Did an ancestor travel the Kennebunk Road of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine? Learn about this settler migration route, its transportation history, and find related genealogy sources.
The Kennebunk Road is a 170 mile (274 kilometer) route mostly near the Atlantic shore from Boston, Massachusetts to Augusta, Maine.
New England inherited a network of Indian pathways including the Kennebunk Trail, later known as the Kennebunk Road. Indians used the route to connect to English fisherman in Maine and New Brunswick, as well as to Pilgrim settlers to the south in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Kennebunk Road was a coastal route that connected Augusta, Maine with Massachusetts, and was an important colonial route from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Boston. It was also used from 1630-1761 as a migration route for settlers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine. Starting in the 1670s the Kennebunk Road served as a northern extension of the the King's Highway.
The Kennebunk Trail started as an Indian footpath, but Europeans expanded it into a horse path, then a wagon road, stagecoach route with inns, and then a turnpike (toll road) by the early 1800s. In 1820, when Maine became independent of Massachusetts, there were already five turnpikes in operation along this route during the heyday of long distance wagon roads.
However, settlers could travel faster, less expensively, and safer on railroads than on wagon roads. So, as railroads entered an area, the wagon-road traffic in that area declined. The first railroad from Boston, Massachusetts reached Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1840, and went on to Portland, Maine in 1842. Rail service continued on to Brunswick, Maine in 1847; by 1849 it reached north of Augusta as far as Waterville, Maine.
- Suffolk County, Massachusetts
- Middlesex County, Massachusetts
- Essex County, Massachusetts
- Rockingham County, New Hampshire
- York County, Maine
- Cumberland County, Maine
- Sagadahoc County, Maine
- Kennebec County, Maine
Connecting Routes. The Kennebunk Road connected with half a dozen other settler migration routes out of its Boston end:
- Bay Road connects Boston (Massachusetts Bay) to New Bedford (Buzzards Bay).
- Coast Path follows an ancient Indian path near the shoreline from Boston to Plymouth.
- King's Highway also known as the Boston Post Road goes from Boston, Massachusetts to New York City, and south to Charleston, South Carolina with extensions on each end. In Massachusetts and Connecticut there were at least three competing routes for the Boston Post Road. Parts were laid out 1650 to 1735; its length remained in heavy use through 1783, and some parts are used to this day.
- Mohawk or Iroquois Trail This trail was established in 1722 from Albany to Utica to Rome to Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario. The Boston to Albany side of that route probably preceded the Albany to Oswego route by many years.
- Old Connecticut Path a pre-historic Indian path from Boston, Massachusetts to the Connecticut River Valley at Springfield, Massachusetts and south to Hartford, Connecticut .
- Old Roebuck Road goes from Boston to Providence, Rhode Island (Narragansett Bay).
Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the Kennebunk Road from Boston to Augusta are:
The coast of Maine was settled as early as 1517 by British fisherman drying their catch. Boston was founded in 1630 by Puritan immigrants from England. The Indian footpath between these two attracted settlers who would be able to more easily get access to the markets. Many of the earliest settlers along the Kennebunk Road would have been from Boston, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut. Look at the earliest deeds along the Kennebunk Road to learn the names of the first settlers. If you already know the name of a settler near the Kennebunk Road, you have a good chance of finding his or her genealogy in sources like:
- Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, 3 vols. (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, c1995). At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 974 W2a.
- Lucy Mary Kellogg, et. al., Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth, Mass., December 1620, 23+ vols. (Plymouth, Massachusetts: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1975- ). At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 974.4 D2mf.
- Frederic J. Wood, The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), 25. Internet Archive version online.
- Edgar Allen Beem, Maine Road Trip: Route 1: Many Names, One History in Down East - The Magazine of Maine (accessed 27 October 2014).
- Boston and Maine Corporation in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 27 October 2014).
- Railroad history of Portland, Maine in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 27 October 2014).