Jamestown's forgotten sister colony turns 400 this month, but few realize its role in history.
Popham Colony is an English settlement that predates the Pilgrims by 13 years.
Melanie Stetson Freeman
October 19, 1607: English settlers officially found "the other" English colony on North America. Unlike Jamestown, Popham is settled by just men and boys. Popham, northeast of modern Portland, Maine, is established on the bluffs overlooking the spot where the Kennebec River flows into the ocean. The colony lasts only a little over one year. The colony's second leader returns to England, taking the settlers with him, when he inherits a sizeable estate in England.
The Popham Colony was the first organized attempt to establish an English colony on the shores of what we now know as New England. It was planted at the mouth of the Kennebec River in the summer of 1607 and lasted for little over a year until it was abandoned in the fall of 1608. Popham was not the first European colony in New England. The French were earlier with a brief settlement on an island in the St. Croix River between Maine and New Brunswick in 1604. Although Popham was the first claim of possession of what was then called Northern Virginia by the English, the honor of the actual founding of a "New" England belongs to the Pilgrims who established the first permanent settlement in Massachusetts Bay thirteen years later. Despite its precedence, the failure of the Popham Colony to endure has rendered it a nearly forgotten historical footnote. Its failure, however, was an important step in the ongoing experience of English colonization and the lessons learned contributed directly to the ultimate success of the Pilgrims.