Chief town, Cumberland county. This beautiful city lies upon a peninsula at the western extremity of Casco bay; its length is three miles from east to west, and the average width is three quarters of a mile; containing about two thousand two hundred acres of land. The settlement of this neck of land was commenced as early as 1632 by two individuals from England, George Cleaves and Richard Tucker, who purchased the whole tract in 1637, of Gorges, the proprietor. For the first 40 years the settlement made but little progress, and it was entirely destroyed in the Indian war of 1675. In 1680, it was revived under more favorable auspices, the government of Massachusetts having some years previous to that time extended her sovereignty over this part of Maine. It had scarcely begun to gather the fruits of prosperity, before it was again doomed to a second entire overthrow, in 1690, by the remorseless enemy, who spared neither dwellings nor their inhabitants.
Portland was connected with Falmouth until 1786, and commonly went by the name of Falmouth Neck. In that year it was incorporated and received its present name. In 1832 a charter for a city was obtained, and a government, consisting of a mayor, seven aldermen and twenty-one common councilmen was duly organized under it in April of the same year.
There are in the city 16 houses of public worship, many of which are very elegant. There is also in the city a beautiful court house, a spacious city hall, and a substantial stone jail. An athenaeum was founded here in 1826, embracing a large reading room and library; the library at this time contains between 3,000 and 4,000 volumes of well selected books.
It is pleasantly situated between Fore or Casco river, and Back cove. The location is calculated to exhibit the city very favorably on approaching it from the sea, as the buildings rise between two hills in the form of an amphitheatre. On the site of old fort Sumner is an observatory about 70 feet in height, commanding a delightful view of the city, the harbor, the islands in Casco bay; and, extending north-west to the elevated peaks of the White mountains.
The access to Portland by sea is easy, its harbor spacious and safe, and rarely obstructed by ice. It has a water communication with the country to a distance of nearly 50 miles, by the Cumberland and Oxford Canal, which was finished in 1830; and it is the nearest seaboard market for the rich and beautiful country on the upper waters of Connecticut river, through the Franconia and White mountain passes; and with the White mountains over a level road to Lancaster in N.H.
The rail-road from Boston will soon reach this place, and a rail-road from Portland to the upper waters of the Connecticut is in contemplation.