The Fort Kent Historical Society is in fact two separate organizations, the first dating to the mid 1920s, the second established nearly a half century later. In 1925, a group of prominent, civic-minded Fort Kent citizens gathered to form a society to “promote the study of History, Literature, and village improvement.” (State of Maine Certificate of Organization of a Corporation, organizational meeting report, December 4, 1925). They filed incorporation papers with the state of Maine for a non-profit corporation named the Fort Kent Historical Society (hereafter FKHS) on December 4, 1925. Original officers were Paul D. Thibodeau, president; William J. Audibert, treasurer; and Fora Bradbury Pinkham, clerk. The first five directors were Niles C. Pinkham, Mabel K. Theriault, Richard F. Crocker, Irené Cyr, and Hedwidge Pelletier.
Virtually nothing is known about the achievements of the first FKHS, which seems to have gone inactive shortly after its foundation. Its existence faded from local memory, and when the Fort Kent Historical Association formed in the 1970s, organizers were initially unaware of the antecedent organization.
In 1974, a group of Fort Kent citizens began meeting for the purpose of organizing a local historical association. James I. Hoyt and Dr. Roger L. Grindle, then professor of History at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, were particularly active in this effort, recruiting UMFK students and staff as well as community members. By May 1974, the group, known as the “Fort Kent Historical Association,” had created a new set of by-laws and elected their first slate of officers: James Hoyt, president; Miriam Aungst, vice-president; Daniel Michaud, secretary; and Robert Ouellet, treasurer. Members of the first board of directors were Alphy St. Pierre, James Thibodeau, Lois Currier, Donat Michaud,Lowell Daigle, and Emily Evans.
By October 1974, when the Association held its first annual meeting, the society counted 73 active members, 3 junior members, and 1 contributing member. The Association continued to be very active over the next six years, raising funds, building collections, holding membership and board meetings, developing historical displays, and operating a one-room museum on the second floor of the former Fort Kent Town Hall. Officers included Roger Grindle (President), Lucille Pelletier (Vice President and Public Relations), Jack Vanek (Secretary), and Donald Raymond (Treasurer).
In the late 1970s, the Association adopted “Fort Kent Historical Society” (FKHS) as their official name. During this period, the FKHS, under the leadership of Dr. Grindle, negotiated the donation to the Society by the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad of its former Fort Kent branch station, which had operated from 1902 until 1979. The FKHS Building Committee, chaired by James Grandmaison, also negotiated the sale of the branch station property to the Society in 1980.
As a result of these initiatives, the FKHS relocated its collections permanently to the station house and officially opened the doors of the museum on July 24, 1982. On April 21, 1989, the Fort Kent Railroad Station was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Since the opening of the museum, the Society’s energies have focused primarily on restoration work, exhibit preparation, and the production of documentary videotapes.