Friday, March 12, residents of Winterport will gather at 5 p.m. at the Old Winterport Commercial House to open the celebration of the town’s 150th anniversary. The anniversary festivities will conclude with more activities in August.

The program on March 12 will replicate the reading of a proclamation on the same date as 150 years ago, noting the separation of Winterport from the territory of Frankfort, a sprawling township that once stretched from Hampden to Belfast as it followed the Penobscot River.

Phil Pitula, town manager of Winterport, will dress in period costume and read the 1860 proclamation at the Commercial House — the same location as the original reading.

Following the presentation, the program will continue at My Fork Restaurant, a short distance away on Route 1, and will include a birthday cake and other refreshments. The festivities also will feature a talk by Winterport historian Teddy Weston, who will outline the history of the town. Photographer Bernie Littlefield, president of the Winterport Business Association, will provide a slide show of historical photos of the community.

Weston says her research has not confirmed the reason for the separation from Frankfort, but some reports indicate that residents of the northern portion of Frankfort were upset over the cost of frequently replacing the wooden bridge over Marsh Stream in Frankfort village. Other historical reports indicate the separation was a result of the difficulty in administrating the huge, sprawling town.

In any case, the first rumbles of a separation movement were heard in 1851. It took nine years before formal separation petitions were drafted to present to the Maine Legislature. Twenty petitions were circulated, which ultimately contained more than 1,000 signatures.

Weston, who has spent many years studying Winterport’s past, says that John Haley was one of the original framers of the petitions that sought to divide his hometown into two communities — the southern portion to keep its name of Frankfort and the more northern portion to be chartered as the Town of Winterport.

Her research shows that Haley’s motives were selfish — he was one of many who wanted to secede from Frankfort and become a resident of the new community.

But, after approving the separation, a Legislative mandate sought to divide the population equally and established the new boundary line several hundred yards north of Haley’s home. Though he found success as part of the separatist movement, he remained a resident of Frankfort, with the line drawn down the middle of Sampson Street. At that time, homes on the north side of Sampson Street were in Winterport and those on the south were in Frankfort.

It took another seven years before new petitions that were presented to the Legislature were successful, moving the town line south to its current location, closer to Marsh Stream bridge.

When the citizens of Winterport gather at the Old Commercial House on March 12, it will be the kick-off event for the anniversary celebration. This summer, a week-long series of events from Aug. 1-7 will culminate with the town’s annual Music Festival at the Vicki Grant Community Park on Saturday, Aug. 7. Plans for the summer programs are still being finalized and will be announced later this spring.