Brownville, Maine

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Brownville is a town in Piscataquis County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,259 at the 2000 census. Brownville includes the villages of Knight's Landing and Brownville Junction, near which passes the 100-Mile Wilderness of the Appalachian Trail.



The area was a part of the Waldo Patent purchased by Moses Brown and Major Josiah Hill of Newburyport, Massachusetts, who initiated its settlement. In 1806, they built a dam and mills on the Pleasant River. First known as township T5 R8 NWP, the community was organized in 1819 as Brownville Plantation. It was named for Francis Brown (nephew of Moses Brown), who was a mill owner and trader from Newbury, Massachusetts. In 1824, the town was incorporated as Brownville.

Early settlers were given 50 acres (200,000 m2) to clear and cultivate. Farms produced hay, oats, potatoes, wheat and garden vegetables. Water power from the Pleasant River attracted industry, including sawmills, clapboard mills, gristmills, a shovel handle factory and a carriage factory. Quarries were established to extract the region's abundant slate, the quality of which won first prize at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. In 1843, the Bangor & Piscataquis Slate Company opened with 60 employees. It sent out 8,000-12,000 squares of roofing slate annually. The Merrill Quarry opened in 1846 with about 80 employees, producing 30,000 squares of roofing slate annually. The Highland Quarry opened with Welsh employees, recruited because they were accustomed to working in slate. The last quarry closed in 1917.

Iron ore was discovered at the foot of Ore Mountain. The Katahdin Iron Works was established in 1843, when roads were cut out and a blast furnace erected. A hotel and several houses were built for workers. Charcoal was made in 14 kilns, consuming 10,000 cords of wood per year. The company and land were sold in 1845, and the new owners operated it until 1856, the year it produced 2350 tons of iron. But shipping it to Bangor was expensive. The Bangor and Katahdin Iron Works Railway arrived in Brownville in 1881, then connected to the Katahdin Iron Works in 1883. The railroad created the village of Brownville Junction, and became part of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad in 1891. It is now part of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway. The Katahdin Iron Works closed in 1890, and is today a museum and state historic site.

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