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Interesting Facts about Waterville

Waterville physician Dr. H. Richard Hornberger wrote M*A*S*H under the pen name Richard Hooker.

Rev. Samuel Francis Smith, of Waterville, wrote the words to "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)."

The march played at John F. Kennedy's funeral was written by Robert Brown Hall, of Waterville.

Things to See in Waterville

  1. Downtown

Waterville History

The area now known as Waterville was once inhabited by the Canibas tribe of Abenaki Indians. Called Taconnet after Chief Taconnet, the main village was located on the east bank of the Kennebec River at its confluence with the Sebasticook River. Known as Ticonic by English settlers, it was burned in 1692 during King William's War, after which the Canibas tribe abandoned the area. Fort Halifax was built by General John Winslow in 1754, and the last skirmish with Indians occurred on May 18, 1757.

The township would be organized as Kingfield Plantation, then incorporated in 1771 as Winslow. Waterville was set off from Winslow and incorporated on June 23, 1802 when residents on the west side of the Kennebec found themselves unable to cross the river to attend town meetings. In 1824, a bridge was built to Winslow. Early industries included fishing, lumbering, agriculture and ship building, with larger boats launched in spring during freshets. By the early 1900s, there were five shipyards in the community.

Ticonic Falls blocked navigation further upriver, so Waterville developed as the terminus for trade and shipping. The Kennebec River and Messalonskee Stream provided water power for mills, including several sawmills, a gristmill, a sash and blind factory, a furniture factory and a shovel handle factory. There was also a carriage and sleigh factory, boot shop, brickyard and tannery. On September 27, 1849, the Androscoggin and Kennebec Railroad opened to Waterville. It would become part of the Maine Central Railroad, which in 1870 established locomotive and car repair shops in the thriving mill town. West Waterville (renamed Oakland) was set off as a town in 1873. Waterville was incorporated as a city on January 12, 1888.

The Ticonic Water Power & Manufacturing Company was formed in 1866 and soon built a dam across the Kennebec. After a change of ownership in 1873, the company began construction on what would become the Lockwood Manufacturing Company, a cotton textile plant. A second mill was added, and by 1900 the firm dominated the riverfront and employed 1,300 workers. Lockwood Mills survived until the mid-1950s. The iron Waterville-Winslow Footbridge opened in 1901, but in less than a year was carried away by the highest river level since 1832. Rebuilt in 1903, it would be called the Two Cent Bridge because of its toll. In 1902, the Beaux-Arts style City Hall and Opera House designed by George Gilman Adams was dedicated. But in 2002, the C. F. Hathaway Company, one of the last remaining factories in the United States producing dress shirts, closed after over 160 years of operation in the city.

Waterville also developed as an educational center. In 1813, The Maine Literary and Theological Institution was established. It would be renamed Waterville College in 1821, then Colby College in 1867. Thomas College was established in 1894. Coburn Classical Institute once prepared students to attend college. The institution merged with the Oak Grove School in Vassalboro and remained open until the 1980s. The first high school was built in 1877, while the current Waterville Senior High School was built in 1961.

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