Larrabee's Garrison: A Discovery Along the Mousam River
With a Nor’easter brewing, I diverted from my usual walk at the Kennebunk beaches to the more sheltered Bridle Path along the Mousam River. I noticed the Museum in the Streets
sign — part of a self-guided walking tour throughout Kennebunk marking twenty-five prominent architectural treasures and historical sites.
On the Bridle Path, wooden posts with photographs and descriptions reveal the site of the former Butland Shipyard, a cemetery, and the Larrabee Garrison. The Garrison sparked my interest, so I continued to a granite monument commissioned by historian William Barry, in the early 1900s. It commemorated the site and the graves of town settlers.
Thanks to the Brick Store Museum and some local historians, I learned that William Larrabee built a small house on this site in 1714. His house and those of John Looke and Thomas Wormwood were enclosed by a substantial lumber barrier reaching 14 feet high. This became the first permanent settlement of Kennebunk, known as the Larrabee Garrison. It was one of several forts built to protect early settlers from raids by Native American. During hostilities, up to 200 local residents would take refuge within these walls.
Four tribes—Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot—known collectively as the Wabanaki or “People of the Dawnland” - inhabited the land we call Maine for about 13,000 years. At the time of this settlement, the Native American population had been devastated by epidemics and the impact of European colonists settling on the coast.
In 1875, local historian Edward E. Bourne wrote a description of the garrison: “The structure was in the form of a parallelogram; it fronted southeast; or down the river.” He added, “There were three gates, one at each end and one on the side of the fort flanker. Within the walls were five houses… It was the largest building which has ever stood on in Kennebunk.”
Three hundred years later, the descendants of these early settlers are still prominent names in our community. Three hundred years later, the names of the Native Americans have faded, but their stories rise along the earthen path that follows the rhythms of the Mousam River.
Contributed by: Mia Millefoglie