Bethel, Maine

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Bethel is a town in Oxford County, Maine, United States. The population was 2,411 at the 2000 census. It includes the villages of West Bethel and South Bethel. The town is home to Gould Academy, a private preparatory school, and is near the Sunday River ski resort.



An Abenaki Indian village was once located on the north side of the Androscoggin River, but had been abandoned before its subsequent English settlement. In 1769, the township was granted as Sudbury-Canada by the Massachusetts General Court to Josiah Richardson of Sudbury, Massachusetts and others (or their heirs) for services at the Battle of Quebec in 1690. It was first settled in 1774 when Nathaniel Segar of Newton, Massachusetts started clearing the land.

The Revolutionary War, however, delayed many grantees from taking up their claims. Only 10 families resided at Sudbury-Canada when it was plundered on August 3, 1781 during the last Indian attack in Maine. Two inhabitants, Benjamin Clark and Nathaniel Segar, were abducted and held captive in Quebec until the war's conclusion, after which the community grew rapidly. On June 10, 1796, Sudbury-Canada Plantation was incorporated as Bethel, the name taken from the Book of Genesis and meaning "House of God." [1]

In 1802, a trade road (now Route 26) was completed from Portland to Errol, New Hampshire, passing through Bethel and bringing growth. More settlers and businesses arrived. Crops were planted on fertile intervales and meadows formerly cultivated by Indians. Bethel became one of the best farming towns in the state, especially for hay and potatoes. In winter, farmers found work logging, with the lumber cut at sawmills operated by water power from streams. Other manufacturers produced flour, leather and harnesses, furniture, boots and shoes, carriages, and marble and granite work. The Bethel House, a large hotel, was built in 1833.

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