|Maine House||District 148|
|Maine Senate||District 2|
|Area sq. mi.||(total) 78.2|
|Area sq. mi.||(land) 76.6|
Total=land+water; Land=land only
[fort FARE-field] is a town in Aroostook County, settled in 1816 and incorporated on March 11, 1858 from Plantation D R1 and all of the Plymouth Grant lying southeast of the Aroostook River. It annexed Sarsfield Plantation in 1867.
Fort Fairfield, established to protect the area during the Aroostook War, took its name from Maine Governor John Fairfield. The original fort (1839-1843), a duplicate of Fort Kent, was dismantled in 1862. A replica of the blockhouse was built in 1976 and is located in a small, quiet park just off Main Street.
The cannon in the photo below (Fort Fairfield Library) is a “Bronze 6-pounder, Model 1838, . . . brought to the area by either the Maine militia or the land agent’s posse. Cast by Cyrus Altger of Boston in 1839, it is typical of the cannon deployed by both sides during the Aroostook War.”1
The Canadian-Pacific Railroad station, built in 1875, is part of the Railroad Museum at the old Bangor & Aroostook rail yard on Depot Street. In 1923 the Fort Fairfield National bank (chartered in 1892) began construction on a new, three story brick building to comply with the town’s recently enacted fire codes. Banking operations were on the first floor; the second floor contained a dental office, law offices, the business office of C.A. Powers & Company and the business office of the Aroostook Telephone Company. After several ownership changes, the latest, Key Bank, decided to end banking operations in the building. It has been vacant for several years.
The town is in the heart of potato country and hosts the Potato Blossom Festival each July to celebrate the spud’s contribution to the northern Maine economy. Related enterprises, such as the Aroostook Starch Company plant, supplement the farming sector. The potato starch produced by the company “is supplied as a refined quality product to the American cellulose and paper industry, as well as to the food processing, plastic, and textile industry,” according to a company publication.
Another factory that dominates the landscape in Fort Fairfield is the Boralex wood to energy facility – a “wood-residue thermal power station.” Consuming 400,000 tons of wood per year, the plant has the capacity to produce 36 megawatts of electricity.
Nevertheless, Fort Fairfield continues to lose population along with other Aroostook communities. The Aroostook River creates a big bend just north of downtown.
On the left bank of the river near the bridge over it, a recreational park attracts picnickers and families.
Richard William Curless was born in Fort Fairfield on March 17, 1932. “Dick” Curless became a well known country singer, especially with his 1965 hit “A Tombstone Every Mile, about the Haynesville Woods road. Marion Parsons, a pioneering and internationally recognized nurse was born here in 1876. She retired to Fryeburg where her house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Form of Government: Council-Manager
1999 Maine Potato Blossom Scholarship Pageant, Lawrence A. Gardner Gym, Fort Fairfield, Maine, July 17, 1999. [videorecording] WAGM-TV. Presque Isle, Me. WAGM-TV. 1999 [University of Maine, Presque Isle Special Collections]
50th Annual Potato Blossom Festival Parade, July 19, 1997, Ft. Fairfield, Me. [videorecording] WAGM staff. Presque Isle, Me. WAGM-TV. c1997. (Also 52nd, 53rd.) [University of Maine, Presque Isle Special Collections]
Beckwith, Janet. A History of Fort Fairfield. Presque Isle, Me. The Author. 1988.
Campbell, W. E. (William Edgar). The Aroostook War of 1839. Fredericton, N.B. Goose Lane Editions. c2013.
Deschsene, David. “Fort Fairfield National Bank: From Past to Present.” Fort Fairfield Journal, December 23, 2015. http://www.wffjtv.com/video/102115bank.html (accessed June 25, 2016)
Ellis, Caleb Holt. History of Fort Fairfield and Biographical Sketches. Fort Fairfield, Me. Fort Fairfield Printing Co. 1894.
Findlen, George L. Under His Own Flag: John Baker’s gravestone memorial in retrospect. Maine? G. L. Findlen? 2002. [University of Maine, Presque Isle Special Collections]
“Frontier Heritage” (brochure). Frontier Heritage Historical Society. Fort Fairfield, Maine. c. 2003.
Grant, Bruce. American Forts, Yesterday and Today. Illustrated by Lorence F. Bjorklund. New York, Dutton. 1965.
Loring Readjustment Committee. Community Profiles. Caribou, Me. The Committee. 1993. [Maine State Library]
*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me. Text and photos from 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
Fort Fairfield Public Library: 88003021.PDF (1988)
Maple Grove Friends Church: 00000764.PDF (2000)
Reed, Philo, House: 86000673 (1985)
U.S. Inspection Station: 14000555 (2014) [unpublished as of October 23, 2015)
Maine Potato Blossom Festival: sponsored by the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce. Fort Fairfield, Me. Chamber of Commerce. 1947-? [University of Maine, Presque Isle Special Collections]
Mraz, Ruth Reed. United Parish Church: A Historical Review. Fort Fairfield, Me. Ruth and Arthur Mraz. 1992.
**National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Program. “U.S. Border Inspection Stations.” (http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/64501205.htm and http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/64501205.pdf (accessed October 19, 2015)
Price, Trudy Chambers. Thirteen is a Lucky Number: the Campbell family. Yarmouth, Me. Salt Ponds Press. 2006.
The Fort Fairfield Register and Town History. Compiled by T. F. Manter. Madison, Me. The Bulletin Publishing Co. 1904.
Vallee, Ron. History of the Fort Fairfield Fire Department. The Author. 1983.
National Register of Historic Places – Listings
Fort Fairfield Public Library
[Main Street] Designed by Lewiston architect Harry S. Coombs and completed in 1913 by contractor R. J. Noyes, the Fort Fairfield Public Library is a modest Neo-Classical Revival style brick building. It occupies a corner lot on Main Street near Fort Fairfield’s commercial district.
The history of Fort Fairfield’s library apparently begins in 1895 when a free public library was founded by the town. Only a year before A. C. Paul had established a circulating library of 500 volumes and, despite the formation of the public collection, it remained in operation until 1899. The public library collection library gradually increased in size and use. In 1911 Andrew Carnegie provided a $10,000 construction grant with the typical requirements that the town provide a maintenance fund equal to ten percent of the value of the grant and a suitable lot.*
The plaque on the small cannon that rests on a concrete slab on the lot indicates that it was a relic of the Aroostook War. The cannon figured prominently in the town’s 1916 centennial celebration. It was apparently placed here soon thereafter.
Reed, Philo, House
[134 Main Street] Architecturally this distinctive Queen Anne house, probably the grandest in town, is interesting as the work of Coombs and Gibbs, a Lewiston firm whose work appears to be largely confined to Fort Fairfield. Here they designed several buildings including a library, two schools, two banks, and a hotel. The reason for this apparently was due to the approval and influence of the owner of this house, Philo Reed, who came to Fort Fairfield in 1885.
He was one of the best known entrepreneurs in Aroostook County and a pioneer in the development of several potato seed varieties. The business he founded, and was later taken over by his son, Walter Reed, Sr., became “the largest potato seed company in the world”. His grandsons, Walter, Jr. and John, a former Maine Governor, continued the business, until 1997 when Walter died. Philo Reed also had an automobile agency, bred harness racing horses and constructed a race track in back of his house. He died in 1926.*
[The National Register, and several other web sites, have the address as “38 Main Street.” However, streets and their names change over time. The address noted above was the correct one in 2016.]
Maple Grove Friends Church
[west side of Route 1-A, 0.25 miles North of the junction with Upcountry (Fairmount Road) Maple Grove.] Built in 1863, extensively remodeled in 1906, the Maple Grove Friends Church is a modest frame building that features a three-stage corner tower. It is believed to be the oldest religious building in the Fort Fairfield area.Several Quaker families from Kennebec County moved to the Maple Grove area in 1859. They joined the Haines family, first Quakers in the region, who had arrived to the virtual wilderness in 1844. The meeting house was completed in 1863. According to local tradition, the Haines family was instrumental in the development of the Maple Grove area. They were also actively involved with other Maple Grove Friends in the Underground Railroad, sheltering runaway slaves.
After the Civil War, some Quakers left to continue work on behalf of the Freedmen in the West. In 1906 some physical changes were made to the building. The bell tower and vestry were added along with new oak pews, raised platform, and a memorial window dedicated to the memory of William Penn Varney and his wife Lydia Cook Varney who led the meetings for 30 years. The church was rededicated on December 7, 1906.As the Maple Grove section of Fort Fairfield grew, the church became more of a community church with pastors from the Methodist and other traditions assisting at times. During the Depression and World War II, it was sometimes only open during the summer and subsequently closed. By 1972, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church had purchased the unused property from the Society of Friends. The Rev. Charles Stanton served as minister of a small congregation until he retired. Realizing the value of the historic church, Rev. Stanton obtained the property and gave it to Fort Fairfield’s Frontier Heritage Historical Society in 1995. Frontier Heritage saved the stained glass by having it completely restored. The church remains as it was in 1906.*
U.S. Inspection Station–Fort Fairfield, Maine
[Boundaryline Road] In 1928, H.A. Benner of the Bureau of Customs and J.L. Hughes of the Bureau of Immigration reported that border station quarters and facilities were inadequate to meet the increased volume and were not able to effectively monitor illegal border crossings. They recommended that the government construct purpose-built inspection stations for border highways at 48 locations. They also recommended that the new stations be owned by the U.S. Government, demonstrate federal authority and presence, and be sited, planned, and programmed to remedy the situation. They proposed three standard structure types.In 1933 Fort Fairfield was designated to receive a Type 1 station at an estimated cost of $63,000. These are the specifications:
1st story six rooms, two large rooms with counters for transaction of general business with the public, one each for customs and immigration services and two smaller rooms for each service or merchandise. The high pitched roof will provide space for four rooms on the 2nd floor, two for each service to be used as circumstances may require-storage, assembly rooms, quarters for patrol officers. One is to be used by the officer in charge and for record and office work not transacted in the general business room. The other is for private conferences or detailed examinations of individuals. At ports where the space on the 2nd story is not required this may be left unfinished, but may readily be converted into additional facilities if the business expands.**