In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network


By 1800, Hampden’s population totaled 904, 100 more citizens than nearby Bangor. As Hampden’s growth continued, industry and business flourished. At the corner of Elm Street West and the Main Road, Crosby and Stetson built a large brick warehouse (Hampden Historical Society 1976). The building, known as “The Old Brick Store” was a landmark until it burned in 1915. Crosby’s Federalist style Grist Mill Store dates from 1809 (Thompson 1988) and was considered one of the finest buildings in the area.

The first paper mill in the northeast area was built along the Sowadabscook Stream in 1835 by John Crosby. It used no machinery; the paper was pressed in hand screens and stretched on poles to dry. Many Hampden women worked in the mill’s rag room. In 1840 another Hampden mill, the Norton Paper Mill, began operation using machinery to make paper on a continuous roll. The company went out of business in 1854 after the second fire in fourteen years. Seventy-one years passed before Hampden’s first fire department opened. Hampden boasts the first Masonic Lodge in the vicinity; organized under the name “Rising Virtue” and held at the home of Jesse Libby in October, 1802, but was moved to Bangor in 1808. Members of Hampden’s Grange are proud to state that it was the first in Maine. Another first is the piano that General Crosby is said to have brought to Hampden around 1800; the first piano in the Penobscot Valley. (History of Penobscot County Maine with illustrations and biographical sketches 1882)

During the great years of lumbering in Maine, most men in Hampden worked in mills and lumber companies rather than in the woods. The Stearns Lumber Company in East Hampden employed many Hampden men. From its modest beginnings in Brewer in 1836, the Stearns mill became one of the largest mills on the Hampden, Brewer, Orrington, section of the Penobscot River during the lumber boom of the 1850’s. In 1952 the most recent Stearns mill was built on the original site of the old mill in East Hampden where the business remains.

Hampden Academy, incorporated in 1803 was the first school of advanced learning in the area. It also served as the Bangor Theological Seminary until 1819 when Isaac Davenport gave the Seminary seven acres of land in Bangor. The first Academy building was a wooden structure rebuilt of brick after the first was destroyed by fire in 1843.

The Penobscot River was very important to Hampden during the 18th and 19th centuries providing resources and jobs. The schooner Dispatch built in 1793 is recorded as the first ship built in one of Hampden’s four shipyards. There are records of many ships built between 1793 and 1872, when the completion of the schooner Isabel marked the end of Hampden’s shipbuilding days except for a brief period at the beginning of World War I when Hampden’s shipbuilders were pressed into service to build the four mast schooner Katherine May. The Boston and Bangor Steamboat Company (1834-1935) serviced a steamboat wharf in Hampden and carried passengers and freight from town to town along the Penobscot from making trips to Boston when necessary. When the river froze and shipping halted, the ice was harvested by a Hampden company, Dirigo Ice Company and shipped to cities in the south to help aid in refrigeration.