|Maine House||District 72|
|Maine Senate||District 19|
|Area sq. mi.||(total) 39.5|
|Area sq. mi.||(land) 44.3|
Total=land+water; Land=land only
[OH-tiss-field] is a town in Oxford County, settled in 1776 and incorporated on February 19, 1798 from Otisfield Plantation.
About 1796 Nathan Nutting built a farmhouse at Gould Corner. In 1820 an attached Federal style house was added for one of his sons.
The expanded farm complex has been continuously (through 1982 at least) occupied by five generations of the Nutting family. “This fine example of a rural farmhouse, expanding with family growth, attests to the adaptability of early Maine settlers.” [Beard and Smith]
George Varney’s brief late 19th century snapshot of the local economy reads as follows:
The soil is gravelly, but strong and productive; and there are many fine farms in town. Corn, potatoes and hay are the principal crops. At Bolster’s Mills, Centre and East Otisfield are small saw-mills, and at Spurr’s Corner is a large clothing manufactory.
At the time Otisfield had twelve public schoolhouses supported by an 1880 population of 927.
The town is home to the Seeds of Peace program International Camp, which brings young people from conflict prone areas of the world to consider opportunities for resolving differences.
Once a part of Cumberland County, it joined Oxford County in 1978. Just north of the town of Casco on Maine Route 121, it offers substantial frontage on Pleasant and Thompson Lakes. The Crooked River serves as its boundary with Harrison.
Beard, Frank A. and Bette A. Smith. Maine’s Historic Places: Properties on the National Register of Historic Places. Camden, Me. Down East Books. c1982. p. 384.
*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
Bell Hill Meetinghouse: https://npgallery.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/03000620.pdf
Bell Hill School: https://npgallery.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/03000619.pdf
Varney, George J. A Gazetteer of the State of Maine. 1886. pp. 419-420.
National Register of Historic Places – Listings
Bell Hill Meetinghouse
[191 Bell Hill Road] The 1839 Bell Hill Meetinghouse is a fine example of a rural 19th century religious facility combining Federal and Greek Revival detailing on the exterior. Built to replace the town’s original 18th century meetinghouse, this more refined structure was a symbol of the town’s prosperity at the end of the third decade of the 19th century. Otisfield resident Nathan Nutting, Jr. Nutting was the master craftsman for the building.
The earlier meeting house, built in 1797, was located on the same flat plain at the top of the hill as was the new structure. The 18th century building, showing it age, was temporarily repaired, and remained on the hill until the top half of the old building was moved down the hill and used as the new Town House, and the lower story was made into stalls and sheds.
The new church was dedicated in 1839, but by 1887 the Congregational Society had shifted their services to a newer building at Sprurrs Corner. Used again for an annual service starting in 1913, the building has been under the care of the Bell Mill Meeting House Association since 1927. This community group was formed in order to preserve the church and ensure that it is occasionally used for religious services. As a result of its abandonment and subsequent infrequent use, the Bell Hill Meetinghouse has been spared the renovations and ‘improvements’ that have occurred in more continuously occupied structures. It stands today much as it was in 1839, and coveys to the surrounding community a tangible link to Otisfield’s 19th century history.*
Bell Hill School
[185 Bell Hill Road] The one-room school house was a familiar object in the rural landscape of 19th and early 20th century Maine. Towns subdivided themselves into school districts, each contained a school house to serve its locale. Built in 1839, the Bell Hill school was part of a wave of public building construction atop Bell Hill. Just a year earlier a new Congregational Church was started about 100 feet north, meant to later replace the earlier secular and religious meeting house.
The earliest settlers had chosen to settle on Bell Hill in part due to the relatively longer growing season found at higher elevations. By 1800, the precursor to the current Bell Hill School had been built as the District Number 1 school to serve the population of this early settlement. The current Bell Hill Schoolhouse was one of three brick school houses erected by the town in 1839. The three schools were similar, sharing gable front entrances, low pitched roofs, rear chimneys and granite lintels and foundations. Neither of the other schools exist.
While other town schools were closed, moved or consolidated in the early 20th century the Bell Hill School remained open until the Town voted to close “owing to the unsafe condition of the building”. In 1955 the town sold the school to the Bell Hill Meeting House Association; the building has been restored. As the only remaining one-room schoolhouse that has not been turned into a private residence, this building is a touchstone to the history of the earliest settlement in Otisfield.*
Nutting Homestead, The [South of Otisfield off Maine Route 121]
Otisfield Town House (former)
[53 Bell Hill Road] The Town of Otisfield Maine is comprised of three small village settlements: Spurr’s Corner, Bolsters Mills, and East Otisfield. When the earliest settlers starting arriving in town in the 1780s they chose to take up residence on Bell Hill, an 800-foot hill at the almost exact center of the town.
The (former) Otisfield Town House was not the first civic structure erected in Otisfield. Between 1787 and 1797, town meetings were conducted in the homes of Deacon Stephen Phinney, Timothy Jordan, or David Kneeland. After several years of planning, a Meeting House was built on the eastern side of Bell Hill Road for joint use by the town and the congregation. However by the mid- 1830s the building was failing. The construction of a new meetinghouse adjacent to the older structure was begun in 1838, while the earlier structure was patched up and used for Town Meeting for several more years, even as the selectmen negotiated with the parishioners about the final disposal of the building. Finally, in March of 1845, the process of selecting a location for the new town house began. The town decided to move the Meeting House less than one mile down the hill to the southeast and use it as a Town House.
Although built primarily as the location for town meetings, selectmen’s meetings and polling, the large meeting space also has a history of being rented out for special occasions and gatherings. However, once the Otisfield Community Hall was built in 1929, this use of the building dropped off considerably. Town meetings were held in the building until 1985 when they were moved to a new municipal building; voting continued in the building until November 2002, when it was finally closed. The structure became the home of the Otisfield Historical Society.
Sargent, Levi, House, Otisfield Gore Road