The origin of the name “Maine” is unknown, but some historians believe it could be a reference to mainland, and others believe it could have been named after the French providence of Maine. Either way the first settlers to arrive were likely Paleo-Indians who made their home in the wooden lands as early as 12,000 years ago.

The first Europe visitors likely arrived around 1,000 AD when Leif Erikson and other Viking explorers settled the area of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Evidence has been found that suggests that they may have reached the region of modern day New England. Giovanni da Verranzno was the first European explorer to “discover” the coastal region of Maine in 1524, and the French established the first colony at the mouth of the St. Croix River in the early 17th century. The British attempted to establish their own colony just years later but it did not survive through the winter.

The area is finally established as a British colony a few decades later with lands of what is now Maine and New Hampshire, and Sir Ferinando Gorges titles the territory “Maine.” This frontier is later annexed by the Massachusetts colony as a buffer territory from French and Indian invasions. The resulting wars from 1675 to 1763 see Maine as the site of several small engagements between British and French and Indian forces.

Following the defeat of the French, their colonies in Canada become British and Maine is no longer on a frontier between rival powers… until the outbreak of the American Revolution. And the first battle of the Revolutionary War occurs off the coast of Machias. Maine is later the staging ground for Benedict Arnold’s invasion of Canada.

Following the war Bowdoin College became the first university in 1794, and Maine became a state in 1820 as part of the Missouri Compromise. The state’s governor actually declared war with England over border disputes with New Brunswick in 1839. This is the only time in American history that a lone state has declared war on a foreign power, but the dispute settled fortunately before any blood was spilt. The compromise on border was finally settled in 1842.

In 1931 the state’s governor began an initiative to buy land in Northern Maine for the purpose of establishing a game reserve. As a result the state retains much of its ancient forests that attracted those earliest settlers, and today Maine is a year round tourist destination.