The Dyer Family

The Dyer family were of English origin; the name was probably given to designate someone by his occupation. The Dyers that this library memorializes are descendants of William Dyer, one of the first settlers of Sheepscot, Maine in the early 1600s.

The Dyer Family Crest

The Dyer Family Crest

William Dyer built his cabin on Dyer’s Neck at the mouth of the Dyer River where it joins the Kennebec River. There he raised his family until the beginning of King Philip’s War (1676–1689), when he was killed by Indians.

As the massacre of the settlers continued, the survivors fled to other settlements. William’s two sons, Christopher and John, moved to the Braintree area with their families. After a few years, the Indian disturbance having ceased, they returned to Sheepscot and prospered for a few more years. However, towards the end of the war (1688–1689), hostilities once again broke out in that settlement and Christopher Dyer (ca. 1640–1689) was one of the casualties.

Meanwhile, Christopher’s son, William Dyer (ca. 1663–1750), remained in Braintree when his father and the rest of the family returned to Maine. He married Joanna Chard of Weymouth, and built a cabin at Little Comfort ca. 1699. Little Comfort was located along the Satucket Path in the part of Bridgewater that later was incorporated into the Town of Abington, and eventually became Whitman.

In 1701, William and Joanna’s son, Christopher, was born. An early town map indicated that he was the first white child born in it, but this fact cannot be substantiated since there were several families that settled in the area many years before his birth.

Christopher Dyer (1701–1786) married Hannah Nash in 1725, and they had seven children: Mary, Hannah, Christopher Jr., Sarah, Jacob, Betty, and James.

A family legend has it that once while Sarah was milking a cow, a thunder cloud came up and a flash of lightning hit the cow, killing it instantly, and knocked out the bottom of her milk pail – without doing her the slightest injury.

Christopher’s youngest child, James Dyer (1743–1828), married Martha Harden in 1770, and had two daughters, Anne and Susanna, and a son, James Jr.

Capt. James Dyer, Jr. (1782–1863) was active in the War of 1812, where as a lieutenant he led a company of artillerymen on a march to The Gurnet in Plymouth Harbor. James Dyer, Jr. married Anna (Nancy) [Bicknell] Dunham in 1809; it was his first marriage and her second—she was widowed in 1805, when her first husband, Henry Dunham, died at sea. They had two sons, Samuel and James, and two daughters, Nancy and Maria. After Anna’s death in 1853, James Jr. remarried. He married Polly [Shaw] Bicknell in 1855; it was the second marriage for both.

Samuel B. Dyer (1809–1894) married Abby H. Jones in 1833. Tragically, she died that same year at 19 years of age, and Samuel never remarried.

Portrait of Samuel B. Dyer (1809–1894)
Oil on canvas

A few years after his wife’s death, Samuel moved to France (which earned him the nickname “Paris Sam”) and remained there until just before the outbreak of the Civil War in America. Although he never became involved in local politics, Sam Dyer was very interested in and supported Abington’s public library and volunteer fire department.

Samuel’s brother, James B. Dyer (1814–1876) married Lucy Hersey in 1835, and had eight children: Abby, Lucy, Henry, Susan, Samuel, Mehitable, Amelia, and Marietta. The family lived with Sam Dyer in the mansion that he built. Lucy distinguished herself by being a member of Simmons College’s first graduating class, earning a Bachelor’s degree in 1906.

Marietta Dyer (1853–1918) came to live at the house her uncle built at a young age, and lived there her entire life. As she grew up, she took on the role of hostess of the house; she was its last occupant. She inherited the house and a small fortune from her uncle, out of which she established the Dyer Memorial Library.