|Maine House||District 53|
|Maine Senate||District 23|
|Area sq. mi.||(total) 33.2|
|Area sq. mi.||(land) 30.6|
Total=land+water; Land=land only
[DREZ-dn] was first settled as Frankfort in 1752 by German and French Huguenot immigrants. A town in Lincoln County, it incorporated on June 25, 1794 from a portion of the town of Pownalborough (later Wiscasset). The Germans, brought to the area through the encouragement of General Samuel Waldo, contributed the name Dresden after the city in their homeland.
It annexed land from Alna in 1741. In 1847 it set off two islands to form the Town of Perkins, which surrendered its organization in 1918 leaving the unorganized township of Perkins. The two islands are Swan Island and Little Swan Island, now a nature preserve administered by the State of Maine.
The 1761 Pownalborough Courthouse was the first built in Maine and the only one built prior to the Revolution. Parson Jacob Bailey used the courthouse as a church. In Coffin’s colorful account,
He pounced on the courthouse the minute it was built, and used it for his church. It was a fine three-decker courthouse, the court below, the judge’s family above, and soldiers barracked on top to hold them all down. John Adams tried a case there, and later on, Dan Webster came there twice to plead.” (p. 86)
The Pownalborough Courthouse has hosted future U.S. President John Adams, George Washington’s first Supreme Court nominee William Cushing, Robert Treat Paine and David Sewall. It was the setting for a trial noted in midwife Martha Ballard’s diary.
According to Peggy Shiels, “The Courthouse was also an important gathering place and hospitality center for the local community and travellers. Benedict Arnold visited on his famous mission to Quebec and caused a father/son battle that typified the divisive civil war that we now know as the American Revolution.”
John Perkins, a resident of Dresden during the early 19th century, kept journal of life in the community (see the reference below). The town is the birthplace in 1787 of congressman David Kidder.
In 1891 an act of the Legislature was approved incorporating Bridge Academy for the ‘promotion of education, literature and science’. The Academy was endowed by members of the Bridge family for “A Free High School for the children of Dresden”. It served in that capacity for the youth of Dresden, and other ‘tuition’ students from many areas until 1966. Over 430 students earned their high school diplomas between 1892 and 1966, after which students attended Wiscasset High School. The building now houses the Bridge Academy Public Library.
The Earle R. Kelley Wildlife Management Area is a 500 acre park, 290 acres of which is marshland, maintained by the State Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 1.5 miles from the intersection of Route 27 and Blinn Hill Road. Dresden Bog, part of the Management Area, is a water-accessible nature preserve.
Benedict Arnold’s Expedition Route – click a Bateau
Allen, Charles Edwin. History of Dresden, Maine: formerly a part of the old town of Pownalborough from its earliest settlement to the year 1900. Dresden, Me. Jennie G. Everson, Eleanor L. Everson. 1977.
Allen, Charles Edwin. Some Huguenot and other Early Settlers on the Kennebec in the present town of Dresden. read before the Maine Historical Society, March 17, 1892. Portland, Me. Maine Historical Society. 1892.
Coffin, Robert B. Tristram. Kennebec: Cradle of Americans.
Dresden, Me. Record of Doings of Town of Dresden Relating to Bridge Academy. Dresden (Me.) The Town. 1889?
Dresden, Me. Selectmen. A History of Dresden Free High School or Bridge Academy. Dresden, Me. The Selectmen. 1892? (Wiscasset, Me.Charles E. Emerson, Steam Printer)
*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me. Additional text and photos at National Register of Historic Places: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/text/xxxxxxxx.PDF and http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/photos/xxxxxxxx.PDF
Bridge Academy: 86003540.PDF
Dresden Brick School: 86001273.PDF
Dresden Town House: 00001204.PDF
Pownalborough Courthouse: 70000052.PDF
St. John’s Episcopal Church: 91000769.PDF
Palmer, Rundlette Kensell. A History of Dresden, Maine. Published by the Author. 1979.
Perkins, John, b. 1761. Personal Journal, 1797 Nov. 25-1825 March 31. A personal journal of a resident of Dresden, Maine in the early 19th century. The entries record borrowing and lending money, sales and barter with potatoes, and other farming activities. Including a Perkins family genealogy. University of Maine. Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections.
Sheils, Peggy. “1761 Pownalborough Courthouse.” Maine Archives and Museums Newsletter. August, 2003. p. 17.
Summary Guide to the Pownalborough Courthouse Collection. Compiled by members of the Lincoln County Cultural & Historical Assocation. Wiscasset, Me. The Association. 1970.
Vaughan, Martha C. M. John Adams at Pownalborough Court House. Wiscasset, Me. Lincoln County Cultural and Historical Association. 1976?
West, Albert. “A Frontier of Massachusetts Justice. Massachusetts.” Massachusetts Law Quarterly. 1957?
National Register of Historic Places – Listings
[off Maine Route 197]
[Maine Route 127 and Maine Route 197] Bridge Academy is one of the most architecturally ambitious of the state’s smaller late 19th century academy buildings and one of few to survive with its interior largely unaltered. A landmark in Dresden and now the public library, it is a major work by the prominent Boston architect and Blue Hill native George A. Clough. The Academy owes its existence, and is as a tribute to, Dresden’s Samuel J. Bridge (1809-93). Bridge went to Boston to make his fortune. Extremely successful as a merchant, his career extended from Boston to San Francisco.
He had been forced to withdraw from Harvard due to financial problems, so returning to Dresden late in life as a very wealthy bachelor, Bridge occupied his himself with educationally-related philanthropies. He commissioned the now famous statue of John Harvard next to Harvard’s Monument Hall. Closer to home, Bridge promised to add a substantial amount of his own money to a bequest by Llewellyn Lithgow if the town would donate it to the construction of an academy. Although 87 years old, Bridge superintended the construction himself and established a Board of Trustees and a generous trust fund. His wealth and personal influence are doubtless the reason the building is more creatively designed and better apportioned than were most rural academies. The Academy was first staffed by a male principal and two female teachers, educating Dresden children of both sexes ages 10 to 21 tuition-free. Tuition-paying scholars were accepted from other communities and were boarded in village houses.*
Dresden Brick School House
[Maine Route 128] This 1816 building was erected when Dresden was a part of the larger town of Pownalborough. Once known as District School Number 2, it may be the second oldest brick school building in Maine, the oldest being the smaller Brick School in Winslow.
Owned by the Dresden Historical Society, it is also known as the Dresden Brick School Museum.
Dresden Town House
[391 Middle Road Dresden Mills] Built in 1859 by local builder George F. Houdlette and enlarged in 1904, the Town House is an ordinary two-story frame building enclosed in clapboards and wood shingles. It has hosted important community functions including annual town meetings, dances, lectures, religious gatherings, and grange functions.
In 1901 Eastern River Grange No. 133 was reorganized and made arrangements with the town to add a second floor to the town house for its meeting hall, which it used until 1969.*
[Blinn Hill Road]
[Cedar Grove Road] When Lincoln County was established in 1760, separating from York County, it became necessary to build a courthouse. Lincoln County, named for Governor Pownall’s native Lincolnshire England, included all of the province east of the Kennebec River and extended for several miles west of the river. Pownalborough was designated its shire town, which included present day Alna, Dresden, Swan Island and Wiscasset.
In 1761 the Plymouth Company Proprietors voted to build a house forty-five feet long, forty-four feet wide and three stories high. One room on the second story was to be fitted with boxes and benches for holding courts. Completion of the building was delayed and by 1766 only six of the eventual twelve rooms had been partitioned. The second floor court headquarters was not fitted with boxes as directed. The proposed one main court room was divided into two rooms. The first floor contained a tavern and family residences. The third floor also contained living quarters. Each room was heated by a fireplace connected to one of the two large main chimneys.
Built on the grounds of Fort Shirley, one of the Fort’s blockhouses was to be used as a jail, the jail keeper to be housed in the barracks. Built in 1752, Fort Shirley was garrisoned for several years when hostile Indians were active. Its importance declined when Fort Western in Augusta and Fort Halifax in Winslow were built in 1754.* [See photos and text above.]
St. John’s Anglican Church and Parsonage Site
St. John’s Episcopal Church
[south side of Maine Route 27 at junction with Blinn Hill Road, Dresden Mills] St. John’s Episcopal Church in the village of Dresden Mills is a wood frame building merging Federal, Greek Revival, and Gothic Revival elements. Built in 1833, the structure is a twin of the nearby Pittston Congregational Church erected in 1831.
The present church building was originally intended as a Union meeting house by four separate congregations. According to local historians, each group was represented on the building committee. By early 1832 the building committee placed a request for proposals in the Christian Intelligencer newspaper in Gardiner.*