Town History (up to
The area known as Freedom, Maine, was first settled in
the latter part of 1794 by Stephen Smith. He was a great grandson of James Smith
of Bristol, England, and Martha Wells of Exeter, England, who came to America in
1668 to settle in Berwick, Maine. They were some of the first settlers of this
Born in Berwick in 1751, Stephen Smith was the son of Elizabeth and
Joshua Smith. As a young man he served under George Washington on the Hudson
River during the Revolutionary War. After leaving the war, he and his wife lived
with his father for a few years and worked in his father's mill. In the year of
1794, needing a home of his own, Stephen Smith followed the Sheepscot River up
towards its headwaters on a fishing trip in search of a mill location, bringing
him up into what is now the town of Montville. The Smith family records describe
the location of the log cabin he built in the fall of 1794 located in Freedom on
the west side of Sheepscot River.
This settlement was called Smithton
Plantation, and it retained this name until October 31, 1812. At this time it
was changed to Beaverhill Plantation.
Around the early 1800's, Stephen
Smith built a sawmill and the first frame house in the Town of Freedom. This
house property, located south of the Smithton Burying Grounds where the Thurston
farmhouse is located, is now owned by Russell Mead.
Some of the early
records of Smithton have been lost, but records show that Solomon Metcalf was
Smithton's Plantation Clerk in 1811.
This town was surveyed and the
original plan drawn by Bradstreet Wiggins, a sworn surveyor of land, April 27,
1810. The greater part of this township is in the Plymouth Purchase, as will be
seen by a look at the original plan, the dotted line being the dividing line
between the Plymouth Purchase and the Nelson Tract. This land in the Plymouth
Purchase south of the dotted line was owned by the fifty Kennebec proprietors,
but subsequently fell into the hands of Ruel Williams of Augusta and Robert
Hallowell Gardner, Gardiner, Maine, from whom the settlers obtained the title of
their farms. This portion of land in the Nelson Tract, lying north of the dotted
line, fell into the hands of Winthrop and Lloid, from whom these early settlers
received the title of their land.
At this time the township lay in three
counties, Kennebec, Lincoln and Somerset, though principally in Kennebec County.
The Ballard line is the dividing line between the Plymouth Purchase and the
Muskongus Patent upon which the dividing line between this township and
Montville was established.
Where Freedom Village now is, in 1809 became
known as Hussey's Mills, that being the first mill built in this town. A few
families had previously settled and it soon became a small village. Originally,
the town line of Montville extended through the village, crossing the stream and
cornering Unity, Freedom and Knox at the same stone post, as will be seen by
another look at the original plan. The town line of Freedom and Montville
divided the village.
The scholars on the west side of the stream attended
school in Freedom, and those living on the east side attended school in North
In 1834 Knox took a piece off of Montville from the northwest,
adjoining Freedom line. John True moved from South Montville and built the old
gristmill at this village. He did not like the village being divided by the
towns. In 1836, Mr. True drew up a petition asking the legislature to set off
that part of the village lying on the east side of.the stream from Montville and
annex it to Freedom. Montville prepared for a fight in the legislature, but
finally the two towns agreed to a settlement among themselves. Montville agreed
to give up that part of the village in exchange for,a piece of land known as
Goosepecker Ridge, as will be seen by a look at the present plan of the town.
This part of the town set off from Montville, being the.eastern part of the
village, is a part of the Muscongus patent which was granted to Beauchamp and
Leverett in 1629 by the king of England and became the Twenty.Associate
Proprietors' land, which fell into the hands of Joseph H. Pierce of Boston, from
whom the early settlers obtained the title of their estate. The early settlers
of Freedom had a great deal of trouble with the proprietors, as they had settled
these lands without permission.
On October 31, 1812, the first recorded
town meeting was held at Gideon Robinson's dwelling house. At this time the
settlement became known as Beaverhill Plantation. The meeting was called to
order by Solomon Metcalf. The following officials were elected: Moderator, John
Cummings; Clerk, John Robinson; 1st Assayer, John Brown, 2nd Assayer, John
Sinclair; 3rd Assayer, Hathorn Chase; Collector of Taxes, Edward Gould;
Bondsmen, William Libby and John Cummings.
The second plantation meeting,
held only a short time after the first on November 1, 1812, was again at the
same house. At this meeting the officials voted for the electors who would in
turn vote in the presidential election of 1812. The following qualifications
were necessary for voting: 1. Male, 2. Twenty-one years of age, 3. One-year
resident of Beaver Plantation, 4. Annual income 3 pounds or estate valued at 60
It is interesting to note the money raised at this town meeting:
$40 appropriated for road committee, $160 for schools, overall layout of roads
$1,000 at the rate of one dollar per day. The plantation voted to divide into
school and highway districts.
Some of the early laws: "Hogs should not
run at large," "All important plantation officials should be paid one dollar a
day for services."
In 1813, Beaverhill Plantation was changed to Freedom.
As this was during the War of 1812, the name Freedom was of political
significance. At this time Maine was a part of Massachusetts. In 1820, because
of the Missouri Compromise, Maine gained statehood, thus making Freedom a Maine
town. Freedom was set off from Kennebec County in 1827 to form a part of Waldo
In the nineteenth century, Freedom was far more populous than
today. The population of Freedom in 1850 was 940. Today's population is 400 more
Early businesses - flour, corn, saw mill for long lumber,
shingle, carding, clothing and woolen and a grist mill. Later a tannery, Dry
goods store, general store, barber shop, 2 blacksmith shops, and a shoe shop. A
doctor and a dentist also practiced here. At present none are here. Deacon Dodge
constructed the Village Congregational Church and this was built in the mid
1850's. It's still standing.
The town possessed a Grand Army of the
Republic Hall. Norman Elliott's house stands where this building once stood. The
cannon that sat on the lawn was scrapped for metal during World War II. The town
sported a Grange Hall which took up the pleasure time of many farmer families.
Dirigo Grange No. 98 still is active, with membership of 75 or
Wooden sidewalks were popular in the late 1800's and throughout the
mid 1900's. One such sidewalk in Freedom was constructed with the width of two
hemlock planks. At one time there were three hotels in Freedom - Freedom
Lakewood, Hotel Maine and the Bellows House. Freedom Academy, for years the only
secondary school in the area, was established in 1836.
Some of the early
elementary schools located in Freedom were Sodom, Davis, Barlow, Penney, Wanning
or Glidden, Smithton, Tripp, Sibley, and, at the G.A.R. Hall. Later the new
South Freedom (Taylor) and the Village school came into existence thereby
eliminating the others.
The first town meetings
were held in private homes until around the mid-1800's, when records show that
town meetings were being held at the Schoolhouse near William Sibley's. At a
town meeting in 1817, an article to build a town house was passed over and town
meetings continued in the Sibley School. In April 1844, the town voted to buy
the schoolhouse to use as a town house. In 1854 it was sold at the first meeting
in the new town house at auction for $5.
It was voted in 1858 to build a
new town house near Nathan Danforth Corner. This new town house was to be 30
feet wide and 34 feet long. It is possible that this is the old town house
located about one-half mile off Route 137 toward Palermo. The last town meeting
held here was in 1945. Town meetings are now held at Dirigo Grange Hall. State
and federal elections are held at the Freedom Town Office. This town house has
been converted into a garage.
Temperance Club, Tuesday Club, Knights of Pythias, Men's Club,
Ladies Circle, Dirigo Grange, Ladies Auxiliary, Farm Bureau Extension, Volunteer
Fire Department, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies, and the Jaycees.
The last nine organizations are still active.
from Historical Scrapbook
Freedom Maine 1794-1976 (Newly reprinted) Go to Freedom Community Historical Society.