Newfield, one of the smallest towns in both area and population, is bordered by Parsonsfield, Limerick, Acton, Shapleigh and New Hampshire state line.
The area was part of the five “Ossipee Towns” contained in a tract of land bounded by the Great and Little Ossipee Rivers and the Saco River. These Ossipee Towns were sold in 1668 to Francis Small of Kittery by the Indian Captain Sunday for the price of two Indian blankets, two gallons of rum, two pounds of powder, four pounds of musket balls, and twenty strings of beads. In 1711, an undivided interest of the land was transferred to Small’s son. In 1710, Small’s heirs were assigned the land included between the Ossipee Rivers except for Parsonsfield and one half of Limerick.
The town, according to a 1778 survey, included 14,583 acres and was called Washington Plantation. This was enlarged by an annexation of 600-800 acres in 1846 by the Town of Shapleigh.
Settlers began coming to the areas, mainly to farm. Nathaniel Doe came in the year 1777. In the same year Zebulon Libby and Paul MacDonald cleared land and sowed crops of winter rye, returning to Washington Plantation to settle with their families. Mary Libby, Zebulon’s daughter, was the first white child born in the settlement.
The community’s first minister, Reverend John Adams, arrived by oxcart from Durham, New Hampshire in 1780. He established the first Congregational church in town, without a meeting house. Adams Pond, now called Rock Haven Pond, was originally named for him.
During the American Revolution and the War of 1812, guards or pickets were stationed on the high hill overlooking the present Newfield village. Therefore, that is how Picket Mountain acquired its name. Many of Newfield’s early settlers came here from their service in the American Revolution to establish farms. These early settlers came from towns In Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Elisha Ayer, born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, had moved in his early years to Saco, which was then called Pepporellborough. He at one time owned all of Cutts or Factory Island. Moving to Newfield in 1790, he was the principal proprietor of Washington Plantation. Washington Plantation was growing, and the first village school was established in 1791 and taught by a Baptist minister, Reverend Shubael Tripp.
Besides farming, logging was also an early means of livelihood. Since 1879 the old Moulton Mill has been located in the center of Newfield where Routes 11 and 110 meet. This was at one time an ‘up and down” sawmill. The Moulton family has owned the business since 1879 when they bought it from David Ubby. Today the lumber yard is located across the road, slightly to the north of the original site. On February 26, 1794, Washington Plantation was incorporated as the Town of Newfield by an act of the Massachusetts legislature, the first town election was held less than six weeks later at the home of Nathaniel B. Doe.
Newfield experienced its greatest prosperity during the middle and late 19th centuries. The Little Ossipee River provided a continuous and abundant source of waterpower and a series of waterfalls that provided excellent sites for mills. In the 1850’s, Newfield village, on the Little Ossipee River, had a sawmill, shingle mill, planking mill, threshing milling. carding mill, and two grist mills, as well as four carriage factories. Logging and lumbering were important to supply a number of other growing businesses. A foundry operated by Jeremiah Emery produced plows and all kinds or tools from cast iron. From the site of the foundry, a short road connected Route 11 to Bridge Street. This road was lined with shops and called “Ram Cat Alley”. There were also busy retail establishments.
Along the Little Ossipee River, at the NewfieId·Shapleigh town line, there were several sawmills, an iron furnace, a woolen mill and a paper and board factory. Mining also had some importance and had been started as early as 1792. Silver and iron both were mined by the Washing Mining Company for a short period of time. Later, in the 1830’s, 3,000 pounds of iron were being mined daily and sent to Boston. The coming of the Industrial Revolution and assembly means of production, however, caused a decline in Newfield and many businesses closed or were sold.
Many Newfield establishments catered to summer tourists In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Among these were Mirror Lake Farm, Shady Nook Farm, and the Maples, also known as Ossipee River House. Guests came from Boston and other cities for a healthful vacation in the country at reasonable rates. Fun was available at the Ramshackle Park across Route 11 from Rock Haven, where horses were raced around a half-mile track. The park opened in 1887 and operated for about a dozen years.
The great fire of 1947 devastated the Town of Newfield Sixty percent of the town’s evaluation and eighty percent of its land area was lost In flames. Two men died. The Town Hall and all town records were lost as well as the West Newfield Grade School, the Ethan Stone School, which served as the high school, the Methodist Church, and the Post Office. Many old and beautiful farms were destroyed. More than forty permanent residential homes were lost. Many people lost all that they had worked their entire lives to build. Some moved on to begin again elsewhere, others rebuilt. But Newfield would never be the same. Newfield today is the home of Willowbrook, a restored Victorian era village which features the Amos Straw General Store, a carriage house containing sleds, sleighs, a horse drawn hearse, and milk wagons. and several houses restored with authentic furniture. Visitors here are introduced to the many trades which flourished here and in other villages prior to the Industrial Revolution and given a glimpse of daily life in a time now past. This remarkable restoration was begun in 1967 by Mr. and Mrs. Donald F. King and is open to the public.
The Vernon Walker Wildlife Management Areas, founded in 1975, consists of 3,497 acres, 2,154 of which are in Newfield Maine Fish and Wildlife Magazine noted, Newfield will serve as a demonstration area for various wildlife management practices which might be of interest to other landowners and will provide recreational opportunities for sportsmen and non-sportsmen alike.