Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




There have been many accounts of individual settlements in Maine and a few histories of the State, but no one has ever attempted a history of its land policy or analyzed the effect that such a policy or lack of policy might have had on the development of the State of Maine.

Maine was one of the earliest sections of the Atlantic Coast to be explored but one of the slowest in development. The latter may have been due to a number of factors but undoubtedly the lack of a definite, well developed land policy had much to do with the slow progress of settlement and development of this area.

The years 1602 to 1620 marked the beginnings of explorations along the Maine Coast principally by the English and French. In 1603, Henry IV of France granted all the American territory between the fortieth and forty-six degrees north latitude to Pierre de Gast Sieure de Monts. This territory was called Acadia. Soon after, in 1606 King James I of England granted all the lands between the thirty-fourth and forty-fifth degrees north latitude to an association of noblemen of London and Plymouth. Later, King James I of England granted all the lands from the fortieth to the forty-eighth degrees of north latitude to a company called ’’Council established at Plymouth in the County of Devon; for planting, ruling, and governing New England in America.” This company functioned from 1620-1635. In that time, it granted, through only a few Patents, nearly the whole seaboard from the Piscataqua River to the Penobscot River, excepting that lying between the Sagadahoc and Damariscotta Rivers. From 1635 to the Charter of William and Mary in 1692, the lands of Maine were the subject of many overlapping claims by both individuals and countries, France and England. In 1692, the Province of Maine became a part of Massachusetts.

Sales and grants of land in Maine were retarded for the greater part of the eighteenth century by a series of Indian wars, nor were they extensive until after the American Revolution.

In 1784, Massachusetts became a sovereign state of which the eastern most district was designated ’’The District of Maine” and as such it remained until 1820 when it became a separate state.

Up to the year 1784, land policy, if there was any, rested almost entirely upon the individual grantees. By this time, however, Massachusetts began to see in the development of Maine lands a means of paying her many debts incurred in relation to the American Revolution. In that year, Massachusetts established a land office and had agents appointed to survey and sell the land. This was the first time that lands had been available for purchase. Previously they had been granted in two hundred acre lots to settlers who would settle on them for a specified time and make certain improvements. From this time on, Massachusetts became land minded. Speculation was rife. Grants were made for every conceivable purpose, yet the sale of land was slow. One noteworthy policy, developed in this period, was that of reserving lots of land for future public uses and for the schools.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, agitation had begun for the separation of Maine from Massachusetts which was accomplished June 19, 1819, and approved by Congress the following year.