What follows shares the account of a trip made to Upper Dam by a party of three fishermen from New York. It appeared on page one of the August 20, 1896 edition of the RANGELEY LAKES. Some folks from away still think that Rangeley is too far in the willywhacks and just too hard to get to. This has its benefits in keeping it special in my humble view. However, read on and imagine the rigors of this 1896 journey, all met in stride at the time, and ponder it amid the expectations of today’s traveler! As they say…getting there is half the fun!

(Bill’s comments in Italics, otherwise all copy reprinted just as it appeared in 1896. The story has been redacted for space considerations and can be read in its entirety on the Maine State Library website: digitalmaine.com).

Recollections of a Trip to Rangeley

What a flood of pleasant recollections these few words will awaken in the minds of certain gentlemen whenever mentioned in their hearing or caught by their eye, for the trip to Rangeley was replete with such solid enjoyment that it was firmly impressed on their minds. It was really one of those bright spots during a man’s life whose memory is always green and which he loves to ponder over in his quiet hours.

… We left New York city on the evening of May 5th via Fall River Line (steamship), and in due time reached Boston, where, after a good breakfast, we boarded a Maine Central train, and promptly on time was safely landed in Portland. Here ample time was afforded us to partake of our dinner before the train left for Rumford Falls. I will not dwell upon the details of the trip to this point, as it was hurried, and no accident occurred of interest, which may also be said of our journey to Rumford Falls, which we reached at the proper time. On alighting from the train at this, point we were met by A. W. Thomas’ team, which we found in waiting, he having been previously advised of our coming. But little time was lost in stowing us, as well as our trunks, rod cases and grips, in one of those commodious Maine buckboards, purely a production of Yankee ingenuity. In appearance, it seemed to us heavy, cumbersome, and stiff, and we were impressed with the idea of a jolting, bouncing, and disagreeable ride of seventeen miles to Andover. The exact reverse, however, is just what we did experience, it proved to be an extremely comfortable conveyance, the horses were sturdy and spirited, yet perfectly trustworthy, the roads favorably good. (The party overnighted at the popular Andover House and met their Guides for the trip).

… At Andover we learned the ice had broken up in the lakes, which naturally hastened our departure, so we left without delay and once more seated in that wonderful Maine buckboard, we started on our journey of twelve miles to the lake. As we entered the evergreen forest we bid good-bye to villages, farms and drank in drafts of pure mountain air, flavored with spruce balsam for which the weary body and overworked brain can find no better tonic. … After traveling about three miles a halt was made, and Mr. Thomas asked us if we would like to visit Devil’s Gorge, which was on Black Brook, only a short distance front the main road. Our assent was readily given, and we were fully repaid for our trouble by seeing a wild, rushing, foaming torrent of water which for centuries had been gradually wearing away the solid rock until a channel, probably five hundred feet in extent, is presented to view in the form of a grand precipice, pools and eddies, all located in a dense forest. This granite channel is worn by the


action of the violent waters into a variety of curious shapes; in some parts rough and ragged, in others, smooth, with easy, graceful lines, as though shaped by man; the whole forming a picture weird, wild, and attractive—a spot where you long to linger and wonder. (Have you seen it? Might make for a nice picnic trip from Rangeley?)

… South Arm, as it is locally known, or, geographically speaking, Lake Welokennebacook (Lower Richardson) met our eyes. Instantly visions of the large trout we expected to catch in its mysterious depths came floating through our minds, and our ride by team came to an end. … we anxiously awaited the arrival of Tommy French’s steamer, which was to convey us to our destination, Upper Dam.

… While waiting we learned that Tommy French and his brother constructed every part of the steamer from the engine to the hull, and this was all accomplished on a lake in the forest of Maine, twenty-nine miles from a railroad and base of supplies, surely Tommy is an enterprising fellow (although this is basically true to a point, all of the first Region’s first steamers were built on site. No small task however, the boilers, propellers, etc. were shipped to the building sites via freight wagon and later by rail) … Our guides quickly loaded the luggage, while we loaded ourselves on the steamer, and away we sailed up the lake ten miles to Upper Dam. It required a trifle over an hour for us to reach there and much less time after our arrival to register as the first party of the season and get settled in our respective rooms. This camp is so well and widely known it seems quite unnecessary for me to describe it. I will say, however, that it was constructed and is conducted by its proprietor, John Chadwick, with the purpose of affording its patrons the best accommodations circumstances will permit. Not least among its many attractions, and one greatly admired and enjoyed, is the grand old granite fireplace in the rear and extending across the entire hall. It is about twenty feet in length and six feet in height, while in its capacious depth full sized sticks of cordwood rests on massive ancient andirons weighing about three hundred pounds each. With the hardwood merrily blazing above the hearth, and a semicircle of easy armchairs in front of it, a most cheerful and inviting place to rest after the day’s sport is provided, and under its beguiling influence many an experience as well as wonderful and doubtful stories are related. Our trunks were unpacked, clothes changed, rods prepared, and fishing begun within an hour after our arrival; the sport began at the same time and continued during our stay. (There is a wonderful exhibit sharing some spectacular Upper Dam House artifacts at the Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc. This exhibit alone is worth the price of admission!).

… I will not relate the details of each day’s sport, for a very lengthy article would result, as almost every day furnished an item of interest. I will merely mention some of the largest catches. B. G. Ackerman made an extraordinary catch between the hours of 10 a. m. and 5 p. m. resting from twelve until two. He landed twenty-four trout weighing thirty-nine pounds, the largest one weighing six pounds two ounces.

… During the ten days’ stay of our party we caught over two hundred trout, and returned many that were not severely hooked, and weighing less than one and one-half pounds, to the lake. Frequently, as we dropped one of them overboard, we pitied those Nimrods who whip a stream, daylight until dark and are very much elated if they catch one weighing half a pound, while with us it was the exception to catch a half pound trout. At the round-up it was found we had taken one trout weighing seven pounds, two ounces, one six pounds ten ounces, six pounds eight ounces, two five pound twelve ounces, two five pounds eight ounces, one five pounds two ounces and two of five pounds, not to mention any weighing less than five pounds. As they were all spread out together preparatory to being packed in

boxes of moss and ice for shipment, on the morning of our departure, they certainly presented a very attractive appearance, one that would gladden the heart of any angler. (And sadden us today at the resulting epitaph they were unknowingly writing for large brook trout in the future!) … Some old guides who viewed them said they never saw as fine a lot of fish taken from the lake by any party before. Our largest fish and some single-day catches were photographed by A. P. Rowell, engineer at Bellevue Camp.

(Actually, it’s A.E. Rowell and he would go on to captain steamers of his own. The nameplate for a paper company-owned log hauling steamer ‘A.E. Rowell’ named in his honor adorns the walls of the Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc today.)

…Our trip to Rangeley proved to be a decidedly successful one. It must not be inferred that large catches of trout can be made there at all times and that fair catches can be made without working for them. Patience is required before they bite, skill and proper tackle afterwards if you land the large ones. We returned from the lakes over the same route we chose in going, fully satisfied in every particular, and filled with lingering memories of the glorious sport we had. On our arrival home it was an additional pleasure to witness the surprise and delight manifested by our friends who saw the trout we brought home with us from our trip to Rangeley.

Today the region still fosters SO many great memories of joyful moments spent in nature. Truly a special place and I hope you get outside to explore and make some wonderfully personal and special Rangeley outdoor history of your own!

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