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A Brief History of Dixfield, Maine

Text by Charlotte Collins
Images from Dixfield Historical Society

Town of Dixfield seal, 1988
Town of Dixfield seal, 1988
Dixfield Historical Society

Following the Revolutionary War, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts needed to raise money to pay off its huge war debts. The Committee of the State of Eastern Lands became the vehicle for veterans to obtain new lands in the Province of Maine (then owned by Massachusetts). Land speculators swarmed all over Maine surveying its natural resources. They plotted access to the Boston markets through Maine’s rivers and ports. By 1782, for example, Reuben Colburn from Pittston, the same Reuben Colburn who had built the leaky bateau for Benedict Arnold’s ill-fated assault on Quebec City in 1775, joined with several others to explore northwestern Maine. On the top of their list was to see if it was possible to build a road from the headwaters of the Connecticut River to the Kennebec. Years later their efforts turned into the Coos Road, running from northern Vermont down the Androscoggin and Sandy River valleys to Hallowell.

A Revolutionary Was soldier, Col. Jonathan Holman of Sutton, Massachusetts, had heard reports and was spurred on to explore what would become the Town of Dixfield. He successfully raised a company of citizens from the Sutton area who also were interested in this enterprise. To a large extent, these men were from the same families who had fought with him during the French and Indian Wars in 1759 and again in putting down Shay’s Rebellion just the year before.

Col. Jonathan Holman, Deacon Asa Waters and Capt. Andrew Elliott, all of Sutton, Massachusetts, spent a considerable amount of time in August and September of 1787 in exploring land suitable to the establishment of a township. They could not, however, obtain the purchase of it until July 2, 1789, when Col. Holman “paid earnest toward it, for himself and others.”

All were from Worcester County, Massachusetts and each paid his one, two or more 60ths of the costs. The price for the land which would become Dixfield was: 2,895 pounds, 11 shillings and 5 pence, plus expenses incurred of 136 pounds, 12 shillings and 5 pence. “The Early History of Dixfield” states that at one of the earliest town meetings held at Sutton, Massachusetts in April, 1791, the proprietors voted:

that four Rights shall be obliged to clear and seed 20 acres, set up a house
18 feet square, have 50 living apple trees on the land within six years from
the first of this month, or to forfeit to the Proprietary 50 acres on each Right.

Other directives were initiated and soon settlers began to arrive, forming three distinctive sections within Township No. 1 called Holmantown. They were Dixfield Common or Center, East Dixfield, and Dixfield Village. Upon its incorporation on June 21, 1803, these three sections grew into very diverse parts of the new community now called the Town of Dixfield. Each was a small community unto itself, but offering skills, talents, and spiritual brotherhood that benefitted their neighbors within the town as well as to those settling in nearby, newly established communities. With its incorporation, Dixfield became the 147th town in the State of Maine.