What follows was found on Page 1 in the April 30, 1896, Edition of the RANGELEY LAKES newspaper. It shares some notes and background info on some of Rangeley’s earliest residents as recorded 56 years earlier in 1840. So here is a “look back” to 1840 Rangeley published as a look back in the 1896 paper.

(Pierce’s commentary shared in italics, otherwise the copy has been reprinted here just as it was in 1896).

Capt. Nehemiah Kimball, the principal trapper of old-time Rangeley, came to the lakes from Mercer. His wife was a Welts, a sister of Mrs. Stephen Quimby. In the early days of their residence on the hill looking down on North cove, they raised great crops of excellent wheat, and for want of barn room stacked it in the field. There was no need of “York flour” in those days west of Saddleback, and with plenty of yellow potatoes, trout and moose meat, the old lakers must have reveled in the fat of the land. Capt. Kimball was past master of vigorous expletives quite shocking to some of his pious neighbors, who at the same time acknowledged that the captain didn’t mean anything even when his language was the most picturesque. It is perhaps worthy of note that he raised two sons who never used a “cuss word,” unless the younger one has yielded to temptation in later years.

It seems Captain Kimball was a former ‘old salt’, hence the terms ‘salty language’ and ‘cuss like a sailor’.

Mrs. Timothy Tibbetts, the first white child born at the lakes, was an aunt of the first white boy born there. He was the late Joseph Toothaker, eldest son of Nathaniel, both of whom moved to Phillips where they died.

The Rangeley Lakes Historical Society has a vintage image in its collection featuring Eunice (Hoar) and Timothy Tibbetts in their later years.


The Abbotts came to the lakes from Boston, where the head of the family was a truckman and his descendants, firemen. It was he who introduced Peter Smith, the colored shop keeper, to the lakes in the early 40’s, when he developed the sarsaparilla resources of the region.

A wonderful account of early integration, as well as a revelation that Rangeley was once known for sarsaparilla!

The better side of the character of Daniel Burnham, the proprietary successor of James Rangeley, has hardly been recognized. Of his tenants on the Rangeley place very few complained of him. Calvin Elliott said he was the fairest man he ever dealt with. He was a troublesome litigant sometimes, and even if he believed the law was on his side, he usually got the worst of it. At the great squaring of accounts, it may turn out that if he was sometimes a sinner, he was often sinned against. He is recalled as a man of great native force and address and a most interesting conversationalist on topics covering wide ranges of time and space. He had been in Europe and the far South, when to visit those places was a matter to be talked about. His old age and death in poverty contrast pathetically with his strong, brilliant and aggressive middle age. All the old friends hope to see him again at his best in a better world.

This is the first account I have ever read, of many, that actually spoke kindly of the often maligned “Squire Burnham”. Burnham purchased Squire Rangeley’s lands which he lost after being sent to prison for an unpaid debt. He later owned a large pasture on Dodge Pond where Mitigwa is now located. He was also known a breeder of valuable horses, worked as the teamster for the Rangeley and Phillips stagecoach, and lived to the reputed age of 100 plus.

When Deacon Lake found Indian Jerome who boarded with him, too attentive to the partner of his joys and sorrows, (The Deacon’s wife) he said to the amatory son of the forest— “Jerome! Do you consider this recommendable?” Jerome’s reply is not on record, except in the concrete way of an elopement later with another white man’s wife.

It seems the seeds of scandal found fertile ground in Rangeley.


Almost the only public entertainment, or exhibition, in the place in old times recalled by the writer, was a lecture by a Mr. Humphreys on the telegraph, with practical demonstrations and electric shocks administered to the audience. The popular feature of the occasion was an involuntary dance by Edward Marden in the electric slippers, who brought down the house. This was in the old red schoolhouse, where there was also a lecture on phrenology and mesmerism and an ineffectual attempt to put one of the assembly into a hypnotic trance.

In the 1840’s Mesmerism was considered high entertainment and a visiting practitioner known as ‘Mr. Humphrey’ put on a show in the Rangeley schoolhouse.

What a hoot! Shocking paying customers as entertainment! Phrenology is a pseudoscience which involves the measurement of bumps on the skull to predict mental traits. Mesmerism hypnotic induction believed to involve “animal magnetism” or hypnotism. It seems the ‘amatory son of the forest Jerome mentioned above had a little animal magnetism of his own.

And to close-a snippet regarding the unique wisdom of the indominable guide Ed Grant.

A Cure for Loss of Memory

Ed. Grant says he has become very forgetful of late, so much so that he can scarcely remember one day what transpired the day before. He was advised to leave off telling the truth for a while as that required no use of the memory, facts, being stubborn things, could easily be brought in to prove a statement. While a man who lies, has to exercise the memory to keep his stories straight, and remember just what he has told. Mr. Grant has about decided to lay aside the Washington medal and hatchet charm, for a time, and give the recommendation a trial. So, our readers may possibly need a small pinch of salt should they find any new stories over his signature. It was suggested that while undergoing the treatment he loan his medal and badge to a certain guide; with that customary twinkle in his eye, he quietly remarked, “Nothing but death would stop his lying.”

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