Early History

Damariscotta, which had been incorporated with Nobleboro until 1847, is situated on the eastern side of the Damariscotta River and was part of the Pemaquid Patent.  The first attempts at settlement began around 1640. This area was under constant strain during the various French and Indian Wars, (1676 – 1763). Villages and homes were deserted and often burned out during these years of conflict. In 1748 the settlement of Damariscotta and Newcastle began again in earnest.

According to C. Lawrence Bond in his book Native Names of New England Towns and Village (published in 2000) “Damariscotta” is not an Indian word. He states that Humphrey Damarell and John Cotta lived in the area and that it is possible that their names were combined. Further research shows that Humphrey Damarell is known to have been in the area by 1620, and Damariscove Island was named for him. In addition, early maps from the 17th and 18th century record the island as Damarell’s isles. John Cotta’s arrival is not known at this time, but writings indicate that he was in the area by the end of the 17th century.

It is recorded that the first permanent settler in Damariscotta was Anthony Chapman, a surveyor from Ipswich, Massachusetts who arrived in1749. Tradition holds that he convinced his step-brother Nathaniel that some of the people returning to the area after the upheaval of the war years were ready to replace their crude log structures with more permanent housing, and that Nathaniel would do well with his trade as a house wright. He built what is now known as the Chapman-Hall house for his family when he arrived in 1754. He subsequently built a number of other houses in the surrounding area.

Nathaniel once owned nearly all of what is now Damariscotta’s Main Street and is sometimes referred to as the “father of Main Street, Damariscotta.”