Town History (up to 1976)

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 area.

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 Montville.

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 pounds.

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 County.

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 or less.

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 more.

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.

Town Meetings
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.

Organizations in Freedom
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.

Florence Overlock
Viola Greeley
Lorraine Overlock
from Historical Scrapbook Freedom Maine 1794-1976 (Newly reprinted) See Freedom Historical Society

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