What follows are some clippings from the pages of the January 14, 1897 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. When one considers that Rangeley’s first non-native settlers arrived in 1815, “Rangeley Recollections” offers a rather unique account of the region’s beginnings. In this 1897 installment “Old Laker” shares, as we do in Snapshots in Time today, some of what this place was like in 1840. Memories of even older memories, so to speak.

Enjoy these excerpts from long ago and be sure to make some great (hopefully happy) memories of your own in in this special place. Who knows, maybe the Highlander will report it, and someone will reprint it 135 years from now.

(Editor’s note: Contemporary commentary in italics, otherwise copy is reprinted just as it was in 1897).

Senator William P. Frye’s camp on the “Narrows” between Mooselook and Cupsuptic Lakes

RANGELEY RECOLLECTIONS

It is sad to hear of the rapid diminution of the blue-backs in Rangeley waters. It is the result of many years of wholesale slaughter by means of net, grapple, and spear. It is, moreover, a salutary object lesson of the importance of restraining legislation affecting our inland fisheries. During the Octobers of fifty years ago and later these valuable little fish literally swarmed in the shallow outlet streams. The beds of these waters were covered with them and almost every Lake household larder was stocked with them, salted, or smoked. Is there any possibility of so guarding the small remainder and promoting its increase as to replenish the waters of Rangeley with this estimable member of the finny tribe? Will some wise student of pisciculture answer?

(Sadly, as far as Rangeley is concerned, only Long Pond in Four Ponds Township, still holds a population of Salvelinus alpinus oquassa and only 14 water bodies in Maine contains these once numerous members of the char family. Wouldn’t it be great to see the now dormant Phillips Hatchery used to help restore them?)

I think there has been but one case of drowning in Lake Oquossoc (The former name of Rangeley Lake). That happened nearly 50 years ago near the farm of Joseph Hoar, where his son, Luther Nile, now lives. The victim was a young man of Temple named Staples. He met his fate while bathing. I do not remember to have heard of any other drowning here or in the other large lakes of the Umbagog chain. The exemption seems remarkable in view of the many risks incident to boating and traveling on the ice. Very early in the history of the settlement a woman who attempted to cross Oquossoc on the ice was found frozen to death near Birch Point. She was alone and on foot and had intended to walk through the woods to Madrid. In a pocket of her gown were found a few crossbill birds, plucked, and cooked for luncheon.

(The poor young man mentioned above drowned while just trying to take a bath, and unfortunately bringing greater meaning to the adage “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. The other poor victim was walking to Madrid from Rangeley in winter! Quite a hike with just a couple small dead Grosbeak-like birds to munch on. There is No such thing as the “Good Old Days” contained in that paragraph!)

Uncle Lem Quimby, who was an excellent woodcraftsman, always felt a little ashamed of getting lost in the woods one night between the Narrows and Haynes’ Landing. He was driving a herd of cattle from the Haynes place on the west shore of the great lake, and when he had forded the Narrows night was near at hand. It was one thing to keep his own bearings and another to make the cattle keep theirs. Between the two jobs they were all “lost” together, and Uncle Lem, Steve Lowell and their companion were obliged to bivouac with little fire and nothing to eat. Their matches had failed, but a piece of jacket sleeve lining, serving as a gun-wad, was ignited and from that a little blaze was started. But a lack of dry fuel kept it little to the end of the night, and the morning dawned upon a miserable trio. One of the three, however, partially relieved his condition by inducing a cow of the herd to stand still while he directed a stream of milk into his mouth. In the meantime, Uncle Lem explored and discovered that he had spent the night within musket shot of the carry between the lakes. Uncle Lem was a broken-down old man, dying in Chesterville, where I last saw him in the spring of 1887. He soon after went the way of all the earth and did not long precede his wife.

(The fordable “Narrows” mentioned above existed between Mooselookmeguntic and Cupsuptic Lakes, hence the two names and had a flowing current prior to the heightening of Upper Dam in 1887).

The bare feet cure initiated in Germany by the priest Kneipp is not a new idea, altogether. Daniel Burnham, who at a great age went to his last sleep in Rangeley a quarter of a century ago, was a devout advocate of cold-water applications to the feet, and even walked bare foot in the snow. He did the latter one winter day while on his way from the Lakes to Phillips, as a remedy for cold feet. He “stumped” his boy companion to try it and the boy did it, although with some misgivings.

(Sebastian Kneipp was a Bavarian priest and one of the forefathers of the naturopathic medicine. Some of his suggested treatments included “ice cold baths and walking barefoot in the snow” and other “harsh” methodologies. Good for him, but when it comes to curing cold feet, I’ll stick to good boots and warm socks).

A good-looking young peddler on his rounds among the settlers with wooden ware and knickknacks, was warming his feet before the great open fire of a customer, when he felt the pressure from behind of two feminine arms on his shoulders as a highly colored plate of dancing Shakers was held before his eyes. “Did you ever see the Shakers?” inquired the young woman of the house as she thus enclosed the head of the young peddler. He never had before under such favorable circumstances, and during his further stay in the settlement he helped the circulation of this fresh bit of slang: “Did you ever see the Shakers?” (I have no idea what manner of “shakers” this young woman showed this “handsome young peddler” that encased his head, but maybe Chester Greenwood of Farmington was not the first to come up with earmuffs?).

The itinerant shoemakers of the settlement were public characters of more or less interest. Chief among them was John Oakes, a good workman, a man of wit and intelligence and welcome at every fireside. Perhaps the most artistic knight of the awl and lap stone was Ezra Tibbetts, who mostly worked at home. A Mr. Hewey was another disciple of St. Crispin. In the forties he had a shop in his home at Phillips upper village. In earlier days Capt. Kimball made shoes for the Rangeley family and others. He was a deft artisan in that, as well as in the preparation of the peltry which he secured as a trapper in the Cupsuptic wilderness. In those days, the store bills of every family included cowhides and calfskins for the yearly outfit of footwear. The men mostly wore heavy top-boots, but a’ few of them and many boys got along with the less expensive shoes an d woolen buskins. The prevailing head covering for boys in winter was a coarse sealskin cap and a homemade one of cloth of several colors rising to a peak.

(Long before the coming of industrial shoemakers like Bass Shoe of Wilton, no community would thrive for very long without a good cobbler or two).

I have told of the horse (“Old Chad”) who used to take the children in a pung (small open sleigh) to school, two miles away across Dodge Pond, and then go home alone. Another case of horse intelligence was that of a colt left to pasture at Mingo Point. He had been taken there on a log raft. He was the only horse there, and although the grass was good and abundant, he was lonesome and wistful of familiar “fields beyond the swelling flood.” One day soon after, he was seen emerging from the woods on the Deacon Lake place on a brisk trot and whinnying his delight to get back to home and kindred society. He had swum about half a mile from the Point to the landing whence he had embarked.

After Guy Howard left his rocky corner at the lakes there succeeded to it one Dennis, an English sailor, who had married a daughter of “Gov.” Whitney, of Phillips. Dennis’s use and abuse of the letter H contributed to the gayety of his neighbors, who found him and his wife generally amusing, and rather helpless, withal. But he had a fund of stories gleaned on sea and in foreign lands, and he taught us the deft use of the oar. Speaking of the English abuse of the letter H, there are those who remember that even Squire Rangeley could not properly manage that member of the alphabet which has been immemorially a source of perplexity to the noble Briton.

I am glad that Senator Frye has spoken a word against plug-fishing and another, inferentially, against the dams that have operated not only to destroy much of the old-time beauty of the lake shores, but to restrict the free and healthful movement of the trout. The very thought of them suggests another word very much like dam. May their destruction come with the new century, or earlier. Business is business, but it is not all of life.

There can be no doubt that, as an ardent lover of the region the Senator shares the keen regret of the old frequenters for the despoilment of the lake shores by artificially made high water, especially that bit of idyllic beauty. The pine-shaded burying ground whose sandy margin was kissed by the waves of Cupsuptic on the west and laved on the opposite by the stream from Indian Rock—the stream we named the unstickable name of “Kenne-range.”

-Old Laker

(How interesting to read this old-timer’s view of the dams and his rare for 19th century, conservation-minded view and that it was shared by Senator William Pierce Frye. Frye was a leading member of the U.S. Senate at the time and his home still stands on the shores of Cupsuptic lake).

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