October 23, 2017
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County histories often a helpful resource on Maine towns, families

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Born in Dover-Foxcroft, raised in Sangerville and Abbot, I certainly identify with Piscataquis County even though I’ve lived two-thirds of my life in the Bangor area.

Of course I have a strong connection to Penobscot County, too, and not just by residence. Great-great-great-grandparents Alfred Hart and Olive Nason married in 1859 in East Corinth, and they raised their family — including my great-great-grandmother Hattie Hart Roberts — in Dexter.

I have one of those wonderful old, dilapidated 1882 copies of “History of Penobscot County, Maine with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches.” In addition to a sizable section devoted to the Annals of Bangor, the book contains smaller sketches devoted to towns, writings which vary widely.

A county history in many cases is like a collection of town and city histories, brief though they may be. I have a few books on Dexter, but also appreciate the six pages of Dexter history in the Penobscot County volume.

Surveyed in 1772, Dexter was settled about 1801, so my English-born Alfred Hart was certainly not among the early settlers. Originally called Elkinstown, it became Dexter upon incorporation in 1816. Early settlers were Ebenezer Small, an Elkins, Joseph Treker, Seba French, William Mitchell, Simeon Stafford, John Stafford and the Shepley, Smith and Maxwell families.

Noted residents included Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler, who came from Massachusetts, served in Wisconsin and was a commander in the Army of the Potomac at Bull Run and Gettysburg.

Biographical notes consist of one plump paragraph each about several residents and/or settlers, often including info about where they came from. These include:
– Job Abbott, superintendent and half-owner of the woolen mill, born 1827 in Dexter, son of Jeremiah Abbott of Andover, Mass., and wife Lucy Safford, daughter of John Safford.
– Milton L. Abbott, partner in Abbott Woolen Mill, son of Pascal and Hannah (Foster) Abbott. Pascal was a woolen manufacturer in Andover, Mass., and a brother to Jeremiah, Amos and Joshua Abbott.
– Dr. G.B. Clough, born in Readfield, son of Jacob and Hannah (Bartlett) Clough, grandson of Jabez Clough of New Hampshire. Clough studied medicine with Dr. Hills of Augusta.
– Nathaniel Dustin, born 1814 in Bradford, Vt., son of Nathaniel and Jerusha (Murch) Dustin of Haverhill, Mass., Vermont and New Hampshire. The Dustins were descendants of Hannah Dustin. Nathaniel the son was proprietor of a foundry, machine shop and hardware store.
– William Eaton, clothier and merchant, born 1802 in Weare, N.H.
– George Hamilton, treasurer of Dexter Savings Bank and legislator, born 1824 in Dexter, son of immigrants Robert and Mary (Semple) Hamilton of Ireland. Several of the Hamiltons’ 10 children were living in Minnesota by 1880.
– Loring D. Hayes, born in New Hampshire to John and Martha (Fifield) Hayes, early settler of Garland, farmer, dry goods and grocery businessman, legislator, owned Exchange Hotel.
– Joseph M. Hazeltine, farmer, soldier in the War of 1812, born 1792, in New Portland, N.H., to William and Hannah (Sturtevant) Hazeltine.
– Menzies F. Herring, editor and publisher of the Dexter Gazette, born 1857, son of John R. and Julia A. (Parshley) Herring.
– Col. Walter G. Morrill, proprietor of Merchants’ Exchange Hotel, born 1840 in Williamsburg, son of Aaron H. Morrill of Sebec, grandson of Peter Morrill. He enlisted in the 6th Maine Regiment and opened Highland Slate Quarry in 1868 in Brownville.
– Charles W. Morse, marble cutter, native of Wareham, Mass., son of Zebulon and Elizabeth (Weeks) Morse. He learned to cut marble in Mohawk, N.Y., worked in the business in Augusta, Bradford and Dexter.
– Stanley Adelbert Plummer, born 1846 in Dexter.
– Nathan F. Roberts, born in 1825 in Sumner, son of Amos and Christiana (Ryerson) Roberts of Buckfield. Nathan made and sold boots and shoes.
– Arthur B. Safford, born in Dexter, son of Simeon and Sarah (Washburn) Safford, grandson of Simeon Safford of New Hampshire.
– Henry L. Wood, postmaster, born 1832 in Yorkshire, England, son of woolen manufacturer James and Betty Wood. Henry moved to Dexter in 1858 after being in the woolen business in Massachusetts, and was a member of Co. E, 22nd Maine Volunteers.

Yes, women were woefully overlooked in histories of the time, but there are many clues to maternal lines with references to wives and daughters. There is also town information to be found in the military section.

What really impresses me in this brief description of Dexter is the many links to other towns and states, not to mention England and Ireland.

What clue might a county history yield in your family searches?

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.