History of Dexter, Maine
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine
By Geo. J. Varney
Published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill,
Dexter is the north-western town of Penobscot County. It is the terminus of the Dexter and Newport Railroad, and of stage-lines to Moosehead Lake, Dover and Exeter. It is 41 miles from Bangor, 42 miles from Waterville (junction), and 123 miles from Portland by railroad. Garland bounds it on the east, Corinna on the south, Sangerville, in Piscataquis County, on the north, and Ripley, in Somerset County on the west. The form of the town is square, and it has an area of 20,370 acres, 1,200 of which are covered with water. Bryant’s Hill is the loftiest eminence. The town is on the summit of land between the Kennebec and Penobseot Rivers. The surface is beautifully varied with vales, hills and ponds. Of the latter, Dexter Pond is the largest, extending from the western border to past the centre of the town. The streams that furnish power are the outlet of Dexter and Spooner's ponds, Kenduskeag River, in the south-eastern part of the town, and Sebasticook Main Stream, which winds along westward through the entire northern border of the town. At the north-west corner, upon Main Stream, are lumber and shingle mills, a brick-yard, etc.; and on the outlet of Spooner’s Pond in the southern part of the town, are one or more mills. In all, Dexter has 28 powers, 26 of which have an aggregate fall of 331 feet. The fall on Dexter Pond Stream alone in the first three-fourths of a mile is 142 feet, and in 2 miles 1604 feet. These bear the name of Dexter Falls, and contain 16 different distinct falls, upon each of which is some machinery. The pond which forms the reservoir contains about 1,000 acres, and is a beautiful sheet of water. It is fed very largely by springs, and is therefore little affected by drought or freshet. There are on the water-power in this town, about twenty-five different mills and factories, chiefly situated at Dexter Village. The principal manufactures are boots and shoes, long lumber, boxes, doors, sashes and blinds, churns, carriages, woolen cloths, mens’ clothing, cooper’s ware, flour, meal and feed, iron castings, stoves, plows, soap, leather, marble-work, tinware, etc. Dexter Village is the present terminus of the Dexter and Newport Rail road. It is beautifully situated on a hillside with easy slopes toward the pond and stream. It contains two or more good schoolhouses, several handsome churches, one of the best town-halls in the State, and has a public library of about 1,600 volumes. The Barron Memorial Church (built in memory of the cashier of the Dexter Bank, murdered by burglars while defending his charge), is located in this village, and is an elegant edifice. The streets of the village are of ample width, and are generally shaded by rows of elms and maples, having, for the most part, a growth of forty years. There is an unusual number of tasteful residences in the village and town; all buildings—public and private—being in excellent repair, impressing the traveler with the prevalence of thrift. The roads are excellent. The principal bridge has a length of 30 rods, and is constructed of stone. The prevalent rocks in the town are slate, an impure limestone, and a quartzose rock. Maple, birch and beech are the chief trees in the woods. The soil is quite fertile, yielding well of all the usual farm crops. Dexter, among much that is beautiful and interesting, has a natural curiosity in Swanton’s Cave; which, however, is mostly filled with water.
The township which is now Dexter, was surveyed in 1772, but remained unsettled until the arrival of David Smith,
in 1801. The first family resident in the town was that of Ebenezer Small, of Gilmanton, N. H. He was followed,
soon after, by a large delegation from the same region,—among whom were Joseph Tucker, Seba French, ‘William Mitchell,
Simeon and John Safford, and the Shepleys. Smiths and Maxwells. The plantation was at first called Elkinstown.
In 1803 the boundaries of the township were established, and it was divided into lots for settlers,—the plan being
drawn by Simeon Safford. In 1804 the township was granted to Amos Bond and eight others. The town was incorporated
in 1816; receiving its name in honor of lion. Samuel Dexter, who was that year the democratic candidate for governor
of Massachusetts—Mr. Bro;ks, the Whig candidate obtaining the election. The post-office was established in 1818,
the mail being carried between Bangor and Skowhegan once a week on horseback. Daniel Hayden was the carrier. The
Universalists erected the first meeting-house in 1829. In 1848 a violent tornado passed Over the town, tearing
up the largest trees and crushing some of the strongest buildings.