What follows are some clippings from the pages of the October 29, 1896 edition of the RANGELEY LAKES newspaper. On page one of this edition, Deacon Lake, known locally at the time as ‘Old Laker’, shares some memories of the “Old Days” in Rangeley. This refers to the period around the 1840’s and considering Rangeley’s first non-native settlers arrived in 1815, that is pretty old. So, in this 1896 edition he shares, as we do in this weekly column today, some of what this place used to be like in 1840. Reminiscences of reminiscences…so to speak. After that, we share some anecdotes from the surrounding villages. Enjoy these excerpts from long ago and be sure to make some good memories of your own in this special place. Who knows, maybe the Highlander will report on it and someone will reprint it some 135 years from now.

(Editor’s note: Contemporary commentary in italics, otherwise copy is reprinted just as it was in 1896).

RANGELEY RECOLLECTIONS

If any reader of these reminiscences is inclined to complain of some twice-told tales, he is asked charitably to remember that they are written not only for a new paper, but for a Rangeley paper, and, in part, for a new generation of readers. They are a work of love by one who spent twelve years of his boyhood and youth at the Lakes, where for twenty-two years his nearest and dearest of kin lived and toiled in alternating sunshine and shadow, smiles and tears, and in the midst of “Cares that are ended and forgotten now.”

Wise words to live by and never truer than today! I wish you all more ‘sunshine’ than ‘shadow’.

If “Old Laker” is to be accepted

A stout, middle aged woman of to-day reminds me of her young girlhood at, Rangeley, when she rode a horse as girls of to-day do bicycles. In those days, women often made the journey to Phillips in the saddle. An elder sister of the “little Amazon” made the round trip in that way and carried to the lakes, tied to her saddle, the first rosebush which bloomed west of old Saddleback.

And now we know where Rangeley’s first rose bush came from and the large effort it took to get it here. Hardy stock, both were, for certain!

Good Mrs. Elizah Bunker, who kept a little coffee “for sickness” and tea “for company,” used an infusion of sage leaves for a regular table beverage, and when she could get the pumpkins, made pies of the seeds of that vegetable. Pumpkin seed pie? Too thrifty for me.

When eggs ran short at the Lakes excellent custard pies were made of thick cream. When now-a-days grocers are brought to bankruptcy by unpaid bills, the thought comes up that a partial return to the household economies of the old Lakers might be a good thing for all concerned. How ironic, longing for the thrift and wisdom of the Good Ol’Days…in the Good Ol’Days. What then does that say about us? Too that, Old Laker would probably reply, Not Much.

This next tidbit brought two things to mind. As a guide and sportsman and despiser of Maine’s State Bird, the Black Fly, I have employed the tactic of a couple smokey smudges around camp in my time. Today, for whatever reason, I am less bothered by Back Flies than I used to be and there seems to be far less of them. I seldom use bug dope at all anymore. I can recall a time when they were so bad that life outdoors without bug dope was unbearable and that temporary insanity was a possibility.

I suppose the door-yard smudge in Rangeley is little more than a reminiscence; but in the early days of the settlement and far along into the 40’s it was kindled every evening of the blackfly and mosquito season. This was necessary for the protection not only of men, women and children from the swarming insect pests, but for the cows at the evening milking, who would come up from the pasture half covered with flies and bleeding from every udder. Then it was that the smudge, stationary or movable, was very grateful alike to the cow and her milker.   – “Old Laker”

Back in the 1800’s it was coal tar if you could even get it and lots of “smudges”, otherwise it was an ‘udder disaster’.

This next quaint little part of the paper share bits of local news from the various localities surrounding Rangeley and was called…

Local Paragraphs

Many a Rangeley Laker, like the famous Ed Grant pictured here, grew a beard to ward off the cold winter winds.

This edition began with a subtle reminder to the local gentlemen that it was time to start growing their Winter Whiskers…

“Gentle zephyrs softly blowing.

But you will not care a pin,

If you only have some whiskers Growing out upon your chin”

Sandy River Plantation

Charles Hinkley shot an owl Sunday afternoon that measured 41/2 feet across his wings.

(Today, you could possibly go to jail and receive a $10,000 fine if you kill a hawk or owl. It is a Class B Misdemeanor at minimum)

Madrid

L. P. Rowe has discovered a new scientific fact that apple sauce is intoxicating. He boiled apples for his pigs. The “sauce” stood a day or two and his boy gave each a pailful. Soon after he found one sitting up, his head swinging back and forth while the other one was stupidly drunk.

Happily, “pickled” pigs might be the secret to better bacon?

Phillips

Mr. Joseph Hinkley, furnished Rangeley Lakes with several items about old Phillips. He remembers seeing Captain Allen, the first settler of Phillips, at Winslow Brailey’s, where he was a town charge. The old Captain was 80 years old at the time but sang and danced for Mr. Hinkley’s amusement.

The Ol’ Captain might have been into Mr. Rowes Special Drunken Pig Sauce?

Captain Allen’s wife died in Madrid and was buried in a field on the Cyrus Stowers farm. She was so deformed that a coffin had to be made expressly for her.

That sad tidbit was like something out of the National Enquirer of today. Why did they not just make a bigger, normally shaped coffin?

Eustis

As Marshall Myers was out hunting the 9th instant, three shots were fired at him in quick succession from a large rifle; one ball passed just above his head, the other two struck the ground near his feet. As he gave the alarm a sportsman emerged from the woods and enquired, “Did I hit you? I saw something moving and thought it was a deer.” We feel very Indignant over the affair to think anyone should shoot at a moving object and not know what, when there are so many out for game. We often hear of a guide being shot by the man he was guiding, with this same foolish excuse. Horses, cattle, and sheep have been found dead here, shot without a doubt, by reckless sportsmen. We think it high time a law be passed imposing a heavy fine on anyone shooting at an object that they cannot see plain enough to know what it is. We believe it would protect life and property.

Wow, he was shot at THREE times! Talk about being ‘trigger happy’. After the 2nd shot some of my friends would have started shooting back! Its good thing the Positive ID Law was finally adopted, because as many as 15 people died per season because of this careless practice of blasting away at sound. Literally, a crazy example of “Snapshots in Time” and makes one not long for the good old days. Until next time, Stay Safe!

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