The Popham Colony of 1607

This model recreation, a gravel parking lot, and a large collection of artifacts are all that remain of an English colony established in 1607 in Phippsburg, Maine. The Popham Colony was the first organized attempt by the English to establish a 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. To return home to England, the colonists constructed the first ship ever built in North America.

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 further up the Maine coast 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.