Prior to the building of the ‘Float Bridge’ in 1821 a ferry was established and William Smith was hired by the town to operate it for $15.20 payable in grain. He was to keep a boat at the ‘narrows’ and to be on call at all hours of the day or night. At times, Mr. Smith couldn’t be on call and at one particular time a Mr. Caleb B. Curtis had this to say about the ‘ferry service’. “One late autumn evening returning from a visit to his native town he came to the ferry at dusk when the ‘breaking waves dashed high’, driven by a northwest gale. The ferry boat was on the opposite shore but the loudest possible shrieking could not arouse the ferryman. His humanity was evidently not equal to the task presented, else his excuse of not hearing the call must be credited. As a last resort, amid cries and protests of his companions, Mr. Curtis swam across, a feat which only the best swimmer should have undertaken in such a gale, but it was accomplished.”
In November in the year 1824 a committee of five men was chosen to build the first Float Bridge and they were, Seba French, Esq., Cornelius Coolidge, Esq., Captain Isaac Smith, Lieutenant James Jumper and Captain Elijah W. Sprague. This bridge lasted about twenty years(1844) and had to be rebuilt. Again in 1860 the bridge had to be rebuilt and the committee was made up of Levi Williams, Thomas E, Rodgers and a Mr. Wilde, an Engineer from Skowhegan.
Through the years starting in 1860 up to 1936 these men took part in committees, planning, repairing and rebuilding the Float Bridge: Levi Williams, Caleb B. Curtis, Thomas E. Rogers, Carlostine Jewett, Nathan Wyman, Elisha Coolidge, William Bradford, D. D. Flynt, C. F. Witherill, A. P. Bennett, Isaac Berry, John Crockett, W. F. Dunham, Levi Dyer, Sam Dearborn, Fred Clough, E. A. Flanders, Fred Gove, Thomas Higgins, Joseph Jock, Fred Judkins, Peter LaPoint, McFarland, Morse & Bridges, Frank Pineo, Frank Swanton, Abner Sheperd, Jonathon Thompson and Harry Weymouth.
The ‘old float bridge’ was one of the best fishing spots in the Dexter area. If that ‘old bridge’ could talk.......what fish stories we would hear!!! I can think of one such story. This fish was caught by big Jim Leighton on the small lake side of the float bridge. It was a 27 inch lake trout......one that Jim would always remember.....it took him about 15 or 20 minutes to land the monster!! Jim Leighton caught a good many fish off that ‘old float bridge’. Big Jim died in 1973. His wife, Florence now lives at Bishop Hill elderly home.
Back in the days when I was just a young lad, the ‘old float bridge’ was lined with eager fisherman, especially after ice-out. Some of the older guys at that period in time were, Big Jim Leighton, of course, Red Keyte, Olie Larson, Dutch Lancaster, Arthur Ronco, Bobo and Bea Ogden, Gene Mountain and Carl “Red” Sands, just to name a few.
Speaking of ice-out, there was an old ice house on the right side of the float bridge that was always one of the ‘hot fishing spots’. This was a favorite place for night fishing for catching hornpout and white perch.
Tragedy near the Float Bridge: A Wassookeag school youth was killed as his sailboat struck a live wire. Paul S. Weadock, 18. of Greenwich, Conn., a student at Wassookeag school, was electrocuted and his body was catapulted into Lake Wassookeag within a few yards of the float bridge. It happened at 12 o’clock Sunday in 1932.
While sailing on the lake, the stay wire on the sailboat came in contact with a cable carrying 38,000 volts. A companion, Robert Masjoan, also a student at the school, who was somewhat stunned and hurled into the water by the force of the shock, revived sufficiently when he hit the surface to swim 75 feet to safety.
Young Weadock’s body was recovered six hours after the tragedy, when Peter Wood, a professional diver from Brewer, and his eqquipment were flown to town in two planes chartered from Crympic Airport of Bangor. Shirley Bugbee, of Dexter, who wqas crossing the float bridge, was the first to spread the alarm of the tragedy. He noticed Masjoan swimming in the water and immediately notified Headmaster Lloyd Hatch of Wassookeag School.
State Police Officer Anson P. Door , took charge of the rescuing party that plied the waters with grappling irons to no avail and after a conference with Mr. Hatch, it was decided to send for Mr. Wood. The diver arrived at 3 p.m., and worked from a raft obtained at the school. Weadock’s body was discovered in 30 feet of water at about 5:30 p.m. and taken to the office of Dr. H.E.Whalen, who reported finding burns on the mouth and forehead.
Masjoan, when he had recovered sufficiently to talk, reported, “We were cruising in near the shore, when suddenly there was a loud crack. I felt myself hurled through space into the water. I looked around for Paul and then struck for shore.
The diver, Peter Wood, said after the dive, While looking for the body, I saw a number of very, very large fish, don’t know what they were, but thay sure were awful big.
A historical demonstration right beside ‘our old float bridge’ in the year 1890. It was on the rise of land just this side of the float bridge that Sir Hiram Maxim gave his first demonstration of his automatic machine gun in 1890, while he and his wife were visiting Sir Hiram’s cousin, the late Mrs. Caroline True of this town.
It was a great day for the town of Dexter. Sir Hiram Maxim having learned his trade in this town, had many friends here in this section. Early in the day the town was filled with teams(horses & wagons)and families from the countryside afar, to witness the demon- stration. The gun was set on the hillside, this side of the float bridge, next to the town, and Sir Hiram himself exploded the first cartridge. Later Mrs. Bryant, the oldest person present was given the privilege, after which Mrs. True, Sir Hiram’s cousin, fired the gun.
The day was one long to be remembered by those who attended. The rapid fire of the bulletts into Lake Wassookeag, the splashing of the water as they struck within feet of our historic old float bridge, are remembered with enthusiasm by those attending. Little did they realize, however, how valuable an invention their friend, Sir Hiram Maxim had really made.
This is the story as presented by the Honorable Stanley Plummer “During the first six years after the town was organized the town meetings were held sometimes at the home of Benjamin Green,[what was known as ‘Greene’s Tavern’ near the old Greene cemetery on the Charleston Road. The first house starting onto the Charleston Road from Upper Main Street.]sometimes at that of Solomon S. Plummer, and sometimes at the schoolhouse, near the residence of Simeon Safford.[What used to be Crosby & Crosby Law Office directly across the road from the Wayside Park.]
In 1822, however, the schoolhouse on the site of Josiah Crosby.s law office was completed, and the town meeting of September 9, 1822, was held at the ‘schoolhouse near the mills.’ The town meetings continued to be held in this schoolhouse until the first town hall was completed.
In 1836 a town hall, with two schoolrooms underneath, was built on the site of the present town hall. The first town meeting held in it was on March 13, 1837. This town hall continued to be used for the purposes for which it was built until the town meeting of March 18, 1856, over three hundred voters being precipitated without warning, a straggling, wiggling, screaming mass of humanity, into the cellar below. Wonderful to relate that no lives had been lost, no bones broken, nor permanent injuries sustained, the town’s people were ready to recall with keen relish and describe with great gusto, some of the ludicrous situations and incidents of the accident.
It was said that a leading citizen of excitable temperament, after extricating himself unharmed, rushed hatless and with bloodshot eyes, down the street, and, meeting his son, told him to go tell his mother that the town hall had broken down and he and forty others had been killed in the wreck.
One of the largest and heaviest men in town, a prominent lawyer, climbed through a window, out on the roof of the portico over the schoolroom door, and jumped plump into a snowdrift, where he stuck so fast that it was with difficulty the rescuers could pull him out.
While confined in the promiscuous heap of human kind, some grey-haired sinners who had not recognized the existence of a Supreme Being since they lisped His name at their mothers’ knee, called lustily on Him for help. Others swore like troopers at those whose bodies pinned them down. The Methodist parson, doubtless thinking that the Day of Judgment had come, prayed with such ferver that the good class leader of the church, in another section of the struggling mass of men, responded with a hearty Amen.
The deputy sheriff unfortunately went down astride the hot barrel stove; and, while his exclamations under the trying circumstances were not so pious as those of the parson and class leader, they were said to have been quite vigorous. He had his taxes abated the coming year on account of his enforced detention from sedentary persuits.
The next day after the breakdown, at an adjourned meeting held in the Methodist vestry, it was voted That Lysander Cutler, Samuel C. Small and Samuel McClellan be a committee to make plans, estimates, etc., for a new town hall.” Another town meeting was called on April 21, 1856 at which it was voted “to build a new town hall, borrow money for the same on five, ten or fifteen years.” Chose Lysander Cutler, Samuel C. Small, Samuel McClellan, Levi Williams and Jonas Wheeler as building committee.
Jan. 11, 1857, the town hired $3820.00 of Elisha Cooledge of Solon, brother of Cornelius Coolidge of Dexter, to be expended on the town hall.
The old town hall had broken down on account of defective construction, the posts in the schoolrooms below it not standing over the supports in the cellar. When the question of a new hall was taken up, strength, safety and security were naturally the first consideration. Some wished to have the hall on the ground floor, but the wiser counsel of Col. Cutler and others prevailed, and it was built in the present form, with strong timbers, braces, trusses and supports, which made it one of the best and strongest frame buildings constructed in the State up to that time.
The frame of the new building was put up by Daniel Plummer, and contained seventy- thousand feet of cedar and hemlock timber. Samuel C. Small, one of the building committee, had charge of the joiner work, and W. H. P. Bement and others among the best workmen the town ever had were employed in its construction.Levi Williams and Levi B. Bridgham put up the foundation. Isaac M. Russ had charge of the mason work, with Benjamin F. Eldridge as assistant, and Barney Flanagan as head tender. Phineas Gee excavated the cellar. There it stands today, after the storms of more than fifty years have beaten against it, (it still stands at this point in time...1999)as level, plumb, and trim as when its classic outlines were first seen.
No changes were made in the hall until 1887, when a new stage , with boxes and new galleries were put in, and the walls and ceiling frescoed by William M. Hall. In 1900 a portico was constructed over the entrance, and the exterior painted”.
As previously stated, the first town hall was built on the site of the present town hall in 1836 with two schoolrooms on the bottom floor. After the floor crashed in 1856, Amos Abbott & Co. bought the building and moved it to their mill site and used it for offices.
In1857 the present town hall was constructed. And I quote from an article by the Eastern Gazette of August 14, 1901: Jan. 11, 1857, town hired $3,820 of Elisha Cooledge of Solon, brother of the late Cornelius of Dexter, to pay toward town hall..
At a town meeting March 23, 1857, voted that Josiah Crosby be agent to hire money to complete payment for town hall in case Lysander Cutler fails to do so.
Nothing more was said about what the total cost of the town hall was, so I am presuming that the total cost was $3,820.00. And, here it stands one hundred forty-two years later, the same building and the same site. Through the years there have been some changes. The boxes, balcony and stage has been removed. A new hardwood floor laid for roller skating.
What would we have done without our town hall? I don’t think that I could list all of the many programs, projects and sporting events that took place in this historical old town hall but I’ll try to name a few.
First of all, it was used for town meetings, organizational meetings, graduation exercises for high school, grammar school and some grade school classes, band concerts, religious meetings and religious concerts, minstrel shows, rollerskating, wrestling, boxing, dancing, basketball, donkey basketball, boy scout jamboree, volleyball, pingpong and I’m sure that there are many more.
At one time during the 1930’s, the janitor, Patrick Monahan, had living quarters in the basement of the town hall. Also, on the ground floor, midway of the building there was an eight by eight foot jail cell.
At the present time, the town hall is being used for many programs and activities, namely, Total Teen Club, grammar and high school boys and girls sports, recreational games, church affairs, Dexter Day Care
Built in 1889 by Daniel Plummer high up on the side of Bryant’s Hill on High Street. One of the most admirable locations overlooking our little town of Dexter. The grounds about the house were spacious and beautifully landscaped.
Mr. Plummer’s family migrated from England and settled in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1635. Daniel Plummer was born in Freeman, Maine November 21, 1821 and died in Dexter, June 1, 1896. Mr. Plummer married Mirarda Martha Oakes of Sangerville, Maine on May 19, 1845. They had two boys, Stanley and Walter. Walter Plummer was born Oct. 19, 1856 and died at the age of six of diphtheria April 8, 1862.
The Honorable Stanley Plummer died in 1919 in Dexter. He left the beautiful Plummer home to the town of Dexter with the stipulation that it be used as a hospital. In 1920, with a few renovations and changes, the Plummer home became the ‘Plummer Memorial Hospital’, one of the finest and best equipped hospitals in the State of Maine at that period in time.
The laundry and storeroom, two kitchens, a dining room and two large front rooms which were used as wards and five beds were located on the first floor. Three private rooms were located on the second floor. One was equipped by Mrs. Oliver Crosby of St. Paul, Minn. in memory of her mother, Mrs. Mary Wood. Mr. Oliver Crosby also equipped a second private room in memory of his mother, Mrs. Mary Crosby. The third private room was equipped and furnished throughout by Mr. and Mrs. George Park in memory of their son, Lieut. Clifford Park, who died in France while in the service
Also on the second floor Superintendent Mrs. Flora G. Hunt had an office and two small sleeping rooms. The operating room, furnished in white was located in the southwest corner. A small linen room,an etherizing room and a toilet room was connected to the operating room. A special emergency driveway was connected directly to the southwest side of the building
The Plummer Memorial Hospital opened in June, 1920 and closed April 1, 1987. Plummer Memorial Hospital was sold to Bangor Author Stephen King. A few years later, Mr. King gave it to the Town of Dexter. The property was put up for bid and Mr. Joel Ploszaj of Connecticut became the new owner.
While restoring the building there was a fire and some of the patient’s records in the basement were ruined. Some of the records of hospital personel were probably destroyed along with the patient’s records. The records that are presumed lost or destroyed are from 1920 to 1943. I called just about everyone of the Administrators, Directors and anyone connected with Plummer Memorial Hospital to locate the records. Finally, Mrs. Barbara Steller, the present Dexter Health Care Administrator, told me to call Mrs. Marita Farrar and sure enough she had them. Thanks Barbara!!
Marita Farrar has kept the record book of the Nurses Guild and recorded all members from 1944 to 1987. These were all Regestered Nurses until 1978 when Licensed Practical Nurses were included into the Nurses Guild. There was no membership list found from 1948 to 1953, however, 1954 was recorded, but no record of who did the recording. No membership list was found for 1955 to 1961. Marita kept the membership list and all other personel from 1961 to the closing of Plummer Memorial Hospital in 1987. Mary Flynn and Vonnie Fanjoy were very helpful in supplying me some names and information about Plummer Memorial Hospital.
The last year(1987) Plummer Memorial Hospital utilized the second floor as an elderly boarding home because St Dominic’s had been condemned. Mrs. Barbara Steller was the Director of this program at Plummer Memorial Hospital. The program was in operation for about one year.
President- William E. Brewster,
Vice-President-Harry E. Hale,
Acting Treasurer- Mrs. Peter Plouff,
Directors- Mrs. Imogene Weymouth and Clarence Crosby,
Superintendent- Mrs. Flora G. Hunt,
Assistant- Dora Kinney.
Dora Kinney (A)
Erma Ross (S)
Mary Flynn (A)
Ann Morrison (S)
Barabara Clukey (A)
Hazel Seavey Knowles
Adelaide CinqMars Banks
Florice Gilbert Laferriere
Marjorie Junck Harrington
Barbara Colbry Clukey
Mary Burgess Cookson
Lyford Elaine Mayo
Sally Eunice Gallagher
Laurie Greeley Hanson
Mildred Mitchell Dowling
Ethlinda Ellms Dow
Betty Holsapple Lori Hartford
Dr. Paul Boulier
Dr. Joseph J. McVety
Dr. Hans Shurman
Dr. H. Lewis Taylor
Dr. H.K. Thatcher
Dr. Arthur C. Strout
Dr. Samuel E. Redman
Dr. H.E. Whalen
Dr. Oscar R. Emerson
Dr. H.E. Burgess
Dr. Harold Crane
Dr. Fred Redman
Dr. George T. Higgins
Dr. Paul Burke
Dr. Ralph Badger
Dr. Harvey L. Haskell
Dr. L.E. Kelly
Dr. O.D.D. Nielson
Dr. Dale Boulton
Dr. Greg Hewett
Dr. Judy Chamberlain
Dr. Mary Hudson
Dr. Howard LaBarge
Dr. Joseph Dreher
Dr. Larry Linnell
Dr. David Ross
Dr. Yeow Tan
Leavitt Jackie Bailey
Elizabeth Culley (Night N)
Coral Rudolph (Soc. Ser.)
If your name is missing or in the wrong classification, please call this number. 924-7598. Thank You.
NOTE: I would like to thank everyone for their e-mails, interest and encouragement on my “History of Dexter”. Keep the e-mails coming, thanks!!
Contact Jim Wintle by email or call 207-924-7598.
|The Daily Me * 122 Number 10 Road * Dexter, Maine 04930 * 207.924.3067|