Maine: An Encyclopedia


Location Map for Vassalboro

Location Map for Vassalboro

Year Population
1970 2,618
1980 3,410
1990 3,679
2000 4,047
2010 4,340
Geographic Data
N. Latitude 44:25:38
W. Latitude 69:39:01
Maine House District 80
Maine Senate District 15
Congress District 1
Area sq. mi. (total) 47.8
Area sq. mi. (land) 44.3
Population/sq.mi. (land) 98.0
County: Kennebec

Total=land+water; Land=land only
Kennebec River at Vassalboro (2007)

Kennebec River at Vassalboro (2007)

China Lake in East Vassalboro (2013)

China Lake,E. Vassalboro @

[VASSAL-bur-row] is a town in Kennebec County, incorporated on April 26, 1771. It ceded land to Sidney in 1792 and annexed land from China in 1829.  Originally it was part of the “Plymouth Patent,” issued to the Kennebec Proprietors in the 1600’s by the Council for New England of Charles I.

People from Cape Cod first settled the town in 1760, but shortly after 1780, an influx of Quakers from New York made Vassalboro one of their several strong communities in Maine. They established the Oak Grove Seminary in 1844.

Maine Criminal Justice Academy (2006)

Maine Criminal Justice Academy (2006)

It began as what was called a Select School about 1850, from the efforts of five members of the Society of Friends who lived in Vassalboro: John Lang, Samuel Taylor, Ebenezer Frye, Alden Sampson and John Pope. The school soon closed for lack of patronage, but in 1856 Eli Jones raised $15,000 to reopen it. By the spring of 1857 it had 140 students. In 1890 the school was owned by the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. In the 1890s Oak Grove School had a longer name: “Oak Grove Seminary and Bailey Institute, Vassalboro, Maine.” The Bailey family of Winthrop provided many generous gifts so that by 1894 the name Bailey Institute had been added to Oak Grove.*

It became Oak Grove Coburn school in 1970 through a merger with the Coburn Classical Institute, once supported by Governor Abner Coburn. In 2001 it was renovated as the site of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.  The Oak Grove Chapel sits across Oak Grove Road from the Academy.

North Vassalboro was once the site of the Kennebec Bean Factory. The village is less vital since its demise. A dam on the Outlet Stream served the factory.

The birthplace of humorist and social critic Holman Day (1865-1935), Vassalboro was also home to psychiatrist Dr. Charles H. Nichols (1820-1889) who founded St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.

It also is the longtime home of Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell, the first woman to be Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and, later, President of the Maine State Senate.

Vassalboro Historical Society (2004)

Historical Society (2004)

Bounded by the Kennebec River on the west, the town contains Webber Pond and has access to Threemile Pond at South Vassalboro, and to China Lake at East Vassalboro.

Rolled Hay in Vassalboro (2005)

Rolled Hay in Vassalboro (2005)

Harvesting Corn in Vassalboro (2003)

Harvesting Corn (2003)

The community still has sufficient space to support farming as well as serving as a residential area for people working in Augusta and Waterville.

In September of 1775, Benedict Arnold stopped here to obtain a canoe to allow him to move more quickly than the heavy bateau that carried his men and provisions. He wanted to be able to communicate with advance parties sent to scout the path ahead.

Benedict Arnold’s Expedition Route – click a Bateau

Bateau North IconBateau East Icon<== To Quebec                         To Beginning ==>

Form of Government: Town Meeting-Select Board-Manager.

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Additional Resources

Desjardin, Thomas A. Through A Howling Wilderness: Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec, 1775. 2006.

Fortis, Edmund. The last words and dying speech of Edmund Fortis, a Negro man, who appeared to be between thirty and forty years of age, but very ignorant. [microform] : He was executed at Dresden, on Kennebeck River, on Thursday the twenty-fifth day of September, 1794, for a rape and murder, committed on the body of Pamela Tilton, a young girl of about fourteen years of age, daughter of Mr. Tilton of Vassalborough, in the county of Lincoln. Printed and sold at Exeter, NH. 1795.  (University of Maine, Orono. Orono Microforms.)

Foster, Angela M. The People of Vassalboro, Maine, 1771-1900 [electronic resource: CD-ROM]: from town records and reports. Compiled by Angela M. Foster. Rockport, Me. Picton Press. c2004.

Kingsbury, Henry D. “Vassalboro.” New York. H.W. Blake & Co. 1892. (Excerpt from Kingsbury’s History of Kennebec County. Maine State Library.)

**Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.   Text and photos from National Register of Historic Places: and

Dutton-Small House: 90001907.PDF
Riverside Meeting House: 77000073.PDF

Maine. Legislature. Committee on Banks and Banking. Report in the Senate, Feb. 5, 1827. The Committee on Banks and Banking, specially appointed, by a joint order of the Legislature, to examine the President, Directors and Cashier of the Vassalborough Bank. Augusta, Me. The Legislature. 1827. (Maine State Library)

Masse, Herman C. History of the Old Water Power Grist and Saw Mill at East Vassalboro, Maine, 1797-1971: owned and operated by the Masse family since 1912. Vassalboro? Me. 1977.

*McNair, Wesley, Papers. “Little Talks #1140, November 20, 1977.” Waterville, Me. Colby College Special Collections. (accessed March 15, 2015)

Quaker marriage certificate of John Hobby and Phebe Cook: who were married in Vassalboro, Me., 1817. August. 28,1817. At the Maine State Library. Photocopy of a privately owned manuscript, accompanied by 5 pieces of correspondence concerning the certificate including a genealogical table of Hobby family.

A Reprint of the History of the Town of Vassalboro: from Kingsbury & Deyo’s Illustrated History of Kennebec County, Maine, published in 1892: with additional notes. Vassalboro, Me. Vassalboro Historical Society. 1971.

Robbins, Alma Pierce. The History Of Vassalborough, Maine. Vassalboro? Me. 1971?

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Dutton–Small House

Dutton-Small House (1990)

Dutton-Small House (1990)

[Bog Road West of Taber Hill Road] The 1825 Dutton-Small House is two-story Federal period brick dwelling. It is significant for its scale, materials, and the context of its rural setting. Predominantly rural Vassalboro had six small village centers, the largest of which was built around a woolen textile factory established in North Vassalboro in 1847. Scattered throughout the town are a variety of historic resources. However, there are few brick buildings, the Dutton-Small House being among the earliest and most intact. [Kirk F. Mohney photo]

The impressive character of this house is explained in part by the occupation of its original owner John Dutton (1780-1850). According to local historians, Dutton was a real estate speculator. In 1815 he acquired the 203 acre tract of land on which he built this house. It was sold, then resold to Ezekiel Small, whose descendents added a barn, and possibly a portion of the ell, in the late 19th century.**

East Vassalboro Grist and Saw Mill

[Maine Route 32, East Vassalboro]

Philip Leach House

[Hussey Hill Road]

Mill Agent’s House

[Maine Route 32 North Vassalboro]

River Meeting House

River Meetinghouse (2003)

River Meetinghouse (2003)

[U.S. Route 201]The Sophia-Bailey Memorial is both an unusual architectural adaptation and a link with the Quaker heritage of the Oak Grove School and the community.  By 1786 the number of Quakers in Vassalboro was large enough to construct a meeting house near the river for a group known as the River Meeting. By 1797 a second meeting house had been built in East Vassalboro for the East Pond Meeting. The River Meeting House, the first religious building in Vassalboro, soon achieved sufficient importance that it became the site of the Quarterly Meeting for the region.**

The original River Meeting House of 1786 was a T-shaped wood-framed structure with clapboard siding, gable roof, twelve-over-twelve windows and a single entrance door. The major rebuilding and renovation of 1895 completely changed the appearance of the meeting house, while retaining its basic form. The current renovated building is in the Shingle style. All doors and windows and their locations are completely different from those of the 18th century structure.

Riverview House

[U.S. Route 201, 0.15 miles southeast of junction with Old Federal Road]

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