A Brief History of Vienna - Rains

A Brief History of Vienna, Maine


Mark Rains

Vienna and McGaffey Mountain (the highest point in Kennebec County ) are formed from Rome Granite estimated to be about 30 million years old. About 17,000 years ago, all of Maine was covered by a glacier more than one mile thick, and parts of Vienna were probably below the ocean. The glacier carved ponds out of the granite and left boulders that farmers piled into stone walls. As the heavy ice melted, the land rose and then the sea level rose, until the present Maine coastline was extablished, about 2000 years ago.

The first human inhabitants of the Vienna area were Abnaki Indians; their name means “light in the east,” or “morning” and they include members of the Micmac, Malicite, Passamaquoddy, Arosaguntacook, Sokoki, Penobscot and Norridgewock tribes. (Flying Pond reportedly received its name from Abanakis who were hoping to return to it but had a hard time finding it when they came back to look for it.)

Kings of France and England were among the early “property owners” of Maine, which was known variously as New Somersetshire, Lygonia, New England, etc. In a 1661 “Kennebec Purchase”, four men bought the area around Vienna from the Plymouth Colony. Their heirs became known as the Plymouth Company. The “Plymouth Line” through Vienna - that shows on some deeds and property maps - comes from original survey of these lands, and served for a time as the boundary between Vienna and Rome .

In order to encourage settlement in the late 1700's, free grants of land and provisions for the first winter were given to settlers who could clear five acres and build a small house within three years. In 1781, “all the land next above Norridgewalk, on the Westerly side of Kennebec” was know as Goshen . As surrounding areas were settled and incorporated over the next twenty years, the Vienna area may have been one of the last unnamed parts of Goshen . What was to become Vienna was also known to some as Chester Plantation, Wyman Plantation, and Viana.

I n 1782, Nathaniel Whittier and his brother-in- law, Jedediah Prescott, Jr., purchased (for about 10 cents an acre) “a tract of land approximately six miles in extent north and south and three miles east and west, bounded on the north by New Sharon, on the east by the Plymouth Line, on the south by Fayette, and on the west by McGurdy Stream and Little Norridge Stream.”

On February 20, 1802, the Town of Vienna was incorporated in the County of Kennebec , Province of Maine , Commonwealth of Massachusetts , United States of America . Details of the naming of Vienna are not clear (reportedly by Daniel Morrill or his wife, from Salisbury, Massachusetts, after the capital of Austria) but it's interesting to note that it occurred in between the incorporation of neighboring Maine towns of Paris (1793), Belgrade (1796), Rome (1804), and Madrid (1836). It became Vienna , Maine on March 15, 1820. It is joined by 16 other Viennas across the United States, in AL, GA, IN, IL, MD, MI, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, SD, TX, VA and WV!

Though there were undoubtedly silent years, Vienna 's two churches have survived population fluctuation and economic change. Today, the Vienna Baptist and North Vienna Methodist churches have regular pastors. Community organizations have thrived over the years, including the Union Hall Association (1888), Glenwood Valley Grange (1914) reorganized as Mill Stream Grange (1947), Volunteer Fire Department and Auxiliary, Vienna Historical Society (1981) and Mt. Vernon - Vienna Extension.

In 2002, Vienna enjoyed a year of Bicentennial activities, including a February community potluck and fireworks over the millpond, complete with a red, white and blue-lit snowmobile caravan, a showcase of area artists, a house-and-garden tour, a bicentennial parade (featuring a busload of teachers and students from the 1920's) and celebrating a centennial dairy farm, a historical play, a blueberry social and street dance, more fireworks, a bicentennial postmark, a signpost of mileages to the “other” known U.S. Viennas, and an exchange of greetings from Vienna, Austria (Wien, Oesterreich).



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