The Garrison

In 1828 a new and prosperous era commenced for the struggling  Houlton Plantation, for on a bright summer day in June of that year Company C. of the Second U. S. Infantry, under the command of First Lieut. Joseph C. Gallagher, having come up over the Baskahegan route, marched through the village to the merry music of fife and drum, and pitched their tents on the high ground in the rear of Mr. Joseph Houlton's house.

 

Three other companies of the same Regiment, Company E., Lieut. Bloodgood, Company F., Lieut. Staniford and Company K., Lieut. A. B. Eaton, were left behind to accompany the supplies, which the firm of Towle & Parsons, Bangor, had contracted to deliver at the Post at Houlton.

The entire detachment was under the command of

Major N. S. Clark, and the other three companies arrived at Houlton Sept. 29, 1828.

 

In the meantime, a tract of land, containing 25 acres, had been purchased by the U. S. Government of Mr. Houlton, and on the arrival of the first company the men were immediately set at work to erect a stockade, and to build the necessary buildings for a complete military post.

The Museum is fortunate to have this original painting by the beloved local artist Esther Orr Faulkner

The work of preparing a parade ground was one of much magnitude, as an outcropping ledge had to be blasted, but when it was finally completed it was one of the finest grounds in the country. In the erection of so many buildings and the establishment of a military post, the labor of many men were required, and employment at good wages was provided for every man and boy willing to work. For some time, the pay roll to these workmen amounted to about $2,000 a month. This large amount of money was of incalculable benefit, and from this time dates the assured prosperity of this banner town of Aroostook.

The Treaty of Paris (1783) ended the American Revolutionary War but did not clearly determine the boundary between British North America (Quebec and New Brunswick) and the United States.

 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts thereafter began issuing land grants in its District of Maine, including areas which the British had already laid claim.

The transportation of supplies for the Post from Bangor up the Penobscot River and Mattawamkeag Rivers, and thence over the rough roads to Houlton, was attended with so much difficulty that Major Clark determined to build a military road from Bangor direct to Houlton, and having obtained the necessary instructions from the Government, he proceeded to construct the road, which was finished in 1832, and was so fine a road that a party who left the town of Freeman, in Franklin County, on the 16th day of December of that year, drove to Houlton in four days.

 

This road was for many years kept in an excellent condition and became one of the finest routes for mail coaches in the State.

These garrison years were years of great prosperity for Houlton, increasing to a great extent the business of the town and flourishing a local cash market for all kinds of produce.

 

The social relations between the militia and the citizens were most cordial. Many of the officers had their wives at the garrison and some of those who came unmarried found wives among the fair daughters of the town.

Boulder, Garrison Hill, placed by Lydia Putnam Chapter D.A.R.

under care of Cora Putnam

       Below is transcribed from the above plaque 

"Upon this site stood Hancock Barracks, erected in 1828, when the United States Government established a military post in Houlton, sending companies C, D, F, and K of the U.S. Infantry to defend the Northeastern boundary line between Canada and the United States, which in that time was in dispute.

These companies remained here until 1838, when relieved by the

First United States Artillery.

This led up to the famous 'Bloodless Aroostook War', which was finally settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842.  This land contained twenty-five acres, and was deeded by Joseph Houlton (founder of Houlton) to the United States Government, July 25, 1828, and today is the property of Aroostook County and the Town of Houlton.

This marker is lovingly placed and dedicated by Lydia Putnam Chapter,

Daughters of the American Revolution, October 15, 1951."

In the winter of 1836, Companies F and K of the Infantry were removed to Boston and subsequently the other companies followed and were replaced by Companies C, E, and F of the First Regiment U. S. Artillery, who arrived at the Post on the 11th of October, 1838.

 

Major R. M. Kirby of the 1st Artillery now became Commander of the Post. 

That Major Kirby realized that serious trouble might arise is evident from the fact that on February 1st, 1839, he writes to the Ordnance Department that "ten barrels of cannon powder should be constantly in magazine, subject to such exigency as may occur on this frontier, at this isolated station."

Lets stop for a moment and remember a few details from that time period. New Brunswick wasn't so much Canada as it was a British Colony. 

During the War of 1812 the British had invaded and occupied what would become eastern Maine, and formally brought all of the District east of the Penobscot River back into the British Empire. 

 

In August they had occupied and burned the U.S. Capitol and White House in Washington. 

The War of 1812 ended in December 1814, but Eastport continued to be under British control for another four years!

Eastport was the last American territory occupied by the British from the War of 1812 to be returned to the United States.

 

Except for the brief capture of two Aleutian Islands in Alaska by the Japanese in World War II, it was the last time that United States soil was occupied by a foreign government.

The point is that the Military had good reason to worry about another British invasion during the time of the Garrison because the events of the War of 1812 were still fresh in their minds.

The above is a custom built display of the Garrison made by Dr. Donald F. Ellis in 1987 and is on display in our Military room at the museum.

Major Kirby kept himself well informed in regard to the state of affairs in dispute between the authorities of Mane and New Brunswick and it is largely due to his judgment and discretion that more serious hostiles were not precipitated.

 

When requested by the Governor of Maine to co-operate with the State troops, he respectfully declined, as he would not compromise the United States by any act committed without orders.

 

He informs Gov. Fairfield of the capture of Land Agent McIntyre and party, but gives it as his opinion that it was an act committed without authority, civil or military, from the Province of New Brunswick.

The excitement in Maine increased, however, after this event, and in the spring of 1839 twelve companies of State Militia marched up the Military Road and quartered at different times in Houlton.

By the prompt and judicious action of Gen. Scott, trouble was averted, as he negotiated an arrangement with Sir John Harvey, Governor of New Brunswick, that the troops on both sides should be withdrawn from the territory and the whole matter be referred to diplomatic action.

 

The Garrison at Houlton was retained until after the final settlement by treaty of the disputed boundary question, when the troops were removed and the Military Post abandoned.

Webster-Ashburton Treaty, 1842

The Treaty did the following:

  • Boundaries: Clearly defined borders were drawn between Maine and New Brunswick, and also in the Great Lakes area; the United States received control of 7,015 square miles of the disputed territory and Britain, 5,012 square miles.

  • Extradition: Some movement was made toward addressing extradition (the legal process for returning fugitives to another jurisdiction) concerns between the two nations; this matter had become politically sensitive following the Caroline affair; a formal extradition treaty was concluded later.

  • African slave trade: The United states agreed to station ships off the African coast in an effort to detect Americans engaging in the slave trade; Webster rejected a request to allow boarding of American ships by the British Navy.

The red is what the British wanted, the blue is what Maine wanted and the yellow is what was decided by the treaty

It was a sad day for Houlton when its citizens bade adieu to the soldiers and watched them march away down the Military Road.

Among those of the officers who afterwards obtained military farms were Lieutenants Hooker, McDowell, Ricketts and others of the Union Army. 

 

As may be easily believed, the years following the departure of the troops brought hard times for Houlton and its surrounding towns.

Having this ready market thus abruptly taken from them, money became scarce and a check was put upon the common prosperity.

A few Museum artifacts from Hancock Barracks

Music composed and played by the band at Hancock Barracks

Fire brigade bucket

On the left a Lead pot for 6 pound cannon balls and to the left 3 cannon balls from Hancock Barracks

During the 1960's A. E. Holden led a campaign to resurrect Hancock Barracks.

The photo's below are from that period.

This & That:

Hancock Barracks was named after John Hancock, the revolutionary patriot and first signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The Military road had a massive impact certainly on Houlton but also for the communities of Mattawamkeag, Macwahoc, Reed, Haynesville, and even Wytopitlock. These small hamlets flourished for years due to the Military road.

For a brief period of time Robert E. Lee served as an engineer on a surveying mission at Hancock Barracks.

The Aroostook War had several other names, do you know what

they are?

What did discipline and punishment look like at Hancock Barracks? 

Works Cited

Campbell, W. E. Forts, Writs and Logs: a Reassessment of the Military, Political and Economic Dimensions of the Maine/New Brunswick Border Dispute, 1783-1843. 2010.

Melvin, Charlotte Lenentine. History of the Houlton Area: Bicentennial Articles Published in the Houlton Pioneer Times in 1975 and 1976. Houlton Pioneer Times, 1977.

Putnam, Cora M. Carpenter. The Story of Houlton. House of Falmouth, 1958.

Wiggin, Edward, and George H. Collins. History of Aroostook. Star-Herald Press, 1922.

​​​​© 2015 Aroostook County Historic & Art Museum

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