< Back

Aroostock War Fort Kent

A small wooden Route 1 marker can be found on the street in Fort Kent. The front side of that one identified Key West, Florida, as the beginning of U.S. Route 1. The other side of the sign put that distinction on Fort Kent. Whatever the geographical or historical facts, one thing was certain – Fort Kent is the beginning of your 2,373-mile odyssey down the highway. Fort Kent, nestled along a bend in the St. John River separating the U.S. and Canada, is a town that grew out of a war that almost happened in 1839. That year the U.S. and Canada, which was then still a Crown Colony of Great Britain, were feuding about where exactly Maine ended and the Canadian Province of New Brunswick began. Rich forest lands were at stake and citizens of both countries had rushed to the disputed border. Some had gone considerably beyond it to lay competing claims to the land and its resources. Maine sent its militia to what it considered the border. British forces responded in kind and the stage was set for the Aroostook County War. Before shooting started, wiser heads prevailed. Then U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster went to London to negotiate a compromise with the British. After the requisite period of diplomatic blather, both sides agreed to split the difference. Maine’s border with New Brunswick was placed farther south than the Americans had insisted it should be and farther north than the British and Canadians had wanted it to be. Thus was avoided a conflict that essentially would have been about huge tracts of land with very large trees. Although a few deaths were reported from disease and mishap – one farmer reportedly lost a cow to some trigger-happy militiaman – the Aroostook County War was entirely bloodless. No gravestones or cemeteries mark the war’s footprint. Its only physical memento is a wooden blockhouse built on the bank of the St. John River in 1838. And a marching song sung to the tune of Auld Lang Sine.