MAINE should have had the honor of being one of the original states in the union. She was the earliest settled in New England and yet she missed the glory of being a charter member of the republic. Why? Because she was the frontier between France and England in their one-hundred-and-fifty-year duel for the possession of a continent, which opened on the Island of Matinicus, off the mouth of the Penobscot, in the year 1611. Thenceforth for a century and a half, Maine remained debatable ground, with both sides wrestling over her and holding her back from her natural evolution into a prosperous and independent colony.
Cherchez la femme. The woman at the bottom of it was the Marquise de Gourcheville. That pretty widow defended her charms against the King himself, Henry of Navarre, when she said to His Majesty: "Sire, my rank perhaps is not high enough to permit me to be your wife but my heart is too high to be less to you." The conqueror was conquered, and he presented to his Queen, Marie de Médici, the victor over him: "Madame, I give you a lady of honor who is a lady of honor indeed."
When Marie de Médici herself was widowed, she rewarded her most devoted and trusted lady of honor with nothing less than the gift of all America that lay between Florida and Labrador and the two seas. The noble chatelaine of those millions of square miles seemed to think only of saving the souls of the heathen in their darkness. But her first mission, planted on the beautiful island of Mt. Desert, was destroyed by a swashbuckling Englishman, and the shores of eastern Maine relapsed into a desolation.
After some thirty years, two noble youths of French chivalry fell furiously to warring over the possession of that wilderness. One of them, Charles de Menon Charnise, Seigneur d'Aulnay, had been sent out by the King of France to drive away the Pilgrims of Plymouth, who had a trading post where Castine now is, and he fortified himself on that peninsula of the Penobscot.
The fortress of the other, Charles Etienne de la Tour, was at St. John in New Brunswick, and he asserted rule over all Acadia, which he insisted extended westward to the Penobscot, at least. The pair not only quarreled over the earth, but over heaven as well, d'Aulnay being a Catholic and la Tour a Protestant.
After attack and counter attack, the Catholic d'Aulnay brought home with him to Castine, Madame la Tour, wife of his Protestant foe, to adorn his triumph over the fortress of St. John. The lofty spirit of the poor lady refused to bend and her body broke under the strain. When her knight came riding to her rescue, he rode a sable mare and his name was death. Next, her captor also died, worn down by this twelve-year war, which closed with la Tour taking sweet revenge by marrying Madame d'Aulnay, the widow of his fallen foe.
After the weeds had been growing for fifteen years around the walls of d'Aulnay's abandoned stronghold on Penobscot Bay, there walked upon the stage of that sylvan theater the man who was to affix his name of Castine to the embattled shore. His regiment, which he brought out from France to Quebec, having been disbanded, the Baron Vincent de St. Castine, sometime colonel of the king's bodyguard, hied him to the woods of Maine and "went native." Taking to himself the daughter of a tribal chieftain, he and his descendants continued two hundred years to rule the Indians of the region.
All the fantasy was not confined to eastern Maine. The history of the western part is no chronicle of small beer. Neither the Marquise de Gourcheville, nor d'Aulnay, nor la Tour, nor the Baron Castine was a more redoubtable pursuer of phantoms than Sir Ferdinando Gorges, of English birth and title, but as Spanish as any of Cervantes' knights of the manches.
With George Cleeve valiantly upholding from the vantage ground of Mountjoy Hill, in the present city of Portland, a so-called Rigby patent to a country called Lygonia, which ran from the Saco to the Kennebec, Sir Ferdinando's claim was reduced to the strip between the Saco and the Piscataqua Rivers. Upon that narrow stage he enacted the prologue of a medieval drama, with himself as lord paramount, assisted by his lieutenant governor, a chancellor, marshal, treasurer, admiral, master of ordnance and a steward general. He divided his dominion into manors, with demesne lands, court leets and courts baron, and he exalted to the rank of a city a log village of two hundred and fifty or three hundred denizens on the site of the town of York.
Alas for Georgeana, the first city in New England! Soon Governor Winthrop looked down upon it in scorn for having elected a tailor to its mayoralty!
While Sir Ferdinando's principality still was a castle in the air, another claim to Maine was founded on a rock. That rock was set up by Massachusetts on the shore of Lake Winnepesaukee, where still it marks the source of the Merrimac. As the Puritan colony, by its charter, ran to a line three miles north of that river, "and every part thereof," its surveyors drew a new boundary line from three miles northward of the starting point of the stream and carried it due east to the sea.
Massachusetts already held New Hampshire at that time, and this new demarcation gave her western Maine also. When the heirs of Sir Ferdinando questioned the correctness of that boundary, Charles II decided to settle the question by giving the land in dispute to his son, the Duke of Monmouth. But Massachusetts had the effrontery to buy the Gorges' claim behind the King's back for $7500, which may mean all of $23,000 in the money of to-day.
Charles was as angry as a "Merrie Monarch" could be. But the pushful Yankees had nine points of the law on their side. The District of Maine remained in Massachusetts, where it continued to stay for a matter of one hundred and fifty years.
James Morgan, The Birth of the American People, 1930