Town History

The Kennebec River and its succession of inhabitants have a long and interesting record. The first settlers, the Abenaki Indians, had a permanent settlement at Cushnoc, on the east bank of the Kennebec River, near the falls, in what is now Augusta. Mary Calvert, author of "The Kennebec Wilderness Awakens", wrote, "The Kennebec River was one of the earliest rivers to be explored on the eastern seaboard. A succession of European explorers sailed the Maine Coast and laid claims to the land of the Abenakis for their European sponsors." The Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazanno visited the mouth of the Kennebec River in May of 1524. He was soon followed by French explorer Samuel De Champlain in 1604 and the English explorer George Weymouth in 1605. The English had the first and most lasting effect on the settlement of the region. In 1620, the King of England granted a charter to establish the Plymouth Company at Devon County, England and further granted the territory of modern day New England to that company. By the mid-1620's trading between the Abenakis and the first settlers began. In 1629, the Plymouth Colony granted William Bradford land along the Kennebec River, from south of Swan's Island in present day Richmond to the Wesserunsett River in Skowhegan. This land extended outward 15 miles on both sides of the river. When the French and Indian wars neared their end in 1751, a new group of proprietors bought the shares in the Kennebec claim and reactivated the company. Land boundaries were surveyed and several "great lots" above Cobbosseecontee Stream on the west side of the river were laid out in 1753 (covering much of present day Farmingdale). Lots with one mile of frontage on the Kennebec and five miles deep were offered for sale in 1762. In 1852, Farmingdale incorporated as a town, combining parts of South Hallowell, North Gardiner and East/West Gardiner. Many and varied businesses existed in Farmingdale, most of them along the river. A major business on the Kennebec was harvesting and selling ice worldwide and Farmingdale was a significant player. The Knickerbocker Ice Company and the Marshall Ice Co. had icehouses at Bowman's Point. The Knickerbocker Ice Co. burned in 1894 or 1895 leaving only the chimney that stood until it was demolished in 1911 to make room for the Central Maine Power Plant. The Rich Ice Houses were the largest icehouses above the Gardiner Bridge with a storage capacity of 70,000 tons. Jennie G. Everson's book "Tidewater Ice of the Kennebec River" has pictures of these icehouses and is a valuable historical record of the ice industry on the Kennebec River. Other businesses on the river in Farmingdale included shipyards, brickyards, potteries and a glue factory. The Berlin Mills Company had a large sawmill on the river on Bowman's Point. The manmade log booms by Brown's Island were placed there to hold logs being floated down the Kennebec. While the logs were in the "boom" area, they were rafted and sorted for the sawmills. Commercial growth in ensuing years centered upon Gardiner, Hallowell and Augusta while Farmingdale never developed a town center to compare with those cities. Time, fires, floods and economic forces eventually removed the larger businesses. Today, Farmingdale exists largely as a strong and vibrant residential community whose residents work primarily in other cities. The distinction between the densely developed riverbanks and the open rural backland remains. Historic Structures that are on the National Register of Historic Places include the Peter Grant House located at 10 Grant Street, and the Captain Nathaniel Stone House located at 268 Maine Avenue.