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Dexter, Maine
Main Street in 1909
Main Street in 1909
Dexter, Maine is located in Maine
Dexter, Maine
Dexter, Maine
Location in Maine
Country United States
State Maine
County Penobscot
Incorporated 1816
 • Total 37.16 sq mi (96.24 km2)
 • Land 35.13 sq mi (90.99 km2)
 • Water 2.03 sq mi (5.26 km2)
509 ft (155 m)
 • Total 3,803
 • Density 108/sq mi (41.8/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 207
FIPS code 23-17530
GNIS feature ID 0582442

Dexter is a town in Penobscot County, Maine, United States. The population was 3,803 at the 2020 census. It is part of the Bangor metropolitan statistical area. Dexter Regional High School, which serves Dexter as well as other nearby small towns, is located in the town.


Dexter was settled beginning in 1801 by Ebenezer Small, David Smith, and others from New Hampshire, and was originally called Elkinstown. When incorporated as a town in 1816, it named itself after Judge Samuel Dexter, who was then running for governor of Massachusetts (of which Maine was still a part). The town of Brooks in nearby Waldo County was incorporated the same year and named for the opposing candidate, John Brooks. Brooks won the election. The town of Dexter, however, achieved the greater prosperity.

The town grew because of its location on the East Branch of the Sebasticook River, which provided excellent water power for mills. In 1818, Jonathan Farrar constructed a grist mill at the falls. The Dexter Historical Society today uses the building which replaced it in 1854 as part of its museum complex. The stream would also power five woolen mills, the oldest and largest of which was established by Amos and Jeremiah Abbott in 1836. Amos Abbott & Company, which closed in 1975, was the only textile mill in the United States owned by one family for such a long period. In the 1960s, the town's name became familiar throughout New England because of the pervasive log cabin style factory outlets of the Dexter Shoe Company, founded in a vacant Dexter woolen mill in 1958 by Harold Alfond.

Dexter's downtown is dominated by the Memorial Building, designed by John Morrison. At its top is the community's largest clock, named Nancy after the architect's wife. The tallest building in town is the Unitarian Universalist Church. It is also Dexter's oldest house of worship, built in 1826, but given a new steeple and vestibule by Boston architect Thomas W. Silloway in 1869. Five buildings in Dexter are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Dexter Grist Mill; Universalist Church; Abbott Memorial Library by Boston architect J. Williams Beal; the Bank Block by Bangor architect George W. Orff; and "Zion's Hill", the Ralph Owen Brewster house by Portland architectural firm J. C. & J. H. Stevens.

In 1848, the town was struck by a tornado which tore large trees out by their roots and destroyed even the strongest buildings.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 37.16 square miles (96.24 km2), of which, 35.13 square miles (90.99 km2) of it is land and 2.03 square miles (5.26 km2) is water. Dexter is drained by the East Branch of the Sebasticook River, which flows from Lake Wassookeag and is part of the Kennebec River watershed.

Dexter is almost exactly half-way between Bangor and Waterville. It is also almost exactly half-way between the geographic north pole and the equator.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 461
1830 885 92.0%
1840 1,464 65.4%
1850 1,948 33.1%
1860 2,363 21.3%
1870 2,875 21.7%
1880 2,563 −10.9%
1890 2,732 6.6%
1900 2,941 7.7%
1910 3,530 20.0%
1920 4,113 16.5%
1930 4,063 −1.2%
1940 3,714 −8.6%
1950 4,126 11.1%
1960 3,951 −4.2%
1970 3,725 −5.7%
1980 4,286 15.1%
1990 4,419 3.1%
2000 3,890 −12.0%
2010 3,895 0.1%
2020 3,803 −2.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 3,895 people, 1,651 households, and 1,064 families living in the town. The population density was 110.9 inhabitants per square mile (42.8/km2). There were 2,141 housing units at an average density of 60.9 per square mile (23.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.2% White, 0.3% African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.5% Asian, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.1% of the population.

There were 1,651 households, of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.9% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.6% were non-families. 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.77.

The median age in the town was 44.8 years. 21.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 21.6% were from 25 to 44; 31.3% were from 45 to 64; and 18.5% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 48.0% male and 52.0% female.

Sites of interest

  • Abbott Museum (1836)
  • Grist Mill Museum (1854)
  • Miller's House (1825)
  • Carr Schoolhouse (1845)


Part of the downtown section of the town is referenced on the cover of the Stephen King novel Needful Things. It can also be glimpsed during the "Hitchhiker" story of Creepshow 2, as can nearby Dover-Foxcroft.

Notable people

  • Justin Alfond, state senator
  • James E. Bailey, recipient of the Medal of Honor
  • Ralph Owen Brewster, senator and 54th governor of Maine
  • William E. Brewster, banker, merchant, and politician
  • Jeff Coffin, saxophonist for Dave Matthews Band and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones
  • Harold J. Crosby, musician, march composer
  • Lysander Cutler, businessman, educator, politician and major-general
  • Frances Lewis Brackett Damon (1857–1939), poet, writer
  • Holman Day, editor and novelist
  • Sterling Hayden, film actor, novelist
  • Patricia Millett, judge on the D.C. Circuit
  • Frederick Freeman Proctor, vaudeville impresario
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