Dexter is a town in Penobscot County, Maine, United States. The population was 3,895 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Bangor metropolitan statistical area. Dexter Regional High School, which serves Dexter as well as other nearby small towns, is located in the town.
Dexter was settled beginning in 1801 by Ebenezer Small, David Smith, and others from New Hampshire, and was originally called Elkinstown. When incorporated as a town in 1816, it named itself after Judge Samuel Dexter, who was then running for governor of Massachusetts (of which Maine was still a part). The town of Brooks in nearby Waldo County was incorporated the same year and named for the opposing candidate, John Brooks. Brooks won the election. The town of Dexter, however, achieved the greater prosperity.
The town grew because of its location on the East Branch of the Sebasticook River, which provided excellent water power for mills. In 1818, Jonathan Farrar constructed a grist mill at the falls. The Dexter Historical Society today uses the building which replaced it in 1854 as part of its museum complex. The stream would also power five woolen mills, the oldest and largest of which was established by Amos and Jeremiah Abbott in 1836. Amos Abbott & Company, which closed in 1975, was the only textile mill in the United States owned by one family for such a long period. In the 1960s, the town's name became familiar throughout New England because of the pervasive log cabin style factory outlets of the Dexter Shoe Company, founded in a vacant Dexter woolen mill in 1958 by Harold Alfond.
Dexter's downtown is dominated by the Memorial Building, designed by John Morrison. At its top is the community's largest clock, named Nancy after the architect's wife. The tallest building in town is the Unitarian Universalist Church. It is also Dexter's oldest house of worship, built in 1826, but given a new steeple and vestibule by Boston architect Thomas W. Silloway in 1869. Five buildings in Dexter are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Grist Mill; Universalist Church; Abbott Memorial Library by Boston architect J. William Beal; the Bank Block by Bangor architect George W. Orff; and "Zion's Hill", the Ralph Owen Brewster house by Portland architectural firm Stevens & Stevens.
In 1848, the town was struck by a tornado which tore large trees out by their roots and destroyed even the strongest buildings.