Churches were scattered throughout our little community as far back as 1810. Certain- lie, there must have been religious denominational meetings in various homes in those early days. Our early settlers seemed to be earnstly seeking God’s word as one church after another was being built.......one in 1828, another in 1834 and still another one in 1839......three churches for a population of only 461 people.
The first church in Dexter was built by the Universalist organization on September 11, 1828. Prominent names on the list that had an interest in the organization of the church were Farrar, French, Colledge, Abbott, Jumper, Sturtevant, Bates, Burleigh, Davis, Sprague, Bement, Cutler, McAllen, Crockett, Bryan, McCrillis, Foss, Bassett, Dustin, Carr, Shaw, Hamilton and others. This religious society came to be known as the “First Universalist Society of Dexter, Maine.”
The church building was constructed at a cost of $2000 to $3000 dollars by contract- ors Jeremiah and Amos Abbott with Elijah W. Sprague as the framer. Mr. Plummer had this to say about this historical event: “The raising of such a building was quite an event in those early days, but so far as the record shows, it was accomplished without any rum, although, a good wholesome dinner was served to the crew in Jeremiah Abbott’s front yard.”
Elder William Frost was the first minister but no date was given, however, it must have been soon after the church was constructed. In 1835, Reverend Gibson Smith was hired to preach two-thirds of the time. On April 24, 1837, thirteen men were expelled and women were made eligible to be members. Mr. Plummer’s comment about this arrange- ment: “The society doubtless learned by experience that women are an important and necessary factor in a well-ordered religious society.”
Who decided where the church was going to be located? As always, in any kind of project, there would be some controversy about where the location of the church was going to be. So, it was decided that who ever bought the most pews, would have the say of where the church would be situated and Jeremiah and Amos Abbott, two of the most loyal members ended up by purchasing the most pews and there-by securing the most central and convenient location in the town--near the business district, near the townhall and library and it still stands to this day.
In 1841 Reverend F. A. Hodgdon conducted services and then Rev. W. S. Cilley was pastor for one year. Rev. Giles Bailey took over in 1852 and stayed for five years. Rev. W.W. Lovejoy came and remained until 1862 when he left and became an officer for the Union Army in charge of a colored regiment.
More ministers that served the Universalist Society. Rev. R. C. Lansing arrived in 1868. During his pastorate in 1869, the present church was built at a cost of about ten thousand dollars. The next pastor that came was Rev. Almon Gage. Rev. J. F. Witherell was always on call to serve as a supply pastor when needed.
Rev. Costello Weston was pastor from 1871 to 1873, Rev. Amory Battles 1873 to 1879, Rev. J. Eugene Clark served from 1879 to 1882, Rev. H. S. Whitman 1882 to 1886, Rev. Henry Kirke White 1886 to 1890. Rev. William H. Gould served the longest time in the history of the Society at that period in time, 1890 to 1906. Then Rev. Stanley Gates Spear became the pastor.
The first church to be organized in the town of Dexter was the Methodist Episcopal, however, as previously stated, it was the “First Universalists Society” that built the first church building in Dexter. The Methodist church was organized in 1822 by Melville Cox.
The Methodist and Baptist got together and built a “Union Church” on Lower Main Street. This church later on was enlarged a few times and became known as the “Methodist Meetinghouse” and remained in use until 1899 but just by the Methodist organization. The Baptist and Methodist group split up and went their separate ways around 1839-40. At the same time, the Baptists transferred their interest to the Congregationalists. The Baptist group erected a building of their own(no mention of where it was built)while the Congregationalists built a chapel on Spring Street and sold their interest to the Methodists.....I wonder what the name of the church would have been if they had all stayed together . ( More about the Congregational Church later.)
The Methodist Meetinghouse on Main Street became the property of Methodist organ- ization and remains in the same location to this day. Many improvements and additions have been added through out the years of it’s existence. In 1871 the whole building was raised and a vestry was placed underneath. In 1899, the original church was demolished and a new one was erected by Henry P. Dexter.
Before 1899 , probably somewhere around 1819, there were 24 different pastors from the Exeter circuit(it looks like the Exeter folks joined up with the Dexter Methodist church)that took care of the spiritual needs of both of the churches. From 1849 to 1900, there were twenty-eight different pastors that ministered at the Dexter Methodist church.
The Congregational church of Dexter was organized by Ecclesiastical Council July 22, 1834. The church held it’s services in other church buildings until 1846. They sold their interest in the Methodist church, as previously mentioned, and erected a chapel on Spring Street. In 1846, Rev, E. G. Carpenter became pastor of the church and a year later it was incorporated as the “First Congregational Church of Dexter.”
During the years from 1905 to the early 1930’s, the church was supplied off and on by interim pastors, missionary and seminary personnel.
In 1927 church services were discontinued and many of the parish members attended other churches. It was voted that the disposal of the property be left up to the trustees, namely, Fred W. Barker, Millard G. Otto and Timothy C. Crowther. The trustees offered the church buildings to the Boy Scout Organization of Dexter which included troop 49 and troop 51. The Boy Scout committee composed of N. C. Bucknam, Harry Hale, Dr. Arthur C. Strout, Harry A. Blake, Frank W. Haines, Joseph Mountain, Arthur Carroll, Arthur Ambrose, Dr. H. E. Whalen and Robert Cinqmars accepted the generous offer of the land and large set of buildings.When I was around twelve or thirteen years old we used to hold our Boy Scout meetings there. Other boys that were mentioned were Roland Clukey, Albert Daigle, Willie and Normie Cookson. Our leader was Leonel Clukey and Fred Quigley was our scout master......troop 51. In later years, Roland Clukey became a leader and he had Raymond Mountain, Loyd “Loto” Clukey, Colman Mountain, Clayton “K. K.” Mountain, Henry “Chenud” Nadeau and others.
There is only one person that I can remember from troop 49 and his name was Wilfred “Skinny” Mercer. His father was a minister at the Methodist church. The scout master for troop 49 was Joe Baker. The Boy Scouts used the church buildings from 1932 to the early 1940’s when the inside was badly burned
Everett Lincoln bought the buildings and had them demolished to make room for a filling station.After a few years he sold the filling station to Norman Plouff for an office for his oil company. Mr. Plouff kept it until the early 1950’s and Galen Clukey purchased it for a filling station. As previously mentioned, the property is now owned by Dave Bailey. (Some of this information was supplied by Abbott Memorial Librarian Elizabeth Breault.)
How did the First Baptist organization get started? In 1825 a council from the towns of Ripley, Parkman and Corinna met to see about organizing a church in Dexter, which they did and by the end of the year the thirteen members increased to twenty. Rev. Jacob Hatch became the pastor and it was voted to pay him $2.00 for each Sunday that he preached. Pastor Jacobs stayed for about five years and Elder W. Marshall was hired. He stayed one year and Pastor Jacobs again returned for a year. Elder Enoch Hunting filled the pastorate for eight years and then Rev. J. Smith was voted in for three years and that brings us up to 1840. There were twenty-three different pastors from 1825 to 1896. In 1894 the parsonage was built on Free Street on the next lot beyond the church.
In 1834 the First Baptist built a church with the Methodist people that was called the Union Church. It was built on Main Street, but no mentoin of where on Main Street. In 1839 the First Baptist built their present church on the corner of Free and Upper Main Street and sold their share in the Union Church to the Congregational Organization.
Mrs. Susan D. Copeland, a prominent member of the Baptist Church donated a pipe organ and also a sum of money for the building of the parsonage.
The Free Baptist Church was organized in 1869 at Mitchell’s Hall in Dexter with Rev. A.P. Tracey as the leader. Rev. E. Manson was chosen to be the pastor for the Free Baptist congregation for the year 1869. They voted to hold their services in the Congre- gational Church in 1870 with Rev. Amos Redlon as their pastor. He was also hired to preach for the Congregationalists too, for once each Sunday. Evidently, he was a Free Baptist in the morning service and a Congregationalist in evening service. Probably there was no difference in Rev. Redlon’s sermon.........so, why didn’t they all get together. But, I guess that wasn’t to be, as the Free Baptist people hired Rev. F.C.Bradeen as their pastor and they put into motion, plans for a church building of their own.
In 1873 the church building was started but only the basement was ready for use and was used for church services. The church building was finished on the outside but the inside of the auditorium wasn’t ready for use until 1876.The church was located on the corner of Spring and Center Street and remained there until 1975 and was moved down .Spring Street to what used to be the old Spring Street Grammer School and that is where is to this day.
Rev. R.D. Frost became pastor in 1877 and remained for one year. Rev. J.L.Burgess was voted in to try and help the church get out of debt , which he did by the end of 1879. A succession of pastors were coming and going from 1880 to 1900.
Mrs. Viola J. Watson, a faithful member of the Free Baptist Church in 1900, wrote this ‘touching poem’ :
“There’s a dear little church with a very plain look,
The Episcopal Church was organized on July 9, 1866 in Dexter under the name of, “The Church of the Messiah” and Reverend N.L.Brggs became the first pastor.
Episcopalian Doctrine:They accept the Bible as the divinely inspired word of God. They believe in the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the Incarnation. They accept the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. Baptism and Communion are considered Sacrements.
Confirmation, penance, ordination, matrimony and unction are considered Sacrementals. The Book of Common Prayer contains the services and prayers of the Episcopal Church. Some Episcopal parishes are called ‘high church’ because of their elaborate ceremonies. Others are called ‘low church’ because they advocate a less in- volved ritual. ‘Broad churchmen’ stress the importance of a rational understanding of Christian tradition and a concern for liberal values.
The Episcopal Church of Dexter was built on the corner of Spring and Mill Street in 1872. No date is given when services were discontinued, although, Rev. LeBaron W. Fowler became rector in 1890 and resigned in 1895, probably was the last Episcopalian pastor to conduct services at this church. At the present time this church belongs to the ‘Seventh Day Advent’ organization.
How did the Catholic Church get started in Dexter? Circa 1845 a priest, Father Vetromile from Bangor visited Dexter to attend to a dying person and Mass was held at the Higgins home on Grove Street. This was probably one of the first services of the Catholic Faith held in the town of Dexter. No regular services were held until 1870 when a number of French-Canadians and Catholics came to Dexter. It was at about this time that a railroad was being built through the town.
In 1871 Dexter’s first Catholic Church was erected on High Street when Fr. Halde became rector. (In later years, the church buildings became the home of Ruth and Ted Inman,Sr. Phyllis Shirley Ambrose supplied this information. She said that her mother, Lillian Shirley, wife of Dave Shirley, told her that the first Catholic Church was at this location. Phyllis also said that Duke Ambrose, her husband once lived in the Higgins Home on Grove Street.
Before this church was built, Fr. Halde held services at the Bernard Flanagan home on the corner of Free Street, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Knowles. This home was used for two years and Mass was said every three months.
During the years from 1871 to 1893 the church on High Street had a succession of pastors visiting to attend to the duties and say Mass. They were, Fr. Wallace of Lewiston, Fr. Charland, Fr. Hamaker, Fr. Lacroix and Fr. Bergeron.
In 1893 Fr. P. E. Bradley became the resident Priest and stayed until 1895. Fr. Healy commenced his pastorate in 1895 and in that same year the Catholic congregation numbered about six hundred when Fr. John W. Houlihan became the resident Priest.
In 1901 the present church on Free Street was erected. (I presume that the church on High Street was vacated, however, nothing was mentioned in my research about what happened to it.) Fr. Houlihan left Dexter to go to Portland and in 1909 Fr. T. Maney assumed the position of rector of the Catholic Church and during his stay he brought the church out of debt. He remained here until 1926 and then was called to Bath, Maine. Father Patrick Hayes became the next pastor for the next five years and Fr. Surette took over. Because of failing health, Fr. Hayes retired and he died in 1935. Father Enright assumed the duties of St. Anne’s Catholic Church and Fr. David Surette was called to Bath and Fr. L. LeClair replaced him to become assistant to Fr. Enright.
Contact Jim Wintle by email or call 207-924-7598.
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