Ellsworth, Maine is the county seat of Hancock County and is located on the Union River at 44.5° north and 68.4° west. The town has a current population of 6600.
Ellsworth was originally the home of the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes. The French originally explored and claimed the area, but the English were the first to settle the area in 1763. Benjamin Milliken financed the construction of two sawmills along the Union River near the present site of the town. Gristmills and logging soon brought other settlers to the area, and the town was quite well established by the time of the American Revolution.
The town of Ellsworth was incorporated into Massachusetts in 1800, and was selected as the county seat of Hancock County in 1837. A local resident, Captain Meletiah Jordan, subsidized the construction of the town library and the first congregational church in 1818.
Another local businessman, Colonel John Black, also helped in the formation of early Ellsworth. A successful businessman, he moved to Ellsworth in 1810. He helped put together the lumber industry in the area, and made a fortune. He built his mansion, called "Woodlawn", between 1824 and 1827. The mansion and the grounds were donated to the city of Ellsworth by his grandson, George Nixon Black, and the house opened to the public in 1930. The grounds contain a collection of antique furniture dating back to 1650, as well as portrait collection of the Black family. Guides wear costumes from the period, and give tours of the grounds between mid-May and October. Woodlawn was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Cordelia Stanwood was a resident of Ellsworth in the mid 1800's. She is known as "the country's first female photographer-ornithologist-writer." She would often photograph birds on her 40-acre home, which was named "Birdscare." Upon her death, the lands around the home were donated to the city of Ellsworth, and the land is now home to the Stanwood Museum and Nature Preserve. August 1st is recognized as Cornelia Stanwood Day in Ellsworth.
Ellsworth changed its charter in 1868 and officially became a city. Unfortunately, this was about the same time that the lumber industry collapsed. Old growth forests in the area had already been harvested, leaving little lumber in the area. Shipbuilders, who located to Ellsworth for the high supply of wood, soon left for greener pastures. The population, which had just reached 5000, soon began to decline.
In order to stimulate the economy, the government of Ellsworth soon set out to build a system of dams on the Union River in 1907. The dams was rigged to generate hydroelectric power, and to reduce the annual spring floods. The only failure of this system was in 1923, when extensive rains overran the dam and washed away an important bridge in the city.
Ellsworth now finds itself with a strong tourist industry. The city is "the gateway to Acadia and Downeast Maine", sitting in-between the highways of Bangor and the bridges to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Many small shops line the streets of Ellsworth, selling souvenirs, antiques, and other goods.
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