Situated at the junction of Routes 17, 131 and 235 about 15 miles inlandfrom Rockland, Union is a rural
community located in a countryside of rolling fields and woods, well watered with lakes and rivers.
Present population is about 2,300. Farming (dairy, vegetable and blueberry) and service businesses form
the basis of the economy.
Union is located on the
St. George River in Knox County in mid-coast Maine and is roughly
equidistant from Augusta, and Waldoboro (situated inland), Rockland and Camden on the
coast. Route 235 as it passes through Union is part of the George's River Scenic
Byway. This pleasant community is surrounded by a beautiful countryside of hills,
lakes, rivers and rolling agricultural and blueberry land. The town contains many fine
The Union area was used by the Wawenock native Americans of the
Abenaki nation. The Wawenock or Walinakiak
Indians resided on the banks of the Saint George River at European contact in 1605. The Wawenock
Indians were one of four related tribes of the Abenaki, who inhabited central and southeastern Maine.
Walinakiak means "People of the bays".
Numbering about 10,000 people in 1500, the Wawenock tribe was decimated by a series of epidemics
during the latter 16th century and through the 17th century, falling to about 1,000 people by the end
of the American Revolution. Two members of the Wawenock tribe were captured by Captain Weymouth in
1605, and one Wawenock was returned from England in 1607 aboard either the Gift of God or the John &
Mary by the Plymouth Company.
The Wawenock along the Saint George’s lived on cultivated products including pumpkins, maize and beans,
along with fish, shellfish and game. A large Wawenock shellfish midden at Damariscotta dates back
2,200 years. Captain Weymouth observed this midden in 1605. for hunting, fishing and gathering
berries and other vegetable food. They maintained no permanent settlement but there is evidence of
campsites and burial sites. The native Americans of this area and the white settlers had relations
which were mostly cordial and cooperative, but cautious and wary on both sides.
The first white settlers arrived in September or October of 1772. With the names
Anderson, Malcolm and Crawford, they were natives of Scotland and called their
bachelor logging camp "Sterlingtown" or “Sterling” after their
native Scottish town of Stirling. In the spring of 1774 Dr. John Taylor of Lunenburg,
Massachusetts entered into negotiations with the heirs of the
Waldo patent on
purchasing the entire gore of unappropriated land belonging to the patent.
Accompanied by John and Phineas Butler, he landed near the mouth of the Crawford river
on Monday July 18, 1774. Taylor's deed to the land was executed on November
17, 1774. The Butlers and Benjamin Packard continued to work the land until the
arrival in 1776 of the first family of settlers, that of Philip Robbins. Philip's
son David and his wife arrived in May and were followed in the fall by Philip and his
wife and family, including an unmarried daughter named Mima.
The Robbins family crowded into a small cabin on the west side of Seven Tree Pond for the first winter.
These beginnings and the early days of many settler-farmers are vividly recounted by author
Ben Ames Williams in his 1940 historical novel
Come Spring. The plantation of Sterlingtown was incorporated on October 20, 1786 by
the name of UNION, so called because of the "uncommon harmony" among its people.
These beginnings and the early history of the town are well documented in John Langdon Sibley's
History of the Town of Union written in 1851.
Sibley's father was a doctor in Union who knew the early settlers. The author was well educated and
became librarian at Harvard. His account is considered to be an accurate one of the settling of the
town. The early days of the settler-farmers are vividly brought to life in the historical novel
Come Spring, by Ben Ames Williams in 1940. Williams read
Sibley's book, walked the trails and canoed the waters to get to know his chacters, who were the
actual founders of Union.
The earliest record of the Common appears in a record from a Town Meeting on April 5, 1790, when a
motion was passed "denying boars and rams the liberty of going abroad on the Common." At
the same time the vote "permitted hogs to roam at large."
In May 1801 the town voted to accept from David Gilmore a donation of the land which now forms Union
Common, and also approved clearing out the stumps and stone to make it fit for drilling the militia.
The deed was eventually recorded on June 15, 1809. The enterprising Gilmore had just built the
Cobb Tavern on the Common's north side to attract travelers on the stagecoach route to
Searsmont, and wanted to redirect the business center of town, at that time in South Union, to the
Common. His strategy was successful and the Union Common is one of the oldest public common in the
Its stately elms have long gone but the Common is still a beautiful place with mature maples and
birches, a flower planter made from an old water trough, and a map of historical sites mentioned in
A young sugar maple, one of many recent plantings, is dedicated to the memory of Ben Ames Williams, author of
Come Spring. There are benches for the public, a bandstand built in 1897, a war memorial and of
course a fine Civil War memorial made from local granite with its pensive statue of a young Union soldier. A time capsule from the town's Bicentennial
celebration is buried on the Common.
Surrounded by commercial structures and fine homes, the Common is a favorite venue for outdoor public
events such as Founder's Day, band concerts, the library book
sale, and the annual "Tree Lighting" (organized by the
Union Area Chamber of Commerce). The Union Common was registered on the
National Register of Historic Placeson November 7, 2007.
Past industries included quarrying, transporting limestone, growing apples, canning, barrel making,
and many small mills. Small manufacturing businesses were making furniture, caskets, carriages, parlor
organs and granite monuments.
The Museum is open from July 1st through the end of August, Wednesday through Saturday from noon to
4:00 pm., although special visits by groups or individuals can be arranged in June and September,
if volunteers are available. The museum is also open from 10 am. through 8 pm. during the Union Fair
offering free entrance to Fair visitors (regular entrance fee is $5.) This little-known museum has
been called the finest collection of agricultural artifacts outside the Smithsonian.
The museum concists of 4 sections:
The one-room Hodge School House, was built in 1864 in Washington (about 10 miles west
of Union)and moved to Union to join MMoMH from in 1958. When the school closed in 1954, it became
exposed to vandalism, so it was moved to the Union Fairgrounds to become a part of the Matthews Museum
and thus be preserved and maintained.
The Main Museum was started by Edwards Matthews, a Union-born collector whose house is still
standing and occupied by his great-grand daughter. In the late 60s Matthews sold his collection of
approximately 900 items to the Union Fair, which in turn passed control of it to the "Matthews Museum
of Maine Heritage."
It became one of the best agricultural museums in the country, with many hand-made artifacts that
farmers built to ease their work. It contains over 12,000 exhibits.
The Carriage House was terminaly damaged by flooding and had to be rebuilt from the ground up.
This time it is level with the rest of the museum and thus handicapped available. Most of the
carriages and sleighs exhibited are made in Union.
It is the home of the "One-Horse Shay", a beautiful two-person carriage. There are two remaining.
The other one resides at the Smithsonian.
Moxie is the official Maine soft drink. Moxie's inventor is another Unionite,
Dr. Augustin Thompson.
In 2008, MMoMH fulfilled their dream of building a house for the one and only
"Moxie Bottle House," which turned from a sales stand to a 3-floor house, and is now
the centerpiece of the Moxie Museum, the last section of MMoMH.
The means of worship was one of the urgent demands of the early settlers, but this was
difficult to fulfill in a wilderness setting such as the St. George River valley.
There were few ministers within range of the town at that time. There were no roads.
The building of basic shelter was the most urgent need in the beginning and it was
difficult to find either time or money to build churches. In May of 1779, with but a
few families in the community, three of those families attended their first worship
service by making the long, tedious boat trip down the pond and the river to attend
services in either Warren or Cushing, in both of which towns a Presbyterian minister,
Dr. John Urquhart, was preaching.
For two years, they made this trip - but only about four times a year. People with
that dedication were certain to have the means of worship set up in Union. In
February of 1782, Rev. Urquhart preached at a service to those gathered in the log
cabin of Philip Robbins. In March of 1784, Rev. Isaac Case, a Baptist minister from
Thomaston, preached at a service in the Robbins' cabin. That year and the following,
unsuccessful attempts were made to vote to hire a part-time preacher on a permanent
basis. It was not until 1796 that the first minister was offered the post, a Rev.
William Riddel of Massachusetts, but he turned down the offer.
A renewed move for a community preacher was made in l797, when it was voted to hire a
part-time Methodist preacher, to be paid by a voluntary $100 tax. Rev. Aaron Humphrey
was offered the post and accepted and he held the post until 1799. While this struggle
to find a preacher and to set up a meeting house was going on, denominational
differences began to appear and as a result, the next direction of activity was toward
the establishment of denominational churches, rather than a community church. In 1802,
a Rev. Abraham Gushee, a Congregational minister, supplied the pulpit and was offered
it permanently, but he turned it down because of differences between the denominational
groups. In April of 1792, the Town voted to build a Meeting House on the north side of
the Common. The building was put up in October of 1793, though it was left in very
rough condition - no pews, no windows or doors, no heat - for four years. The town’s
history says little else about this building except to note that it was taken down in
The first of the denomination to organize and set up its own meeting house was the
Methodist Church. The first sermon preached in town by a Methodist was in 1793, when
Jesse Lee, presiding elder of the Boston District of the Methodist Church, led a service
in the barn of Rufus Gillmor (Gilmore).
The Free Methodist Society in Union was organized in 1797 by Rev. Aaron Humphrey, town
minister at the time, at a meeting held in the house of Jason Ware. Methodist meetings
were held in the Town Meeting House for a number of years, but in 1810 the Methodists
built their own church at Burgess Corner (now Rte 17 and North Union Rd.) at a cost of
$1,625. For a short time before this, they met in the homes of Jason Ware and Matthias
Hawes and then in the Round Pond School House.
In 1834, the Methodist congregation had a parsonage built up the road from their church.
Recognizing some disadvantage in their location so far from the Common, in 1871 they
build a chapel on what is the site of the present People’s United Methodist Church and
used the chapel for evening services. Sometime before 1900, they sold the Burgess Corner
church building and used the chapel until 1902, when they erected the present Church.
The Universalist, or Free Church, held its first meeting in 1814 at the home of George
W. West, two miles northwest of the Common. There was only intermittent activity until
1825, when 33 people who had withdrawn from the Congregational Church became
interested in the Universalist movement. In 1840, the First Universalist Society in
Union was organized, with 60 members. Their church had been constructed in 1839 on the
north side of Common next to the Moneka Block (both these buildings were on the site of
what is now the Common Market.) This building was later used as a store and then burned
The Congregational Society was formed in 1816, though the Congregationalists had been
the most active leaders in the old Town Meeting House services and the First
Congregational Church had been organized in 1803. Some of the membership had withdrawn
over a controversy involving the minister and the covenant of the church, and a Second
Congregational Church had been formed in 1809. In 1826, the two churches were united
and in 1839 the Congregational Church was built east of the Common, at the cost of
$3,300. The parish became inactive in 1928. Even though $10,000 was bequeathed by Lucy
Rokes of Thomaston to try to keep the church active, this bequest reverted to the Rokes’
estate, and in 1942, the church was sold at auction for $475. It stands now, used as an
The Church of the Nazarene was organized in 1926 in what is now called the old Town
House. Previously, tent meetings had been held on the present church lot on top of the
hill above the Common. There were 15 charter members, of whom some were from North
Waldoboro and who later transferred to the North Waldoboro Nazarene Church after that was
organized. The charter group met for services in the home of Mary and Eva Ware until
the present Nazarene Church was completed in 1928.
The Union Bible Church began in town in the early 1960s, when Rev. Roger A. Cousins of
Calvary Temple, Hartford, Connecticut arrived under the Christian Missions to Closed
Churches and reopened the North Union Chapel which had been built about 1899 as a Free
Church, but had fallen into disuse. Union Bible Church built a new structure in South
Union in 1968. Later the congregation disbanded and the building was used as a
residence before it was taken down.
There are 5 public cemeteries in Union. The Union Historical Society (UHS) has a listing of the
graves in these cemeteries done by Beniah Harding of Thomaston in the 1980's. The UHS also has
some information on the Butler Cemetery, an old private family burying ground. Please visit us at
the Robbins House to see our Cemetery Books.
Common or 7 Tree Cemetery
The Common Cemetery is the largest in town; it overlooks Seven Tree Pond.
To locate this cemetery, travel south on Depot Street from Union Common and the Union Post Office
at the corner of Common Road and Depot Street (State Route #235 ). Continue about one half mile on
Depot Street to Ayer Hill Road, which is a fork to the right off of Depot Street. A sign for Common
Cemetery is at this fork in the road; the cemetery is on the right a few hundred yards up the hill.
Part of this cemetery was known at various times as the Sterlington Cemetery and Union Town Burying
Ground. Other parts were called the Tolman Burial Ground and the Ayer Burial Ground. The Cameron
Annex was added, as well as a newer, Soule Annex.
Lake View Cemetery
Lake View cemetery is located Round Pond and 7 Tree Pond. It overlooks farm
lands and Round Pond north of town.
To locate this cemetery, travel west about one mile on Route #17 from Union Common to North Union
Road (formally Gleason Road). Turn right onto North Union Road and continue north about one half
mile on North Union Road to Overlock Hill Road, the first left hand turn. The cemetery is reached
from a long drive on the left, one tenth of a mile on Overlock Hill Road.
The Sidelinger Cemetery is a small town cemetery in an area west of Union Common.
Travel west about 2 and one half on Route #17 to Bump Hill Road and turn left. Continue south about
one mile on Bump Hill Road to where Sidelinger Road joins it. (Bump Hill Road turns sharply to the
right and goes west at this point.) Continue (straight) south about one half mile on Sidelinger Road
to Sidelinger Cemetery on the left.
The Skidmore Cemetery is another small town cemetery, located in the area once called North Union.
To locate this cemetery, travel west about two miles on Route #17 from Union Common to Shepard
Hill Road. Turn right (north) onto Shepard Hill Road and continue about two and one half miles
to Skidmore Road, after passing over a small bridge over the Medomak River. Turn right onto
Skidmore Road; Skidmore Cemetery is on the left about one and one half miles from the turn.
East Union Cemetery
The East Union Cemetery is in an area that was once the separate village of East Union.
To locate this cemetery, travel east about two miles on Route #17 from Union Common to Wottons
Mill Road. Turn right onto Wotton Mill Road and continue south about one half mile to Miller
Road where the cemetery is a short distance from the corner of Wotton Mill and Miller Roads. The
oldest graves, in the center of the cemetery, were moved from the original location of the
cemetery, which was close to the village center of East Union on Payson Road, north of Route #17.
The graves were relocated due to high water level in this previous area.
The Butler Cemetery is on private property and contains the graves of a few of the Butler family:
Last name Butler – Catharine, Hannah D., Maria J., Melea E., Mima R., Phineas, Phineas S., and
initials P.S.G. There is also a grave marked Olive Amelia Pressey. (Anyone having information on this last entry,
please contact the UHS.)
St. George River
Mid-coast Maine's 225-square-mile Georges River watershed is a unique and historic area of mountains,
sea coast, lakes, tidal streams and inlets through which the beautiful St. George River flows. The
watershed extends from Montville in Waldo County to Port Clyde in Knox County where the 51-mile-long
river flows into Muscongus
The Georges River Land Trust's mission is to conserve the ecosystems and traditional heritage of the
Georges River watershed region through permanent land protection, stewardship, education, and outdoor
Union is blessed with 4 Ponds as shown on the maps. They are:
7 Tree Pond; Crawford Pond; Round Pond and Sennebec Pond.
Ponds are accessible to the public and available for fishing, boating and other seasonal