Windham, Maine

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Windham is a town in Cumberland County, Maine, United States. The population was 14,904 at the 2000 census. It includes the villages of South Windham and North Windham. It is part of the PortlandSouth PortlandBiddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.



The township was granted in 1734 by the Massachusetts General Court to Abraham Howard, Joseph Blaney and 58 others from Marblehead, Massachusetts. In 1737, New Marblehead Plantation was settled by Captain Thomas Chute. By order of the Massachusetts General Court, a fort was built in spring of 1744 at the center of the settlement to offer protection during King George's War. It was equipped with 2 swivel guns, and within its stockade the town's inhabitants remained between 1745 and 1751. The last Indian attack on the town occurred on May 14, 1756. New Marblehead Plantation was incorporated on June 12, 1762 as Windham, named for Wymondham in Norfolk, England.[1]

Most of the early inhabitants were farmers, who found the soil loamy and easily worked. Early subdivision of land was in strips perpendicular to the Presumpscot River and Pleasant River. Each landowner cleared the river floodplain for cropland and had river access for transportation to the coast until River Road and Old Gray Road (U.S. Route 202) were built linking connected farm buildings on high ground adjacent to the floodplain. Windham provided numerous sites for water power, and as early as 1738 a mill was erected at Mallison Falls. Edmund Fowler and Lester Laflin began manufacturing gunpowder at Gambo Falls (near Newhall) in 1817.[2] A charcoal house, saltpeter refinery, mills, and storehouses were separated along a mile of both banks of the Presumpscot River upstream of Gambo to minimize damage during infrequent explosions.[3] Oriental Powder Company became the largest gunpowder factory in Maine, and remained in operation until 1905 providing rock blasting powder, gunpowder for belligerents in the Crimean War, and 25 percent of the Union gunpowder supply for the American Civil War.[4]

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