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The River and its area were first explored by Samuel de Champlain when he and his men spent a winter there in the early 1600s. However, the first permanent settlers did not arrive until1770.
On June 27, 1789, the Massachusetts General Court sold the township to Mr. Waterman Thomas for 19¢ an acre. On June 16, 1809, the area was incorporated as a town. The city was given the name Calais after its ancient counterpart in France in honor of France's very significant contribution to American independence during the American Revolution. The State of Maine granted a City Charter on August 24, 1850.
Since 1948, the City of Calais has functioned under the Council/Manager form of government. The City's charter bestows upon the mayor and council the responsibility to set policy for all local matters. The mayor is elected at large for a two-year term while the six councilors are elected at large for three-year terms on a staggered, non-partisan basis.
Notable persons born in Calais:
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 103.7 km² (40.0 mi²). 88.2 km² (34.0 mi²) of it is land and 15.5 km² (6.0 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 14.94% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 3,447 people, 1,486 households, and 904 families residing in the city. The population density is 39.1/km² (101.3/mi²). There are 1,921 housing units at an average density of 21.8/km² (56.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 96.81% White, 0.35% African American, 0.61% Native American, 0.70% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.49% from other races, and 1.04% from two or more races. 0.73% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 1,486 households out of which 25.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.3% are married couples living together, 10.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 39.1% are non-families. 33.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 16.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.24 and the average family size is 2.88.
In the city the population is spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 24.4% from 45 to 64, and 20.1% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 42 years. For every 100 females there are 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 85.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $24,623, and the median income for a family is $39,118. Males have a median income of $37,684 versus $20,058 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,135. 16.8% of the population and 11.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 18.5% are under the age of 18 and 19.6% are 65 or older.