Fort Western Time Line

Johnston's Map Fort WesternExcerpt from the Johnston Map dated 1754

Fort Western 1754-1767

In 1660 descendants from the original Plymouth Colony patent, bought the original Plymouth patent as well as patents from Clark and Lake.  This new patent went from just above Swan’s Island all the way to Norridgewock 10 or 15 miles each side of the river. The new company called themselves the Kennebec Proprietors.  Unfortunately, the proprietors were unable to settle the area due to King Philip’s War which erupted in 1676.  King Philip’s war was the first of a series of wars in New England.  Further wars inhibited the settlement of the Kennebec River as people were wary of the French and Indian threat.  By 1719, resettlement of the Kennebec River region had only made it up the Kennebec as far as Richmond. 

The Province of Massachusetts was worried that the French would come down the Chaudière Corridor, meet up with the Norridgewock Indians from the north, the Penobscot Indians from the west, and the remaining Kennebec Indians at Teconnet Falls and then come down the Kennebec River wiping out all English settlements.  Any new military installation built by the Province needed to be at that location.  The problem was ships could only sail up the Kennebec as far as Cushnoc (present day Augusta).  The Proprietors approached the Royal Governor, William Shirley and made a proposal; if the Province of Massachusetts built a provincial fort at Teconnet Falls (Fort Halifax)  they would build a fortified “storehouse” at Cushnoc (Fort Western) as long as Massachusetts would man both forts.  Governor Shirley on behalf of Massachusetts quickly accepted this proposal.

Construction of Fort Western and Fort Halifax began in July of 1754.  The purpose for building these forts was two-fold: to encourage the resettlement of the Kennebec River and to provide necessary stores to Fort Halifax. Provincial stores came up the Kennebec River and were unloaded and stored at Fort Western.  When river conditions were right, they were loaded onto flat-bottomed bateaux and portaged 17 miles upriver to Fort Halifax.  The captain of Fort Western was Captain James Howard who commanded 23 men including his four sons; John, James Jr. Samuel & William.  Colonel William Lithgow commanded Fort Halifax where 100 men were garrisoned.

The English capture of Quebec in 1759 reduced the threat of war in the Kennebec Valley.  Within a year the numbers of soldiers at Fort Western was reduced to just ten and the number of soldiers at Fort Halifax was reduced as well.  Fort Halifax remained a truckhouse and Fort Western, continued as the supply depot to store the Indian trade goods destined for Fort Halifax.  The English gained control over the Kennebec Valley by 1767 and Massachusetts shifted its attention to the Penobscot River.  Forts Western and Halifax became militarily obsolete and were decommissioned in 1767 and 1766 respectively.