Popham Colony: Planning, Attempt and Legacy

The Popham Colony—also known as the Sagadahoc Colony—was a short-lived English colonial settlement in North America. It was established in 1607 by the proprietary Plymouth Company and was located in the present-day town of Phippsburg, Maine, near the mouth of the Kennebec River. Rather than a historical footnote, it was the vanguard of a new colonization model for the English, the result of rights stripped from noble conspirators, and redistributed to new corporate entities. Click here for a one-hour podcast posted on January 23, 2023 by The Other States of America.

Pictured above: Sir john Popham, Queen Elizabeth I, and King James, each of whom are referenced in the podcast. After years of sailors kidnapping Natives off the coast of modern day Maine to train as interpreters, Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Sir John Popham return them hoping to foster good will with their native communities.

Pictured above & below: Sir Walter Raleigh who was the uncle of Raleigh Gilbert, the second in command of the Popham settlement. The Popham Colony, undertaken by the Virginia Company of Plymouth, initially seemed to be a more promising prospect than the Jamestown Colony, undertaken by the Virginia Company of London. However, things change…

The English established a colony on the coast near today’s Phippsburg, Maine in 1607, only a couple of months after the founding of Jamestown. It would survive just over a year.  The Popham or Sagadahoc Colony was the culmination of several exploratory missions along the New England coast from approximately Cape Cod to Maine between 1602 and 1605.  In 1602, Bartholomew Gosnold, who would eventually die at Jamestown, led the first of those missions to the New England coast and gave several famous places names that we use today, including Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.  His expedition would stay in the Elizabeth Islands, which shelter Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts, for more than three weeks, and have extensive encounters with local indigenous peoples.