Created in November 1652 following the takeover of the territory by Massachusetts, York is the oldest county in Maine. It was named for James, duke of York and Albany (later James II). It is Maine's southernmost county.
York County, forming the south-western portion of the State, grew into its present name and form by degrees, and during a long period. Its beginning may be considered to have been the establishment of the government of the Province of Maine in 1640, by the proprietor, Sir Ferdinando Gorges. The limits of this province extended from the Piscataqua River to the Kennebec. The province soon came to be considered as two districts, first spoken of as the East and West districts, or counties, of which the Kennebunk River was regarded as the dividing line. The town of York being the shire town of the western section, that portion gradually came to be called York district, or county, the other being called Somerset, or New Somerset. The Kennebunk River also proved to be the western boundary of the temporary Province of Lygonia. In 1652, Maine came under the control of Massachusetts, and the Isles of Shoals and all the territory northward of Piscataqua River to the White Mountains, and thence eastward to Penobscot Bay, were included in the re-named and extended jurisdiction of Yorkshire. All this was overturned by the King's commissioners in 1664, who revived the divisions as established by Gorges, and formed the territory east of the Kennebec into the county of Cornwall. In 1677, however, Massachusetts purchased the Province of Maine of Gorges' heirs; and again Yorkshire was extended eastward as far as the Kennebec. In 1716, the General Court ordered the extension of Yorkshire, so as to include all the settlements eastward; and accordingly Penobscot Bay became again the eastern boundary. In 1735, courts were ordered to be held at York and Falmouth, and the county received its present name. The establishment in 1760 of the new county of Cumberland, gave York County its present boundary on that side. In 1805, Oxford County was formed, when York County first assumed its present limits.
The Saco River passes through the eastern section, then forms its boundary line for some fifteen miles on the north-east. The Ossipee River continues this line ten miles or more further to the New Hampshire line. The Salmon Falls River forms the western boundary line for about thirty miles, and the Piscataqua continues it some ten miles further to the sea. The other considerable rivers are the Little Ossipee, Mousam, Kennebunk, Great Works, Little and York. In the northern part there are numerous ponds; Little Ossipeee somewhat north of the center of the county being the largest, except Great East Pond, which is partly in New Hampshire. In the northern part the hills are numerous, several of which are near 1,000 feet in height. Agamenticus Mountain, 600 feet high, is the greatest elevation near the coast. The rocks of the region are chiefly granitic; though at some points near the coast they are argillaceous. The soil of the southern and eastern parts of the county inclines to sandy loam, though clay, and clayey and gravelly loam are frequent. The latter increases to the north, where the soil becomes strong and productive, though often difficult to work on account of the stones. The Portland and Rochester railroad crosses the middle of the county from north-east to south-west, while the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth, and the Boston and Maine railroads follow a similar direction near the coast. The county contains twenty-four towns and two cities; and three United States Customs districts, Saco, Kennebunk and York, are within its limits. It has twenty-six towns and two cities. The shire town is Alfred. The valuation in 1870 was $22,442,875. In 1880 it was $22,423,960. The population in 1870 was 60,174; and in 1880, 62,299.
- George J. Varney, A Gazetteer of the State of Maine (Boston: B.B. Russell, 1886), 610-611.