HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF
It is difficult to place ownership for the area now called Bowdoin during the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1620 King James I granted to the Council of Plymouth "All land from 40 degrees North latitude to 48 degrees North latitude, and from sea to sea".
We know that in 1779 James Bowdoin had legal
claim to the area of West Bowdoinham Plantation and was granting deeds on land
he claimed to be two miles in width and fronting on the
In 1788, when the area became incorporated as the town of
In 1797 James Rogers and Ebenezer Temple of Bowdoin
paid the Selectmen of Bowdoinham $2,000.00 for the privilege of building a road
from Bowdoinham's Cathance landing to the Bowdoin line. This road gave Bowdoin
residents access to the
With 88 votes for division and 30 opposed, it was voted in 1798 to
"incorporate westerly part of town of
During the years of 1836-37 the West Bowdoin
Brick Meeting House was built by Nathaniel and Albert Purinton. In 1837 a Town House was built on the hill of
the Widow Jane Smith, with the low bid of $590.00 going to Mr. Lincoln Maloon. Between 1836 and 1837 the South Meeting House was
built on land once owned by Elder James Potter and overlooking his grave across
the road in the
In 1837, despite the growth of churches, the town voted on the method of supporting the poor. It was voted that the poor be set at auction separately (mothers and children not necessarily kept together) and the town agreed to pay the doctor bills and funeral charges. Whoever bid off one or more of these poor was obligated to return the person the next year with clothes in a condition comparable to when they had assumed care. They were to receive pay for the amount bid at auction. For many years town meetings included the setting up and auctioning off of these unfortunates to the lowest bidder.
Also in 1837, John Ridley was sworn in as Pound keeper for the ensuing year. Three people were licensed as Innkeepers to retail spirituous liquors, and four gentlemen were licensed to maintain retail stores, presumably with spirituous liquors as a sideline. Small wonder that the 1838 town meeting voted that all ardent spirits be removed from the town house -- forcefully, if need by, by Johnson Jacques, Esq.
The Civil War had a powerful impact on Bowdoin. One hundred and twenty-eight of its young men marched off to fight and many lost their lives on Southern soil. The strong Baptist leanings of the people fostered a desire to eradicate slavery. Since the 1840's the Baptist clergy had been strongly abolitionist and after years of sermons on the evils of slavery the call to arms found the young men of Bowdoin eager to answer. These were hard and heart-breaking years for all, and many Bowdoin cemeteries contain stones inscribed with the service records of those who died during this war.
Bowdoin has suffered fluctuations in growth. A
population peak must have been reached in 1850 with 1,861 residents. The 1850
census shows large families, usually with a hired man and a hired woman, and
the wage earners listed as farmers or laborers. These people were content with
the simple life. Along the old country roads and in the wilds of
Then came the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Life looked easier, richer, and more exciting in the towns and cities with their factories and job opportunities. As the famous World War I song said,"How Are You Going to Keep Them Down on the Farm After They've Seen Paree?". By 1870 the population had dropped to 1,345; in 1880 to 1,361; in 1903 to 940; with an all-time low in 1940 of only 466 Bowdoin residents.
Then came cars, phones, electricity and better schools, plus the lure of cheaper property values and lower taxes. The country living, so scorned for fifty years, again became enticing. Bowdoin's population rose again, from 638 in 1950 and 668 in 1960 to 884 in 1970. The biggest increase came between 1970 and 1980 when the population rose to 1,629. The 1990 U. S. Census listed Bowdoin's population at 2,207.