Brewer History

Visit the Brewer Historical Society Website for more great information about the City of Brewer. In the meantime, here is brief teaser about the history of the City of Brewer!


You should be proud that you live in Brewer, Maine. It is the hometown of some very famous and important people. It is also the beginning of settler-life along the Penobscot River. From humble beginnings there arose an important and vibrant community that in the 1800’s was one of the most important areas in the Northeast United States. Today, the spirit of your forefathers lives on in a City that is successful and energetic.

Well over two hundred years ago a young man, named John Brewer, left his home in Massachusetts and took a small sailing vessel along the coast of Maine to the Penobscot river and the present site of Brewer. He built a dam and sawmill at the mouth of the Segeunkedunk stream and built a small cabin for himself and his family. Other settlers came with him to form the beginnings of a township that would eventually incorporate the area of Brewer, Orrington and Holden. There were a couple of other settlers that had come the year before, but it was Brewer who built the first major colony.

John Brewer and the settlers had just begun to make their town when the Revolutionary War began. The British occupied the area north of the Penobscot river and built a fort at Castine in which to secure this land from the revolutionary colonists. Of course this was very disturbing to the settlers. John Brewer had become a captain in the militia and was the spokesman for the settlers with the British. When the colonists, who were now Americans, sent a large number of ships to take the fort at Castine, it was John Brewer who was able to give the fleet commander information that would have been beneficial to the American cause. Unfortunately the fleet commander did not follow the information and a British fleet intercepted and destroyed the Americans. Some of the American ships that were destroyed are still in the waters off of Brewer and part of one has been recently uncovered.

With the defeat of the American fleet and the failure of them to take the fort, it was John Brewer who aided the wounded and saw to their safety. By then it was becoming increasingly dangerous for Brewer and he took has family back to Massachusetts for the duration of the war. Many other settlers did like-wise, but some stayed in their homes and the settlement was maintained.

After the Revolutionary war, John Brewer and many other settlers returned to their homes. A group of them petitioned to have the area incorporated and the area became known as Orrington. It wouldn’t be until 1812 that Brewer separated from Orrington and had their own government.

Business and Industry

During the 1800s, Brewer began to grow as a town. The skills of the inhabitants and the natural resources of the area allowed for the development of many important businesses. That combination of individual ability and available resources continues to this day. Until modern times, the river was the major “road” and since the Penobscot River is one of the largest and most powerful rivers in New England, it allowed for many businesses. Originally the streams emptying into the river allowed for dams and dams power mills; sawmills for creating lumber and grist mills for grinding corn and grains. Later the river itself would have dams, which created power plants, paper mills, and textile mills. Originally, however it was the small streams that was the power source. Also the river paved the way for log drives started in the great north woods and the use of these logs for lumber, shipbuilding and shingle making.