Lovers of Rangeley and history buffs alike will be delighted to hear that Gary Priest’s latest book, Rangeley Historical Legacy, is now available on store shelves.

His fifth book covers some ground not covered before in any of his previous books and possibly not in any other book at all.

“There’s two chapters in here that I’m particularly proud of. One is called the steamboat era. Now, there’s very little written about the steamboats in Rangeley. Primarily because they went out of existence in the mid 1930’s. So, if you want to know anything about it you really had to dig deep. So, I’ve done that.”

Also covered in the book is a portion having to do with topics truly relevant even today: employment and lodging.

“Another chapter that I’m extremely excited about is called The Contributions of the C.C.C., that’s the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was founded in 1933 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to put people back to work. And there was a camp located down in Greenvale at the junction of South Shore Rd. and Route 4. And they had a big impact here in Rangeley. Their initial responsibility was to build their own quarters where they lived in. The first summer they lived in tents. And they built their own lodging, and they built a lot of fire roads. Especially the one up Saddleback Mountain. They actually built the Rangeley airport. They built the road from Route 16, from Pleasant Island over to Errol, New Hampshire. And then they built the road to Rumford, down over the Heights of Land.”

As long as he can remember, Priest has had a keen interest in history.


“Oh yes, that was my favorite subject in high school and even in college.”

When he was in his mid-twenties he would enjoy long conversations with his grandmother about their ancestry.

“She was a schoolteacher and met my grandfather in Maine. My family came to Vassalboro, Maine back in 1774, so we got a lot of roots there. So, she got me going on this when I was working in Boston at New England Life Insurance Company. I was fortunate to have the New England Genealogical and Historical Society right across the street. So, I used to walk out the back door, go over across the street, and I spent many a lunch hour doing research there. The records that they have there are unbelievable. And I was able to verify the information in order to join the Mayflower descendants, Sons of the American Revolution, and my daughters if they wanted to, could be in the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution). Again, I say, I have history in my blood.”

While history might have been in the blood, it certainly never occurred to him that he would grow up to write five books.

“No. Never. I don’t really consider myself an author per say. It’s more of a historian, because everything I’ve done is all history and it’s just, it’s pulling things together from many, many different places and then putting it all together and making it available.”

Pulling it together was something he had been doing as an account manager for 32 years at New England Life Insurance Company in Boston. Perhaps his organizational skills honed at his day job combined with his love of history paid off when he was encouraged to join as a docent at the Rangeley History Museum.


Barbara and Gary Priest on the back porch of their lovely home. Stephanie Chu-O’Neil

As he tells it, local genealogist Shirley Adams and Gary’s wife Barbara got to talking, one thing led to another, and Shirley asked him if he would consider getting involved with the Rangeley Historical Society.

“So, I did, and next thing you know Don Palmer’s saying, ‘You know, we don’t have a vice president, would you like to be the vice president?’”

I imagine the research he has done ever since then was spirited not only by his genealogist and historian tendencies, but also the treasure hunter and detective in him.

“You never know what people will find in a trunk or what has been shipped out of Rangeley from one of these cabins and surfaces elsewhere around the country and subsequently something is written about it or whatever, you know little pieces of information are always cropping up.”

Sifting through all the archives, I correctly suspected there were some conflicting stories and wondered how he dealt with them.

“Dig a little deeper and sometimes you know you just have to use your gut feeling as far as that goes and basically look at who was writing this and what had they written before on anything. Because what happens is that some people coming from, well let’s just say down country, and they’re not as familiar with it, and you look at somebody and see if they have talked with some of the local people. And even amongst the local people some of the stories that were passed down even today, they vary, because it’s all word of mouth.”


This set me up for my innocent comment about Rangeley rumors. We laughed.

“I know, I know. Sometimes you just have to wait for something to happen and say, ‘Okay, now we know’”

All this talk about history, I wondered if he longed for simpler times.

“No, not really. I recognize the world has to change and grow and I am just so happy to be able to preserve this for the people in Rangeley and elsewhere.”

In fact, his latest book, The Rangeley Historic Legacy, is actually dedicated to the people of the town of Rangeley and its surroundings as a way of showing how appreciative he is of all the help and support he has received over the years.

“All the feedback that has ever gotten back to me has been very positive. Ed Kfoury was one that was helpful earlier, and he said, ‘You know, you’re doing a great job for Rangeley, keep on doing that.’ Don Palmer was another one that was a booster. Bill Pierce when he was here was very, very helpful as far as some of the research. And even the local people… I don’t know, I don’t want to name some of them so that I don’t leave any one out. There are so many that are my friends, because, you know, I grew up here in Rangeley. Graduated from high school. I’ve always been close to the town. My mother taught thirty years up at the elementary school, the 4th grade. So, I got so many friends that go back, you know, 70, 80 years. One in particular, has been very, very helpful is Jack- John P. Kidder III. He provided a lot of information. His mother was a teacher with my mother and our families have been friends since we moved here in 1944.”


You’ll see some photographs of some of the friends he mentions in his latest book. Like his previous books there are a lot of photographs. This one in particular has over 200. Many were given courtesy of The Rangeley Historical Society, but also from people he knew.

“I reached out to so many friends and had them dig deep and go into their family photo albums and I can’t recall one person who said, ‘No, you can’t use that’”

So that you don’t have to Google it, I’m listing all of Priest’s books in the order that they were published, so your collection will be complete.

1)    The History of Rangeley Hotels and Camps

2)    Mingo Springs Hotel, the Early Days

3)    The Gilded Age of Rangeley Maine


4)    Rangeley Through Time

5)    Rangeley Historic Legacy

So, will there be a book six?

“No, I’m going to retire. I’m 85 now and I don’t have the capacity to do a lot of the things. I still like research, but I promised my wife, (he laughed) that this would be the last one, and I’m not sure what I would do. Put it this way, I’m very, very satisfied with my contribution to the history of Rangeley.

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