Old Jail
Map with Ft Shirley



The Early Years The first Lincoln County jail was not built in Wiscasset, but in what is now Dresden. It was authorized by the Court of General Sessions of the Peace as the first item of business at its first meeting on May 12, 1761 and was erected along side the north palisade of Fort Shirley, where the Pownalborough Court House now stands. It was completed in September of that year. The early map above shows the site of Fort Shirley (a slightly larger map can be found in the photos section of this site).

At the May Term 1761 it was
"Voted and ordered that there be forthwith built a Goal for the use of his Majesty at the Cost and Charge of the County of Lincoln upon the northerly side of the Northwesterly Flanker at Frankfort. At the September Term 1761 it was "Voted and ordered that the building erected by order of this Court be appropriated to his Majesty's use as a Goal for the County of Lincoln, and that the same is hereby constituted and declared to be the Common Goal of the said County." It was voted at the same session "that there be forthwith built a convenient yard round his Majesty's Goal and that Samuel Goodwin and Jonathan Bowman Esqs be a Committee to cause the same to be built as they shall judge most convenient and proper."

It should be noted that the easternmost blockhouse of old Fort Shirley was almost certainly also used as a jail of Lincoln County. On April 13, 1761 the Kennebec Proprietors met to consider a request from the "Judges and Justices" of Lincoln County that the Proprietors provide "a convenient place where the Courts might be held within the parade ground of Fort Shirley." In their response the proprietors agreed not only to build a court house at Fort Shirley but also, "Voted that the easternmost blockhouse of said Fort Shirley with the land on which it stands be appropriated as a Goal for the use of said County of Lincoln also the easterly part of the barracks in which Major Samuel Goodwin now lives be appropriated as a House for the Goal Keeper."

It is likely that the Court of General Sessions responded negatively to the Proprietors' offer of the blockhouse since the Court ordered the construction of a jail on May 12th only a month after the Proprietors' proposal was made. However the easterly part of the barracks which had been the home of Samuel Goodwin was accepted as a dwelling for his son Samuel Goodwin Jr., the new Keeper of the jail. There can be little doubt that by 1769 the blockhouse was being used as the Lincoln County jail despite the fact that there is no record of its acceptance. The original jail built in 1761 was never discontinued nor was the easternmost blockhouse ever declared to be the Common Goal of the County.

Very little is known of the conditions within the Lincoln County jail at Fort Shirley or of the treatment accorded the prisoners who were held there. From what we know of jail conditions of the period and of the statutes covering the adminstration of prisoners, we must assume that most prisoners essentially cared for themselves.