PORTLAND, Maine — The State of Maine is celebrating its 200th birthday, with bicentennial events planned this month.
Although Maine didn't officially become a state until March 15th, today, March 3rd, is the actual date the Missouri Compromise was passed by Congress.
It allowed Missouri to enter the union as a slave state and Maine to enter as a free state.
Maine is the only state in the country whose name has only one syllable, but where did the name come from?
While there is no definitive answer, the Maine State Library has compiled a few possible theories:
First appearance of Maine's name
The name first appears in writing in 1622 as a province, in a charter of the Council of New England granting land to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason. The portion which came to be Capt. Mason's alone in 1629, he named New Hampshire. In the same year, a second charter labeled it Laconia. Gorges volleyed with yet another name for his territory: New Somerset. This was strongly disliked by King Charles; he responded in a 1639 charter that it "shall forever hereafter be called and named the Province or County of Mayne and not by any other name or names whatsoever." Despite the tone of finality, this still was not the last word: other suggestions were Yorkshire, Lygonia and Columbus, the latter two appearing as late as 1819, when statehood was imminent.
It was popularly believed that the name was given in honor of the queen of Charles I, Henrietta Maria, who purportedly was the "owner/landlord" of the province of Maine in France. Discovery was made that she had no dealings with either "Maine", in the 1620's or ever...
Not to be ignored are a couple of interesting facts, which may have contributed to the establishment of our name: 1) there was a small village on the coast of England once named Maine; and, 2) Sir Gorges' family came from a village which neighbored "Broadmayne"; at various times, it was known as: Maine, Meine, and part of it was Parva Maen ("Little Maine").
The prevailing theory has to do with a practical nautical term, "the main" or "Main Land", "Meyne" or "Mainland", which served to distinguish the bulk of the state from the numerous islands. This is still commonly used today.
According to G.R. Stewart's Names On the Land, (Houghton-Mifflin, 1958), the name was fixed in 1665, when the King's Commissioners ordered that "Province of Maine" be entered from then on in official records. Twelve years later the Gorges patents were purchased by Massachusetts, but the name remained intact.