In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Biddeford History & Heritage Project

Sharing the history of a proud city rising where the water falls

V. A Cascade of Booms & Busts (1790-1865)

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Letter to Captain Nathaniel Goodwin of Biddeford, 1818
Letter to Captain Nathaniel Goodwin of Biddeford, 1818

Item Contributed by
McArthur Public Library

After the Revolution was fought and won, life began again in Biddeford, along with another period of growth. The shift from the Pool to Falls Village began in earnest. More entrepreneurs came to town, to lend their visions, enthusiasm, and indeed their names to the progressing area. Veterans Captain Seth Spring and Captain Moses Bradbury built homes and multiple saw mills on what became known as Spring's Island in the 1790's. Spring built bridges connecting the Island to Biddeford and Pepperellborough 1795-8. Captain Bradbury built a fulling mill on Spring's Island for the felting of woolen goods.

Mill wheel bearing, Saco, ca. 1840
Mill wheel bearing, Saco, ca. 1840

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McArthur Public Library

The first sawmill was built around 1853, and before the coming of Samuel Batchelder and the cotton mills, lumber was easily the most important industry at the falls. About 1866 a man named Joseph Hobson was the leading operator, owning mills on Spring Island on such a scale that he was known as "the lumber king", but unfortunately no good record seems to have been saved of his operations. His peak was during the 1870s and 1880s.

Incorporation of the Saco Water Power Machine Company, 1837
Incorporation of the Saco Water Power Machine Company, 1837

Item Contributed by
McArthur Public Library

Matthew Cobb was the principal merchant in Biddeford during these years and had a large store until he removed from the area in 1796. There was no customs collector on the Saco River until 1789, when Jeremiah Hill, Esquire was appointed to the post. He served in this capacity until 1809, when he was succeeded by Daniel Granger, Esquire.