Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Gray

Location Map for Gray

Location Map for Gray

Year Population
1970 2,939
1980 4,344
1990 5,904
2000 6,820
2010 7,761
Gray Population Chart 1790-2010

Population Trend 1790-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 45:13:46
W. Latitude 67:43:42
Maine House Dists 45,67
Maine Senate District 25
Congress District 1
Area sq. mi. (total) 46.0
Area sq. mi. (land) 43.3
Population/sq.mi. (land) 179
County: Cumberland

Total=land+water; Land=land only
First Congregational Church (2013)

1st Congregational Church ’13 @

Town of Gray Seal

[GRAY] is a town in Cumberland County, settled in 1750 and incorporated on June 19, 1778 from New Boston Plantation.

Its seal proclaims it to be the site of the first woolen mill in the United States.

While Gray has a storied history, the center of Gray village is a busy contemporary place.

It is the crossroads of five highway routes: U.S. 202, and Maine 4, 26, 100, and 115.  An Interstate 95 interchange is nearby.

Welcome 2004

Welcome 2004

sign: Welcome to the Town of Gray

Welcome 2013 @

In the 1770s the settlement was attacked by Indians, destroying cattle, the meetinghouse, and all the houses, causing the residents to flee.

Later they returned and built a new meetinghouse and a blockhouse to defend themselves.  No other attacks materialized.

In the 1880s, the Gazetteer of Maine summarized Gray’s local economy:

There are many farms under superior cultivation. Granite is the prevailing rock, and is quarried to some extent. The larger manufactures are at Dry Mills and North Gray.

They consist of Falmouth Mills [in North Gray], . . . one grain mill, twelve saw-mills (one of which is driven by steam) . . . . There are also a tannery, several manufactures of granite and marble, marbelized slate, horse-blankets, carriages and sleighs, patent shuttles, etc.

Gray is the birthplace of state legislator and 19th century U.S. Representative Samuel Mayall.

Gray village is home to the historic Pennell Institute, the historical society, library, and town offices.  The Institute’s buildings have been integrated into the Municipal Complex.

Sign: "Town of Gray, Henry Pennel Municipal Complex" (2013)

Henry Pennel Municipal Complex (2013) @

Newbegin Hall at the Municipal Complex (2013)

Newbegin Recreation Hall at the Complex (2013) @

Municipal Office for the Town of Gray (2013)

Municipal Office for the Town of Gray (2013) @

Increasingly a commuter suburb of the Portland area, Gray also includes most of Little Sebago Lake and Crystal Lake. The town’s population more than doubled in the twenty years from 1970 to 1990. The latest decade saw additional growth of over fifteen percent.

Gray Public Library (2013)

Gray Public Library (2013) @

American Legion Post (2013)

American Legion (2013) @

Cole Farms Restaurant (2013)

Cole Farms Restaurant (’13) @

In 1977 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that groundwater was being polluted by dangerous chemicals from the McKin Company.  It was soon designated a Superfund Site.  Extensive cleanup has occurred.

Wildlife Park (2005)

Wildlife Park (2005)

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has a regional headquarters in the town, along with operating the Maine Wildlife Park, open to the public spring through fall.

Baseball’s Roland “Cuke” Barrows was born here in 1883 and played for the Chicago White Sox from 1909 through 1912.

Form of Government: Town Meeting-Council-Manager.

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Additional resources

Gray Maine. Images of America Series. Louise M. Knapp and the Gray Historical Society. Charleston, S.C. Arcadia Publishing. c1999.

Gray, Maine, Past and Present, 1778-1978. Gray, Me. Gray Historical Society. 1978.

Hill, George T. History, Records, and Recollections of Gray, Maine. Portland, Me. Tower Publishing Company. 1978.

Lent, Thomas Edward. Intergovernmental Implementation of the Superfund Program at the McKin Site, Gray, Maine. Lewiston, Me. The Author? 1993. (Cataloger Note: “A thesis presented to Professor Hodgkin of the Department of Political Science in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Bachelor of Arts”) [Maine State Law and Legislative Reference 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

Dry Mills School: 96001495.PDF
Freeman Farm Historic District: 03000621.PDF
Pennell Institute: 82000750.PDF
Stimson Memorial Hall: 92001296.PDF

Success in Brief: McKin: Former Hazardous Waste Site now a Flourishing Meadow. Washington, D.C. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 1992. [Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library]

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Dry Mills School

[Maine Wildlife Road, Dry Mills] Used in its original capacity for 102 years, the 1857 Dry Mills School is a well maintained example of a mid-19th century rural one-room schoolhouse. The one-story, gable roofed frame building has modest Greek Revival style detailing. It is the last one-room school in Gray not significantly modified.

Dry Mills School House in Gray (2005)

Dry Mills School House (2005)

Gray’s educational history follows the pattern repeated throughout rural Maine. According to early records, the town’s first two school districts were formed about 1780, although the first schoolhouse was not built until 1793. A year later the town was divided into four school districts, a process repeated until there were twelve districts, each with its own building. The Dry Mills School was in District No. 3. In addition to the several district schools, which typically provided instruction at the primary and grammar levels, the town appropriated funds for high school education beginning in the early 1800s. Although it is not clear where classes were originally held, after the construction of a two-story brick schoolhouse in 1843 in Gray village, the high school was held in its upper level. In 1876, wealthy local resident Henry Pennell announced that he would give the town a new high school which, upon its completion in 1886, was named Pennell Institute.

As school consolidation beginning in the early 20th century doomed Gray’s one-room schoolhouses, the Dry Mills School closed in 1959. During the 1970s the interior of the building was renovated for use as a preschool. By the late 1980s interest grew in preserving the school as a museum. This plan included the relocation of the building in 1990 to a more protected site than its original one along heavily traveled Route 26. Restoration of the school was completed in the 1990s.

Freeman Farm Historic District

Freeman Farmhouse (2003)

Freeman Farmhouse (2003)

[342 West Gray Road] The Freeman Farm in West Gray is an exceptional property that conveys in its architecture and landscape much of the history of almost 200 years of Maine agriculture. Its most basic element, the boundaries of the farm, still delineate the 100 acre lot first identified as Lot 55 in the third division of the town in 1791.

Over the course of five generations of careful stewardship by the men and women of the Freeman family, the farm evolved from settlement to self-efficiency, to a mature farmstead, and to finally become a rural landscape valued as much for its aesthetics as for the production and income it could still potentially produce.

As with most successful and enduring agricultural properties, the Freeman Farm is not frozen in time; it is not a museum piece of 1812. On the other hand, even as technological progress teamed up with social pressures, the relationship of the family to the land remains evident on its landscape.

The Town of Gray, including West Gray, was initially occupied in 1735 by Massachusetts residents. However, over the next 31/2  decades permanent settlement was opposed by the local Native American inhabitants and it was not until after 1763 that the land sustained European habitation. The earliest recorded land transaction for the Farm occurred in 1771, when William Story sold eight lots of 450 acres each. They remained not cleared or settled until 1805. The lot’s first resident was Jonathan Freeman III, who was on the land in that year. He had only 3 acres of cleared land, 100 acres of uncleared land, a small house, and one cow and one pig.

Freeman Farm Outbuildings (2003)

Freeman Farm Outbuildings (2003)

Six years later Freeman had added a barn, a pair of oxen, a horse, another cow, four children, and had improved 17 additional acres. While the size of his cleared land and livestock grew at a nominal, but steady, rate until 1820 both the value of his house and his personal estate increased more dramatically. For the next 140 years, various descendents of the Freeman family owned and worked the farm, improving it as well.

George L. Freeman Jr. inherited the farm and like his father, returned to the farm in 1966. He continued to maintain the farm running a welding supply company. Although he died in 2000, through the dedication, determination, and stewardship of members of the Freeman family the Freeman Farm Historic District remains a tangible link to the activities of a single farm family whose relationship to the land spans almost 200 years in Gray.* [Christi A. Mitchell photos]

Pennell Institute

Pennell Institute (2004)

Pennell Institute (2004)

[Lewiston Road] The main building of the Pennell Institute is one of the most high style Italianate academy buildings in Maine. Built between 1876 and 1886, it demonstrates the pride that Gray took in its educational system. It also serves as a monument to the man who funded it, Henry Pennell, Gray’s wealthiest resident.

Beginning in the early 19th century, Gray appropriated funds for a high school. The location of this school seems to have changed as often as the teaching staff, which was usually comprised of college students trying to earn money for their education. By 1870 Gray High School was located in the Town Hall and had a permanent principal. His popularity led to increased enrollment and increased agitation for a permanent building and full-time teaching staff.

As a result Henry Fennel announced that he would give the town a high school. In his will Pennell left the Town the school building, the lot on which it stood, a trust fund of $25,000 for the school’s general expenses, and a special fund of $5,000 for the library and for laboratory equipment and supplies. The will also named a board of four trustees who, with the town’s selectmen, were to run the school.

Pennell Institute was finally completed in 1886 and opened that fall. Enrollment was 122. In 1889 the first graduating class received diplomas; of the six graduates, three went to college and three became successful teachers. Gray received $250 per year from the State and the Town raised an equal amount to run the school. Students from Gray attended free, but out of town tuition students also enjoyed Pennell Institute’s facilities.

Pennell Institute, Science Building (2004)

Pennell Institute, Science Building (2004)

In 1962 a modern wing was added and Pennell Institute became Pennell School, an elementary level public school. The Laboratory Building which, with the main building forms the turn-of-the-century campus of the Institute, was built in 1899 with funds from the State Department of Education. Its reflects the development of an increased scientific curriculum by the end of the 19th century. Its separation from the main building was a precaution of what was feared might result from mishandled chemicals.

Stimson Memorial Hall

Stimson Memorial Hall (1992)

Stimson Memorial Hall (1992)

[Maine Route 26 E side, .5 miles North of junction with US 202] Since 1900 Stimson Memorial Hall has served as the principal public auditorium for meetings and social activities in Gray. Designed in the Colonial Revival style, Stimson Hall is one of only a few architecturally prominent landmarks in the center of town. The Hall was built for the town by the children of Theophilus (1796-1872) and Mary Stimson as a memorial to their parents. The Stimson children, who had become established in scattered locations across the country, provided money to build this memorial. Theophilus Stimson was a blacksmith who served in the State Legislature in 1842-43 and later ran a tavern. In 1899 the four children donated money to build the hall and supplied an endowment.

The architects’ design may owe much to Greek Revival style architecture in Ohio, where the architects were from. Although there are few precedents in Maine for a full two-storied templed portico on a building such as this, the design satisfied the popular conception of Colonial architecture at the turn of the century. The site for the hall was on a lot owned by the Universalist congregation,which donated the land on condition was that they  would have free use of the hall.

The building included a first floor hall and a stage equipped with scenery and dressing rooms. On the second floor was a reading room which constituted the only library in town until the early 1950s. Originally, Stimson Hall was administered jointly by the selectmen and a Board of Trustees selected by the donors. In 1921 it was arranged for the town to take over complete responsibility. By 1989 the second floor was no longer used and it was determined to save energy by installing temporary sheet rock and insulation to seal-off the upper floors.* [Roger G. Reed photo]

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