The original inhabitants of the territory that is now Maine were Algonquian-speaking Wabanaki peoples including the Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Penobscot. The first European settlement in what is now called Maine was in 1604 on Saint Croix Island, by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, including Samuel de Champlain, the noted explorer. The French named the entire area, including the portion that later became the State of Maine, Acadia. The first English settlement in Maine was established by the Plymouth Company at Popham in 1607, the same year as the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.The Popham colonists returned to England after 14 months.
Two Jesuit missions were established by the French; one on Penobscot Bay in 1609, and the other on Mount Desert Island in 1613. The same year, Castine was established by Claude de La Tour. In 1625, Charles de Saint-Étienne de la Tour erected Fort Pentagouet to protect Castine. The coastal areas of western Maine first became the Province of Maine in a 1622 land patent. Eastern Maine north of the Kennebec River was more sparsely settled and was known in the 17th century as the Territory of Sagadahock. A second settlement was attempted at a place called York, in 1623 by English explorer and naval Captain Christopher Levett, granted 6,000 acres (24 km) by King Charles I of England. That settlement also failed.
Central Maine was formerly inhabited by people of the Androscoggin tribe, also known as Arosaguntacook. The Androscoggin were a tribe in the Abenaki nation. They were driven out of the area in 1690 during King Philip's War. They were relocated at St. Francis, Canada, which was destroyed by Rogers' Rangers in 1759, and is now Odanak. The other Abenaki tribes suffered several severe defeats, particularly during Dummer's War, with the capture of Norridgewock in 1724 and the defeat of the Pequawket in 1725, which greatly reduced their numbers. They finally withdrew to Canada, where they were settled at Bécancour and Sillery, and later at St. Francis, along with other refugee tribes from the south.
The province within its current boundaries became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1652. Maine was much fought over by the French, English and allied natives during the 17th and early 18th centuries, who conducted raids against each other, taking captives for ransom or, in some cases, adoption by Native American tribes. For instance, the Abenaki took captives taken during raids of Massachusetts in Queen Anne's War of the early 1700s to Kahnewake, a Catholic Mohawk village near Montreal, where some were adopted and others ransomed.
After the English defeated the French in Acadia in the 1740s, the territory from the Penobscot River east fell under the nominal authority of the Province of Nova Scotia, and together with present-day New Brunswick formed the Nova Scotia county of Sunbury, with its court of general sessions at Campobello. American and British forces contended for Maine's territory during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, and British forces occupied eastern Maine in both conflicts. The treaty concluding revolution was ambiguous about Maine's boundary with British North America. The territory of Maine was confirmed as part of Massachusetts when the United States was formed, although the final border with British territory was not established until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.
Maine was physically separate from the rest of Massachusetts. Long-standing disagreements over land speculation and settlements led to Maine residents and their allies in Massachusetts proper forcing an 1807 vote in the Massachusetts Assembly on permitting Maine to secede; the vote failed. Secessionist sentiment in Maine was stoked during the War of 1812 when Massachusetts pro-British merchants opposed the war and refused to defend Maine from British invaders. In 1819, Massachusetts agreed to permit secession if voters in Maine approved. Due to these considerations and rapid population growth, in 1820 Maine voted to secede from Massachusetts. The secession and formation of the state of Maine as the 23rd state occurred on March 15, 1820 as part of the Missouri Compromise, which geographically limited the spread of slavery and enabled the admission to statehood of Missouri the following year, while keeping a balance between slave and free states.
Maine's original capital was Portland, the largest city in Maine, until it was moved to Augusta in 1832 to make it more central within the state.
The 20th Maine, under the command of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, defended Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg. Its soldiers prevented the Union Army from being flanked by the Confederate Army.
Four U.S. Navy ships have been named USS Maine in honor of the state.
There is no definitive explanation for the origin of the name 'Maine'. The state legislature in 2001 adopted a resolution establishing Franco-American Day, which stated that the state was named after the former French province of Maine. Other theories mention earlier places with similar names, or claim it is a nautical reference to the mainland. The first known record of the name appears in an Aug. 10, 1622 land charter to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason, English Royal Navy veterans, who were granted a large tract in present-day Maine that Mason and Gorges "intend to name The Province of Maine." Mason had served in Royal Navy in the Orkney Islands where the chief island was called Mainland, a more likely name derivation for these English sailors than the French province. A year later, in 1623, the English naval captain Christopher Levett, exploring the New England coast, wrote: "The first place I set my foote upon in New England was the Isle of Shoulds, being Ilands [sic] in the sea, above two Leagues from the Mayne." Whatever the origin, the name was fixed in 1665 when the King's Commissioners ordered that the "Province of Maine" be entered from then on in official records.