Historical Society

The Shirley Historical Society (SHS) home is in the room behind the library in the town office building (previously the school). The collection is spread out between the library and SHS room. We appreciate and thank all who have donated items, pictures, and information to make the Historical Society a reality. Anyone interested is invited to join the Historical Society.

Early History

Shirley lies south of Moosehead Lake and was part of the Bingham purchase. The East Branch of the Piscataquis River begins in the township north, within four miles of Moosehead Lake, and flows southward through Shirley. ln the northwest part of Shirley, the Shirley Bog flows south joining with the east branch in Blanchard. ln the past, these streams were used to float logs that grew upon its bank.

This township was purchased by Messro Shaw and Jabez True in the winter of 1829. Soon families moved in, sawmills were built, a clapboard machine was in operation, a Post Office established, a grist mill, and schoolhouses and stores were built.

In March of 1834, the town was incorporated as the Town of Shirley.

The 1848 legislature agreed that the west half of Wilson would be annexed to Shirley. This brought in the Shirley House hotel located near the lower Shirley corner. The lumber business was booming. There was a Bangor and Piscataquis (later Bangor and Aroostook) railroad station and tracks along the east side of the Shirley Pond. The tracks have since been abandoned and removed.

The Shirley Church was completed and dedicated in 1906. At Old Home Sunday service each August, many former residents still return to enjoy a reunion with friends and relatives.

A town hall was built and later the town office room was added.

Edgar Wilson Nye, known in the world of letters as “Bill Nye” was born in Shirley on February 26, 1850, and died in Asheville, NC 1886. He moved away at an early age but a plaque was later erected at the site of his birth.

During the depression, Shirley had a population of 283. They obtained hand frame knitting machines, imported from Switzerland, and formed a corporation named, “Shirley Industries” to knit socks and later sweaters. The machines were installed in the homes of thirty families who became engaged in this enterprise. Fifty dozen pairs of socks a week were shipped during this time. Some workers knit the legs, others footed them to size, sewn by others, then pressed and packed. English and Scottish patterns were used with American wool. The corporation was dissolved in the 1950s but some individuals continued to knit for sales for some more years.

Over the years, the bridge and dam were rebuilt, the train station moved and “The Honeymoon Hotel” was changed into a private home and the “Do Drop Inn” is gone as well as several stores.

A volunteer fire station has been built, an Honor Roll erected near the Shirley Elementary School building and the cemetery across West Road from the Honor Roll enlarged.

For many years, kindergarten through ninth grades were taught in the two-room schoolhouse in the village. Due to lack of jobs, as more families moved away, the number of schools dropped down from 3 to one. In later years children in kindergarten through fifth grades were taught in Shirley and sixth through twelfth grades were tuitioned to Greenville. In 2009, when the number of students dropped to 2, the town voted to close the school and tuition all students to Greenville.

ln 2009, the town celebrated its 175th birthday with a great big BANG. Everyone in Shirley and those from other towns still talk about the great time they had.

The Shirley Town Office, Shirley Public Library, and Shirley Historical Society are now housed in the old Shirley Elementary School Building.

Birthplace of Bill Nye.
Birthplace of Bill Nye

Images from Our Archives

More History

Wilson – between Monson and Greenville was posted in the Moosehead Gazette, January 24, 1975, written by Walter L. Arnold, Greenville.

NOTE: The following was copied from History of Piscataquis County to 1880 by Amasa Loring, Portland, Maine.  “Wilson originally number Nine, Ninth Range, lies between Monson and Greenville.  A portion of its soil is good for agriculture, another part was well timbered, other parts hilly and some parts unfit for settling.  The Wilson Stream issuing from Wilson Pond, in Greenville, passes thru this township, affording good mill privileges.     

Wilham C. Whitney purchased 3000 acres in the southwest corner of this township, known as the Whitney tract.  The rest of it was granted to the Massachusetts Medical Society, and 3000 acres in Number Eight, Ninth Range, was included in this State grant.  H. W. Fuller Esq. of Augusta purchased this whole medical society grant for $3000. and this township took the name of Fullerstown.  It was lotted out by A. Greenwood Esq.   

EARLY SETTLEMENT.  In 1824 Eben and David Marble commenced clearing on the Whitney tract, and in 1825 moved their families there.  The same year, 1824, Nelson Savage cleared an opening near the center of the township and built a sawmill on the Little Wilson Stream, and the next year Messrs, Carter, and Atwood also cleared openings in that vicinity, and in 1826, moved their families.    

Other settlers entered north of the Whitney tract, and others began in the east part of the township, F. F. Gates became the owner of one-half of the Savage’s Mill, but he soon disposed of it.  The road first cut out to Moosehead Lake passed this mill, and for several years all the travel and teaming to the lake went this way.    

A post-Office was established, Nelson Savage, postmaster, and the mail was carried to Monson for the income of the office.  In the winter of 1835, a part of the inhabitants petitioned for the incorporation of the township, while those on the west side petitioned to be annexed to Shirley.  Both petitioners had to leave to withdraw.  The next year, a petition for the incorporation of the township was granted, and in March 1836, it became the town of Wilson.  The settlement did not increase, the public burdens bore heavily on the few inhabitants, so in 1884, on petition of the inhabitants, a strip containing five ranges of lots on the north side was annexed to Greenville, about one-half of the remainder to Shirley, the residue to Elliotsville.   

Savage’s mills were abandoned in 1858, and have gone to decay, and all in that neighborhood left their farms and moved to other places, after, the road to the lake was abandoned. H. W. Fuller sold one-half of his purchase to E. T. Bridge, Esq. and afterward it was sold to several different parties. On the Little Wilson, between Savage’s mill and its mouth, there is a stupendous fall of 80 feet perpendicular, over which clap-board cuts have been driven, but many of them would be split and quartered from end to end. Mr. Savage continued to reside there until 1858, then he moved to Monson, and that settlement was depopulated”. End of Quote.

I am not sure but suspect that the road to Greenville would leave Monson where the present road does, then onto what is now the Elliotsvillle Road, and then off to the left, up the road past the Matther Orchard, then thru to the Savage Mill. That is just a guess on my part. W. L. A.

Shirley She Club

This is a write-up I came across and thought would be nice to see how busy the ladies of the town were.  I believe this was written in the mid-1980s. The club is no longer active.   

The Shirley She Club was organized at a Cabin Fever Coffee at the home of Colleen Ashe in February 1981.  Our first official meeting was held on March 3, 1981.  We set “dues” at 25 cents a month if you come.  No back dues.  If it happens to be your birthday month you bring a gift not valued at more than $2.00 and some lucky lady draws it to win and take home.  We exchange gifts at Christmas time too.  Our reason for being is to serve our community and to help other organizations as our finances allow.  We meet the first Tuesday of each month in homes or at the Town Hall.  A poster is put in the store window by the hostess for the meeting to serve as a reminder to everyone.  Our club is open to all women.    

Our club officers are President – Lois young; Secretary – Janet Beckwith; Treasurer – Theresa Davis.  Offices are held for two years.    

We have taken the responsibility for serving at the C A Dean Nursing Home in Greenville on the 2nd Tuesday morning “Coffee” of each month.  We have approximately four ladies who go up each month, and the rest of the club serves by baking items for the coffee.  That way everyone is involved.    

The ladies are always looking for a new craft item to make for our craft sales, which include various knit and crocheted goods, decorations, stuffed toys and pillows, embroidered things, or anything that is “crafty”.  We have also had food sales and a “coffee” to raise money.  Lots of hard work and effort have paid off in raising quite a lot of money for a small town.  The various projects are listed below.


The amounts listed below are monies donated since we started our club. 

Shirley Fire Department$370.00
Recreation Department (Shirley)527.48
School Fund  (Shirley)125.00
Shirley School Sign160.00
Needy families ( Shirley)50.00
150th Birthday Party – Shirley122.20
C A Dean Hospital – one baby car seat Little Red Schoolhouse – Dover50.00
C A Dean Nursing Home (Gifts at Christmas time and birthdays)10.00
C A Dean Hospital Craft Tables362.00
Bolf – DuBien – Morrell Scholarship Fund25.00
  • Flowers for summer – Shirley
  • Shirley Christmas tree
  • Wreaths for the Fire Department
  • Gifts to the Shirley Town Hall:
    • salt & pepper sets    
    • curtains    
    • tablecloths    
    • stainless steel pitchers    
    • tea kettle    
    • cooking kettle

We are a small but enthusiastic group who enjoy helping others.  Join Us!

Dissolution of S A D #2

In 1962 Shirley joined S A D # 2 with Greenville.  In 1981 Shirley partitioned to dissolve this same district. 

Shirley Elementary School

1981 marked the beginning of a long but ultimately successful endeavor to return the control of the Shirley Elementary School back to the people of Shirley.  The schools had been under the jurisdiction of School Administrative District # 2 for 20 years.  For at least 10 of those years the school and the people of Shirley had been held in limbo with the threat of closure hanging over their heads.    

Later that year a bill was passed through the State Legislature making the dissolution of a school district possible even where incurred debts still existed.  Thus the door had finally opened and the Town of Shirley began their exit.    

Through the combined efforts of municipal and school officials and the citizens of both Greenville and Shirley, an agreement was reached.  Approval by the State Board of Education was granted on March 10, 1982, and on May 21, 1982, on a vote of 213-36 dissolution of School Administrative District # 2 was approved.    

During the next few years, we had seen the Shirley Elementary School brought back to a full complement with both classrooms filled, employing two teachers and an aide.  The future of our school looked bright indeed thanks to the dedication and love of our excellent staff and also because of the caring constant support of the entire community.