Maine: An Encyclopedia


Location Map for Dexter

Location Map for Dexter

Year Population
1970 2,567
1980 4,286
1990 4,419
2000 3,890
2010 3,895
Dexter Population Chart 1820-2010

Population Trend 1820-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 45:02:23
W. Latitude 69:16:47
Maine House District 104
Maine Senate District 4
Congress District 2
Area sq. mi. (total) 37.2
Area sq. mi. (land) 35.2
Population/sq.mi. (land) 110.7
County: Penobscot

Total=land+water; Land=land only
Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

of Honor

Indian Wars

Sign: Welcome to Dexter (2002)

[DEX-ter] Town in Penobscot County, incorporated on June 17, 1816 from township T4 R5 NWP. Surveyed in 1772, the township remained unsettled until 1800 the hardy pioneer Ebeneezer Small arrived, planted a crop, cobbled together a shelter, and brought his wife the following year.

Samuel Dexter, for whom the town was named, never saw it. He had served as Secretary of War, Treasury and State in various U.S. cabinets.

A woolen mill was erected in 1835, starting an industry that lasted for over 150 years. Recent closings of manufacturing firms have contributed to the decline in population in the 1990-2000 decade.

Abbot Memorial Library (2002)

Abbot Memorial Library (2002)

Universalist Church (2002)

Universalist Church (2002)

In the late 19 century, Dexter’s economic environment, according to George Varney,  was characterized by water power and mills:

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 26 powers, 26 of which have an aggregate fall of 331 feet. . . .

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.

The latter list is virtually unmatched in the history of what are now small towns in Maine.  At the time, Dexter appears to have been a manufacturing giant in the area.  Note the title of George H. Haynes’ 1899 book below.

Downtown Dexter (2002)

Downtown Dexter (2002)

Clock Tower in Downtown Dexter (2002)

Clock Tower Downtown (2002)

The town is the birthplace in 1888 of legislator, congressman, governor, and U.S. Senator Ralph Owen Brewster.

Form of Government: Council-Manager

Additional resources

Chase, Halcyon. The Early History of the Town of Dexter. Dexter, Me. Eastern Gazette. 1904.

Dexter (Me.). High school. Class of 1916. Brief History of Dexter, Prepared by Members of the Class of 1916, Dexter High School, as a part of their graduation exercises on the hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of the town. 1816-1916. Dexter, Me. Press of Eastern Gazette. 1916.  [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Maine State Library; Bangor Public Library]

Dexter Spirit of an Age: defining Dexter’s Character. Dover, N.H. Arcadia Publ. c1995.

Dexter, Spirit of an Age. Vol. II: our neighborly neighbors: 200 years of life in rural Dexter, Maine 1800-2000. Publications Committee, Dexter Historical Society. c1999.

Dover, Foxcroft, Guilford, Sangerville, Dexter, Newport, Corinna Souvenir 1908. 1908? [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

The Eastern Gazette: Centennial Issue. Dexter, Me. The Eastern Gazette. 1953.

Haynes, George H. The Scenic Beauties, Industries and Resources of Dexter, Maine. Dexter, Me. Press of W.S. Ladd. 1899?

Jacobs, Isabel A. Bubbles in the Sun. Dexter, Me. Dexter Historical Society. 2000.

*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.  Additional text and photos at National Register of Historic Places: and

Abbott Memorial Library: 78000190.PDF
Bank Block: 99000375.PDF
Dexter Universalist Church: 85001258.PDF

Plummer, Stanley. A History of the Town of Dexter, 1801-1901. Dexter, Me. The Dexter Historical Society. 1976.

Plummer, Stanley. A History of the Town of Dexter Down to 1915. Dexter, Me. Eastern Gazette. 1942-1943.

Richards, Lawrence A. The Effects of the Depression Years, 1930-1938, on Dexter, Maine. 1970. (Thesis (Honors)–University of Maine, 1970) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Varney, George J. A Gazetteer of the State of Maine. 1886. p. 199-200.

Whitney, Richard. Dexter in 1878. 1988. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]

Wintle, Fred L. When Weavers Wove: Short Stories of a Small New England Mill Town. New York. iUniverse. c2007. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Maine State Library]

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Abbott Memorial Library

[Maine Route 7] The 1894 Abbott Memorial Library, designed by J. William Beal of Boston, is a well-executed example of the Renaissance Revival style. It is a one-story, brick building with a hipped roof covered with slates, two internal brick chimneys and a granite foundation. This remarkable structure is notable for a small rather remote industrial town.

Funding for the land and building was provided by George Amos Abbott, a leading figure in Dexter and owner of Amos Abbott and Company, a woolen mill founded by his father. The mill apparently was the first of its kind in Maine. The other building in Maine with a similar Renaissance open loggia (a roofed open gallery) is the Walker Art Gallery at Bowdoin College designed two years earlier by Standford White. It is tempting to think that J. William Beal may have been influenced by White.* [See photo above.]

Bank Block

Bank Block (2002)

Bank Block (2002)

[15 Main Street] The 1876 Bank Block is a four-story, five-bay brick building that exhibits the Italianate style in its lower three levels and the Romanesque Revival style in its top floor resulting from reconstruction by architect/builder Henry P. Dexter. In contrast to the red brick upper stories, the building’s first floor storefront is of granite and cast iron. It stands in the middle of Dexter’s historic commercial district. Built to house the Dexter Savings Bank, the First National Bank and the Masonic Hall, the Block appears to have been the first brick commercial building in downtown. It was designed by Bangor architect George W. Orff.

Founded in 1867, the Dexter Savings Bank was the first bank in Dexter. Eight years later the Dexter First National Bank was chartered. The following year, the two institutions combined efforts to erect a substantial brick block to house their respective offices. The H.C. Parsons insurance agency was on the second floor. The third floor housed the Masonic Hall and the first floor contained two retail businesses.The Bank Block is believed to occupy the original site of the Dexter House, an early nineteenth hostelry that was a prominent landmark on Main Street. It was moved to an adjoining lot, then was relocated about 1906 to make way for a new municipal office. An 1878 robbery of the Dexter Savings Bank resulted in the murder of the bank’s treasurer, John Wilson Barren. Although several people were charged, no convictions were made. The Bank Block continued to serve as a banking institution until the mid 1990s.*

Dexter Grist Mill

[Maine Route 7]

Dexter Universalist Church

[Church Street] Among the best work of the prolific Thomas W. Silloway of Boston, a noted architect and a Universalist minister, this is really a building of 1867-70 although the frame of the original 1829 church remains intact. The architect and church elders concluded that the basic structure the old church could be reused. The ceiling and all walls (except the front) of the sanctuary are completely covered by pressed metal. [See photo above.]

Silloway designed a great many churches throughout New England and the Vermont Statehouse. He also wrote several books on architecture and theology. Other work in Maine includes the Universalist Church in Lewiston (destroyed), the Trinitarian Church in Castine, the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Calais (destroyed), the Universalist Church in Augusta (remodeled for shops), the Baptist Church in Springvale, and the Second Congregational Church in Biddeford (altered).*

Zions Hill

[37 Zions Hill]

This entry was posted in Government, Cities & Towns and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
This entry was last modified: April 05, 2015 07:28 PM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *