Dover-Foxcroft will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary of the towns merging. After several unsuccessful attempts from 1916-1920, women got the right to vote, which proved a deciding factor. Vehicles pass over a bridge across the Piscataquis River, which once separated the towns. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

DOVER-FOXCROFT – It could never happen today.

A century ago this year, two Piscataquis County communities, bisected by a river with the same name, merged as one. The towns of Dover and Foxcroft even marked the occasion in 1922 with a mock wedding ceremony, held, ironically, at a former gentlemen’s club.

“Dover and Foxcroft, your intentions of a happy union have been properly regarded and show a laudable purpose, guided by such inspiration of the present and hope for the future, as could never exist without such a union,” said Harvey Williams, a local leader who officiated the wedding.

Today there are few remnants in this northern Maine town to remind visitors – or locals, for that matter – that it used to be two distinct communities. There are no plaques or monuments. There don’t appear to be any residual hard feelings or hints of rivalry passed down by generation.

“It really was a marriage of equals,” said Tom Lizotte, a town selectman and former Piscataquis County manager. “It’s not like one town was dying and needed to be absorbed. It was so practical, it even overcame the natural resistance to change.”

The hyphenated town – one of only a handful around the country (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, perhaps the best known) – will mark its centennial next Saturday with a parade, street festival and tours led by members of the historical society. The last major celebration of the merger was 25 years ago.


Denise Buzzelli, executive director of the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce in Dover-Foxcroft, moved to the area from New Jersey as an adult and is still learning about the history. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Denise Buzzelli, director of the Piscataquis County Chamber of Commerce, which has assisted on the planning, said it’s an opportunity for many townspeople, especially those who have arrived more recently or don’t have family ties, to learn a bit more about the history.

As someone who came to the area from New Jersey as an adult, she’s still learning, too. The successful vote in 1922 to merge came after five previous failed attempts and only happened because of a major societal shift two years earlier – the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote.

“You’ve got to have women to get things done,” Buzzelli said, laughing after learning that fact for the first time.

Still, Dover-Foxcroft remains the only example in Maine’s history where two towns have become one. Lewiston and Auburn have been flirting with the idea for decades. Others haven’t even bothered to discuss it, even though consolidating services would help address a major concern for many Mainers: property taxes.

Jody Arno, owner of The Raven’s Attic East, shows an old map of Dover and Foxcroft, depicting the towns in 1878. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Jody Arno, who grew up in town, then moved away only to return, owns an antique shop on East Main Street – the Dover side of the river. Some of the items tucked on her shelves date back to when the towns were separate. She’ll be helping with one of the floats for next weekend’s parade.

“I think things like this help preserve history and connect people to the past,” she said. “This is a way of life that’s not for everyone.”



Like many Maine municipalities, Dover-Foxcroft is transitioning away from its manufacturing past and trying to establish a new identity, one built around small business and outdoor tourism. Peaks-Kenny State Park (another hyphenate) and Sebec Lake are big draws. The town isn’t quite a beacon of economic prosperity, but it seems brighter and less rundown than other former mill towns.

“Dover’s saving grace was that it wasn’t dependent on one major industry the way some other mill towns were,” Lizotte said. “You didn’t have that paternalistic attitude of, well, the mill is going to take care of the town and the mill will provide leadership, so you don’t have to develop community leaders.”

The Mayo Mill, which provided wool and wood production for the town of Dover-Foxcroft for over 100 years, has now been redeveloped into apartments, business offices, an inn and a cafe. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A hundred years ago, though, two mills did dominate the town, with the river providing power to each – the Mayo & Sons mill on the Foxcroft side and the Browns Mill on the Dover side.

Each town incorporated in the early 1800s. Foxcroft was one of five towns conveyed by Massachusetts to Bowdoin College and bought from the college by a New Gloucester man. Dover also was purchased from Massachusetts by two Boston merchants, originally from England, who wanted to settle north.

That migration mirrors what has been happening in town more recently. People looking for a quieter and less costly lifestyle have moved in. The town’s population increased in 2020 for the first time in decades, at a time when many communities like it have had the opposite happen.


Arno said the stories she’s heard suggest Foxcroft was viewed as the more affluent community, pre-merger. It was slightly upriver, and the train tracks crossed there. That meant Dover was downriver and on the other side of the tracks.

Some of the families who gained wealth post-Civil War were looking for land to build big houses, and most of them were on the Foxcroft side because that’s where the land was.

Foxcroft warmed to the idea of merging first. Dover residents, especially farmers on the outskirts of town, were much more reluctant.

One of the biggest proponents of combining the two communities was Ora Evans, the publisher of the Piscataquis Observer.

“There was consistent support from the local newspaper back when the local newspaper mattered a great deal,” said Mary Annis, a longtime resident and president of the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society.

Still, there weren’t enough yes votes. In earlier meetings where the idea was discussed, often held at Central Hall in Dover, which has been beautifully restored, men dominated. They sat on the floor of the gathering space, while women had to remain in the balcony.


“Well, men are territorial of course,” Annis said.

That changed after the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920.

“At the first meeting to discuss the merger after that, the women said, ‘Men, let’s stop arguing and do this,’ ” Lizotte said.


The towns were roughly the same size, about 2,000 residents each. Today’s population of Dover-Foxcroft of 4,440 isn’t much different than it was a century ago.

There were no real growing pains from the merger, town historians agree.


One of the biggest complaints (at least among people from what used to be Foxcroft) was that they had to walk farther to the post office, because they didn’t need to keep two.

Another small matter that almost derailed the deal were allegations of embezzling by Judge Elias Hale, who had been the town treasurer for Foxcroft. Selectmen asked to review the books, but before they could, Hale shot himself in his office. The embezzlement claims were true and gave some Dover residents pause.

“Dover people, they didn’t want to be responsible for his swindling, you know,” Annis said.

Other than that, the merger was amicable.

Ralph Lewis, 79, a longtime firefighter for Dover-Foxcroft who is now retired, walks along East Main Street. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Even before it happened, the groundwork had been laid. The town didn’t need two separate water departments, so there was the Dover and Foxcroft water district. Same thing with the fire department.

Eventually, there was a recognition that the towns didn’t need separate high schools either. Dover’s closed, and Foxcroft Academy remained. That school will celebrate its bicentennial next year.


Even creating a name for the new town was uncontroversial.

“Just throw a hyphen in there, and everyone’s happy,” Lizotte said.

Many buildings in town existed pre-merger and have been mostly well-kept or restored. The Central Hall, the Thompson Free Library and the Observer building that housed the newspaper and is now a museum and home to the historical society. The former Mayo mill also has been partially restored.

Aside from this year’s centennial celebration, the biggest event in Dover-Foxcroft is the Whoopie Pie festival, held each June.

With such a controversy-free template at hand, it’s a wonder more towns didn’t follow Dover-Foxcroft’s lead. If you look at a map of Maine, Lizotte said, “How many twin communities stare at each other across a river.” Biddeford and Saco. Portland and South Portland. Brunswick and Topsham, Lewiston and Auburn, Waterville and Winslow, Bangor and Brewer.

“Those are just the big ones,” he said. “And none of them have ever merged.”


The more time passes, the more communities have distinct identities they don’t want to part with. That’s been the barrier in discussions about Lewiston merging with Auburn. And people don’t like change.

Vehicles pass through town on Main Street in Dover-Foxcroft. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Arno, the antique shop owner, said some people passing through remark that the town seems like it’s stuck in the 1950s.

“I think people like that, though,” she said. “They are proud of the town. They feel like the community takes care of you.”

That has changed a little in recent years with more people moving in from other places. Around town, not too many people seem stuck in the past.

It’s not limited to the younger generation, though.

Ralph Lewis, who’s 79 and worked for the town fire department for 50 years, said he doesn’t really remember hearing many stories about the time when Dover and Foxcroft were separate.

“If I did, I didn’t pay no attention,” he said, chuckling.

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