(Editor’s notes in italics, otherwise reprinted as written from vintage publications in the Society’s collections).

Mettalak “The Lone Indian of the Magalloway”

I was recently in the vault at the Rangeley History Museum which is always fascinating. This is where the combined efforts to assemble the ephemera and paper record of the region’s amazing history are stored for posterity. In one of the acid-free storage boxes I found a photocopy of pages from a book that unfortunately, I cannot identify and had never heard of before. Since taking this job in 2014, I have read every book, pamphlet, and old newspaper I can find on Rangeley, but had not seen this. In fact, I think that I am less than halfway through everything I could read on Rangeley!

The photocopied pages from this mystery book are of; “Chapter V; Lakes of the Rangeley Region” and it was an interesting read. Within these old, photocopied pages was some reprinted text and anecdotes about Metallak from what appears to be an even older record. It contained the story of perhaps our region’s most famous Native American, Metallak who died in February 1847.

Metallak, also known as Mettaluc, inhabited this region after emigrating from Canada under some peculiar circumstances. He gave his name to Metallak Pond, Metallak Point and Metallak Brook all near the Richardson Lakes (Mollychunkamunk & Welokenebacook to be more precise). In fact, the old Richardson Lake steamer S. S. Metallak was named for this legendary personality known as “the Lone Indian of the Magalloway”. Enjoy what follows and if you have any info on this mysterious book, (Lakes of Maine”), please contact me.

…Son of a famous Indian chieftain, he (Metallak) was well educated, crafty, handsome, six feet tall; and skilled in wood crafts, in the construction of moccasins and birchbark canoes, and in the use of weapons. It was he who laid out the route of the Atlantic & St. Lawrence R.R., later known as the Grand Trunk Line. His daring included a fantastic ride on a wild moose and more than one bare-hand encounter with bear and cougar.

In a book on the early settlers of Andover, Maine, Agnes Blake Poor confirms that Metallak, when in his teens, wed an Indian maiden of 15, Mollyeunice, whom he called “Molly Molasses.” She was unstable, irresponsible, and untutored; but in spite of her many failings, Metallak married her in a three-day ceremony, following which Mollyeunice, predictably, brought nothing but confusion and shame on her husband. Not long afterwards, Metallak shot both Mollyeunice and her lover, buried them both in the same mound, and covered them with rocks. In Andover, Metallak was uncustomarily friendly with Moses Merrill, and to him the Indian often spoke affectionately of Molly Molasses.

Eastern Woodlands Native Americans performing the “Snow Dance”

As would be expected of such an outstanding brave, he later married the fairest of maidens, a shy girl name Keoka. They had a son and daughter, of whom Metallak was exceedingly proud. Finally, he became chief of his tribe. Within a short time, along the shores of Umbagog Lake, “the frown of the Great Spirit was dark upon his people,” and one by one both warriors and tribeswomen sickened and died. Metallak watched and mourned. By then, he was the father of two more sons, Paramagummet and Anawilumpi. The family of six was spared. In gratitude, Metallak vowed to the Great Spirit that he would stay there in his own surroundings until he himself should be called to the happy hunting grounds.

One son was not pleased with this arrangement. He wearied of the lodge and left to mingle with white people, an almost unprecedented act. The daughter, Parmachenee (“Smiling Waters,” or, in Abenaki, “across the usual path”), entered the Mission at St. Francis where she was wooed and won by a young Indian brave who met an early death. She then married a Canadian gentleman, Mr. Moulton. They lived in contentment on the shores of Lake Parmachenee.

The misfortunes of her father, Metallak, whom she frequently visited, began when he lost an eye while closing (sewing) a moccasin. Soon followed the death of his beloved Keoka, killed by a wolf pack according to E. G. Kimball. Metallak conformed to the customs of his tribe by placing her body in a canoe, paddling to an open expanse of ground, and there burying her. He then spent three days of mourning beside the grave and built a hut close by, which he left only to get food and water.

In time, overcoming his grief, he met Oozaluc from a lower tribe and married her. This union gave him two more sons, Olombo and Wolumpi. At this point in his life, he and his family moved to the shores of Richardson Lake at what is now Metallak Point.

He obtained supplies from Andover, Upton, and Rumford, Maine. Reportedly, he had again found happiness when tragedy returned and Oozaluc died. It was winter and the ground was frozen, so Metallak followed the Indian custom of building a birch-bark container, placing the body of Oozaluc within it, tying it well with leather thongs, and suspending it low over the opening of his lodge so that the smoke from his fire might embalm her. In the spring, he buried Oozaluc, spent the traditional three days of mourning at her gravesite, and then moved to a place about 12 miles from Aziscohos Falls, where he dwelt for 12 years. (Captain Barker named one of his steamers Oozaluc).

A third deep tragedy then struck Metallak. A twig, flying up from his fire, put out his remaining eye. In his bewilderment, he crawled to his bed where he lay for days without food or water. He was found by a man whose life Metallak had once saved, a trapper named Leavitt, who sent for Parmachenee (his daughter). She came to take her weakened and totally blind father to her home in Canada.

When his strength returned, Metallak went home to his lodge on Umbagog Lake (Despite his blindness he was willing to return to the woods and his hardscrabble life living off the land which seems impossible and would lend one to believe he must have retained some portion of his eyesight. However, the situation must have been untenable and did not last too long). Eventually, he was housed at Stewartstown, New Hampshire. As a public charge, he was bid off in March 1840, to a Howard Blodgett for $48.25. Each year, Metallak was on the bidding block. Blodgett, Fellows, and Brainard families were involved through the years. The Fellows were apparently the most kind, and it is comforting to know that he was with them at the time of his death in February 1847, at the age of 120.

In 1915 a gravestone was erected, bearing the inscription “Lone Indian of the Magalloway,” one whose home was the entire Androscoggin River Valley. It is Metallak who dominates the fresco mural in Rangeley Post Office, done in 1970 by Robert W. Bruce, publisher of the weekly “Rangeley Highlander.”

Also, this entry dated Feb. 19, Wed., 1834 from the Diary of Christopher C. Baldwin

Mr. Jackson, of the firm of How, Jackson &Co., made some inquiry of me touching my lecture before the Lyceum on the evening of Jan. 30, and told me this story. He was born at St. Johnsbury, VT but has spent most of his days in Maine. In 1818 & 19, he was employed in clearing up a township for settlement, which lies above Erroll at Umbagog Lake. There lived nearby an ancient Indian by the name of Metalluc. His residence was several miles from any inhabitant; not even any Indians being in that quarter. Mr. Jackson saw him more or less every week. He was then about eighty years old and is still living. He came originally from a tribe in Canada, a great many years ago, having committed a murder there, which compelled him to flee to his place as a retreat from the vindictive fury of the murdered Indian’s relations. The occasion of the murder was, that upon the death of the chief, Metalluc and this person whom he slew were the two candidates to succeed to the chieftainship. He found him one day alone and seized the opportunity to dispatch him. This fact was afterward disclosed, and he fled to this wild and secluded region for safety.

He lives wholly by hunting. His wife died many years ago and he had showed to Mr. Jackson the place of her burial, which was on the Androscoggin. The body was enclosed in birch bark. There was buried with her; musket, pipe, tobacco, skins of animals, and many other articles which he supposed she might want in the next world. But what was very singular, and unknown to me before, was that he killed nine of his dogs, which were hounds and curs, and buried them near to her body. He gave as a reason for doing this, that it was according to the custom of his tribe, who had learned it from their fathers.

Metalluc had once exchanged his wife. The one that accompanied him in his retreat had brought him nine children, and as he foresaw that her season of fruitfulness was not near an end, he sent her back to Canada, children, and all, and procured a barren one her place, saying that “papooses and hunting no go together.” At her death he watched by the body nine days, saying that he was not certain but that she was in a trance. He says that when he gets old, he shall again rejoin his tribe in Canada and lay his bones with those of his ancestors.

Not much remains in the way of actual artifacts from Mettalak’s interesting and difficult life in this part of Maine when it was truly wild. However, there is a map in the collection of the Hamlin Museum in Paris Hill, and one of two known to exist, of the Rangeley Lakes District of Oxford County, drawn on birch bark by Metallak, son of the chief of the Cooashhaukes!

The people of the Wabanaki nation, of course, have the deepest roots in our region and were here for thousands of years prior to the hardships brought about European colonization. We have archeological artifacts at the museum dating back to between 11,000 to 14,000 years at the Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc. We have recently added significant historical artifacts from various periods to our Native American exhibits sharing the proud, and continuing legacy, of Maine’s true native people.

The Museum is open 10-4pm, Weds. -Sunday through Indigenous People’s/Columbus Day in October.

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