Houlton Pioneer Days

Houlton, first settled in 1807 by John Putnam and Joseph Houlton, was the chosen place along the Meduxnikeag River to establish a new school of higher education. Putnam and Houlton first set off in 1801 from Boston for Bangor and then to areas of the state yet uncharted in search for land. The New Salem Academy, commissioned through a land grant issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the impetus for this great endeavor.

As the settlement grew, settlers enjoyed trade and interaction with their Native American and English neighbors as Houlton was not far from the Indian settlement of Meductic and only eleven miles west of Woodstock, New Brunswick. This was very important in the year of 1816, known as the year without a summer, when settlers had to contend with measureable snow in the Month of June. Working together through these hardships was the only way to survive.

A dispute over logging rights in the unsettled north between the United States and England found tensions stretched. In 1828 the Hancock US Army Barracks in Houlton was established to dissuade English loggers from logging US territory. With this continued dispute not finding closure, Houlton played an important role in the Aroostook Bloodless War.

After the war ended and the land dispute was resolved Houlton settlers got back to work logging and farming the land. One of Houlton's most successful entrepreneurs was Shepherd Cary, who opened what might be the first general store in the area. Mr. Cary later established a major logging company named S. Cary & Company.

Much like today, potatoes were also a major economic driver for Houlton and in 1870 when the New Brunswick and Canadian Railway came to town it ushered in the potato era. Potato starch was a value added product that farmers needed to ensure market for their produce and with the establishment of some of the biggest starch plants in the world potatoes continued to flourish.

By the early 1900's just 100 years after John Putnam and Joseph Houlton first settled this area Houlton could boast having more millionaires per capita than anywhere in the United States except Brookline Massachusetts. The wealth derived from the vast tracts of timber and fertile farm land resulted in Houlton becoming one of the State's most powerful towns. In the following 25 years Houlton produced: 3 Speakers of the Maine House, 1 US Senator, and 3 US Congressmen' and 2 Maine Governors.

To learn more about Houlton and its quick rise to prominence please visit:
Aroostook Historical and Art Museum
Houlton (207) 532-2519

Houlton Chamber of Commerce
109 Main Street
Houlton ME 04730
(207) 532-4216


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