The Port of Rockland lies on the southwestern shores of Penobscot Bay in Knox County, Maine. The Port of Rockland is about 10.4 nautical miles (18 kilometers or 11 miles) east-northeast of North Haven Harbor and about 70 nautical-miles (104 kilometers or 64 miles) northeast of Portland. In 2010, almost 7300 people called the Port of Rockland home.
The Port of Rockland has experienced resurgence recently, and it has become a popular destination for tourists. The Maine State Ferry Service operates trips to the islands in Penobscot Bay from the Port of Rockland. In addition to hosting many festivals, the Port of Rockland supports a varied artisan community.
The Abenaki Nation (also Wabanaki) was an Algonquian-speaking people populating parts of the modern State of Maine, including the area that would become the Port of Rockland, as well as the Connecticut River Valley that runs through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Most Abenaki bands were headed by a patriarch that inherited his father's hunting territory.
Before European settlers made their home on the site of the future Port of Rockland, the Abenaki called it Catawamteak (great landing place). Overwhelmed by incoming English settlers and their infectious diseases, many Abenaki moved to Quebec in the late 1660s. Lack of treaties and territorial boundaries created frequent conflict between the English and the Abenaki who remained in the future Port of Rockland area.
The Abenaki fought with the French during the French and Indian Wars. King Louis XIV knighted Chief Assachumbuit in recognition of his service to France in New England and Canada. In the early 1700s, the Province of Massachusetts Bay put a bounty on Abenaki scalps, and the resulting actions of New England settlers drove more even Abenaki to a settlement on the St. Francis River. So many Abenaki had fled to the north that later English settlers thought of them as raiders invading New England from Canada.
Today, there are three Abenaki reservations in the State of Maine and seven in Quebec and New Brunswick. The Abenaki Nation has developed a successful modern economy and maintained their traditional culture. Still, many Abenaki have been assimilated into the surrounding society. The Sokoki-St. Francis Band applied for federal recognition in 1982, but no decision has been made on that application.
In 1767, the Lermond brothers moved to the Port of Rockland from Warren some 10 kilometers (6.6 miles) to the west. They created a camp where they produced pine lumber and oak staves. The area was called Lermond's Cove until 1777 when Thomaston was incorporated and the cove was called Shore village. In 1848, the village separated from Thomaston and, in 1850, it was renamed Rockland. The Port of Rockland was chartered in 1854.
The Port of Rockland grew quickly. In 1854, the shipyards produced 11 ships, six brigs, four schooners, and three barks. There were also 12 lime quarries and 125 lime kilns in the Port of Rockland, and almost 300 vessels moved lime from the Port of Rockland to ports across the country.
In 1886, the lime business overtook shipbuilding as the primary industry, even though the Port of Rockland had at least three shipyards, two boat-builders, five sail lofts, and a marine railway. Other industries were active in the Port of Rockland: grain mills, foundries, carriage makers, lumber mills, machine shops, marine and granite works, and printers. Fishing was critically important to the Port of Rockland economy.
In 1871, the Knox and Lincoln Railroad brought the first tourists to the Port of Rockland. Several hotels and inns appeared to accommodate the new visitors. With the coming of automobiles, travelers were free to explore a greater area around the Port of Rockland. Resorts and tourist attractions grew with the increase in tourism.
In the early 1990s, the Port of Rockland's economy began to shift away from its fishery towards services. Tourism continued to grow, and the downtown Port of Rockland became a center for boutiques, art galleries, and fine restaurants. Today, the Port of Rockland is a commercial center for Maine's mid-coast region.
Every July, the Maine Windjammer Parade and Anniversary Party is held in the Port of Rockland to celebrate the fleet of historic 19th Century sailing vessels that gathers in Penobscot Bay. The Port of Rockland is home to the biggest fleet of passenger-carrying windjammers in the US. Activities throughout the Bay area last from June through September that include a schooner race, schooner tours, and a music festival in addition to the Port of Rockland parade.
In August, the Maine Lobster Festival is a five-day event celebrating the State's famous lobsters. Visitors enjoy a cooking contest, the coronation of the Maine Sea Goddess, a lobster crate race, events for kids, and a huge parade. Lots of food is available in the downtown Port of Rockland, especially lobsters. There are also tours of US Navy ships, sporting events like races, arts and crafts, and other entertainment.