New Gloucester is situated midway on the northern line
of Cumberland County, having Gray on the south-west, North Yarmouth and Pownal on the south-east, Auburn and Danville
in Androscoggin County on the north-east, and Poland on the north-west. It was originally ordered to be laid out
six miles square, but is nearly nine miles in length from N.N.W. to S.S.E., by six the other. It is 22 miles from
Portland, on the line of the Grand Trunk and Maine Central railways, which cross the eastern part of the town.
The surface is beautifully diversified, and without either lofty hills or deep valleys, affords many pleasing prospects.
Bald Hill in the northern corner of the town is the highest eminence. There is much good interval land, and the
uplands are generally loamy. The hills especially, have many drift rocks of the cobble-stone size. The town is
one of the best for farming purposes, and being well-wrought, has generally a thrifty appearance. There is a mineral
spring of some note in the town called the Centennial Spring.
Lily Pond, about half a mile square, lies a little north of the centre of the town; and in the north-western part
is Sabbath-day Pond, two miles long by half a mile wide. The principal streams are Royal’s River, Harris Brook,
and the outlet of Sabbath-day Pond. The Shakers have a village at the western extremity of the town, with about
1,000 acres of excellent land, which they cultivate with their usual industry. Near by the village, on the outlet
of Shaker Bog, is a small lumber and grist-mill belonging to this community. The other business centres are Upper
Gloucester, New Gloucester P. 0. near the centre of the town, Gloucester Hill, a mile and a half west of the last,
Cobb’s Station on the same line, at the eastern side of the town, and Fogg’s Corners, in the southern part.
The manufactures are lumber, carriages, boots and shoes and tinware. Upper Gloucester occupies the side of an elevated
plain, which slopes off from the village towards the south and west into miles of lowland, bog, forest and interval.
The township was granted in 1735 to 60 inhabitants of Gloucester, Mass., whence its name with the prefix “New.”
There were 63 equal shares, of which the odd three were respectively, as usual, for the first minister, the support
of the ministry, and the schools. A number of families very soon built a dozen log-houses on Harris Hill, and a
sawmill near by,—of whom Jonas Mason was the first. It was in the autumn 1742, that the household goods of the
pioneer settlers were landed at the mouth of Royal’s River and poled up the stream on rafts to the bridge which
had been erected in 1739. A new war with France broke out in 1744, continuing until 1751; during which the hostility
of the savages caused the abandonment of the settlement.
In 1753 some of the inhabitants returned and built a block-house 100 rods south-west of the meeting-house on the
lower side of the road. For six years it was a home, a fort and a church. The long slots in the walls for the guns
also served as windows; and the huge fire ou the ‘hearth cooked their food and lighted the apartment at night.
[see Haskell’s Centennial Address.] Ruined mills and cabins were re-built, and in 1756 a new road was cut by Walnut
Hill to North Yarmouth. The first grist-mill was put up in 1758.
Colonel Isaac Parsons and John Woodman came in 1761. The erection of a schoolhouse, and the arrival of the first
schoolmaster and minister occurred in 1764. The name of the latter was Samuel Foxcroft; and his descendants still
occupy the fine old mansion built by him. The first meeting-house was built in 1770, and stood until 1838. It was
a quaint, but ambitious edifice. It had a square tower on the southwest end, and a porch on the other. Twenty-six
windows in two rows let in the light through their 8 by 10 panes. Galleries on three sides rose to the height of
the preacher’s eyes, as he stood in the lofty pulpit under the threatening sounding-board. Wardens with long staffs
watched for sleepers, and sometimes the reminder of the knobbed end was far from gentle. Holes in the floor served
for spittoons, and gave ample ventilation. Seats turned upon their hinges during prayer to afford space for the
wide skirts of the ladies, and dropped down with a rattling chorus and many a bang at the welcome “Amen.” The town’s
stock of powder was kept in small closets within the sacred desk, ready to be served out to the members of the
congregation on Sundays and at their homes on secular days, in case of an Indian attack. If the pulpit was not
the driest place in town, it was in some danger of becoming the hottest.
The town was incorporated in 1794; from 1795 to the organization of Oxford County in 1805 the courts were held
here alternately with Portland; and New Gloucester therefore early became one of the most distinguished towns in
the State, much of its present elegance being due to the people thus brought into its limits. Hon. Peleg W. Chandler
of Boston was a native of this town. William Pitt Fessenden spent his boyhood here; and his brother Hon. S. C.
Fessenden, a member of the 37th Congress (1860) was born here. Their father, General Samuel Fessenden, began the
practice of law in this town. The mother of Hon. W. W. Thomas, of Portland, was born in New Gloucester in 1779.
She was a daughter of Judge Widgery, and a lady of great benevolence and public spirit. Elias Thomas, to whom she
was married in 1802, died in 1872, being above one hundred years of age.
The religious societies in town are the Congregationalists, Baptists, Free Baptists, Universalists, Shakers, each
of these have churches, some of which are superior edifices. The Bailey House school at New Gloucester village
is well spoken of. New Gloucester has eleven public schoolhouses, and its school property is valued at $5,000.
The valuation of estates in 1870 was $848,905. The rate of taxation in 1879 was 94 mills on the dollar. The town
has no debt. The population in 1870 was 1,496. In 1880 it was reported at 1,382.