King, William – Maine’s First Governor

People Who Called Scarborough Home

By Charlene Fenlason

William King

William King

William King

William King, son of Richard King and Mary Black King, was born 9 February 1768 in Scarborough. When he was thirteen, William was sent to Phillips Academy in Andover for a term, but other than that experience he had little formal schooling. He was largely self-educated and a self-made man. After working first as an apprentice at a sawmill in Saco, William joined his sister Elizabeth and her husband Dr. Benjamin Porter in Topsham, where they opened a store and lumber and shipbuilding business. Beginning in 1795, he became active in local politics, representing Topsham in the Massachusetts General Court. William lived with the Porters in Topsham until 1800 when he married Ann Frazier of Boston and relocated to Bath. After the move to Bath, William represented that town in the Massachusetts General Court in 1804 and also served twice as state senator for Lincoln County.

When the War of 1812 broke out, William served as a major general in the militia in charge of the Maine district. Also, as a colonel in the United States Army, he led recruiting efforts for the regular army. During the war, he was particularly concerned with coastal shipping and defenses in the District of Maine. Noting the hardships Maine had suffered, he began a seven-year effort toward statehood that began with a petition to Massachusetts for separation. He realized his goal when Maine was recognized as a state on 15 March 1820. Elected the next month as the state’s first governor, William served until May 1821 when President Monroe named him as a special minister to negotiate a treaty with Spain. Three years later William returned home to private life. In spite of his limited schooling, he was a trustee of Waterville (now Colby) College, a trustee and overseer of Bowdoin College, principal owner of Maine’s first cotton mill in Brunswick, and a founder and president of Bath’s first bank. William died at home in Bath on 17 June 1852.


Moulton, Augustus. Grandfather Tales of Scarborough. Portland, ME: Katahdin Publishing Co., 1925.

Smith, Marion Jacques. General William King: Merchant, Shipbuilder and Maine’s First Governor. Camden, ME: Down East Books, 1908.

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