeville acts to rock concerts over the years, was built in 1902 by a group of local businessmen. The opera house remains a beloved cultural landmark in Waterville today, drawing visitors from across the state.
6. The Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium (1965)
Colby College, one of the most prestigious liberal arts schools in the Northeast, is located in Waterville. In 1965, Colby joined with two other nearby colleges, Bates and Bowdoin, to form the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium. The consortium allows students at each school to take classes at the other two schools, creating a unique and collaborative educational experience.
7. The Sidney Riot (1820)
In 1820, a group of settlers in nearby Sidney rose up against the government in protest of land policies that they believed were unfair. The Sidney Riot, as it came to be known, ultimately resulted in the arrests of several ringleaders and a crackdown on protests across the state. While the riot itself was short-lived, it remains an important example of early Maine’s tumultuous political landscape.
All of these historical events have helped shape the character of Waterville and the surrounding area, making it a fascinating destination for history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in Maine’s rich cultural heritage.
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