DEXTER is one of the most enterprising and important towns in the northwestern
part of Penobscot county. It is reached directly by railroad, branching off from the main line of the Maine Central
at Newport, and is situated about thirty miles from Bangor. It lies in the midst of a fertile and beautiful rural
district, and contains about 20,370 acres of valuable territory. The town owes its growth and prosperity, not only
to the favorable situation it possesses, but also to the efforts of generations of pushing and honorable men who
have made it their home. It was first prospected and surveyed in 1772 by interested owners of the land, who thought
this an advantageous spot, and wanted to lay out a town here; but the outbreak of the Revolutionary war delayed
matters, and it was not actually settled until about thirty years later.
In 1801 the long-talked-of and proposed settlement was made, so that the town dates its birth back almost to the
beginning of the century. The first settler was Ebenezer Small, who hailed from Gilmanton, N. H. Soon after he
had broken soil for his cabin and farm, a man named Elkins arrived, who was long a leading light in the dark, early
days of Dexter. So much so, in fact, that the place was popularly known as "Elkinstown" up to its incorporation
under its present name in 1816. Among other early settlers were Joseph Tickler, Seba Smith, Wm. Mitchell, Simeon
and John Stafford, Jeremiah Abbot, and Shepley Smith and Maxwell with their families. These energetic and courageous
men (for it required some courage to push thus far out into the wilderness in those days, as it was not a pleasure
excursion) were all farmers by birth and education. The place was located as township No. 4, fifth range, one of
the "no-name townships." The early settlers received grants of good land, and improved them so rapidly
that the fame of the town spread through the State and attracted many new-corners. By 1813 the boundary lines throughout
the town had been established and all the land was taken up by the settlers. A township charter had been granted
in 1804, and so quickly did it grow up that within ten years a movement was started for incorporating it as a town,
which resulted in the granting of a town charter by the Legisbtture on the 17th of June, 1816, the place being
named in honor of the Ron. Samuel Dexter of Boston, who was a large owner of real estate here, and prominent in
the up building of its interests.
The population which in 1810 was 186, had risen in 1820 to 461, and the valuation in that year was $27,891. The
first church edifice here was erected by the Univer salists in 1829, and this was followed in 1834 by the church
of the First Congregational Society. The population in 1830 was 885, and had increased to 1,464 during the next
decade, so that it was evident that the town was making steady progress.
Dexter from its age and situation, was not able to take much part in the war of 1812, but when the British sent
their invading fleet up the Penobscot in 1814, fifteen Dexter men volunteered as militia anti joined the American
forces, many of whom after the repulse, escorted them all the way from Bangor home in unusually quick time. Some
of the demoralized forces did not even stop here, but started off in the direction of Moosehead Lake.
An event long remembered in Dexter was the "Great Tornado" of 1848, when. the force of the wind tore
up great trees by the roots, leveled barns and houses to the ground, and not only created great damage, but endangered
many lives. Old people used often to say, and perhaps say still, that there was never seen anything like the "great
storm of '48."
In 1850 yet further progress was revealed by the census, the population being 1,948. During the next decade nothing
of particular note happened to the town, and while deeply interested in the slavery troubles in other parts of
the country, it continued on its way of unchanged growth at home, and in 1860 numbered 2,365 people, with a total
valuation of $465,023. The town entered into the civil war with the utmost patriotism, and devotion. A large number
of its leading citizens and strong young men enlisted in the Union army, most of the volunteers going to the Second,
Sixth, Eighteenth, Twenty-fourth and Thirty-first regiments. The town showed great liberality throughout in its
appropriations of money and supplies, and the Ladies' Aid Society was very active and generous in its services.
During the first few years after the war the town felt the effects of the "boom" which spread all over
the country, so that it grew and prospered rapidly until, in 1870, the population was 2,875, and the valuation,
$1,006,966. After this came the great financial depressions throughout the country, and Dexter again felt the effects
and fell away some, though only a little, and the old spirit still remained ready to revive at short notice The
population in 1880 was 2,563, and the valuation $963,029. In the present decade a revival of business and general
interest has taken place, and greater advancement has been made than for many years past. The manufacturing interests
have extended rapidly, and now includes' lumber, grain, boots, shoes, carriages and furniture. The population is
in the region of 3,000, and the valuation has risen to over a million dollars.
The opening of the branch of the Maine Central from Newport, was a great thing for Dexter, and has contributed
much to its wealth and growth. While the business affairs have been prospering, other interests have not been neglected.
Education has received the careful attention which the mind of New England has always discerned as extremely important.
The schools are conducted liberally and well, and maintained at a very high standard. There is a fine public library
here, containing several 'thousand of carefully selected and valuable books; and in matters relating to intellectual
advancement the citizens of this progressive town are well and thoroughly posted. In religious affairs the town
is unusually active; there is a representative church here of almost every prominent denomination.
Through the railroad Dexter is coming in for its share of the annual tide of summer visitors to this "Garden
State," and moreover is proving itself well worthy of the honor. A quiet and beautiful town, situated in a
delightful region, where every thing that can charm the eye and nourish the tired frame back to vigorous health
is found in abundance, it is no wonder that its fame grows with every passing year.