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Harrison is a town in Cumberland Countymarker, Mainemarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 2,315 at the 2000 census. A historic resort area, Harrison straddles Long Lakemarker and Crystal Lake. It is part of the PortlandmarkerSouth PortlandmarkerBiddefordmarker, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Main Street in 1912
The Massachusetts General Court granted Otis Field Plantation in 1771 to James Otis and other heirs of Captain John Gorham and his company for their service in the 1690 Battle of Quebec. It replaced a 1736 grant which had been ruled invalid. In 1797, the plantation was incorporated as Otisfieldmarker. On March 8, 1805, Harrison was set off and incorporated from portions of Otisfield and Bridgtonmarker. It was named after a principal landowner, Harrison Gray Otis of Bostonmarker, the heir of James Otis.

In the autumn of 1792, two brothers from Gorhammarker, John and Nathan Carsley, built a camp and cleared land in Harrison. During the winter they returned to Gorham, coming back in March of 1793 with their wives. Because John Carsley and his wife remained in Harrison when Nathan Carsley and his wife resumed living in Gorham until 1796, he is considered the town's first permanent settler. More pioneers arrived, living in log house chinked with moss. The outlet of Crystal Lake into Long Lake provided water power for industry, and James Sampson erected at Harrison village the first sawmill and gristmill. Over the years other industries followed, including a wire-making business, blacksmithy, shingle mill, harness-maker, foundry, carriage maker, clothing maker and shoe shop. Scribner's Mill (now a museum) was built in 1847 on the Crooked River. On Bear River, in 1867 the Harrison Water Power Company established the Bear River Woolen Mill, destroyed by fire in 1872.

In 1832, the Cumberland and Oxford Canalmarker opened, connecting Portlandmarker with Sebago Lakemarker. A series of 27 locks lifted vessels from the elevation at Casco Baymarker to Sebago Lake. From there they traveled up the Songo River to Brandy Pondmarker, then continued along Chute Rivermarker to Long Lake. As the company name indicates, the canal was originally planned to reach Oxford Countymarker, but instead terminated at Harrison. The town became a center for trade and transportation, with wharves and warehouses lining the shore.

Camp Kineo in 1914
In 1847, the Sebago & Long Pond Steam Navigation Company built Fawn, the first steamboat to ply the lakes and waterways. It had shallow draft to navigate the winding Songo River, with passengers asked to shift sides as ballast to keep both paddlewheels in the water around sharp curves. The lakes became a popular summer tourist destination, with The Elm House (later called The Elms Inn) opening in 1860. When the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad commenced service to Sebago Lake Stationmarker in 1870, the canal was abandoned as obsolete. Beginning in 1898, the Bridgton and Saco River Railroad, a narrow gauge line, delivered freight and passengers directly to Harrison. In 1906, the Harrison Hotel opened. Camp Kineo operated beside Long Lake as a camp for boys. Today, Harrison remains a recreational area. Harrison is also home to Fernwood Cove, a half season summer camp for girls on the same spot as Camp Chickawah was. It is located on Island Pond.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 33.9 square miles (87.7 km²), of which, 33.0 square miles (85.5 km²) of it is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km²) of it (2.45%) is water. Harrison is drained by the Bear River and Crooked River.

The Maine state routes that cross through Harrison are 117 and 35. Harrison borders the towns of Bridgtonmarker to its west, Waterfordmarker and Norway to its north, Otisfieldmarker to its east, and Naplesmarker to its south.


As of the census of 2000, there were 2,315 people, 920 households, and 662 families residing in the town. The population density was 70.1 people per square mile (27.1/km²). There were 1,430 housing units at an average density of 43.3/sq mi (16.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.79% White, 0.52% African American, 0.04% Native American, 0.04% Pacific Islander, and 0.60% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.52% of the population.

There were 920 households out of which 32.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.1% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 22.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 2.90.

The Elms Inn in 1910
In the town the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 27.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.0 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $35,478, and the median income for a family was $42,159. Males had a median income of $30,726 versus $22,311 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,898. About 6.9% of families and 9.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.

Sites of interest


Further reading

  • A. J. Coolidge & J. B. Mansfield, A History and Description of New England, 1859; H. O. Houghton & Company, printers; Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Alphonso Moulton, Howard L. Sampson and Granville Fernald, Centennial History of Harrison, Maine, 1909; published by the Southworth Printing Company, Portland Maine
  • Reverend G. T. Ridlon, History of the Settlement and Early Settlers of Harrison, Maine, 1877; Published by Kilby & Woodbury; Skowhegan, Maine 1877

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