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A Brief History of Pittsfield, Maine

More about Pittsfield's history can be found at the Pittsfield Public Library history collection. and at the Town of Pittsfield website's history page.

Pittsfield's first settler, Lovell Fairbrother, came from Norridgewock in 1775, stayed only briefly, finding the wilderness area not to his liking. He transferred his rights to Moses Martin after only two years. Moses and Anna Martin and their four children built a log cabin in 1794; in 1818 they built the first frame house in the area, on the current lower Peltoma Avenue.

In 1800, a saw mill was built on the Sebasticook River on the site that is now the Edwards Company (EST), by William Bradford and Mr. Wyman of Vassalboro.

A settlement was established in the Sibley Pond area of western Pittsfield in the early 1800's; John Webb built a home on the Snakeroot Road where the first fourteen town meetings were held. Families of Parks, Powers and Weymouth soon settled in Pittsfield, then called Plymouth Gore.

Another prominent family in the new town was Jesse Connors who arrived in 1814. He built the first store and purchased the lumber mill from Mr. Bradford. Mr. Connors' son, Jesse, was a central business figure in the area.

The Colonel William Lancey family bought property at the corner of Easy and Main Streets and became licensed as innkeepers. Members of the family later built the well-known Lancey House which welcomed guests from all over the world.

On June 19, 1819 Plymouth Gore became Warsaw Plantation; in 1824 it was renamed Pittsfield to recognize Mr. William Pitts, a large land owner from Belgrade.

Going Hathorn came to Pittsfield in 1832, and seeing the potential of a woolen mill on the Sebasticook River, bought the lumber mill from Jesse Connors, installed a new granite dam and opened a one set woolen mill. Mr. Hathorn made his presence known as a "force to be reckoned with."

Maine Central Institute (MCI), whom Elder Weymouth was instrumental in founding, opened its doors in 1866, and shortly after the Lancey House was built. The name "Lancey House" became synonymous with gracious living in a home away from home. In 1882, the first village newspaper came off the press, and the stately Union Hall was built the next year. A grand-opening ball saw special trains bringing more than 800 guests to the event of the century.

By the late 1800's, Colonel Morrill had opened the Pittsfield Driving Park and was the first to feature races for women! Water works had been installed and there were 30 bicycles in town, proving to be a nuisance on the sidewalks.

The building of the Public Library with assistance of Andrew Carnegie funds, the opening of the first hospital on outer North Main Street and the creation of Hathorn Park were the activities at the turn of the century.

It was a blue year for residents as the woolen mills closed in 1934. Distraught townspeople saw property that was valued at as much as $10,000 being sold for $600 as families moved away from the area.

Stepping up from the '30's depression the 1940's proved to be a fast-paced era. The Kiwanis was organized, the municipal airport created and the U.S. Navy sent cadets to MCI and the airport for CAA war training service. Medwed Shoe Company opened the former Waverly Woolen Mills with 450 employees, making them the largest single employer in the community. Pittsfield Woolen Yarns opened and construction began on Manson Park. In Peltoma Acres, 48 homes were constructed in a year's time!

During the 1950's, Edwards Company opened shop at the site of Bradford and Wyman's saw mill, the Manson Park School and Vickery Schools were built and the swimming pool opened. President Dwight Eisenhower visited in 1955!

The new and modern Sebasticook Valley Hospital on Grove Hill highlighted the 1960's with the end of an era coming to a close with the burning of the famed Lancey House in 1968.

During the following years, after voting for a Town Manager form of government years earlier in 1935 Pittsfield reverted to a town council, the renovation of Main Street took place and a new shopping center was created along with new industries and new faces.

More than 180 years later, the little town on the shores of the Sebasticook River is both vastly changed and invariably the same. Sure, the friendly village of Pittsfield boasts modern conveniences, a school system to be envied, a refurbished hospital, municipal airport, community theatre, nursing and boarding homes for the elderly and recreational facilities including swimming pool, a beginners' ski slope, bowling alley, golf course, basketballs courts and children's playgrounds. Three beautifully manicured parks feature picnic areas, nature trails, a tennis court and playing fields.

This amicable town boasts of the annual Central Maine Egg Festival each July. An attraction that draws nearly 25,000 people a year, the Egg Festival honors the many Brown Egg producers in Central Maine since its beginning in 1973.

There are churches of many denominations and varied civic, fraternal and social organizations.

Industries include C.M. Almy, Cianbro, Edwards Company, Hancock Lumber, Maine Fence Company, San Antonio Shoe, and Sonoco Products.

But take a slow drive down South Main Street in December and relish in the festive lights and decorative display of the season on vintage homes; view the imposing Founder's Hall across snowscaped Boutelle Savage lawn at MCI; or drive Somerset Avenue in the early summer evening and notice couples out for stroll, watch the sunlight play across the treelined streets and landscaped lawns. Experience a youth league baseball game at Hathorn Park in summer, an open air concert at the Gazebo, the annual Street Dance during the Egg Festival or the homecoming football game in the fall. Stop at any local eatery or corner variety store and take it in - there's a powerful, hometown feel to Pittsfield the first settlers knew that still embodies Pittsfield today.

We invite you to visit Pittsfield in any season and realize what we already know . . . it's distinctive, personal, familiar and comfortable. Pittsfield's history holds it all, and we hope to capture a part of that in our historic collections and displays at the Depot House Museum.

Here is a map of Pittsfield from 1926.

Original Version: 19-Nov-05.

Entire website and contents ©Pittsfield Historical Society 2001-2015.
Website design by Snakeroot DataGraphics
In the interest of Pittsfield.
File name: BriefHistPitts.shtml
Version: Wednesday 23 December, 2009