I recently presented a program to fifth grade students in my granddaughter’s reading class, which had been reading The Sign of the Beaver. I picked the book up when she was visiting, and discovered its setting was on the west side of the Penobscot River. My research has been mostly on the east side of the river, but I had viewed the river from the Penobscot Narrows Observatory in September, and, using the pictures and the results of much of my research, I believed I had something valuable to share with the class.


     The Penobscot River and bay area is rich in Native American history. In former times the region was part of the traditional homeland of the Wabanaki Confederacy, one tribe of which was the Penobscot tribe. The Confederacy at one time, thousands of years before the arrival of the white man, controlled much of New England. Ancient remains of their campsites have been found on the bay’s shores and islands, where they hunted, fished, gathered clams and ate other food in the bay area of the Penobscot River watershed. Today, they believe they are the caretakers of the Penobscot River and its watershed, with carries a sacred duty to protect the river and its surrounding region.

     The spelling of Penobscot was a difficult matter for the French…a Dr. Ballard discovered nearly sixty different ways the French people spelled it…the English did better, catching the sound, Penobscot.The word “Penobscot” originates from a mispronunciation of their name “Penawapskewi.” The word means “rocky part” or “descending ledges. The Tribe has adopted the name “Penobscot Nation.”

The late Dr. Frank Siebert, whose death was in recent years, actually lived among the Penobscot Indians. He was the last white man who fluently spoke the Penobscot language, and at the time of his death he was compiling a dictionary, in an attempt to keep the language alive. Much of his artifact collection is at the Abbey Museum in Bar Harbor.

     Mr. Treat and his family, who settled in this area in 1759, are considered the first permanent European settlers on the Penobscot River. His oldest son, Joshua Treat, Jr. (1756-1826), built the first log house, saw mill, and vessel in (Frankfort), near Castine, about nine miles up the Penobscot River from Fort Point.

     With the exception of the wetlands, mountain tops, a few barren and burned areas, the Penobscot river basins were forested with (to continue reading click on:


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