What follows appeared on page 1 of the RANGELEY LAKES newspaper, of March 4, 1897. In this edition of Snaps Shots in Time, we again hear from who we believe to be Deacon Lake who used the pen name “Old Laker”. I assume it was unnecessary to identify him officially by his given name because everyone in 1897 Rangeley knew him. I particularly enjoy his geographic description of Rangeley as he shares where each settler built his home or business along Squire Rangeley’s “new” road. The still enduring family names remain as does the charm of this special place in its own way even in our modern world. I hope you enjoy “Old Laker’s” memories of Rangeley’s very early days shared with his 1897 readers.

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


Next preceding the extension of the railroad to Rangeley the most important event in the history of the settlement was the opening of “the new road” along the eastern extremity of the lake and thence to Long pond and the lower Sandy River pond, where it joined the old road. This was early in the 40’s (1840’s). Previously, travel to the outside world was over a very rough and declivitous spur of Saddleback mountain. From what is now Greenvale the new route was over a winter road cleared by Squire Rangeley for the transportation of lumber to market. From his sawmill on the outlet of the lake he shipped their product of boards, clapboards, and shingles to the upper inlet in a great flat-bottomed sailboat called a gundalow, a name traceable to the Italian “gondola.” His sawing machinery, the finest of the day, came from England; and it was a prime entertainment of the settlers to see it in operation while they were waiting for their grist to be ground (in the adjacent building). There was but one run of stones and between those went wheat, barley, and oats, together with the little corn raised north of Saddleback. The first miller here of whom I have record was Thomas Chase, father of Maine’s most renowned poet, the sweet singer, “Florence Percy.” The next of whom I have knowledge was John Haley, Sr. After him were Hugh Staples, Peter Haines and Mr. Bowley, grandfather of Mr. Bowley of the Mountain View House, and others. These, of course, were the earliest mills in the settlement, and when they had gone to ruin a gristmill was built on the tiny outlet of Quimby pond by Joseph Ellis, who came to the place from Augusta. This mill had only a short career. Ellis was long ago engaged hauling pine trees to the seacoast for ship-masts. He lived near David Quimby until he moved from the place. Another grist mill was built on the outlet of Long Pond, and early in the 50’s (1850’s) Joseph Hoar erected a sawmill on a stream crossing his farm—the farm now owned and occupied by his son Luther Nile. All of these mills are gone. Going to the old Rangeley grist mill at the outlet afforded an interesting glimpse of frontier life. From there to the eastern extremity of the settlement was a distance of about ten miles by a road in places difficult to travel with wheels, so when access to the mill was not open over the frozen lake and by snow roads, we carried our grain to mill in bags on horseback. The proper balancing and fastening to the saddle of these loads and the securing of a comfortable seat on top was no insignificant problem in those days, and very stimulative of an appetite for “flour bread” when we got home.

Circa 1875 photo of Squire Rangeley’s dam, approximately 50 years after construction, located at the outlet of Oquossoc (Rangeley Lake) and built to power his saw and grist mills.

To return to “the new road:” When it was open to travel there was not, as I recollect, more than one house between John Lamb’s and the Hankerson’s in Madrid. That house was the shed-like structure of Uncle Boodry’s, perhaps half a mile south of the present home of Luther Nile. So, it followed that on cold winter days, when starting for the long drive “through the woods,” we were glad to stop at Uncle Boodry’s and reinforce our physical warmth in the glow of his great stone fireplace, from which the smoke arose through a chimney built of sticks and clay. Here we not only received bodily warmth, but a welcome that warmed the soul, for Uncle Boodry was a genial spirit, with a cordially responsive laugh so cavernous that one could look far down into his throat. He was a “well-read” man and discussed the events of the day with intelligence. The shape of his hospitable domicile gave it the name of “The Baker.” Soon after the new road became the route to Phillips, Joseph and John Hoar moved on to it from the old road on the hill. Then Ezra Tibbetts settled south of Uncle Boodry’s, and the Abbotts made farms nearby. Still farther south and a little east of the road, Mr. Kinnie settled. Near the mill on the Long Pond outlet came Cyrus F. Morrison. To the head of Long Pond went Tom Boodry and Jerry Ellis. Between them and Sandy River bridge were one Lufkin and others. To the top of Beach Hill came old Mr. Moores from Madrid. Down the hill southerly settled old Mr. Oakes, William Moores, and others. About the beginning of the 50’s a log schoolhouse was built north of and near where the Greenvale Hotel was. Here religious meetings were held, and a Sunday school organized by Lyman Haines, who had lately come from New Hampshire and settled on the opposite shore of the lake. There was another schoolhouse about a third of a mile south of the site of Rangeley village. Before that, school was kept in the log cabin on the hill southeasterly from the village site previously occupied successively by John and Noah Haley and “Gov.” Brooks. It was from this cabin that the wife of Noah Haley was taken by a mob early in the 40’s. Gracious mighty, Henry, have you forgotten that January about fifty years ago when we were going “out” on wheels, when there was neither’ snow on the ground nor frost in it? -O l d L a k e r.

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