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HISTORY OF EARLY DEXTER - PART II

Submitted BY JAMES WINTLE

History of Dexter was origionally written by Honorable Stanley Plummer

"DEXTER'S EARLY PIONEERS"
In the following account, direct quotes from Stanley Plummerís book of "The History of Dexter" are in quotation marks.
The rest are this writers comments.

Plummerís History of Dexter had this to say about the first settlers: "To all these settlers their lots came in their original wild state, or only slightly improved; and we of this generation can never fully realize what a long, hard task it was to convert them into pleasant farms suitable for mowing, tillage, and pasturage, and to build houses for their families, and barns for their stock. Nearly everything was home-made. The housewives carded, spun, and wove the cloth for their winter wear, usually of blue-and-white striped frocking, which they wore with knit leggings and cow-hide boots. Stoves were unknown, and all the warming and cooking were done by fireplaces and brick ovens. Pine knots and tallow candles were used for the purpose of lighting, and the flint and steel and tinder-boxes for kindling fires. There were no carpets, sofas, nor mattresses. Feather beds and pillows were luxuries and family heirlooms. Platters and bowls were of pewter, and ordinary culinary and eating vessels of wood and iron. Thin, transparent sheepskins were often used for windows, in lieu of glass."

The Tuckers and The Bements: In 1800, John Tucker struggled his way from Kittery, Maine to the wilds of Dexter to clear his lot on the south side of the road over Zionís Hill to Ripley. He cleared some land and roughly completed his cabin, then went back to Kittery. In 1802, he brought his family back to the township of Dexter and moved into his cabin.

The Dexter History says that: "John Tucker was born in Kittery, Maine, on Feb. 8, 1761, and died in Dexter in 1847. His body is buried in the field between his residence and that of the late Obed Foss, where other of the early settlers who died before a public burying ground was provided are also buried. Near his lowly grave are also the graves of Phoebe, his daughter of sixteen years, who died December 16, 1804, and the two children of his next neighbor, Ebenezer Small, Daniel aged six years and Joseph, aged four years, who both died December 19, 1804. The deaths of these three young people, the first that occurred in the township, coming as they did, all within three days, made a profound impression upon the little community."

Bement Hill Walter Bement came to Dexter from Great Barrington, Ma. in May, 1824 and purchased the farm southwest of Dexter, from Joshua Berry. Mr. Berry was a well known fiddler in and around the vicinity. He lived out his life on this farm, dying in 1846 at the age of sixty-one. This farm is now owned by Galen and Gayanne Wintle. They purchased it from Galenís parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Wintle, who now lives just above the farm towards Ripley on top of the hill. This writer, James Wintle, bought the farm in 1959 from Harold Hall and vividly remembers the thirty or more magnificent elm trees that lined both sides of the road.

Joshua Berry deserves the credit for planting the trees that he dug up in the woods in back of the farm. Today, there is not one of the trees left as they were taken down and destroyed through the years because of elm-disease.

This beautiful set of buildings commanding one of the best views in the town of Dexter has seen itís share of occupations. At first, it was a dwelling for one of the early settlers, and it is possible that Walter Bement was a small farmer. As the years went by the homestead became a large dairy farm, a potato farm and a poultry farm which was owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. James Wintle.

The large hip-roofed barn built in 1918 was torn down, as was the small hip-roofed potato barn on the upper side of the main house. In 1962 the Wintles had a three-hundred foot cage-layer house built to house 25,000 laying hens. After thirteen years, the Wintles retired from the poultry business and sold to Galen and Gayanne Wintle, son and daughter-in-law. They continued on in the poultry business a few years , then converted the barn into a leather shop and storage for automobiles, snowmobiles, boats and furniture. A leather shop, Maine-ly Shield Wallets on the first floor owned by Frankie and Jeri Wintle. Townview Moccasin Shop owned by Galen and Gayanne Wintle.

Another early settler, Seba French, a young man of twenty-eight years, left his home town of Washington, N.H. bringing his wife and infant daughter as far as Greene, Me. where he left them and continued on to Lot 13, Range 4, about sixty rods northwest of Carrís Corner. He burned off ten acres and built a log house, partially covered it with hemlock bark and then went back to Greene to spend the winter with his family.

Mr. Plummer added: "In the early spring of 1803, he made his way with his family over the rough roads and through deep snows as far as the residence of John Tucker, where, footsore and weary, he rested for three days before going forward to the cabin, about two miles further east, which he had erected the preceeding summer. His was the third family to move into the township, and he became in due time one of the most useful and influential men, not only in the township, but in the country in which he thenceforth resided until his death on May 18, 1842 at the age of sixty-nine years."

Seba French was a man of many accomplishments. In 1816, he was appointed Justice of the Peace for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, being ever after known as "Squire FrenchĒ, and, when Maine became a state, he was appointed Judge of the Court of Session for Penobscot County, which office he held until it was abolished in 1881, and the Court of the County Commissioners established in its stead.

He served as selectman for many years for the Town of Dexter. He was chosen to vote for the first Legislature of the state of Maine and received fifty-seven votes to fifteen his opponent, Cornelius Cooledge. He was chairman of these committees, building the floatbridge and building the Townhouse. In 1832, he was the Whig nominee for State Senator but was defeated. Deba French was one of the founders of the Universalist Society of Dexter and attended services until his death. He was an agent for the sale of lands in the township and received power-of attorney for execution of deeds.

More about Seba French by the Honorable Stanley Plummer: "He lived in the original cabin until 1806, when the road from Dexter to Garland having been moved from the line to the lots of Range 4 and those of Range 5, and laid out on the present location, he built a frame house on it.Ē (This is the same house that is now owned by Ruby Towle. It still stands, but was badly gutted by a fire in December of 1997.)

As it is stated in the History of Dexter on one of the oldest houses in Dexter: "Said house is the old one part of the commodious house of the late A.L.Barton, and is, I believe, the oldest house now standing in town. That Mr. French was popular with his neighbors is shown by the fact that at least four of them named children for him. The children thus named were Seba F. Weatherbee, Seba F. Chase, Seba F. Leighton and Seba F. Jumper."

Cornelius Coolidge arrived in the township of Dexter in 1803, coming from Livermore, Maine. He settled his family on lots number 12 and 13, Range 6. Mr. Coolidge was listed as a successful farmer on a large scale and also a fairminded individual. After the cold season of 1816-17, he furnished seed to settlers in his own and neighboring towns without raising the price above the going rate. He was one of the first Board of Selectmen, Justice of the Peace for many years and he was a member of the Whig Party . Cornelius Coolidge was born September 30, 1776 and died September 4, 1843.

Contact Jim Wintle by email or call 207-924-7598.

The Daily Me * 122 Number 10 Road * Dexter, Maine 04930 * 207.924.3067


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