|Maine House||District 108|
|Maine Senate||District 3|
|Area sq. mi.||(total) 27.4|
|Area sq. mi.||(land) 26.7|
Total=land+water; Land=land only
[MER-cer] is a town in Somerset County incorporated on June 22, 1804 from Industry Plantation.
Between annexing land from Starks in 1835 and 1865, the town set off land to Smithfield and New Sharon (1840), and to Norridgewock (1849 and 1852).
First settled in the early-1780’s, it was named for Revolutionary War Brigadier-General Hugh Mercer.
The main village is centered around a long-gone grist mill site and the Mercer Bog, created in part by the dam on Bog Stream at the old mill site. The stream travels about seven mile to its mouth in the Sandy River.
It is the birthplace, in 1808, of U.S. Congressman James S. Wiley.
With forty-one residents in 1800, Mercer exploded to a population of 1,432 by 1840.
Soon thereafter, Maine’s first starch factory was established soon to be followed by another, which joined the saw, grist, shingle, and joiner’s mills and a tannery.
1840 was the peak for the town’s population. The Civil War period accelerated it’s decline with 207 people leaving for other parts of the country.
The library and the Grange are two surviving organizations formed in the late 19th century as the population continued to decline.
In 1813, ten separate school districts, the largest number before or since, provided education for approximately 140 of Mercer’s children. By 1892, a town system of education was established and the number of schools was limited to four.
The Congregational Meetinghouse, which still stands, was dedicated on June 11, 1829. However, the Methodist Vestry, built in 1860, was destroyed by fire in 1901. Reconstructed almost immediately, the new structure was restored to look exactly like the original.
In 2016 the Town Office and Community Center occupy the former elementary school that closed in 2009. Students now attend Mill Stream Elementary School on the Mercer Road in Norridgewock.
The town lies on U.S. Route 2 just west of Norridgewock with frontage on North Pond at its southeast corner.
All photos taken in Mercer Village, unless otherwise noted.
Allen, William. History of Mercer, Maine. Mercer, Me. Mercer Historical Society. c. 1990 (reprint of his late 19th century account)
*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me. Text from National Register of Historic Places: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/text/xxxxxxxx.PDF
Ingalls House4: 75000110.PDF
Thatcher, Henry Knox, House: 02001273.PDF
Union Meetinghouse/Church: 06001223.PDF
Mercer Historical Society. Pictures and People of Mercer, Maine 1804-1985. Mercer. c.1985.
Smith, Harold Owens. The History of Mercer, Maine: 1782-1974. 1977.
National Register of Historic Places – Listings
[Main Street] The Ingalls House was built between 1835 and 1837 by Ebenezer Thatcher. His wife, Julia, was a daughter of General Henry Knox, hero of the Revolution and first Secretary of War of the United States. During the 1870s it was the residence of Hannibal Ingalls, a prominent Mercer businessman.
This Greek Revival structure with columned porch and traditional New England interior is a charming and quietly impressive piece of rural architecture. Of particular interest for its time and place is the unusually early accommodation to stove heating rather than the traditional reliance on fireplaces. While many houses of the period were later adapted to this modern heating device, it is clear that the Ingalls House was designed for stove heat. This departure from the traditional conservatism of Central Maine is noteworthy and an indication that by the 1830s modernity was no longer a stranger to what had very lately been a frontier.*
Thatcher, Henry Knox, House
[Old Maine Route 3 (Main Street) and Elm Street; N44° 40′ 40.69″ W69° 56′ 4.57″] The Henry Knox Thatcher House was the on-shore residence of a career Naval officer whose prominence in the Navy during the 19th century rivaled that of his grandfather, General Henry Knox, in the Revolution. Thatcher was the son of Lucy Knox Thatcher (daughter of General Knox) and Judge Ebenezer Thatcher. The family originally lived in Thomaston Maine, where Henry Thatcher attended school before enrolling in West Point in 1822, and joining the Navy in 1823.
In 1829 Judge and Lucy Thatcher bought a lot in Mercer, where they built the Ingalls house seven years later. Henry’s earliest visit to Mercer is unknown: Naval records indicate he was at sea frequently during the years 1824 to 1829. In December 1831 he married Susan Crosswell of Mercer, and the following year purchased the house at the corner of Beech Hill Road and Elm Street. The house has both Federal style and Greek Revival elements, the result of an addition to the original Federal portion. It was to this house that Henry Knox Thatcher returned during his leaves and furloughs as he rose through the Naval ranks from midshipman to Commander over the next 38 years.
He had already attained the rank of acting master on the schooner Porpoise in the West Indies before moving to Mercer. In 1832 he was promoted to Lieutenant, and prior to becoming an inspector at the Charleston Navy Yard in Boston (1841 to 1847), he served on three additional ships, the Falmouth, the Erie and the Brandywine in the West Indies and the Mediterranean. Between 1847 and 1860 Thatcher continued to alternate shore jobs with time at sea.
The Thatchers sold the property to Hiram Knowlton in 1860, and left Mercer. For the first two years of the Civil War, Thatcher patrolled the Mediterranean on the Constellation, after which he was promoted to Commodore and sent to the Gulf Coast aboard the Colorado. Over the next three years Thatcher was instrumental within the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. He led a division in attacking Fort Fisher in North Carolina before assuming command of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron as acting Rear Admiral. During the final year of the war Thatcher attacked Mobile and accepted the Confederacy’s surrender on the Tombigbee River. He then went on to blockade the Texas coast, occupy Galveston, and was then given the command of the Gulf Squadron. After the war, Thatcher was made the Rear Admiral of the North Pacific Squadron, until his retirement in 1868. As a ‘retired officer’ Admiral Thatcher was the Port Admiral and station commander in Portsmouth from 1869-1870.*
Mercer Union Meetinghouse
[Main Street, .1 miles West of Route 2] Built in 1829, the Meetinghouse is a transitional Federal and Greek Revival style frame building, detailed on the exterior with Gothic Revival style features and on the interior with Greek Revival moldings and bold grain painting.
The Meetinghouse was a joint venture by the residents of the town and the members of the Congregational and Methodist societies. The three united to build a new meetinghouse that would seat three hundred parishioners. There were fifty-five pews sold to help pay for the construction. Reverand J.B. Husted of the Bath Congregational Church preached the dedication services on June 11, 1829. The deed to the land stipulated “that the Methodists and Congregationalists shall or may occupy or use the pulpit for preaching 7/16 of the Sabbaths during the year, on the other 2/16 of the Sabbaths, the pulpit is to be at the disposal of the individuals not belonging to the above mentioned orders who assisted in building said house by purchasing pews.”
During the first thirty years the church enjoyed great harmony but then discord set in and a great deal of unrest existed for years. In the decades after the Meetinghouse was erected both denominations built separate vestry buildings in the village, in part because the large Meetinghouse was hard to heat in the winter. In 1857 the Ladies Sewing Circle raised the funds for a church bell, which was installed that year.
By the turn of the century the Congregational society had diminished and after the loss of their chapel the group apparently folded and the Methodists again started to use the Meetinghouse on a seasonal basis. However, by 1916 the structure had one again fallen into disrepair. The Mercer Union Meetinghouse is one of a relatively small number of surviving Federal style religious buildings in Maine that are characterized by a central pavilion which projects from the main block, and a tower that either rises thorough or straddles both sections.*