Bangor, Maine is located in Penobscot County at 44.48° North and 68.47° West. It is at the confluence of the Penobscot River and the Kenduskeag Stream. Its population is about 30000 in the city limits, and just under 100000 in the metro area. It is known as the “Queen City” though the origin of this nickname is unclear.
The first European explorer, David Ingram, came up the Penobscot in the late 1500's. Upon arriving back in Europe, he reported that, while traveling up the river, he had discovered Norumbega, or the lost city of gold. Samuel Champlain's expedition sailed up Penobscot Bay in 1604, but instead of finding the city of gold, he found the local Tarratine tribe to trade with.
The first permanent European settlers didn't arrive until 1769, when Jacob Buswell and his family of ten came up the river and built a home at the mouth of the Kenduskeag Stream. He was joined soon after by his brother Stephen, and the family of Caleb Goodwin.
The settlement slowly grew, and soon the town was ready to be incorporated as part of Massachusetts
(Maine was part of Massachusetts at the time). The town sent Rev. Seth Noble to petition the Massachusetts General Court
to incorporate the town under the name "Sunbury
", which had been agreed on by the locals. While waiting to petition, Noble whistled his one of his favorite melodies, the Welsh
folk tune "Bangor
" by Tans'ur. Thinking that he had been asked the name of the tune he was whistling, Noble responded "Bangor" instead of "Sunbury" to the name of the new town. Bangor, Massachusetts
was incorporated in 1791.
The first lumber mill in Bangor was built in 1772, and this began Bangor’s 100 year dominance of the lumber industry in America. By the 1830’s, Bangor had over 300 saw mills, making it “the Lumber Capitol of the World.” Wood was cut in the dense forests of northern Maine, and then sent down the Penobscot River to Bangor, where it was split and processed. The wood was sent down river again for the shipbuilding industries of the coastal towns. However, the late 1800’s brought the settlement of the Pacific Northwest, and the lumber industry soon faded. There are no lumber mills in Bangor today.
Bangor was taken by the British in the War of 1812 for about 30 hours. British warships came up the river to take the city and wreck the shipbuilding capabilities of the area. After spending a short time occupying the town, the British Naval officers became so drunk that their commanding officer was afraid they were vulnerable to attack. Instead of letting the troops destroy the ships that were under construction, the town leaders instead sold them to the navy. The occupying forces then left town, taking some ships with them while sinking others in the bay. In total, nine British and 11 American soldiers were killed.
Bangor was home to Hannibal Hamlin, who was best known as Abraham Lincoln's first Vice President. Born in 1809 just outside the city, he was admitted to the bar of Penobscot County in 1833. He was elected to the state House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1835, becoming speaker in 1838. He moved on to the U.S. House in 1843, and then the Senate in 1848. He was very much against the Democrats strong pro-slavery stance, which led him to leave the party and join with the anti-slavery Republican party in 1856. The Republicans then chose him as Abraham Lincoln's running mate for the 1860 election, seeking to draw support from powerful northeastern states. He was not chosen for a second term as Vice President, when the party instead turned to Andrew Johnson to demonstrate a southern lean in the party. Lincoln was assassinated only weeks after Hamlin left office. He returned to the Senate in 1868 for two terms, and died on July 4th, 1891.
A large fire hit the city on April 30, 1911. It destroyed 55 acres of the downtown area, and causing damage of about three million dollars in a period of nine hours. 75 families were left homeless. The fire started in a hay barn, and quickly spread to neighboring buildings. The winds during the fire became so strong that debris was found two miles away. Surprisingly, only two people died in the disaster.
Other Misc. Facts:
Mount Hope Cemetery
in Bangor is the second largest garden cemetery in the United States
. The grounds house the remains of Hannibal Hamlin, one of the earliest dated Civil War
monuments in the country, and the Maine Korean War Memorial
There's a rather large statue of Paul Bunyan
on Main Street in Bangor. The statue, which was given to the city on its 125th anniversary
, is 31 feet high and 1 1/2 tons. Apparently, the people of Bangor think that Paul Bunyan's home was deep in the woods of Maine
, rather than his traditional home of Minnesota
Bangor is home to the bloodiest shootout in Maine's history. After the FBI gunned down John Dillinger in Chicago, Al Brady became public enemy number one. After escaping the feds in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Brady and his gang ran to Maine, thinking that the back woods would be a good place to lay low. Unfortunately, the gang soon blew its cover by trying to buy Tommy guns at a hunting goods store in Bangor. The FBI and thirty state troopers eventually shot down the gang on Main Street on October 12, 1937.
In 1992, Bangor was the official starting line of the Chrysler Transatlantic Challenge. Five teams of balloonists attempted the race each other across the Atlantic Ocean. Using Bass Park as a staging area, the race began on September 15, 1992. The team from Belgium would eventually win the race.
On January 8, 1998, Bangor was buried by an intense ice storm. About 300000 homes and businesses in and around Bangor were without power. In some places, the power outage lasted for several weeks. Three people died; two from carbon monoxide from generators, and another from a falling tree.
jarsyl says I talked to two former Maine residents and they confirmed that w/ a Maine accent Bangor becomes "bang-gah" and w/o the accent it is "ban-gore". At no point should it be pronounced "bang-er". :)
Big business in Bangor today is tourism. The city's interstate connections make it "the gateway to down east Maine." Ellsworth, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are a short drive to the south, while wild mountains and forests lie directly to the north.
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