To drive along Route 1 through Lincolnville Beach today, other than the state Ferry Terminal, some lobster boats and some seafood restaurants, one might easily assume the area never had much more of a link to Maine maritime history. But that is incorrect.

There is little physical evidence remaining today, but that particular shoreline stretching from above Lincolnville Beach to past the Ferry Terminal down the bay toward a small headland, once was the center of a thriving, bustling and energetic shipbuilding industry.

The first recorded ship known to have been built in Lincolnville was launched in 1793. It was the 85-ton schooner Catherine, owned by John Horton Jr. of Boston. Lemuel Drinkwater was its master. But was it really the first? Probably not.

Shipbuilding records that far back are pretty sketchy. The area was first settled in 1770 as Duck Trap and Canaan Plantations. In 1801, the area was incorporated as Lincolnville, named after American Revolutionary War Gen. Benjamin Lincoln.

In that span of three decades, numerous ships most likely were built; the problem is that finding evidence of their construction or location of their shipyards has been difficult. Many records no longer exist. Between 1790 and 1799, most shipbuilding records from Lincolnville were sent to and kept at the Customs House in Wiscasset. From 1799 to 1818, Lincolnville sent its shipbuilding records to Waldoboro, but those were apparently destroyed in a fire.

This results in some serious gaps in the historical evidence. Many ships built and launched in this area during those early years are therefore unrecorded, perhaps lost to history. Still, what information has survived provides an interesting glimpse into the maritime culture for this particular stretch of Maine coast. It was way more active than you might think.

Most Lincolnville vessels that we know of built in the late 1700s tended to be schooners, but in 1801, the settlement launched its first full-rigged ship. Joseph & Phebe was 250 tons and 89 feet long, built and owned by Joseph and Ebenezar Perkins of Castine. Its first master was David Dunbar.

In the years immediately following the War of 1812, Lincolnville continued to build mostly schooners, including the Commodore Perry, Mary Jane, Olive, Governor Brooks, Lenity, Dolphin and Jane. In the decade after Maine’s statehood in 1820, Lincolnville produced the schooners William in 1821 and Rachel & Lydia in 1827, the brig Samuel & John in 1822, and the 307-ton ship Cashmere in 1826.

Schooner Commodore Perry was lost on Long Ledge, off Mount Desert Island on Nov. 26, 1845. Stockton Springs resident Peleg Pendleton later was part-owner of the 36-ton schooner Dolphin, which operated in Penobscot Bay at least until the 1850s. Cashmere was engaged on the Philadelphia run shortly after its launch.

In 1830, Lincolnville brothers Jeremiah and Charles Wadsworth, along with Joseph Jones of Camden, built the 58-ton schooner Forest five miles inland at the head of Megunticook Lake at Lincolnville Center, then called Youngtown. Rockport/Camden also claim title to this vessel as the town areas tended to overlap in those days. More on Rockport/Camden shipbuilding later!

That winter, the Wadsworth brothers used teams of oxen to drag the schooner across the frozen lake to Camden village and then down its main street. To the wonderment of village witnesses, the vessel loomed up like a Great Eastern. Forest was then launched into Camden Harbor. The schooner saw long service and was eventually wrecked on Mosquito Island at Port Clyde in 1874.

On the shores of Lincolnville Beach, the schooner Mount Moriah was built in 1832 by Samuel A. Whitney. The vessel was 139 tons and measured 83 feet in length. It was eventually lost in 1845. The 1830s also saw the completion and launching of the schooners William Wallace in 1834, Mary Maria in 1836, and St. Lucar in 1838.

But it was the 1840s when Lincolnville shipbuilding hit its stride, the shoreside shipyards producing numerous brigs and schooners. Brigs Madrid and Bulah were launched in 1833, Florina in 1845, Annandale and Sidi Hamet, both in 1846, and Julia Ford in 1848. Julia Ford entered the coastal trade as did schooners Eugene, built in 1842; Pizarro and Martha Washington, both launched in 1843; Mt. Vernon in 1844; Flying Arrow and Prudence, both in 1846; Lily and General Taylor, both in 1847; and C.H. Hale in 1849.

In 1854, Mt. Vernon, under a master named Collamer, was bound from Falmouth, Massachusetts, for Lincolnville when it went ashore on Scituate beach during a winter gale. It was not hauled off the sand bar until later that spring.

In the years leading to the American Civil War, Lincolnville produced lots of brigs, barks and schooners. Brig Lauravena was launched in 1853, but then rebuilt 13 years later and renamed Isadora. The 275-ton brig Flying Eagle was built in 1855 and later sold to England, renamed Day Star. The 1856-built schooner N. Whitney was lost in 1870. James Gilchrist’s schooner Georgia was built in 1860 and sank in the North Atlantic in 1874. The crew was rescued by ship Madam Adomer and deposited safely at Liverpool.

The 1866-built schooner Florence N. Tower found itself in a similar situation in 1886 when it was abandoned in the North Atlantic. The crew was rescued by the German brig Hendrik and safely brought to Hamburg. The schooner was recovered. In 1882, its captain, Alonzo Houston of Lincolnville, died of small pox at Vineyard Haven. He had been left at that port with the illness, while sailing a cargo of coal from New York to Winterport. According to the Portland Daily Press, he was sick no more than a week and was not supposed to be in any kind of dangerous condition.

Even as the Civil War raged, Lincolnville produced three schooners and a bark. But the year 1867 saw its last vessel built in the area. It was the 279-ton brig E.C. Carver, built and owned by Nathaniel Sylvester of Lincolnville.

The bark Georgiana and schooner Hutoka, two Lincolnville-built vessels of unknown dates, became well

NOAA Chart 1324 of Cape Cod Bay showing the sand ridge Peaked Hill Bar. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association

known by their fates. In 1855, Hutoka, under a master named Drinkwater, was lost with all hands on Peaked Hill Bar, a stretch of offshore sand along the ocean-side tip of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod.

The bark Georgiana was captured by Spanish naval forces at Cuba in 1851 during a filibustering expedition. The term refers to an unauthorized military expedition into a foreign territory to start or support a revolution.

This filibustering was probably under revolutionary Narciso López, who led three unsuccessful expeditions against the Spanish in Cuba. In 1851, with financial backing from prominent American southerners, López landed in Havana with a contingent of volunteers for his third attempt.

Narciso López, revolutionary in Cuba in the 1850s. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

It abruptly ended when no popular uprising against Spain occurred. López, along with 50 American southerners, were captured and then executed. The flag López had adopted for his filibustering expeditions later became Cuba’s national flag.

Georgiana was captured and confiscated by Spanish authorities. While its crew was spared execution, they were sent to Spain for imprisonment. Lincolnville families of crew members contacted President Millard Fillmore for assistance. His administration, politically embarrassed by López’s attempt, was at

U.S. President Millard Fillmore Public Domain

first reluctant to get involved, but finally they acted. After some international complications, Georgiana’s crew eventually was released and returned to Lincolnville.

So next time you find yourself on Route 1 driving through quiet little Lincolnville Beach, take a moment to remember and appreciate the enormous activity and production of those long-ago shipyards that dotted the shoreline. Maybe on warm, soft summer evenings, you might even catch a whiff from the piles of wood chips or stacked lumber or maybe hear sounds of hammering or sawing echoing along the water.

Charles H. Lagerbom teaches AP U.S. History at Belfast Area High School and lives in Northport. He can be contacted at clagerbom@rsu71.org. He is author of “Whaling in Maine,” available through Historypress.com.