Submitted BY JAMES WINTLE
GRISTMILLS AND SAWMILLS
In 1801 when Samuel Elkins came back to Dexter from Cornville, as you recall in Part I of the History of Dexter, he brought with him, a millcrank and the necessary irons to construct a sawmill and gristmill. The mill crank was not set up during the winter of 1801-02 because it was borrowed without permission and hauled off to Levant to take the place of one that had been broken. In 1802, Mr. Hodsdon, owner of the Levant mill returned the millcrank by team as far as Garland because the road ended there. Mr. Hodsdon then hired Deacon John S. Haskell and Gideon Haskell, no relation, to return it to the Dexter mill site. Returning the crank on the back of a horse was some ordeal as Deacon Haskell tells the story. Starting out from the little settlement of Garland, of course, there were no roads in those days, so they followed a line of spotted trees left by Peter Brawn, a trapper. Thinking that this was the trail marking the way to the Dexter millsite belonging to Sam Elkins, they followed it into what is now known as Jumper Bog, a few miles out of Dexter towards Garland on the northern end of Puffer Pond. They became hopelessly lost, groping about in the strange dense forest, in a heavy rainstorm for nearly three days. They camped on a hillside beside a large rock north of Puffer Pond, the next night they wandered as far as Moody's Mill in Corinna and stayed overnight. They had no idea where they were so retraced their steps and finally before nightfall they came upon the little millsite that was occupied by Ebenezer Small and family.
Sam Elkins started the construction of the saw and gristmill in 1801, but he must have gone back to Cornville during that same year because of some kind of illness. It says in the History of Dexter: "Owing to his fatal illness, Sam Elkins did not return to the township in the spring of 1802 to complete the mills, but John Elkins, his brother, came in his stead, and put into operation a saw and gristmill in one building."
John Elkins stayed in the mill business for a short time and Jonathon Snow bought it. The business changed ownership many times from 1810, Snow to Wiggins Hill, 1812 to Andrew Morse and then Morse sold to Jonathon Farrar with other property. Farrar discontinued the business at this site and moved to what is now the Dexter Historical Museum. Jonathon Farrar dug the canal at this site and continued to operate it until 1829-30 when he sold it to Jonathon Weatherbee. Mr. Weatherbee ran it up until 1852 and L.S. Haseltine acquired half interest in the business. In 1853, it was sold to Farrar & Cutler who operated it until 1857, then to Cutler, Carr & Co. till 1865. Amos Abbott & Co. bought the business and continued to operate it until 1882. It was then purchased by Samuel L. Small and it remained in the Small family into the nineteen forties.
J & A Abbott built a gristmill in 1839 on the northern end of Mill Street, what would be in later years the site of the Morrison Woolen Company. In 1848 they sold it to Farrar & Cutler who enlarged it and converted it into a woolen factory.
Sawmills that were built and operated from eighteen thirty-three to the early nine- teen hundreds were, a saw and shingle mill built on the stream or brook coming out of Gordon Pond in East Dexter in 1837; a sawmill in the northeast part of town built on the main stream of the Sebasticook River (which would be what is now Silver's Mills); a sawmill operated on the site of a dam on the east end of the Wassookeag Woolen Co., or Brickmill, what is now Dexter Shoe on Water Street. This sawmill passed through a number of companies and then was leased to Hathon & Flanders. They put in machinery for cutting boards to manufacture lemon boxes. The old box mill continued in operation until 1870 when it burned to the ground.
Spooner's mill, home of the Spooner family, also known as Spooner's Mills at the outlet of Puffer's Pond, now Echo Pond, was the site of the first sawmill in that area. In 1836 Hiram and Bickford Spooner with others started the mill and it was kept in oper- ation by a number of area men, including the Puffer brothers. After passing through many hands, Dale Easler purchased the property and operated it for a number of years.
Foundry and Machine Shops
A foundry was built in 1843 on the outlet of the mill pond on Mill Street. Land of J. & A. Abbott just below the gristmill dam, east of the stream on the north side. The business changes hands several times up until 1857 and moved to a new location.
The new foundry was built off of Main Street in the rear of what is now the Gerry Block. In 1846, there was a shovel factory owned by Jonas Wheeler and Newell Gerry. Farrar and Cutler purchased this factory in 1855 and used it for a machine shop and they went out of business in 1857. The owners of the foundry in the rear of the building bought the machine shop and in 1858 B.F.H. Durrell, one of the owners retired. Gilman Jewett, the sole owner continued the business until 1860 and sold out to Nathaniel Dustin. Mr. Dustin carried on until 1871 when his son Nathaniel, Jr. took over under the name of N. Dustin and Co. until 1883 when the buildings burned to the ground.
Norman H. Fay and Walter Scott began their business in 1881 in a room that they rented from N. Dustin & Co. In 1884 they bought the lot of the former Copeland Woolen factory that had burned in 1868. They built two separate buildings, one for the foundry and the other for a machine shop and in the proceeding years kept enlarging it until the work crew reached two hundred and sixty men.
A woodworking and carriage shop with waterpower was built on Grove Street to Middlesex Alley in 1833 and continued to operate until 1858. James Grout used the building in 1859 to 1866 for a carriage shop. The second story of the same building be- came a workshop for painting carriages and manufacturing chairs and churns in 1861. Hiram A. Maxim, the inventor of the Maxim Machine Gun was employed by this company for about a year and then moved to Sangerville.
Contact Jim Wintle by email or call 207-924-7598.
|The Daily Me * 122 Number 10 Road * Dexter, Maine 04930 * 207.924.3067|