Naming a town is a matter that’s never taken lightly. Well, Mainers don’t usually take it lightly, although you’ll find places in other states like Nothing, Ariz., or No Name, Colo., or Toad Town, Calif.

In Maine, the settlers seemed to favor a more serious approach that honored noted residents and their former homes, or national figures.

This column continues a look at some of the town names and their origins in Androscoggin County. The information comes from a series of booklets written by Ava Harriet Chadbourne in 1957, “Maine Place Names.”

The first settlement of Leeds was made in 1779 by Thomas and Roger Stinchfield, who were soldiers of the French and Indian War. When they laid out their land granted by the Pejepscot proprietors, they called it Littleborough. That was in honor of Col. Moses Little of Massachusetts, who was one of the principal proprietors kind of like the way the biggest donors get their names on a convention center or stadium today.

The Stinchfield brothers were known as “daring hunters and trappers.” They brought goats and household tools to the land beside the beautiful river where they raised corn and vegetables in the summer. They also carried on a good fur trade with the native Indians of the area.

Their father, John Stinchfield, was an English emigrant who settled Gloucester, Mass., and New Gloucester, Maine. He was a native of Leeds, England, and the residents of the new Maine settlement chose to honor his home by taking that name.

Facts about the naming of Wales come from Harry Corcoran, Maine’s noted man-of-many-arts whose talents are seen at Monmouth’s Cumston Hall and in paintings at Lewiston’s Kora Temple. Corcoran’s historical writings in the early 1900s tell us that Wales was first called Bloomingboro in 1781. The name was changed to Wales in honor of John Wales, one of the most highly regarded pioneers. The early boundaries of Wales once included Monmouth.

Webster was originally part of Bowdoin and its land titles are from the Plymouth proprietors, according to the booklet by Chadbourne. Several divisions of the territory known as Thompsonborough took place, and in 1840 the northern portion was incorporated as the town of Webster in honor of Daniel Webster, the American statesman, lawyer and orator who was at the peak of his fame at the time.

What about Poland? It’s easy to assume it was named for the Indian chief Poland. Or, possibly, it honored the European kingdom and the several Polish allies who aided the American revolutionary cause.

Chadbourne says, “The consensus of opinion, however, seems to be that Moses Emery, the Representative of the General Court who secured the incorporation of the town, was, at his own request, given the privilege of naming the newly incorporated municipality. This he did, and chose the name of an ancient melody for which he had conceived a peculiar liking, called ‘Poland.'”

Mechanic Falls is an appropriately named community on the Little Androscoggin River. Its industrious early settlers were responsible for starting a thriving town with diverse manufacturing enterprises. It got the official name in 1841 when its first post office was established.

Some of the earlier names of the Mechanic Falls region might have been more colorful, if they had been adopted.

In Chadbourne’s book, there’s a story of Old Dr. Tewksbury from Hebron (now Oxford) who had to follow an old logging road on a stormy night to reach a patient. The doctor called the place “Jericho,” and that name stuck for some time. The Biblical Jericho is the ancient city to which the Israelites returned after their bondage in Egypt, but it’s not clear what connection the doctor found in that historical reference.

Afterward, in consequence of the large amount of liquor that could be had in the small town, Chadbourne said the community was called “Groggy Harbor.” Another common nickname was “Bog Falls.”

Stories about the names of a few more Androscoggin County towns remain to be told in future columns.



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