The following appeared on Page 4 of the June 25, 1896, edition of the RANGELEY LAKES newspaper. Please enjoy these passages from a bygone era and be sure to get outside and make some great outdoor history of your own! 

(Contemporary commentary shared in Italics). 

Vintage photo of legendary guide Stephen Morse, in his Union Army uniform.

Great Sport at Middle Dam 

[Special to Rangeley Lakes].  

Angler’s Retreat, Middle Dam, Me., June 17, 1896 

Mr. E. W. Thompson wife, and friend, Mr. M. C. North, of New Britain, Conn., have been enjoying a two weeks’ outing at Middle Dam, in spite of bad weather. They met with the best of success, in one day’s fishing at B Pond taking 13 trout weighing when dressed, 24 pounds. Next day Mr. Thompson took a 4-pound trout below the dam and Mrs. Thompson had the pleasure of seeing a large deer at the Pond-in-River half a mile from Angler’s Retreat. Yesterday, Mr. Thompson and Mr. North, with their guides, Stephen Morse and Will Sargent, took a trip to Cedar Stump returning early in the afternoon.  


(I found this article interesting, as the skilled angler mentioned went by the name of Thompson which is a bit ironic. I have fished the Rapid River for years and have come to know many skilled anglers and guides there, but one of the best and most knowledgeable on this legendary fishery, is Chris THOMPSON of Pond-in-the-River Guide Service. As they say, “The more things change…the more they stay the same!”  

And on another note, “Cedar Stump” is the last pool on the Rapid River before it flows into Umbagog Lake. The article continues…) 

Antique postcard of Middle Dam

When asked “What luck did you have?” They said, “the very best,” having seen what they never saw before, a large bull moose, within twenty yards of them. They had the pleasure of watching him for fully five minutes. A grand sight indeed. 

(It is important to note that sighting a moose in 1898 was indeed a special treat as this monarch of the forest had been hunted to near extirpation. The population had become so jeopardized here in Maine that our first commissioned protectors were known as “Moose Wardens,” and not Game Wardens as they are called today). 

Another party stopping at South Arm took a 6-pound salmon from Pond-in-the-River. Mr. J. C. Dougherty, of Wilimantic, the well-known fly fisherman, who has not visited the lakes for a number of years, took 18 trout and four salmon below the dam (Middle Dam). The largest 4 ½ lbs. and the smallest 1 pound. All but five of these were returned to the water. This catch was made in one afternoon! Mr. Harrison Dike, of New York, who has been at Middle Dam several days, spent one night at Birch Point Camps, on B Pond, where he had the pleasure of taking 25 trout on the fly, the largest 5 pounds, three that weighed 3 pounds each, five weighing 2 pounds each, the remainder over a pound each, Lyman Sargent was the guide. 

(I hope Mr. Dike gave Old Lyman a nice tip after that amazing outing! Keep in mind that guides at the time were making $2 dollars a day, which is just $75 in today’s money)! 


B Pond is one of the prettiest ponds in the county and all who love fly fishing should not fail to pay it a visit. On June 20th C. P. Kimball, A. A. Buck, and H. Carter, of Bethel, Maine, took from B Pond, with the fly, 19 trout, largest 6 pounds, four 3 pounds each, eight weighing 2 lbs. each, three weighing 1 ½ lbs. each, and three of 1 pound each… total weight 45 1/2 pounds!  

(The article mentions guide Stephen Morse. Morse was widely recognized as the premiere guide of his day on the waters from Upper Dam to Cedar Stump. His exploits appeared regularly in local and national sporting newspapers. He once interrupted a guided fishing trip at the “Narrows,” between the Richardson Lakes, to pursue and attempt to kill a swimming Black Bear. There was no gun in the boat! When one of his nervous city-slicker Sports protested and questioned how they were to subdue the bruin, and that they risked being overturned should they indeed overtake it in this crazy “Bear Race,” Morse a veteran of the Civil War was incredulous. “We’ll kill him with the oars!” The bear got to the shore first, much to the relief of the terrified “Sports.” An exasperated Morse swore aloud and exclaimed, “There goes 35 good U.S. dollars!” 

 Morse would later claim a swimming bear, all by himself, with his oars, in that same Rangeley Boat on Pond-in-the-River. Bear oil was highly prized as a fine lubricant and the skins fetched big money. 

 One of my most gratifying moments among many while serving as Executive Director of the Outdoor Heritage Museum, was in procuring Morse’s original Rangeley Boat. This oldest known example of the legendary Rangeley Boat remains part of the museum’s collections to this day. A true historical jewel among many found at this incredible museum.  

Go check it out and until next time, Happy Trails!  

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