Part of American History and Genealogy Project

Historical Sketch of Foxcroft, Maine

By Rev. George A. Merrill

To rescue from partial oblivion the main facts and incidents of one hundred years in the history of a town is no easy task. I claim no special skill in this kind of effort; and I must ask your pardon if any mistakes or inaccuracies have crept into my record. The story of a century, I have found intensely interesting. Much I have been obliged to omit, which I would have included gladly, had time permitted. What I bring before you today will, I trust, awaken old memories, encourage in you all the habit of treasuring up bits of history, which may become invaluable in after years, and increase your love for this beautiful town.

In 1794, the Massachusetts Assembly granted to Bowdoin College as an endowment, six townships in the district of Maine. The town of Foxcroft is one of these six, being number five in the seventh range, north of the Waldo Patent, or, practically, the northern borders of Waldo County as it is today. The present boundaries of the town are, on the north, Bowerbank, on the east, Sebec, on the south, Dover and on the west, Guilford. At the time of its purchase, it contained 17,915 acres. A part of Sebec Lake is included in it; it is half a mile less than six in width; and a small strip north of the lake has been annexed to Bowerbank, so it falls short considerably of a full township. This deficiency, however, was made up to the purchaser by the grant of half a township in another part of the State.

In the earliest history of this town, one figure stands out more prominently than all others, Col. Joseph Ellery Foxcroft, the explorer and original proprietor, for whom the town was named. This man was the son of Rev. Samuel Foxcroft, who was a graduate of Harvard College and the first settled minister in New Gloucester. Col. Foxcroft became a business man of considerable prominence in his native town and was active in military and political affairs. It is well to note that he was a member of the Maine Constitutional Convention in 1819, a member of the Maine Senate 1820-21, and an Overseer of Bowdoin College from 1821 to 1834. In October of the year 1800, Col. Foxcroft, in company with Thomas Johnson of New Gloucester, set out on a tour of exploration in the untrodden wilds to the North. Securing at Skowhegan a man by the name of Stephen Weston as guide, who was also a competent surveyor, they proceeded on horseback as far as Cornville. Leaving their horses here they pushed on on foot the remainder of the way, camping wherever night overtook them. Arriving at length upon the southwest border of the township they were seeking, they followed the river nearly down to the falls. In a letter, April 3, 1853, Col. Foxcroft says: "We crossed the river a little above the falls. This was a pleasant spot, many names marked upon trees, but all a wilderness, no sign that anyone ever intended to dwell there. We went down the river to the southeast corner of the township, and near it, upon the intervale, we found an opening occupied by Abel Blood and, I think, a hired man with him, but there was no family. They had corn growing, and garden roots. I well remember the large turnips and beets which they had raised, and thus the virgin soil and vigorous nature greeted these first efforts of husbandry with liberal productions."

Being favorably impressed by his explorations. Col. Foxcroft bought the township for $7,940, or about forty-five cents per acre. The Committee of the College Trustees, William Martyn. Rev. Elijah Kellogg, and Isaac Parker, deeded the land Jan. 22. 1801, taking a mortgage back, which was cancelled fourteen years later. The college imposed as a condition the settlement of twenty-four families within a given period. This was no easy task, and it is a tribute to the energy and enterprise of Col. Foxcroft that the conditions were fully met. The town was first lotted by Moses Hodsdon of Levant in 1801. It was divided into two hundred acre lots, at a cost of $200. In June of the same year. Samuel Elkins of Cornville was hired to clear twenty acres of land.-which was on lot nine, range one, one of the lots on which the village is located. In 1802, Col. Foxcroft offered forty-six rights of two hundred acres each, for sale, to be assigned by lot; and several were soon bought. These purchasers met in New Gloucester, legally organized as proprietors, and took measures to secure settlers.

Some of the first individuals and families to take up lots in Foxcroft located on the hilly portions of the town in the region of what is now known as the Centre. For several years permanent residents came in rather slowly. In 1802, the first road was cut out across the township, running from what was known as the "old Chandler place"' to the "four corners," now Foxcroft Centre, and thence to "Morse's landing" on Sebec Lake. A number of clearings were made in 1804 and 1805; and in 1806, the first permanent settler, John Spaulding, came with his family from Norridgewock and settled in a log house near the falls. He was soon followed by his two brothers, Eleazer and Seth, who also moved their families from Norridgewock and occupied log houses nearby. For some time the settlement was known as Spauldingtown. The first saw and grist mill, built by John Spaulding and Abel Blood, was in operation by Jan. 1, 1807. This was done at the special instance of Col. Foxcroft, who offered to deed a lot and the mill privilege to anyone who would build a mill and agree to keep it in repair for ten years. In 1807, the first framed house, with a brick chimney, was built by Samuel Chamberlain and Ephraim Bacon, near the site of the present soldiers' monument. The bricks were made at Abel Blood's brick yard at what is now East Dover. The same year' the first barn was built by Eliphalet Washburn. The first child born in Foxcroft was Joseph Foxcroft Spaulding, a son of John Spaulding, and named for the proprietor. The date of his birth was April 16, 1806; but he died at the age of six years. Had he grown up he would have been presented with a lot of land by, Col. Foxcroft. The second child was Sally J. Chamberlain, born Aug. 18, 1808. She became in after years the wife of Samuel Greeley and the mother of Miss Lizzie Greeley and Samuel Greeley of this town. Her death took place only a few years ago.

Among the early settlers were Joseph Morse, Tristram Robinson, John Chandler, Samuel Chamberlain, Ephraim Bacon, John Bigelow, Jesse Washburn Nathan Carpenter. Nathaniel, William, Moses and Daniel Buck, Gilman Greeley. John Bradbury and Joel Pratt. Tristram Robinson settled on the farm, later purchased by Cyrus Holmes and now occupied by his grandson, Irving Holmes. Cyrus' brother, Salmon, at a later date, occupied the land now owned by A. W. Gilman. The home of Nathan Carpenter was the well-known Herring place on Park Street. Eliphalet Washburn settled on a farm near the Averill place on the road to East Dover. Another early settler, David Moulton, father of Mr. Isaac Moulton, a prominent citizen of La Crosse, Wisconsin, who lately visited this place, lived on the farm now owned by Mrs. George Lebroke.

In the early twenties, William Stedman, William Shaw, and Daniel Fullen came from Hebron, Maine, and settled in this town. They were later followed by the Leavitts, Harmons and Hazeltines from Buxton. The Howard brothers, Asel and Asaph, cleared the farms now occupied by E. A. Bolton and C. A. Foss respectively. Along with William Stedman, who cleared the place now occupied by Joseph King, came a young man by the name of Andrews, who made a beginning on the farm now occupied by F. S. Getchell. Young Andrews was engaged to a sister of Stedman. While he was busy in this pioneer work, she sent him some apple seeds; he planted them; and quite a nursery was the result, from which several orchards in the region of Foxcroft Centre were supplied with trees. A few of these old trees are now standing. The young lady who was responsible for this benevolent act died not long after, and young Andrews plans were changed. He sold his farm to Capt. Timothy Hazeltine, who, with his son. Timothy. Jr. occupied the place until their death.

Abram Bolster and Jacob Lebroke came from Paris, Maine, to Foxcroft in 1824. Jacob Lebroke was the son of James Lebroke, who was born in Paris, France, and came to this country with the French fleet, to fight under Lafayette, serving one year in the Continental army. He met his death by falling off the roof of a building when he lacked only one month of being one hundred years old. Jacob Lebroke moved here soon after the birth of his son. Augustus G. who in after years became one of the most able, eloquent, and influential lawyers in the State, and a prominent citizen of Foxcroft for many years. The oldest house in Foxcroft is located on North Street and was built by Andrew Blethen in 1818. Mr. Blethen afterwards built the first mills at Greeley's landing. Sebec Lake, and also the Dennis Brawn home.

Eleazer Spaulding with his two brothers. John and Seth, built not only the first mill, but the first dam across the Piscataquis River. We must realize that this work was done with the greatest difficulty in those early times. Hardly a horse could be found to haul the timber: every board and timber had to be hewed by hand; all the machinery and tools had to be hauled from Bangor, and for twenty miles the road was nothing but a trail through the forest; the streams and bogs were not spanned by bridges; the load was hauled on two long shafts, the ends of which dragged on the ground, making progress slow and tedious at best. In spite of all these difficulties, the dam and mill were finished according to the contract; but the dam was so leaky that the mill could be run only at high water, and people had to go elsewhere sometimes, to get their work done.

In those days "spirituous liquors" were considered a necessity whenever any task of importance was to be performed. When Samuel Chamberlain was about to raise his first large barn, which must have been about 1809, he announced that he should supply no rum. The prevailing opinion was that he would have no raising. In face of this direful prediction, however, a bountiful dinner was prepared, and the barn went up without a hitch.

In 1810, the population returned for No. 5, Range 7, was sixty-five; and three years later there were twenty-five voters for State officers. The people had made sufficient progress in 1810, to lead them to petition the Massachusetts Legislature for an act of incorporation. Mr. Nathan Carpenter carried this petition, signed by seventeen residents, to Paris, and sent it to Col. Foxcroft for him to approve and forward to Boston. I will read a copy of the petition.

"To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, A. D. 1811:

''We, your humble Petitioners, Inhabitants of township N. five, Seventh Range of Townships North of the Waldo Patent, County of Hancock and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Humbly shows that we labor under disadvantages by reason of living in an unincorporated Plan., the most essential one a want of roads, schools, and many other difficulties incident to new countries, but needless to mention to your Honors.

"We therefore pray your honors to incorporate us into a town that we may have some way to remedy (in a measure) the difficulties that attend us. It is our unanimous wish to be incorporated into a Town by the name of Foxcroft-as in duty bound will ever pray."
Eleazer Spauldin,
Joel Pratt,
Benj. Kittredge,
George Harvey.
Jeremiah Rolf,
Joseph Morse,
John Spauldin,
John Coxe, Jesse Washburn,
Met. Towne,
Samuel Chamberlain.
Nath'l Buck, Junr.
John Bradbury,
Nathan Carpenter,
Daniel Buck,
Wm. Buck,
Wm. Thayer.

Two years later, Feb. 29, 181 2, this petition was granted and Foxcroft became a legally incorporated town, being the second in what is now Piscataquis County, Sebec being the first and just one day older. The final form of the Bill of Incorporation as it was approved in the Massachusetts Council Chamber, is as follows:

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the Year of Our Lord, One thousand, eight hundred and twelve.
AN ACT to establish the town of Foxcroft, in the County of Hancock.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, that the township numbered five in the seventh range, North of the Waldo Patent, in the county of Hancock, be, and hereby is established as a town by the name of Foxcroft, and by the following boundaries, viz.. East by the township number four in the same range. South by the river Piscataquis, West by number six in the same range, North by number seven in the eighth range. And the said town of Foxcroft is hereby vested with all the corporate powers and privileges, and subjected to the like duties and requisitions of other towns, according to the Constitution and Laws of this Commonwealth.

Section 2. And be it further enacted that any Justice of the Peace for the County of Hancock, is hereby authorized, upon application therefor, to issue a warrant, directed to a freeholder and inhabitant of the said town of Foxcroft, requiring him to notify and warn the inhabitants thereof, to meet at such convenient time and place, as shall be expressed in said warrant, for the choice of such officers as towns are by law required to choose, at their annual town meetings.

In the House of Representatives, Feb. 29, 1812.
This Bill having had three several readings passed to be enacted.
E. W. Ripley, Speaker.

In Senate, February 29th, 1812.
This bill having had two several readings passed to be enacted.
Samuel Dana, President.
Council Chamber.
29th February, 1812.
E. Gerry.

At the time of Incorporation Foxcroft was as will have been noted, part of Hancock County. Piscataquis County itself was not incorporated until 1838. It contains more than one hundred full townships, with an area of 3780 square miles.

Foxcroft's first town-meeting was held on Aug. 31, 1812. I will read the warrant, as it was posted.

"To Samuel Chamberlain, one of the freeholders and inhabitants of the town of Foxcroft, County of Hancock.

You are hereby required in the name of the commonwealth of Massachusetts to notify and warn the inhabitants of the aforesaid town, qualified to vote in town-meeting, to meet at the Dwelling House of Mr. Gilman Greeley, on Monday, the thirty-first day of the present month, at one o'clock in the afternoon, then and there to act on the following articles, viz. :

1st, to choose a moderator to govern said meeting.
2d, to choose a town clerk.
3rd, to choose three or more selectmen.
4th, to choose three or more assessors.
5th to choose a treasurer.
6th, to choose a collector.
7th, to choose a constable.
8th, to choose what other officers thought necessary.
9th, to act upon all other necessary business.

And you are to make returns of this warrant and your doing thereon on or before the said 31st instant.

Hereby fail not.

Given under my hand and seal at Plantation No. 3, range sixth, this fifteenth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twelve.
Nath'l Chamberlain, Justice Peace.

A true copy. Attest: John Bradbury, Town Clerk.

Some of the officers chosen at that first town-meeting were: Joel Pratt, Moderator; John Bradbury, Clerk; Joel Pratt. Samuel Chamberlain, William Thayer, Selectmen; Nathan Carpenter, Treasurer. About every voter in town had an office. The collectorship was given to Nathaniel Buck for three-fourths of a mill on a dollar. At the annual town-meeting the next year, $150 was raised for the support of schools; and it was voted to build a town -house, 20 by 25 feet. One hundred dollars was voted as a sufficient sum to build this house. It was located near the place where W. J. Eldridge now lives. This same year it was "voted to accept one-half acre of land for a burying ground, laying on the south side of the road running northerly from the mill, about seventy rods from the corner of the road near Greeley's Mills.'' This location was at the junction of Main and Green streets. The yard was removed about 1854. Conveniences in the homes of these first settlers were extremely limited. One family of four daughters had only one needle. A frequent inquiry was, "Where is the needle?"' An incident that may be recalled by some of the older residents belonged to this period. The Spauldings owned some steers, which in playing around an iron kettle used for washing purposes on the river bank, got their horns entangled, and. in trying to get away, pushed themselves into the river and were drowned. In 1812, a whiskey distillery was erected near the present site of Merrill's blacksmith shop in the village, and A. Blake began the making of potato whiskey. This gave a market for the farmer surplus potatoes; but it could hardly be called a worthy adjunct to the town. It did not pay either, and after a few years its fires died out. The building, known as "the old still house," was used for other purposes until destroyed by fire in 1830. In 1813, John Bradbury built a store, the first in town, on the corner now occupied by the Blethen block. The building was afterwards moved away to the corner of North and Summer streets. In 1816. Samuel Beal started a tannery, which was on the river bank between Clark and Thayer's saw-mill and Curtis and Robinson's harness shop.

On Sept. 2. 1816, the town voted. 15 to 5, in favor of separation from Massachusetts; and three years later, when the matter came up again, the vote was 19 to 1 in favor of separation. In 1820, there were forty voters in town, and the first Governor of the State, William King, received 30 votes.

Samuel Chamberlain was elected a delegate to the Convention to frame a constitution for the new State; and John Bradbury was Representative to the first Legislature in 1820 and also in 1821. In 1819, the town voted to raise $150 to build a bridge across the Piscataquis River and $500 more to be paid in labor. During this and the following year a substantial bridge was built and soon paid for by taxes, labor and grain.

Previous to the incorporation of the town, Col. Foxcroft visited the rising settlement on business, and, though not himself a professor of religion, advised the people to hold meetings on Sunday and conduct them as they could. This proposal was readily accepted, and the first meeting was held at the house of Eli Towne. Mr. William Mitchell, an old school-master, led the service, but no one was found to pray until Mrs. Mitchell consented to do so; and the Piscataquis settlement was devoutly dedicated to God by a woman's public prayer. In 1814, Mrs. Nathan Carpenter and Mrs. William Mitchell united with the church in Garland, then consisting of nine women and two men. These two women constituted the nucleus of the Congregational church of Foxcroft and Dover. Meetings were for a time held in the log house of Abel Turner and later in another log house. Here on Sundays Joel Pratt read the sermon and Deacon Carpenter read the Scriptures and offered prayer. As the cold weather came on and the snow became deep, those living at a distance could not come and the attendance dwindled to two, who came one Sunday morning and found the place cold and deserted. They remained through the day, despondent and dejected, but finally decided to make it the subject of prayer, and if no one came the next Sabbath they would give up. The next Sabbath came, the house was warm and well filled, and they took fresh courage. Subsequently the place of meeting was changed to the small town-house, standing, as I have said, on the lot where W. J. Eldridge's house is now situated. Occasionally, Rev. John Sawyer of Garland would visit the settlement and preach for the people. The Sabbath-school was organized in 181 5 by Mrs. Carpenter, and is supposed to be the first in the county.

July 13, 1822, the town voted "to settle the Rev. Thomas Williams as our town minister on the following conditions, viz., that he is to have the public lands reserved for the first settled minister in Foxcroft. He is likewise to have the privilege of being absent one-third part of the time." Jan. 1, 1823, Mr. Williams was installed as pastor of this church, and the minutes of the installing Council are in the town records, signed by the town clerk. Quite a number of other ministers attended this installation, and so large an assembly was attracted, that the old schoolhouse would not hold all of the people, so Blake's "still house" was fitted up for the occasion.

Rev. Thomas Williams, long a prominent and influential citizen of Foxcroft, lived in a house on Park Street, on the lot now occupied by Mr. Chandler. Dec. 30, 1822, Mr. Williams, with the help of Rev. John Sawyer, organized eighteen members who had been dismissed from the church at Garland into what was called the Congregational Church of Foxcroft and Vicinity. Until the organization of the Christian Scientists a number of years ago, this was the only church in town. The first church edifice, erected in 1824, on the spot now occupied by Mr. Elbridge Libby on Lincoln Street, was destroyed by fire Jan. 15, 1835, the day following its dedication. The members of the church were about to celebrate the Lord's Supper, when the house took fire. The weather was extremely cold, and the stoves, standing in the entry at the north end, were kept intensely hot, communicating fire to the partition. The wind drove the flames directly up into the belfry; it was impossible to save the building and it was soon laid in ruins.

Centennial Decorations

The second meeting-house, built in the summer of 1835, stood on the lot on North Street, where Mr. Charles L. Merrill now lives. This, too, was destroyed by fire. Oct. 21, 1850. After the burning of this church services were held for a while in the Academy. The present house of worship was built during the summer of 1851 and dedicated Oct. 22 of the same year. The present chapel was erected in 1875 and was largely the gift of Deacon J. G. Mayo. During the pastorate of Rev. H. A. Loring (1875-'80) the meeting-house was extensively repaired, its seating capacity increased and a steeple erected, in which a town-clock was placed.

Previous to 1822, there has been no schools above the grammar grades, but this year, Mr. J. S. Holmes, a graduate of Brown University, opened at Foxcroft the first law office in the county, and being deeply interested in education, organized a high school in the village and was its first principal. A charter for an Academy was granted Jan. 31, 1823, and Foxcroft Academy then became the first incorporated school of this sort in the State, and lacked only three years of being as old as the State itself. The school has been, all through its history, as is stated in the act of incorporation, "for the promotion of literature, science, morality, and piety." The proprietor of the town gave $50 toward the Academy's endowment. The site was a "half acre of land lying between the house of David Greeley, Esq., and his saw-mill; and here a building was erected and ready for occupancy in 1825. The Academy soon attracted students from the surrounding towns. Twenty years after its incorporation, it had considerably over a hundred pupils. In 1859, the first Academy building was moved to the north end of Foxcroft Bridge, on the east side of Main Street. In 1891, the building which replaced the first was repaired and remodeled, and in 1904, through the help of large gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Josiah B. Mayo, was greatly enlarged and remodeled.

With the high school scholars of Dover uniting with those of Foxcroft and other towns, the Academy has become one of the finest fitting schools in the State. The first Principal was James Gooch, A. B., of North Yarmouth. In 1825, half a township of land was granted by the Legislature as an endowment, and this was soon afterward sold for over three thousand dollars.

As has been intimated before, the drinking of liquors was not uncommon in the early part of the last century. We find in the Foxcroft town records that on Feb. 3, 1829, "Josiah Spaulding of Dover was licensed as a retailer of spirituous liquors at his store in Foxcroft for the space of four months." Similar licenses were issued later to other individuals. There was however, quite a strong sentiment against this business; and in 1832, it was voted that "the selectmen should not grant license to retail spirituous liquors," yet for some reason or other one person was licensed that same year. At a considerably later date, Elder Bartlett owned and occupied a store at the end of the bridge, in what has been known as the Brockway Block. He always sold liquors; and his son said his father "sold large quantities of the Piscataquis River." The story is told of two neighbors, both of whom had been drinking and quite unsteady on their feet, who were walking up the street together, when one remarked that he would not be seen walking with a drinking man, and managed with difficulty to get himself into a near-by yard. The first temperance society, a branch of "The Sons of Temperance," was organized in the hall of the old Exchange in 1844 by a Mr. Dockham who at that time was settled here as a tailor.

Every year from the beginning of the town's existence liberal provision was made for the poor. For the greater part of the time they were boarded in different families. For instance, in 1833, it was voted "to set up Elisha Gibbs and his wife at auction to the lowest bidder." "After several bids," and these are the words of the record, "Elisha Gibbs and wife were struck to Silas Paul for the sum of forty-seven dollars and fifty cents for one year, to be maintained free of any expense to the town during said time." Evidently the "high cost of living" was no problem in those days as it is now. For some years the town maintained a poor farm which was on the shore of Sebec Lake near Steadman's Landing.

In the Act of Incorporation of Piscataquis County, approved March 23, 1838, it was enacted that the town of Dover should be the shire town of the county. There was considerable rivalry between Dover and Foxcroft, as to which should be the shire town. By a bill passed in the Legislature of 1841, the question was referred for final settlement to a vote of all the towns in the county. Feeling ran high, and when the votes were counted, on the second Monday of September. 1841, it was found that Dover had received 1097 to Foxcroft 1067. The vote not being decisive, the matter was again submitted to the people in 1842 and the result was that Dove received 1138 votes. Guilford standing next with 784 and Foxcroft third with 311. Foxcroft's records give the vote of Foxcroft at that time as 114 for Foxcroft, 33 for Dover, and one for Bowerbank.

The industrial development of Foxcroft is a most interesting chapter in its history. In 1820, the old mill built by the Spauldings was taken down by Daniel Greeley and replaced by a large saw and grist-mill. This was on the north side of the river near the site of the extension of Mayo's woolen mill. Two years later a mill for cloth dressing and carding was erected nearby. This was first put in operation by Mr. F. R. Favor, but was not long after conveyed to John Bradbury, who in 1826 combined this business with that of a saw-mill, which he erected on the southern end of the dam. This whole business was bought by Vaughan and Brown and when they started their factory in 1836 in Dover, they in turn sold out to Messrs. Jordan and Crockett, who kept up the business for many years. Deacon L. O. Farnham's tannery was also in operation about this time, a building which was twice burned and twice rebuilt. A fork and hoe factory, constructed of brick, was erected by Maj. J. Crooker and was operated for several years. In 1844, Hon. J. G. Mayo came to Foxcroft, and together with James Bush and E. J. Hale, bought the privilege for a woolen factory of Vaughan, Bush, and the Chamberlains, and erected a mill on the northern side of the river. Not long after, Mr. Mayo became the sole owner, and eventually secured control of one-half the water power, associating with him in the business his son, Josiah B. Mayo, under the partnership title of J. G. Mayo and Son. In 1859, the upper story of the mill was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt at once and another story added. Since that time the business has steadily increased, the mills have been enlarged and improved, and a few years ago a splendid reinforced concrete building was added to the plant. At present the mill gives employment to over one hundred men and women.

The waters of the Piscataquis River have occasionally been quite turbulent. Heavy freshets have done great damage from time to time. The freshets of 1854 and 1857 will always be remembered by those who witnessed them. Both swept away the Foxcroft Bridge. The freshet of April 7, 1857, as related by an eye-witness, was caused by a jam formed at the island. It came down to what was then called "Goose Island" and rested there. For some time small cakes of ice were seen coming up from under the main body of ice. The tremendous weight of water finally pressed the whole body of ice across the cove and over South street, undermining the brick hoe and fork factory and carrying away also the grist-mill, then situated above Mayo's woolen mill. The bridge was taken and much more damage done. At this time a boy, living about three miles above Foxcroft, in some way got afloat on some driftwood, passed down the river, and was captured by his father shortly before he reached the dam. Soon after this great freshet the covered bridge was built, last year replaced by the splendid concrete structure. For a long time a boat and rope were used by passengers while the bridge was being constructed or repaired. Rather than go across on this boat, one clear-brained young woman walked across on a girder of the bridge then being built and carried her small child on her back.

Previous to 1870 a spool factory had been established in Foxcroft, and that year it was bought by L. H. Dwelley & Co., which company also increased their business by purchasing and operating the saw-mill built first by Andrew Blethen at Greeley's Landing, Sebec Lake. This spool factory was burned in 1877, but was soon rebuilt, this time of brick; and since that time, under the able management, first of Mr. Dwelley and later of the McGregors, father and son, the business has largely increased and gives employment to many hands throughout the year.

In February, 1866, Thomas F. Dyer came from New Sharon, and together with John F. Hughes, who came the previous year, purchased the interest of Jordan and Carr in the building at the north end of Foxcroft Bridge, formerly the old Academy building, now occupied by Thomas & Weatherbee. They remained here one year. In the summer of 1867, the Foxcroft Foundry Co. erected the building, now occupied by J. H. Steward and Son, which they leased for five years. In 1872 they built the store on Lincoln Street now occupied by Sanford Ritchie, remaining there until 1885, when they sold their grocery and hardware business and devoted their time to manufacturing. Soon after coming to Foxcroft, Mr. Dyer, who had formerly worked at the organ business, commenced the manufacture of organs and melodeons in a building which stood where the Gilman & Co. mill now stands, working alone most of the time for the first year. Meeting with much encouragement. Dyer and Hughes built a small mill on Mechanic Street in 1869, where they added to their business as it expanded year by year, until 1889, when they began the manufacture of pianos, and erected the present factory. In 1894 Mr. Dyer retired from the firm, transferring his interest to Mr. Hughes, who now operates it with his son under the name of Hughes and Son. A good number of expert workmen are employed and a very fine grade of piano is manufactured. Mr. Reuben D. Gilman, who died a few years ago, was for many years a well-known and successful business man in this town. In 1854, returning from an extended stay in California, he purchased the lumber mill now run by Clark and Thayer and operated it for nearly half a century. Besides this business he was also extensively engaged in lumbering and agriculture.

Cushing's Perfection Dye Works was started in 1881 by Mr. Wainwright Cushing, who later associated with himself his son, C. H. Cushing. The present factory, 100 by 60 feet, was erected in 1892, and for twenty years a large manufacture and trade in high-grade dyes have been built up, packages being sent all over the United States and to foreign countries.

The H. J. Dexter Wood-Working Company, established in 1886, was a successful business plant up to three years ago, when it was almost entirely destroyed by tire. Since then it has not been rebuilt. Until about 1850, there were no bands from the present day standpoint, in any of the small towns in this and adjoining states. Previous to that time the music furnished at musters and parades was the fife and drum, and occasionally a clarinet and key-bugle were added. The first organization that was formed in Foxcroft, as I am told by Mr. Thomas Dyer, was Hale's band, organized in 1858, and was in existence live years. The members of the band were: E. J. Hale, Damon and Albion Brockway, Gilbert Chandler, Fred Kimball, Will and Bert Haskell, George Colcord, Frank Lougee, Henry Warren, Nathan McKusick, William Waterman. Frank Good, Sewall Shaw^ Joe Porter and a Mr. Sanborn. In 1867, Major McKusick, who was a veteran of the Civil War, returned to Foxcroft and soon after formed a "Drum Corps," known as "The McKusick Drum Corps."' This organization was composed of some eighteen or twenty men, but only the following names can be recalled: Nathan McKusick, James T. Roberts, Thomas P. Elliott, Isaac, George, and Joseph Colcord, Tim Lougee, William Waterman, James Bush, Austin Pratt and Charles Sherburne. This Corps served until after the Presidential campaign of 1872, when they did valiant service. Dyer's band was organized April 3, 1875, at a meeting held at Temperance Hall, with the following officers: William W. Miller, President; Fred D. Barrows, Secretary, William Brown, Treasurer. Members: Thomas F. Dyer, Will W. Dow, W. W. Miller. Fred D. Barrows, Geo. E. Mitchell, Thos. P. Elliott, Stacy, Wooster and Charles H. Mansfield, James T. Roberts, Ben Vaughan, Arthur S. Brown, Sewall C. Shaw, William H. Waterman, Charles Dow and George H. Jennison. They met for practice and rehearsal the following summer in a room in the organ factory. Their first public appearance was in September to serenade Senator-elect, S. O. Brown. Later they added to their membership until the band numbered twenty-four. This organization lasted for twenty years, when it disbanded, leaving behind this record: in all its life and its many public engagements, it never had a member under the influence of liquor while on duty.

About twenty years ago, a drum corps was formed by some young men of the town, in connection with The Sons of Veterans. This organization was disbanded two years later. The first Post-master of this town was John Bradbury, who held office from June 19, 1821 to July 29, 1833. He was followed by these individuals who are named in the order of their service: R. K. Rice, Moses Swett, George V. Edes, Melvin Stevens, Moses Swett, Hiram Doughty, D. D. Vaughan, William Paine, O. E. Crooker, Jonathan Roberts. J. D. Brown, James M. Weymouth, H. C. Prentiss, John F. Arnold, C. S. Ham, G. L. Arnold, A. P. Buck, Grace W. Buck, and Edward B Buck. Of these, Mr. Prentiss held the office for the longest period, over twenty-four years, from March 19. 1861 to Aug. 3, 1885. The last three incumbents have held the office since 1898. Mr. A. P. Buck holding it two years, his daughter four years, and his son, since 1904.

Among the important characters in the early history of Foxcroft should be mentioned the town's first lawyer, Mr. J. S. Holmes. He was, as I have said, a graduate of Brown University. Principal of the first High School in town, and an able and influential man in all town affairs. He was a brother of Cyrus and Salmon Holmes who came to Foxcroft in 1818. For a while he was a law partner of Hon. J. S. Wiley, who was at one time a Representative to Congress from this district. The story is told of Esquire Holmes that, at one time, in trimming trees, he sawed off the limb on which he was sitting, letting himself heavily to the ground. Getting up and shaking himself, he expressed in vigorous and emphatic language, his opinion of the man who sawed off that limb. In 1838. George N. Edes came to Foxcroft. He was a printer by trade and camp from a race of printers, his great uncle. Benjamin Edes with John Gill having published the Boston Gazette during the Revolution; and another uncle was active in the publishing business in Rhode Island and Maine. George V. learned the trade with his uncle Peter in Hallowell. Going from there to Norridgewock in 1823. he published the Somerset Journal for fifteen years, when he came to Dover and started the Piscataquis Herald, the name of which was afterward changed to the Farmer, and then to the Observer. After a brief residence in Dover, he moved to Foxcroft where he resided until his death in 1875. Mr. Edes' first printing was done with considerable difficulty, with a Franklin hand press, and, as he had very little help, the work was often arduous in the extreme. His pay came from almost everything the surrounding farms produced. In 1839, J. S. Wiley, Moses Swett, A. M. Robinson and others started "The Democrat-Republican," which for a while competed with the Observer; but it was not a financial success; and in 1843, Mr. Edes purchased the whole outfit, and no further effort was made to establish another newspaper. In company with his sons Mr. Edes continued in business for many years. It has been stated on good authority that the first type set in the county was set by him in a building then located near Mayo and Sons' office in the village.

It is not my purpose to enter largely into the biography of the prominent men and women who have made large contributions toward the progress of our town. The lives of some of them will be quite fully treated in papers that are to follow. Before closing this section of my address, however, I wish to pay tribute to the late John G. Mayo and his descendants, who have done so much for the business, educational and religious advancement of Foxcroft. The Congregational church owes much to the benefactions of the elder Mr. Mayo; and the church and the Academy, as well as many other worthy objects have been largely aided by the benevolent minded family. The good of the church and the school was uppermost in the thought of Mrs. Josiah B. Mayo, who went to her reward a few years ago; and her husband and husband's brother, though far advanced in years, are still actively interested in all that makes for the welfare of the town.

Previous to 1869, Dover and Foxcroft had no railway facilities. If one wished to take the train he was obliged to go by stage to Newport; and for a long time, before Waterville and Bangor were connected by railway, a stage was run all the way to Waterville. In 1869, the Bangor and Piscataquis Railroad, now the Bangor and Aroostook, reached Dover. Foxcroft subscribed largely to its stock. At first, over $17,000 was subscribed, and later, $11,000 more. The first train reached Dover, Dec. 16, 1869. In 1 87 1, the road was extended to Guilford, and eight years later it had reached Greenville. The building of the Dexter and Piscataquis branch of the Maine Central, brought through to Foxcroft in 1888, was a very great benefit to this town. The road could not have been built, had it not been for the untiring efforts of Col. Joseph B. Peaks. J. B. Mayo, S. O. Brown, and a few others. With the completion of this road, our mail, express, freight, and passenger service improved greatly. The first telegraph instrument was installed in Foxcroft post-office Aug. 4. 1873 and was operated by Mr. H. C. Prentiss, then postmaster. The office was at that time, as it was for many years located in the center of the Hale Block. Foxcroft began to be lighted by electricity in 1891, when the original plant of the D. & F. Light and Heat Company was installed. The water-power at East Dover was bought in 1895, and a very efficient system of electric lighting has been maintained ever since. Before this improvement, the streets were lighted by kerosene lamps set on poles. The present water system was established in 1887, and the telephone company was organized a few years later. In case of fire, previous to 1887, water had to be taken from cisterns, reservoirs, wells, brooks, or, if it was near enough, from the river.

The Oldest House in Foxcroft

A comparison between the conditions existing in the earlier days of Foxcroft's history and those existing today is interesting and instructive. Before the fifties there was only one dwelling-house on the north side of Main Street above the old Holmes place now occupied by Dr. C. C. Hall, Jr. That house was owned by Dr. Laughton, and is now owned by Mr. S. A. Annis. .Ml the land was farms owned by Mr. Holmes, the Greeley heirs, and Mr. Paul as far as Dr. Tucker's, where Mr. Oakes now lives. These farms furnished pasturing, and nearly every family kept one or more cows, so most of the dwellings were enclosed by high picket fences. The old part of the Exchange was the first public house. Before the railroad came there was much teaming from the up-river towns to Bangor, and a daily stage, one day up, the next back, making business for the inns. The old Favor House in Dover was the only other hotel until the Blethen House was opened. Before the Exchange was built where the main part of the building now stands, was a small office occupied by J. S. Holmes. This was burned, and with it may of the town records. On the south side of Main Street, before the fifties there was no dwelling above that owned by Mrs. Lewis Bryant. Above this, as has been stated, the first burial ground was located. Where the church and chapel now stand were two cottages, one among the first in town, and for many years occupied by the family of Daniel Greeley. This was surrounded by a board fence. In the corner, next to Mr. Weatherbee's was a deep, abandoned well, enclosed by a curb, now covered and under the driveway to the church sheds. Ann Greeley, aged between three and four years, fell into this well, was taken out unconscious, and did not recover for twelve hours. Her first words were, "O pa, I drank a lot of that dirty water!" There was a place on the south side of the river, near the Dover House, where horses could be driven, to be watered. At one time, probably in the year 1840, a Mr. Crocker, who was riding in a two-wheeled chaise, drove down to this watering-place. His horse got in too far; the chaise was upset; the horse was drowned, and Mr. Crocker narrowly escaped with his life. Aside from Main Street, probably North, Lincoln and Park streets are the oldest in town. North Street was laid out very early as far as Goff's Corner; but it was not until the early seventies that it was put through to the Lake. Dr. Henry, father of Leonard Robinson, who was a dentist and had an office in the second story of the building now occupied by his son, named all the streets in town. He had signs painted at his own expense and put up at all the corners. Only a few of these signs are now in existence. Deacon H. C. Prentiss' father worked in a joiner's shop over where Curtis and Robinson are now located. He built a schoolhouse on North street, on the site of the present home of Mrs. Julia Vaughan. When the Foxcroft Grammar school building was erected in 1873, the land where it stands was exchanged for the old site by Mr. B. B. Vaughan, who was a trader and prominent citizen in town for many years. Previous to the building of the Congregational chapel, a store, kept by E. D. Wade, was located on its site.

These are only a few of the changes in outward appearance which have taken place in a century. It will be seen that none are now living who were alive when this town was incorporated. All honor to those sturdy pioneers who laid so nobly and well the foundations of our beautiful town. Though they have passed from earth, they are still calling upon us to walk worthily, cherishing their memories and imitating their virtues. May the historian of a hundred years hence be able to chronicle in a far better manner than I have done, the deeds of his fathers; and may he find inspiration in our lives, and a record worthy of those who have preceded us.


Source: Sprague's Journal of Maine History, Vol. 5 No. 7, Published by John Francis Sprague, Dover, ME, July 1914


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