Sagadahoc, Colony at

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SAGADAHOC, COLONY AT. The first attempt to establish an English colony in New England came in 1607, initiated when King James Ichartered two ventures in 1606. The London Company established the Southern Colony, better known as the Jamestown Colony; despite severe difficulties, it thrived. The Plymouth Company established the Northern Colony, known as the Sagadahoc Colony, after the Indian name for the Kennebec River where it was situated in latter-day Maine. It was also known as the Popham Colony, after Sir John Popham, the colony's chief patron and nephew of George Popham, its first leader; it lasted barely a year.

It is generally accepted that Sagadahoc Colony failed because of a lack of leadership. Some of the colonists were exiles from English prisons and disinclined to do the hard work necessary if the colony were to flourish. The colonists quarreled among themselves as well as with the natives, who refused either to come to their assistance or partner with them in trading endeavors. The colony was ill equipped to respond appropriately to the early arrival of a severe winter. Popham died in February 1608, barely six months after his arrival. Raleigh Gilbert took his place but fared little better, especially in his relations with the native Pemequids. In September, a supply ship from England brought news of the deaths of Sir John Popham and Gilbert's brother, at which point Gilbert abandoned the colony in order to claim his inheritance at home.

The Virginia of Sagadahoc, a ship built by the colonists during the settlement's first six months, successfully transported Gilbert and the remaining colonists home in the fall of 1608. The building of this ship marked the advent of Maine's subsequent shipbuilding industry. England would not attempt further colonization for more than a decade, until the Pilgrims arrived in 1620.


Chandler, E. J. Ancient Sagadahoc: A Narrative History. Rev. ed. San Jose, Calif.: Authors Choice Press, 2000.

Judd, Richard W., Edwin A. Churchill, and Joel W. Eastman. Maine: The Pine Tree State from Prehistory to the Present. Orono: University of Maine Press, 1995.

Quinn, David B., "The Sagadahoc Colony of the Plymouth Company, 1607–1608." New American World, 1979.

Christine E.Hoffman

See alsoPlymouth Colony ; Plymouth, Virginia Company of ; Virginia Company of London .