Banner

Gorham established itself early as an important hub of agriculture, manufacturing and commerce in Southern Maine.   

First called Narragansett Number 7, Gorham was one of seven townships granted by the Massachusetts General Court to soldiers (or their heirs) who had fought in the Narragansett War of 1675, also called King Philip's War. The land was settled in 1736 by Captain John Phinney and his family, followed in 1738 by Hugh McLellan and Daniel Mosher. By 1743, the first sawmill was established by John Gorham at Little River.

 

 

The town was incorporated as Gorham on October 30, 1764. It would annex land from Standish in 1831 and 1839, and from Scarborough in 1864.

Rich soil benefited agriculture, and the Presumpscot and Little Rivers with their numerous falls provided water power for industry. The town developed into a manufacturing center, with Portland a nearby market. Products included textiles, clothing, carpet, lumber, barrels, chairs, carriages, wagons and sleighs. There was also a box factory, corn-canning factory, paper pulp mill, brickyard, tannery, and granite and marble works.

The Cumberland and Oxford Canal opened in 1829 connecting Casco Bay with Sebago Lake, although it would be discontinued in 1871, having been rendered obsolete by John A. Poor's York and Cumberland Railroad (later the Boston and Maine Railroad), which entered Gorham in 1851. The railroad was dismantled in 1961, but the former grade serves as a multi-use recreational trail. On September 12, 1870, the first train of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad (later part of the Maine Central Railroad Mountain Division) traveled from Portland to Sebago Lake through White Rock.

 

Early town leaders had the foresight to equate further education to the success of the town and, in 1803, Gorham Academy was founded. Designed by Samuel Elder, the Federal style Gorham Academy Building was erected in 1806. The institution would evolve into Western Maine Normal School, and later Gorham State Teachers College. Today, it is the University of Southern Maine at Gorham.