I’m sure many of you have been to Popham Beach State Park. Perhaps some of you may have even traveled a little bit further down to Fort Popham. The fort was built during the Civil War but neither the beach nor the fort tell the story of the original settlement.

According to the Smithsonian, the Popham Colony began in 1607 when a large group of men and boys set sail from England in order to attempt to profit from the abundance of natural resources the new world possessed. The spent months crossing the Atlantic only to abandoned the colony just over a year later.

The new settlers found the winter harsh and were ill prepared for what they would face. They had hoped to trade with the Native Americans, but the local tribe was suspicious of the newcomers and relations were strained at best. However, they persevered for a little over a year and actually had very few deaths recorded. Unfortunately the one recorded death was of George Popham, the man in charge.

Raleigh Gilbert was placed in charge of the colony but he soon returned to England after the death is his brother. The remaining colonists abandoned the area and also went back to England, leaving behind the buildings they had worked so hard to constructed.

Years later, espionage led to the discovery of the actual location of the colony, which was then able to be examined and excavated.

In 1888 an American diplomat found a map of Fort St. George in Madrid. It remains unclear how it got there, but most likely a spy sent from Spain obtained it from England.

The map was all a local archaeologist needed to further investigate. Using the map and some volunteers he was able to locate a building, trenches and several artifacts such as ceramic pieces, bullets and of course clay pipes. Unfortunately much of what was the early colony is on private property but there is a small piece of land which you can explore. Just another reason to take the trip down that peninsula!



 

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LOOK: Stunning vintage photos capture the beauty of America's national parks

Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

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