Welcome of Dexter Historical Society
In the last 30 years, with an almost entirely volunteer work force, the Dexter Historical Society has accomplished a phenomenal amount of work. They have found, collected, preserved, cataloged and displayed literally thousands of artifacts, photos, printed items and original documents pertaining to all facets of Dexter’s public and personal history.
Even before the society existed there were Dexter citizens concerned with her history to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for information, particularly lawyer Volney Sprague whose research and interviews with older citizens was the basis of much of the information in Senator Stanley Plummer’s history. Again we owe preservation and expansion of this history to Mary Hamilton and Annie Winslow Murphy. They also inventoried Elmwood and Mt. Pleasant cemeteries, raided town records and published many early family histories in years of weekly newspaper columns during the 1930’s.
The birth pangs of the current society began appropriately enough on July 4, 1962 when Frank Spizuoco was reading some Civil War letters in an old attic. As he told people about them he heard about other items of interest and soon had a personal collection. When seniors at Dexter High were looking for a project the next spring, Spizuoco suggested displaying his collection. Their exhibit at Reed’s Clothing Store was a success and continued under the sponsorship of the Jaycees in a couple of different vacant stores that fall and in 1964 and 65. The Eastern Gazette, the local newspaper, gave it considerable attention. This brought in many donations for which Spizuoco devised a cataloging system.
While steps were being taken to form an official diabetes society the idea of using the old S. L. Small Grist Mill, which had just closed its doors after over 150 years of operation, to house and display the collection was put forth by Gazette editor Russ Gerould. Town meeting in 1966 approved town takeover of the building and its use was arranged by the society which was formed May 1, 1966 with election of officers, Frank Spizuoco; president, Veth Hope; vice-president, Ruth Dudley; secretary, and Dean Thompson; treasurer and adoption of by-laws stating its purpose.
“a. To stimulate the collection and preservation of printed and manuscript material and artifacts, and objects of historical interest. To provide for accessibility to those items to all who wish to examine or study them.”
“b. To promote among the public a greater interest in and awareness of local history.”
Since the official opening of the Grist Mill Museum on July 8, 1967, it has been open every summer with the assistance of many volunteer hosts and hostesses and with frequent changes of exhibits. In the early years mystery photos and articles in the newspaper kept interest high. A fireproof vault was built inside the mill to provide safekeeping for the invaluable collection. Special efforts were made for the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 which included publishing Stanley Plummer’s history in book form and a special 52 page edition of the Gazette.