LINCOLN COUNTY HISTORY

Lincoln County Boundary Changes

It may be helpful to know that from 1760 to 1789 Lincoln County occupied more than three-quarters of the total area of the State of Maine; the remainder being divided between the counties of York and Cumberland. The shire town of Lincoln County, Pownalborough, was situated in the extreme southwest corner of the vast expanse near the coast and the center of population.  In 1787 Hallowell (later Augusta) was declared a half-shire town and became the site of one of the two Lincoln County jails built in 1795.

In 1789 Hancock and Washington counties were formed from the western half of Lincoln County and in 1799 the northern part of the county was detached and established as Kennebec County with Hallowell as its shire town.  The Lincoln County jail built there in 1795 became the first Kennebec County jail.  Lincoln County was further reduced in size in 1827 with the formation of Waldo County and again in 1854 when Sagadahoc and Androscoggin became separate counties. It attained its present size in 1860 when half of Knox County was split off from Lincoln.

LINCOLN COUNTY JAILS

The First Lincoln County Jail (Fort Shirley) 1761-1795 - authorized by the Court of General Sessions of the Peace at its first term in May 1761 and completed in September of the same year.  It was erected alongside the palisade of Fort Shirley adjacent to the new but as yet unfinished courthouse located in present day Dresden.  The Fort Shirley jail was in use from 1761 to 1795 and was dismantled in the latter year.  Many of its fittings and some of the building materials were used in the construction of the county jail in Hallowell which was built by the same contractor who built the first Wiscasset jail.

The second Lincoln County Jail - 1795-1867 - was authorized in 1793 and finished in 1795.  It was erected in Wiscasset (then part of Pownalborough) at the junction of present-day Washington and Churchill Streets and served as the county jail from 1785 to 1811. It was purchased in 1812 by its last jailer, Thomas Cargill, as a residence.  Upon his death in 1814 it was acquired by Moses Carlton and Phineas Kellam and in 1818 it was sold to the town of Wiscasset for use as  a poorhouse. It continued to serve as such until 1867 when it was totally destroyed by fire.

The third Lincoln County Courthouse - 1811-1913 - was completed in 1811 on what is now known as Federal Street in Wiscasset and remained in use until 1913 when it was officially "disestablished" by the State Legislature.  It was the only one of the three jails to be built of stone.  Since 1954 it has been the headquarters of the Lincoln County Cultural and Historical Association.

1811 jail
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Excerpts from Sheriff's Record Book (circa 1811-1812)

              

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Last updated: 29-April-2014