About This Place
Skowhegan ( /skaʊhiːɡən/) is the county seat of Somerset County, Maine, United States. As of the 2000 census, the town population was 8,824. Every August, Skowhegan hosts the annual Skowhegan State Fair, the oldest continuous state fair in the United States. The Skowhegan School of Art is an internationally known residency program for visual artists, though it is technically located in neighboring East Madison.
The Skowhegan Falls (which have since been replaced by the Weston Dam) descended 28 feet over a half mile on the Kennebec River. This was once territory of the Norridgewock tribe of Abenaki Indians, whose village was located in Madison until 1724, when it was sacked during Dummer's War. From spring until fall the tribe fished here, where abundant salmon and other species could be caught by wading. Consequently, they named the area Skowhegan, meaning "watching place [for fish]."
The land was settled in 1773 as a part of Canaan. Colonel Benedict Arnold and his troops passed through the village in 1775 on their way to the ill-fated Battle of Quebec. It would be set off from Canaan and incorporated on February 5, 1823 under the name Milburn. The first officials of the town were as follows: Moderator, Joseph Patten; Town Clerk, Samuel Weston; Selectmen, Benjamin Eaton, Joseph Merrill, Samuel Weston, and Josiah Parlin. However, inhabitants preferred the old name of Skowhegan, as it would be renamed in 1836. In 1861, the town annexed Bloomfield across the river. Skowhegan became county seat in 1871.