by Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979
This will be the last column I write in my long newspaper career. Father time and modern technology have taken their toll on me. It has been a pleasure writing for The Town Line all these years.
The following is from an old clipping that I am sending which is from The Town Line dated October 10, 2019, with the words: Don’t Worry, be happy!
It has surprised me greatly, that there are so many people who have never heard of Flagstaff, Dead River and Bigelow being flooded out by Central Maine Power Co. in 1949! Have been trying to get all my old history of the event together and came across an old clipping from Central Maine Newspapers dated June 6, 2002, with the headline “Make Flagstaff Lake a certain stop. History only one reason to visit area.”
This story was written by M.J. Kaniuka. There is a picture stating that “A view of Flagstaff Lake from the causeway in Stratton. The 26-mile long lake was formed more than 50 years ago by flooding three communities. When travelers on Route 27 first view Flagstaff Lake, in Stratton, from the causeway just beyond Stratton, their typical reaction is,” What is this?” For Flagstaff Lake, a seemingly endless puddle, looks like no other body of water in Maine . Yet it is the centerpiece of a story that encompass the Revolutionary War, progress in mid-century America and evolving ideas of outdoor recreation.
“Flagstaff Lake is a man made lake, approximately three miles wide and 26 miles long.” Its banks really recede in a drought. ” said Forrest Bonney, regional fisheries biologist. The lake was created in 1949 by Central Maine Power Company as a water storage facility for Long Falls Dam, “progress” in controlling the flood-prone Dead River. Subsequently, the lake submerged three communities: Flagstaff, Bigelow, and Dead River. The next year CMP received permission from the Legislature under the government’s right of eminent domain to buy property as it became available.
Over the years CMP bought land and buildings and moved some homes and razed others. Eventually, CMP also clear cut 18,000 acres of woodland. Wildfires took care of many of the stumps and other debris that remained. By 1939 only 30 adults and their families were left to be moved. That summer the Flagstaff and Dead River cemeteries were relocated to a site on Route 27 beside the newly-built Flagstaff Memorial Church. CMP erected the church to replace the town’s Congregational Church that they flooded. Stained glass windows from the Congregational Church were removed and installed in the chapel.
Today a memorial marker beside the chapel refers to much earlier events. In the fall of 1775 Col. Benedict Arnold passed through the region on his ill-fated march to Québec. He had left the Kennebec River below Carratunk to cut across the wilderness and reach the height of land, the dividing line between Maine and Québec. To avoid the twists and turns of the meandering Dead River, Arnold and about 1,100 men portaged their bateaux and dwindling supplies through the uninhabited Maine wilderness. They suffered incredible hardships with few or no trails to follow, rough and wet terrain, bad weather, fatigue, accidents and illness. Finally they reached the camp of an Indian named Natanis. Here Arnold erected a flag, an act that gave the town of Flagstaff its name. The historical marker on Route 27 commemorates the event, but states, “the actual spot is now under water,”
Now I’m going to end this column with a few words from a little book called Don’t Ever Give Up Your Dreams. The only way to find rainbows is to look within your heart; the only way to live fairy tales is through the imagination and power of your mind; the only place to begin a search for peace is within your very soul; because rainbows, fairy tales, and peace are treasures that grow from the inside out. – by Evelyn K. Tharp.
Poor Percy, I haven’t been sharing his great sayings lately,” As long as you can admire and love, then one is young forever.”
I take a simple view of living, it is: Keep your eyes open and get on with it.
Editor’s note: Marylin Rogers-Bull began writing for The Town Line in 2003. Prior to that, she wrote weekly columns for the Somerset Reporter and Somerset Gazette, until their closings. She has been a delightful and refreshing addition to the many volunteers who have contributed to the success of this newspaper. I have known Marilyn for over 30 years, and she has been a pleasure to work with all this time. It is also hard to say goodbye to Percy, whom I never met, but greatly admired. Her name will definitely be added to our Wall of Fame.