The original settlement (1629) by Richard Vines was brought under the control of Massachusetts and incorporated as Cape Porpus in 1653. It was reincorporated as Arundel in 1717 and was renamed Kennebunkport in 1821, the name being derived from an Abenaki or Micmac Indian word indicative of a "long sandbar." It adjoins the town of Kennebunk, both of which were busy shipping and shipbuilding centers in the 18th century and are now popular summer resorts. It is situated at the mouth of the Kennebunk River, on the Atlantic coast and lies 29 miles southwest of Portland. The following is from George J. Varney's A Gazetteer of the State of Maine.
Kennebunk Port, in the eastern part of York County, is bounded on the east by Biddeford, west by Kennebunk, north by Lyman, and south by the sea. Its area is 14,108 acres, exclusive of water. The Boston and Maine and the Portsmouth, Saco and Portland railroads cross the town about midway of its length. A branch is expected to be run to the port village from the former road by July, 1881. Its principal village is at the south-east angle, on two or three small but deep bays, known as Cape Porpoise Harbor. These are protected from the force of the ocean waves by a cordon of islands, of which there are sixteen within the town limits. Upon one of the outermost of these is Great Island Light, which marks the north side of the harbor entrance. The light-house is a stone tower, whitewashed, and connected with a one and a half story wooden dwelling, painted white. It shows a flashing white light, visible eleven nautical miles on an eastward arc. The custom-house of the Kennebunk District is situated in the village. The business centres are Kennebunk Port Village and Cape Porpoise Village. The principal body of water is Brimstone Pond, some two miles long, in the western part of the town. The streams are the Kennebunk River, which separates it from the town of the same name; Little River, next to Saco; Batson's River and Smith's Brook, which, uniting, form a small harbor; and Goffe's Creek, emptying into the Kennebunk River. At the mouth of the latter is the principal harbor; whose natural security is increased by stone piers at its entrance.Links:
Fisheries and shipbuilding form the principal business at the seaboard. Ten vessels were built during the last. fiscal year within its limits and on the opposite shore of Kennebunk River. There are several small saw-mills on the streams, and two saw-mills and a grist-mill run by steam-power. The town has four good granite quarries. The south-eastern part is rocky, but the soil for the most part is clay loam; and both uplands and marshes yield good grass crops. The face of the country is moderately uneven. The eminence called Mount Scargery or Scargo is the highest land. The roads are kept in good condition, and there are pleasant woods of maple, oak and pine scattered over the town. Elm trees from twenty to a hundred years of age are frequently seen along the highways in the vicinity of the olden dwellings; and in these dwellings are tokens of a time long past and of a thrifty present.
The climate is regarded as favorable to longevity, there being some 30 persons over eighty years old. There is a mineral spring in town of some note, known as the Perkins Spring.
Kennebunkport was made a town under the name of Cape Porpoise, in 1653, by the Massachusetts Commissioners. The inhabitants were driven off by the first Indian wars, and returning were re-organized in 1718 under the name of Arundel. In 1820, that name was changed to the one it now bears. The land titles came from Gorges and Rigby. The first permanent settlement was made in the south-eastern part of the town by William Seadlock and Morgan Howell, about 1630. The place is said to have been named Cape Porpoise by Captain John Smith, from his having encountered ninny porpoises off the cape. The court records for 1640 show that William Seadloek is presented by the grand inquest for allowing a man to get drunk on his premises. Mr. Seadloek also appears In the record of 1633 as complainant against one John Baker for opprobrious speeches against the minister and meeting, and for countenancing private meetings and prophesying to the hindrance of public assemblies. The church at Cape Porpoise appears to have been an independent body; for when the Massachusetts Commissioners attempted, in 1653, to organize the government of the town, they were opposed by the church, and they therefore declared that body dissolved. From 1689 to 1719 there is a hiatus in the records, the Indian wars having mostly depopulated the town during that period. There was a fort built upon Stage Island in 1689, and garrisoned by direction of Governor Andros; but when he returned to Massachusetts, the troops deserted. The Indians soon made their appearance in large numbers, and the inhabitants either removed to the fort, or to the neighboring town of Wells. The fort was besieged until time provisions were almost exhausted, when Nicholas Morey, a lame innkeeper of the town, one dark night escaped from the island in a broken canoe. The second day the distressed inmates of the fort beheld a sail approaching. Presently she sent the contents of a swivel gun among the Indians, who instantly abandoned the siege and fled. The lame man had reached Portsmouth in safety, and brought his neighbors timely succor.
Grants of fifty acres of land to new settlers were offered in 1719. Stephen Harding received a lot on condition that lie and his heirs should maintain a ferry on Kennebunk River, and convey all inhabitants of the town without charge. In 1627, feeling secure from the Indians, the inhabitants undertook to build a meeting-house, but ihe work went on slowly. In 1728 occurred the fourth great earthquake experienced since the settlement of the regions. The alarm it caused brought about a revival of religion, and tLe reformation of many; and in consequence of this, the church edifice was speedily completed. In 1745 the town sent a company under command of Captain Thomas Perkins to aid in the capture of Louisburg. The news of the battle of Lexington reached Cape Porpoise three days after its occurrence. Many citizens flocked to the army at Cambridge; and at home measures were immediately taken to supply the town with ammunition; a committee of safety was appointed, and a representative sent to the Provincial Congress.
The town received but one visit from the enemy during the war. It was in August, 1782, that an armed English brig came into the harbor and took a schooner and sloop belonging in Newbury, Massachusetts. A citizen named Samuel Wildes, who was partly deranged, went out to them in a small canoe and ordered them to give up the vessels and leave the port. He was fired at and wounded in several places, but escaped to shore. The inhabitants soon collected on Trott's Island, and afterward passed to Goat Island, and a conflict ensued. A number of the English were killed, and the brig forced to leave the harbor without their prizes. Lieutenant James Burnham. was the only one killed on the American side.
The following are names of citizens who were captains in the army of the Revolution. Jesse Dorman was at Cambridge in 1776; Tobias Lord, at the surrender of Burgoyne, White Plains, Saratoga; Daniel Merrill, Cambridge, 1775-6, Hubbardston, surrender of Burgoyne, and served until the close of the war; Joshua Nason, James Perkins, on North River, 1776-7. The following were lieutenants: James Burnham, killed at Cape Porpoise fight, 1782; John and Tobias Lord, sons of Captain Tobias Lord; Lemuel Miller; Amos Towne was at Dorchester Heights in 1776.
In the war of 1812, a fort was built at Kennebunk Point and a battery erected at Butler's Rock, commanding the entrance of the river. Several privateers were fitted out, some under Danish colors; but most of them were captured by the enemy.
The first church records in town are of the Congregational Church, and were commenced at about the time of the settlement of the Rev. Johu Eveleth, in 1719. In 1720, a house was built for his residence, which served also for a meeting-house and town-house. The first Baptist meeting-house was built in the upper part of the town in 1797. The town has now two Congregational, a Methodist, and a Baptist church. There are twelve schoolhouses, and the school property is estimated at $8,000. The town valuation in 1870 was $901,431. In 1880 it was $866,802. The population in 1870 was 2,372. In 1880 it was 2,405. The rate of taxation is 18 mills on half the valuation.
The Kennebunkport Historical Society Website
History of Kennebunkport Maine
History of the Kennebunks
The Saga of Captain Fairfield "A Mystery of the Seas"
Arundel & Kennebunkport ME aka Cape Porpus
The Brick Store Museum
Goat Island Light
- George J. Varney, A Gazetteer of the State of Maine (Boston: B.B. Russell, 1886), 299-301.