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Western Maine Foothills Region

Dixfield

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DIXFIELD VILLAGE
The Last Section to be Settled

Dixfield Village as seen from Peru Side, Dixfield, ca.1900
Dixfield Village as seen from Peru Side, Dixfield, ca.1900

Item Contributed by
Dixfield Historical Society

From its inception in the early 1800s, Dixfield Village was destined to become the population and commercial center of the town. The largest landowner, Dr. Elijah Dix (for whom Dixfield is named) of Boston, was authorized to build the first grist mill, the first saw mills and develop the water power that flows out of Lake Webb, down Webb River, and enters at its confluence with the Androscoggin River in Dixfield.

Agriculture played a part in the development of this section of town, too. Scattered farms were located just “above the hill” going towards Carthage and Weld. Joseph Mitchell and his wife “Aunt Hannah” Dillingham settled on the farm through which this brook runs about 1802. A woman of strong character, many stories are told of her sayings and doings. The brook which bears her name was once the water supply for the Town of Dixfield. The upper Weld Street area, which had very few houses until around 1942, was fairly flat. The wind swept fiercely across these plains before buildings and trees obstructed it progress. It was the most impassable section between Weld and Dixfield in winter, according to older residents. Dixfield was not exempt from sickness or disease during its early days. In 2010 the Dixfield Historical Society acquired over thirty diaries from the former Nelson Rose farm, located near Aunt Hannah’s Brook. One entry laments:

1865: I went to Mr. E. Brackett’s to take care of a sick child–diptheria. Little Carrie very sick indeed. Dr. Bartlett glad I came. Very sick and growing worse. Mrs. Park sat up in the evening; Mrs. White came and watched. Carrie so sick and suffering so much. We sent for Dr. B.; she died at one. I arranged the clay cold form and laid down and then came home to get some articles to make a mantle robe. I put little Carrie in the coffin–so innocent and pure. Rev. Mr. Cummings spoke very well.

Main Street, Dixfield, ca. 1890
Main Street, Dixfield, ca. 1890

Item Contributed by
Dixfield Historical Society

Once these building blocks were put in place, the Village’s southern and western borders were assured that they would join other settlements along their banks in developing the new frontier. Webb River would prove invaluable to the wood industry sporting many a “log drive” in its heyday. Soon Mr. Graves built a tannery, called by the villagers the “bark mill.” It prospered for many years under both Graves and Hosea Austin before Charles W. Forster turned it into the foundation of his burgeoning toothpick industry, soon followed by N.S. Stowell and his three spool factories in Dixfield and a half-dozen or more in surrounding towns.

Dixfield attracted the best talent in the legal system, with Attorney Isaac Randall, a master of turning out distinguished legal talent and whose influence extended to both the state’s and the nation’s capitols. Future politicians who taught in Dixfield include Congressman Samuel P. Morrill, Congressman and Senator Eugene Hale, Maine Governor Samuel Streeter Marble, attorney Elbridge Gerry Harlow, trial justice John Mason Eustis and future governor of Oregon LaFayette Grover. The intersection of Weld and Main Streets became the hub for commercial development. The National House hosted Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi while the Stanley Hotel provided the town with valuable shops, meeting spaces, dry goods stores and a barber shop. The Tuscan Opera House was built in 1891. This building offered the town a venue for summer plays, silent movies, dances, town meetings, school functions, and the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs meeting hall.

Dixfield has been the home to many doctors, earning great respect from the community. Although we no longer have a doctor on the town’s list of residents, we offer a very accomplished staff at the Dixfield-Elsemore Clinic, named after one of our beloved physicians.