History of Belfast, Maine
By Geo. J. Varney
From: A Gazetteer of the State of Maine
Published by B. B. Russell, Boston 1886
Belfast, a city and shire town of Waldo County, is situated at the north-western angle of Penobscot Bay, about 20 miles from its mouth, and 10 west of the mouth of the Penobscot. This portion of the large bay is known as Belfast Bay. The city is bounded on the east by Searsport, north by Swanville and Waldo, west by Morrill and Belmont, and south by Northport. Its dimensions in an easterly and westerly line are about 8 miles, by 5½ north and south. The surface is uneven, rising into considerable hills in the western and southern parts. Mount Percival, within the Northport border, has summits respectively 400 and 600 feet above the level of the sea. The rock in town is generally granitic in its character, and is quarried in several localities. The soil is loamy arid quite fertile. The principal crops are hay and potatoes. The forest trees are mostly maple, beech amid birch. The streams are the Passag-assawa-keag, having its origin in a pond of the same name in the town of Brooks; Goose River which rises in a pond in Swanville; and Little River, rising in Belmont and running eastward to the bay across the southern part of the town.
The Passagassawakeag is navigable to 3 miles from its mouth, at which point is a small village known as the "Head of the Tide." At the mouth of this river on the western side of the bay, is the compact portion of the city. Goose River, which empties into the bay opposite the city, furnishes the larger part of the water-power in use. On this stream are a paper factory, two axe-factories and a grist-mill. The dam at the outlet of the fountain pond and the tide-power dam near the mouth of the stream, are or stone, and very solid. The little village, Poor's Mills, is situated on a power of the Passagassa-wakeag at the western angle of the township. Little River also has powers which are unproved. The city has several grain mills, a sash and. blind factory, employing from 30 to 50 persons, and a shoe-factory, employing from 150 to 200. Other manufactures are ships and boats, blocks, pumps, brass and iron castings, sails, spars, staves, men's clothing, tanned wool-skins, bricks, etc.
Belfast and Moosehead Railroad, which connects with the Maine Central at Burnham, has its terminus in the city. Belfast has a steamboat connection through the year with Portland and Boston, also to Castine and other towns eastward. In former times shipbuilding was a large business in this city, and many residents are still largely interested in navigation. The business portion of the city is compact, and the buildings principally of brick. The streets devoted to residences are wide and well-shaded with elm and maple trees. The city lies along an undulating acclivity that rises gradually from the water each successive street along the hillside having a little greater altitude than the last, until at the summit of Congress Street, the elevation is 178 feet above tide-water. From this point the eye commands a beautiful view of Penobscot Bay with its islands, with Blue Hill and the lofty peaks of Mount Desert in the distance.
The territory comprising Belfast was a part of the Muscongns or Waldo patent. The first settlers here purchased their lots in 1769 at the low price of twenty-five cents an acre. A surveyor named John Mitchell seems to have been the founder of the town. The next year a company of Scotch-Irish extraction, but last from Londonderry, N H. arrived; and the place was from this time permanently inhabited. It is said some of the pioneers, on their arrival became discouraged and returned in the vessel which brought them. Among those who remained were James Miller and wife, two Sons and a daughter, who first landed at the foot of the Frothingham lot. Years later the descendants of Miller, for a considerable period held annual celebrations on the spot of the landing. In 1773, the inhabitants numbering 200, the town was incorporated under the name of Belfast, at the wish of Mr. Miller whose native town in Ireland bore that name. When tire war of the Revolution commenced the inhabitants of Belfast took a decided stand on the side of independence; some refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the King, they were driven from their homes, and did not return until Peace was declared. In the war of 1812, the inhabitants again suffered from the enemy, but not so seriously as in the Revolution. Tire first settlement in Belfast was on the eastern side of the river, but the greater convenience for communication with the country southward diverted business to the site of the present city proper.
The first bank in the city was incorporated in 1832. The Belfast National Bank has a capital stock of $150,000. The Savings Bank at the close of 1879, held in deposits and accrued profits the sum of $559,432.07. The "Progressive Age," published by William M. Rust, is an able and successful newspaper. It is democratic in politics. The Republican Journal," published in this city, has long held the reputation of an able and witty sheet. It has always done effective service for whatever cause it espoused. It is now republican in its affiliations. The "Hancock Gazette," begun in 1820, was the first newspaper in this city. The first post-office was opened in Belfast in 1797, and in 1818 this was made a port of entry. Belfast was made the shire town of the county in 1828. In 1845 a portion of the town containing about 500 inhabitants was set off, and joined with the western part of Prospect to form Searsport. In 1853 the city charter was adopted, Hon. Ralph C. Johnson being chosen the first mayor. An extensive fire afflicted the city on October 12, 1865, and a second more severe raged in the afternoon and evening of Sunday, Aug. 24, 1873. The loss by this fire was $350,000.
Belfast cherishes the memory of many excellent citizens, eminent among whom were ex-governors Hugh J. Anderson and William J. Crosby, Judge J. G. Dickerson, A. G. Jewett, for some time consul in Peru, and others.
Two meeting-houses were erected in Belfast in 1792, one on each side of the river. Four years later Rev. Ebenezer Price, the first pastor, was settled. There are now in the city six church edifices, two or more of them being large and elegant structures. They belong to the Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, Unitarians and Universalists. Belfast has in the city proper a system of graded schools, in which the scholarship has been maintained at a high standard. The number of public schoolhouses in the entire city is eighteen. The total school property is valued at $11,000. The value of estates in 1870 was $2,660,879. In 1880 it was $2,463,677. The rate of taxation in the latter year was 23 mills on the dollar. The population in 1870 was 5,278. In 1880 it was 5,308.
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