SOLON & BEYOND: Rafting on the Kennebec in the ‘old days’

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

The only recent news I have received in time to get it printed is the following: Support your community. The Embden Community Center’s Neighbor Thrift Shop needs your help. Volunteers are needed in the Thrift Shop on Wednesdays 9 a.m. to noon, and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All Thrift Shop proceeds support the ongoing maintenance of the Community Center. As a volunteer you will get a first look at the fabulous donations we receive and a discount on your purchases. Thanks so much Carol.

In order to get any news in on time, I have to receive it by Sunday.

Those of you who read this column, know that I have been going back in time to hopefully send out news of the Good Old Days that you might enjoy in these troubled times. This week this news was published in the paper that I was writing for at that time….. the Somerset Gazette, in Skowhegan, on October 8, 1993, entitled, Rafting & More The Kennebec River, by Marilyn and Chandra Rogers.

“It came right so that I could go down to the Evergreens Campground on Wednesday morning and watch as students from Carrabec High School started on their journey down the Kennebec. The river lay heavy with a cold fog as guides from Unicorn Rafting Expeditions made sure the 36 rafts were ready for the young voyagers about to arrive in their assigned school buses. As each bus arrived, names were called for the students to embark in raft number one and so on down through the numbers and students waded in, rather gingerly at times as the water was crisp that morning. Everything was very well planned and the students were great. I heard the guy calling off the names of the students exclaim, “This is fantastic!” Along with the fun and comradeship, the students learned of the importance of the river economically and environmentally to this region.

I wanted to get an idea of the trip through a student’s eyes so asked granddaughter, Chandra to write her views of this different learning process and she said she had thought of writing a letter so that you, the taxpayer, wouldn’t be disturbed at this new method of teaching and I think she puts it so well as she writes. (The following words are written by Chandra) … “Rafting on the Kennebec”…. When I first heard the idea of the whole school of Carrabec rafting the Kennebeck River, I was surprised and excited at the same time. The idea of a whole high school working together as one unit was something new and different at Carrabec.

The week started out with a day trip on Monday of traveling around the Kennebec region seeing sites of importance and landmarks. Mixed in alphabetical order, we traveled on several buses to different stops of interest. We then all learned about Wyman Dam, eating there at lunch. The last stop was at the Piper Farm. We had an entire tour and saw many demonstrations on the care of cows, soil nutrition, farming equipment and how the river affects the land and soil around the farm. The trip ended with everyone receiving a hayride back to the farm.

On Wednesday, everyone arrived at school dressed and ready to go in warm clothes for our trip down the river. We then met with our rafting crew and waited to be told to get on the bus. When they called my boat, #27, we received our lifejackets and paddles and started off. When arriving at Evergreens Campground we were directed to our boat and jumped in to start our trip. Working together, the students paddled along in the direction of the lead boat, which had a guide. Then we traveled along the gently flowing river for quite a time until we reached an island designated for eating the cookout lunch prepared by the cafeteria cooks. After relaxing and talking with friends, we shoved off to continue in the last hour of our trip. When we arrived at the dump road in North Anson, we paddled the rafts to the indicated finish line. Then the students worked together to dump the water out of their rafts and they were loaded onto a trailer.

The whole trip was great fun for everyone and taught us much about the river being a recreational resource and that teamwork can be developed even if you aren’t with your closest buddies. I want to thank everyone that was involved in making these two trips possible and taking that risk of doing something new and exciting to bring all the students at Carrabec together as one, Signed, Chandra Rogers.

Knowing, Chandra, I’m sure she did really enjoy that experience to its fullest!…… and you know, as I typed that whole 27-year-old report I thought of a brilliant idea! I’m going to tell Chandra that if I ever get the good sense to quit writing, or even before!) she should be writing……? what do you think, Roland?)

Now for a brief memoir from Percy: To know Love is to know Life; To give Love is to know Happiness.

SOLON & BEYOND: Life as a precarious Lombard tractor steersman

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Here it is already time to write another column for The Town Line paper after spending several days up in Leif’s special place, Aroostook County. He grew up there and many of his relatives still live there, so we went up and spent quite a lot of time visiting with all of them. His family is truly special and lots of fun like Lief, and we truly enjoyed all the laughter and love that was there.

There were much more beautiful colors in the trees up there than we have down here yet. The vastness of the landscape is overwhelming with its beauty. We both had a wonderful time and think about how we should go up more often, but the long…long…drive up there is very tiring for both of us.

Was also hoping that I would find lots more recent news like some of you sent for last week’s column, but no such luck! And so when I looked through my old stash of “History” I came up with this article that Robert Krumn wrote for some paper called Steer for Your Life – Sam. “Some people have never heard of a Lombard steerman, but then, there aren’t many of them around anymore. Before World War I, however, the men who steered Lombards were as much heroes to youngsters in Maine as astronauts are to kids today. They lived dangerously, walked with a swagger and made up to $4 a day – for as long as they steered, which wasn’t too long for some of them.

Sam White, my 81-year old neighbor in Alaska, is almost a legend in that state as one of the original bush pilots and early game wardens. He started flying open cockpit planes over untracked wilderness and arresting wild-eyed poachers in the late 1920s. Either job would have been adventurous enough for an ordinary man, but Sam is prouder about the years he steered a Lombard Steam Log Hauler through the forests of Maine than of all his later years of adventure in Alaska.

A steamer log hauler was the original crawler-type overland vehicle. It was invented by a homespun mechanical genius named Alvin Orlando Lombard, the precocious son of a back-country sawmill operator. Lombard didn’t consider the log hauler to be his greatest invention, but a lot of other people did, for it revolutionized the logging industry. Prior to steam power, lumbermen could only transport logs by river drives or horse-drawn sleds and drays. The log hauler allowed them to move logs from one valley to another, thus opening up previously inaccessible stands of timber.

Sam will never forget his first look at a Lombard.

It was in Eustis, Maine, one afternoon in 1901. At four-and-a-half miles per hour, a Lombard – with its rapid exhaust and musical whistle – sounded like a train going sixty. As there were no train tracks nearby it was obviously something new and exciting, so Sam’s teacher dismissed class to watch the first two Lombards ever made clatter past. Sam was enthralled; he had never seen anything nearly as thrilling as those 20-ton monsters. He set his heart on becoming a Lombard engineer.

In those days a boy didn’t have to wait long to become a man. Sam started working in the woods during his fourteenth winter. He was a swamper first, not a steersman, but at least he got to listen to the steersmen’s yarns when the lumber crew gathered around the heater in the bunkhouse at night.

For a youngster, Sam was big and strong, and he soon progressed from swamper to bucker, then faller and loader. The work was challenging and the pay was good. In 1908 Sam came out of the woods after 91 days with $91. Lumbering was winter work, so, in between seasons, Sam got what schooling he could and worked at his father’s farm and sawmill. He still had an itch to be a hero, though. His opportunity came in 1914 when the woods boss asked him if he was ready to try steering a Lombard.

Sam, of course, considered the request a great favor, but, actually, there weren’t too many woodsmen eager to take the job. The pay was good; better, in fact, than that of the other three crewmen – the engineer, the fireman or the conductor. But the chances for spending the pay weren’t too promising.

Lombards didn’t have brakes. Mr. Lombard wasn’t insensible to the dangers of going downhill without brakes. It was just that brakes wouldn’t work with a Lombard log hauler followed by 15 or 20 sleds full of logs. Brakes in front would cause a jackknife; brakes in the rear weren’t practical.

This didn’t cause the engineer, the fireman nor the conductor any great concern, because they could jump. But not so with the steersman. He sat wrestling a large iron steering wheel, in a little open shed, on the very front of the steam engine. It was too far for him to jump sideways, so he either steered or got squashed between the boiler and any tree that got in the way.

I’m going to end there for this day, as I’m afraid I’ve gone over my space already! I’m wondering if any of you men can even remember those old Lombards?

Just a short memoir from Percy: entitled Choice: Our lives are songs; God writes the words And we set them to music at pleasure; And the song grows glad, or sweet or sad As we choose to fashion the measure. (words by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.)

SOLON & BEYOND: Marijuana ordinance public hearing set

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

There will be a Marijuana Ordinances public hearing on Wednesday, September 16, at the fire station at 6:30 p.m. If input at the public hearing results in the ordinance committee deciding to further revise these draft ordinances, another budget committee meeting and public hearing will be required. The budget committee meeting and public hearing will be held on September 23, at the town office at 6:30 p.m., with the public hearing immediately following the budget committee meeting.

There will be a special town meeting on Saturday, October 3, at the Solon School at 10 a.m.

Again my thanks go out to more real up to date local news. The New Portland Community Library will begin its Sundays hours September 13 through May 31. Hours are 1 – 3 p.m. Closed September 6 for the Labor Day weekend. So the hours will be Sundays 1 – 3 p.m., Tuesdays 9 a.m. – noon, Wednesdays 4 – 6 p.m., Thursdays 1 – 3 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m. – noon. The “free table” of books is just inside the door. All library items can be checked out for up to two weeks. We have plenty of new books and some DVDs to browse. Please come in and enjoy one of your free community services!

And now for one of Percy’s cheerful little memoirs these difficult times! Deal omly with the present, Never step into tomorrow, For God asks us just to trust Him And to never borrow sorrow – For the future is not ours to know And it may never be. So let us live and give our best And give it lavishly – For to meet tomorrow’s troubles Before they are even ours Is to anticipate the Saviour And to doubt His all-wise powers – So let us be content to solve Our problems one by one, Asking nothing of tomorrow Except “Thy Will be done.” (words by Helen Steiner Rice.)

SOLON & BEYOND: Thrift store, community center re-open

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

I was very happy to receive two e-mails with wonderful news this week! The first one was from Mary Frear and she wrote, The Embden Thrift Store, at the Embden Community Center, is back in operation. The new hours are Wednesday 9 a.m. – noon and Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Only five customers can be in the shop at the same time, and everyone must wear a mask. No one will be allowed to enter without one. Thank you for your always interesting articles. Keep up the good work! Sincerely Mary Frear. ( Thank you, ever so much for your kind words, I shall treasure them!)

Also received an e-mail from my faithful helper, Carol Dolan, and she wrote, Changes at the Embden Community Center; The Neighbor to Neighbor Thrift Shop will be open Wednesday’s 9 – 10 a.m. – noon and Saturday’s 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., ( not open on Friday’s )

Other events: Sewing – Wednesday’s 9 a.m. – noon, and Bone Building, 9 – 10 a.m. Thanks so much, Carol.

This week, because the above e-mails are the only local news that I have received, I am going to print some of the Solon and Beyond news of February 11, 2005, from the newspaper that my cat Percy and I started in January 2005.

At the beginning, it starts with these words: Perseverance (Percy) Rogers co-owner of SOLON and BEYOND

Would like to introduce you to my partner and supporter, Perseverance (a/k/a Percy). On bad days he is right there to cuddle with me, with one paw as far as he can get it around my neck.

Percy started out as a frightened stray kitten and was rescued by a family on Route 43. They called and told me about this sweet little female kitten that needed a home and it was love at first sight. I named her Faith, but as luck would have it, on the first trip to the vet, I found out that a boy’s name was needed instead. After a short time this little kitten started his true personality and hence Perseverance, or Percy for short.

Percy has many talents besides being a good cuddler, he is always at the door to welcome me home, loves to sing, (Amazing Grace is his favorite song!) He has become famous and much loved for his good advice in the columns I have written. As you can see from his picture, he is very intelligent and he’s promoting this book of meditations – for-cat lovers. Oh yes, he thinks he is a mighty hunter and is still looking for the mouse that got away! (For those of you who didn’t get the January 21, 2005, issue of this paper, I told of his letting a live mouse loose at my feet and how upset I got at him.) I must confess, there is a slight power struggle between us as to who who is really the “Boss!”

There was a lot of local news printed and then it continues with these words: One of the things I have always enjoyed over the years as a reporter, is hearing from people and then sharing their news. It is now early Thursday morning and we’re in the middle of a beautiful snowstorm. I quite often write this paper during different times and days, am finding that this is a full time job. The reactions that I get when I tell people that I’ve started my own paper, are basically the same, total amazement! It affects me like that some days, also. One day this week someone said to me, “What are you trying to do? You’re giving this paper away!” True….and had hoped for a miracle of some kind, but when the miracle doesn’t materialize immediately, you compensate. Sometimes you have to eat your words, as in this case, never say ‘never’! I had tried to sell ads for another paper for awhile last year and couldn’t reach the goal set for me and so I quit. I remember saying the words, “I’ll never sell ads, again, ever ! Well, you will notice that I have started selling ads again, and my many, many thanks for those who responded so graciously. (And you know, I did receive a miracle, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined your wonderful response to this little paper, my heartfelt thanks..)

And so with your great support, I have decided to expand to Bingham. And so the first story from there will start with a question. Can someone in Bingham tell us Solon people the story, (what, why, who did it and more) about the, as we call it, “Mystery Light,” on the river? Going north, it shines from the island, soon after you go by Goodrich Road. When I heard about it, I called Glen Wing and he said he had never seen it. So being a person who has to be shown, I have been up both during the day and night to witness the mystery for myself. If anyone has any information about this would you call or e-mail me, I love a mystery. End of that story: I don’t seem to remember all of that happening, hope some of you will clear that up for me.

This message that Percy is approving this week is from his favorite book, What My Cat Has Taught Me About Life. And it says, “To get a grip on a job that’s waiting, dig in with determination. Work past that imposing start, and get hooked on a dreaded task. Nothing productive in this world happens without hard work. Sharpen your character with a little gutsy determination, and sink your energies into that next project.”

SOLON & BEYOND: Looking back at my attempt to produce a weekly newspaper

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

This week’s column will be taken in part, from an article I wrote when my cat Percy and I started a paper of our own, dated March 25, 2005.

It starts with these words: Good Morning My Friends, Don’t Worry be Happy!

This week I am dedicating this issue to friendship. Would like to start with these words from Thomas Hughes: “Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.”

Would like to say once again how much I appreciated the many, many kind and encouraging words I have received from so many of you in response to this little paper. Tears of joy have formed in my eyes more than once at your appreciation for my efforts to bring you love and laughter via the written word. To a certain extent this is the way I have always written, some editors have let me get away with it, some have not ! (Being the editor of this paper, I got away with it.)

Could write a book about editors, have written under many in the over 40 years that I’ve writing. This is a neat example of some of the support I have received from loyal readers when I was having a problem with an editor. This was many years ago when I was writing for the Somerset Reporter. This lady in her middle 80s, who didn’t have a license to drive, hired someone to take her to the Somerset Reporter office in Skowhegan. She had whoever had taken her to Skowhegan go in the office and bring the editor out so she could give him a piece of her mind. She was a lady who only needed a few words to get her message across. She helped my case immensely! As I said, I could write a book, but only once did I ever quit writing (for a short time) because of an editor! ( Roland is the perfect example of a wonderful editor!)

Now more on this paper I had started: And since this issue is dedicated to friendship, I am going to print a picture of some of the SCCEBDMSS members. For those of you who have never heard what those letters stand for, we are Solon Chapter Chowder Eating Beer Drinking Marching and Singing Society members. And to set the record straight, we are not a boozing bunch! They don’t know I’m putting this picture on the front page, it was taken 16 years ago, (sorry I can’t print it here) but they were Gloria Barnes, Dorothy Brown, Marge Adams and Alice Heald.

There was quite a bit of local news in, as it was back in the time when every thing didn’t get canceled!

And then I wrote, “Some of you who have been picking up these little papers since the first issue on January 15 will know that I couldn’t afford to give them to you forever. This is the seventh and last issue of, probably the smallest and shortest lived newspaper ever. I do believe that the newspaper business is in my blood, and when I couldn’t get the news printed in the paper I was writing for at the time I decided to start my own paper. Knew I couldn’t keep giving them away forever and prayed for a miracle. As stubborn as I am, don’t know how deep a financial hole I would have dug myself into if the miracle hadn’t materialized! Next week you will be seeing Percy and me once again in The Town Line. Those of you who pick up that paper will have started to see how much it has improved since Roland Hallee has taken over as editor.

Just a few facts about this little paper I started, the first week I printed 62 copies with two pages in it on my printer. I distributed them to the three stores here in Solon and to Pinkham’s Elm Street Market, in North Anson. The next three issues I also printed on my protesting old printer, and they were now up to three pages. By that time I had started checking out the cost of having them printed professionally because I was having to buy a print cartridge for each issue.

The fifth issue had a picture of my faithful helper Percy on the front page as well as a couple of ads and was printed by Deck Copy and the distribution is up to 170 papers a week, and again I can’t tell you, my friends how much I have loved your support. Didn’t realize it was going to be a full time job, I had become an editor/publisher, writer, ad salesman, business manager and paper deliverer.

I am going to print my financial statement so that you will understand that it takes money to run a paper and I hope businesses in this area will take out ads in The Town Line to keep it in Somerset County. My printing costs for the seven issues published …$231; received $20 for ads, making a total spent of $211, this doesn’t include money for gas, all the time I spent writing, postage for all the papers I mailed out. I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for me, just hope you know how much I want a small weekly paper in this area.

I have made many friends through my writing (and a few enemies) but can’t stress enough how much I have loved your appreciation for this little paper.

This week Percy approves highly of these words by William Penn: “A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” (Editors note: Have had more comments on how much you like Percy’s good advice, he is one smart cat, the only problem is he knows it!)

I told Roland I didn’t know as I could go back to being a writer after being an editor, but I’ll do my best. My many thanks and love, Marilyn.

Percy’s memoir is short and to the point: Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life. (words by Carrie Chapman Catt.)

SOLON & BEYOND: The conclusion to The Burial of Flagstaff

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

This will be the fourth and final column about the Burial of Flagstaff. I have heard from some of you who said you have enjoyed learning about the sad drowning of the Dead River and Flagstaff communities, I was greatly pleased.

By November 1949, the waters of the Dead River were beginning to back up behind Central Maine Power Company’s new dam at Long Falls as the project moved rapidly toward completion. Miniature lakes dotted the 29 mile-long tract, where for the previous year and a half, hundreds of men had been cutting trees and burning brush to clear the flowage area.

Water was already nearing the highway in the vicinity of the Ledge House hunting lodge and camps once owned by the late Blaine Viles, of Augusta. Bog Brook had overflowed its banks to the point where it had lost its identity as a brook.

When all the miniature lakes and the brook would merge into a great lake would depend on the severity of the winter and the spring run-off.

While a few stout-hearted residents of Flagstaff had “banked up for the winter,” most of the town’s residents had moved away. A few had moved to Solon, some to Anson and one family moved to Kingfield.

Evan Leavitt stayed on for a few weeks because of his business, keeper of the general store, because of the trade of the flowage and construction workers who were living in the abandoned homes; Percy Parsons Jr. drove the school bus and carried the children of the workers to the school in Eustis; and Duluth Wing, the snow plow driver, had to keep the roads open for the winter.

The old village of Flagstaff had become desolate. Abandoned dwellings were over-crowed with workmen employed on the dam. Dooryards were filled with trucks and machinery. Houses had been moved, others were razed and salvage lumber was stacked all about.The yard of the little church was filled with lumber and machinery. Windows were out and the door was gone. The hillside cemetery had vanished.

From Dumouline’s set of camps the contractors with the largest crew of workers, 125 men, had moved from the Bog Brook location to the village of Flagstaff where the men were living in the houses vacated by the residents moving to new locations.

The Flagstaff schoolhouse, erected in 1929, was being dismantled, with some of the equipment going to the Stratton schools which most of the pupils from Flagstaff and Dead River would be attending. Other equipment was given to the town of New Sharon whose school building had recently been destroyed by fire.

At a sale conducted by former superintendent Julian Thompson, 32 people showed up to help dispose of the material in the school. Eight were teachers at some time in the past. Textbooks and library books, paper and chalk were given to those who wanted them and chairs, teacher’s desks, radio-phonograph, and other equipment was sold to the highest bidder.

By now, a larger segment of the former Flagstaff settlement’s population was building a new settlement on the Eustis highway, in the township of Eustis near Cathedral Pines.

They called the new community, New Flagstaff

On the bank of the North Branch of the Dead River at the head of the storage lake made by the dam at Long Falls, where the new village was built, in the shadows of Mt. Bigelow, a flag raising took place.

Through the loyalty and patriotism of 80-year-old Capt. Cliff Wing, who was Flagstaff’s oldest male resident, the flag pole from the old village had been salvaged after it had broken and fallen into the lake. Wing towed the fallen flagstaff up the lake to the site of his new home, some six miles from its original location.

A few weeks earlier, he had been on the lake in his boat and as he neared the location of the flooded Flagstaff, he saw the flag pole broken and in the water. “I had a feeling of shame and it seemed to me that I could hear it saying, “captain, how could you do this, how could you leave me behind? Forty-five years ago you helped to cut and bring me from the woods and erected me to stand for that which has been the backbone of Flagstaff history, its part in the great expedition of Benedict Arnold and his men who passed this way. Wing said.

“I made up my mind that it should not be left behind and with the help of Luther Wing, we towed it home.”

The pole which was once 60 feet in height, was now only 40 feet tall because it had rotted away and had been reset three times, each time losing some of its length. Wing expressed his hope that the flagstaff would always be maintained, and if at some point, would no longer be tall enough to serve as a flagstaff, it could be put in a museum for future generation to know of the traditional Flagstaff.

With the actual evacuation of the two plantations completed and without legal residents and municipal officers, the question arose, “What next? Just how will affairs be closed off? Will it require a special act by the legislature ?

On March 5, 1951, Governor Frederick G. Payne signed two emergency bills taking effect at once surrendering the organization of Dead River and Flagstaff Plantations in Somerset County. The two communities had been officially written off on that day.

SOLON & BEYOND: The Burial of Flagstaff story continues

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Before I get into this week’s third column of the Burial of Flagstaff, I’m going to print the only recent news I have received: The August 10, 2020, Embden Historcal Society meeting has been canceled. My many thanks go out to Carol Dolan for keeping us informed.

The Burial of Flagstaff: The anxiety of waiting by Roland Hallee and Marilyn Rogers.

The dam was now under construction and the residents of Flagstaff knew the end of their quaint little town was near. Anticipating the changes that were coming, residents were saddened and serious. They were not resentful, rather, but rather bewildered. As to what they will do and where they will go, no one had a definite answer.

Outside the community the project meant work, cutting flowage, construction and after completion, more industry from storage water power.

The men of Flagstaff had always been lumbermen, rivermen and guides. Among the families who came down through the years were the Viles, the Wings, the Savages, the Hines and Taylors.

The most noted and remembered set of buildings to go was the so-called Parsons Place. A huge set of buildings built in the early 1880s by Thomas Butler and later sold to Samuel Parsons. This was a road house or old time tavern open the year around. The stage from “down river,”originating from New Portland and connecting with “up-river,” Eustis, and tied up there, lumbermen, river drivers, hunters, fishermen, guides and all who traveled the Dead River region planned to stop at the Parsons Place whenever going that way.

The Dead River was about 50 miles long. It ends at The Forks where it flows into the Kennebec River. It rises out of Chain of Ponds and watershed of the United States and Canada.

Also within the water area was the DAR market place in honor of Col. Timothy Bigelow, one of the leaders in the Arnold Expedition and the first known white man to ascend the mountain that bears his name.

Also taking place at this time was a meeting of the Flagstaff and Dead River boards of selectmen to discuss and name the desired location for the removal of their cemeteries. Eustis Ridge was the desired site.

Leroy Parsons, who was second assessor of the plantation, while referring to his own home and while pointing to the eaves of the house, grimly remarked, “They say that will be the high water mark.”

Mrs. Kenneth Taylor, a great-great granddaughter of one of the early settlers, Rufus Viles, remembered earlier happier days.”The beauty of these days, make us all realize our homes here are more precious than ever before.”

In an article in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, on March 7, 1949, columnist Clayton LaVerdiere wrote:

A gallant little town that is slated to die came out with one last, bold gesture of defiance here tonight.

As if nothing had ever happened – or ever would – some 30 of Flagstaff’ s voters conducted their annual town meeting in a business-like manner that belied the apprehehension lurking in the hearts of all.

Sitting in the the tiny schoolhouse, bronzed woodsmen and their wives studiously avoided discussing the numbered days of a community that will probably, by next March, be at the bottom of a lake….

They tackled 25 articles of the town warrant with enthusiasm, voting to keep their schoolhouse, and appropriated $1,000 for an “Old Home Day” that promises to be the biggest thing to hit Flagstaff in many a moon.

Deep in their hearts they all knew, though, that this celebration would be a colorful farewell to a town they knew so well, a town rich with the history of America’s struggles for freedom.

Voters dropped their ballots into a hat in the old-fashioned way, raised $11,368 and the called it a night.

Flagstaff had been an active, busy little town since 1865, thriving on the vast woodlands bounding it on all sides. It was established close to the banks of the Dead River, whose waters eventually would be backed up to cover the town.

Although town residents watched as 700 men were swarming over adjacent property, clearing the land for the huge project, they were still uncertain as to when the evacuation date would come.

Perry Burbank, who had just been elected to his 21st term as town clerk said, “we’ re still looking ahead as if nothing ever happened.”

Captain Cliff Wing, attending his 55th town meeting, slouched behind the tiny desk and said little. There was a gleam of sadness in the 76-year-old gentlemen’s eye. “I guess it’s a good thing in the end probably,” he said, after awhile, “but I kind of hate to leave. It’s just hard to tell where we’re goin’, what we’re going to do.”

Hilda Ames’ big job was teaching some of Flagstaff’s four high school, 14 grammar school and 22 primary grade pupils, but that night, she too, felt rather sad, “I’ don’t like it very well, she said. “I’ve always lived here. It’s hard to think of any other place to live.”

Her husband, Hazen, who owned a store on Flagstaff’s Main St. said “I wouldn’t mind if I had been younger. No one knows where to go, what to do.”

Evan Leavitt, postmaster and proprietor of the town’s general store, added “nobody likes to be forced out of their home. It’s just human nature.”

The light point of the meeting came when Perley Stevens was unanimously re-elected as road commissioner. He responded by saying he wasn’t sure he could do the job that year. (Perley Stevens was my dear uncle).

The residents now awaited the full flood of the spring runoff which once signaled the re-awakening of the lovely rural country side.

The residents of Dead River Plantation also faced the same fate. By March 1950, the highway was already flooded, thus closing forever the Dead River Road from the intersection where the new road leads to the dam at Long Falls. By this time, Bert Witham’s home had already been burned, as well as the old landmark of the highway, Parson’s Place and the old Ledge House.

By the spring of 1950 the waters of the Dead River crept slowly over a barren burned-over countryside with only a few scattered buildings, all abandoned to a watery death.

Water flowing into a 25-mile man-made water reservoir had already cut off the roads, and all the residents of Flagstaff and nearby Dead River, had moved.

And now for Percy’s memoir: People are only complete when they have a true friend to understand them, to share all their passions and sorrows with and to stand by them throughout their lives. Always remember: Don’t worry, be happy!

SOLON & BEYOND: More on the Burial of Flagstaff

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

This will be the second column written about The Burial of Flagstaff, by Roland and myself. He wrote quite a bit about the beginning of this sad happening and it starts this way…. The decision to build the dam at Long Falls had been in the planning stages for quite some time. Up to 20 years before the first tree was cut, Central Maine Power Co., in conjunction with Great Northern Paper Co. and Hollingsworth & Whitney, in Winslow, had begun buying up property in the Flagstaff area. The community was the only one of any size with an elevation low enough to be covered by the future lake.

By an act of the Legislature in 1937, the creation of the Dead River storage was authorized and the act was renewed in 1939 and subsequently, in 1941.

Maine ‘s hydro-electric output would be increased by thousands of kilowatts with the completion of the project. The Dead River storage basin contains no generating equipment at the Long Falls site, but provides additional prime capacity from the Central Maine Power Company’s five generating stations on the Kennebec River.

The storage system was increased by about 35 to 47 billion cubic feet of water, increasing the Kennebec River’s normal flow and making higher minimum flows.

The dam would act as a huge reservoir to control the flow of water into Wyman dam, as well as dams at Skowhegan, Madison, Solon, Shawmut, Fairfield, Waterville, Augusta and those along the length of the Kennebec River. The dam in Augusta has since been removed.

When completed, the dam would create a lake approximately 25 miles long and impound some 12 billion cubic feet of water. The estimated cost for the project was put at $4 million. Work began in 1949 and was was completed in 1950.

Up to that time the Dead River and its peculiarities had been controlled by one dam, a 21-gate hand-operated wooden affair. The Dead River would have been useless if it hadn’t been for that small dam. The river was a sight to be remembered after the zig-zag course, which at times runs all points of the compass. That river no longer exists as the entire basin is flooded with up to 20 feet of water.

By July 1948, the sound of axes were already in the air as the crews began to open up the area where the engineers and construction crews would build the dam. The few remaining residents sadly watched the preparations for the construction.

(I hadn’t thought it could get any worse!….. But then came all the raging fires! Can’t begin to explain what that was like! )

However, the tiny village of Flagstaff was to meet another challenge. In July 1948, forest fires broke out in the vicinity where crews were cutting in the flowage area. A Somerset County official said the Flagstaff fires were centered mainly on the Central Maine Power Co. flowage basin, sweeping unchecked through 50 acres of private timberlands. The town was threatened with complete destruction by one of three forest fires raging within sight of its main street.

At 5:30 p.m., an eye witness stated that Flagstaff “appeared doomed,” as a brisk northeast wind pushed a stubborn fire on the Eustis Road to within a half-mile of the built up section, before being checked by Flagstaff, Rangeley and state forestry department firefighters. Flagstaff was spared for the time being. ( I can remember one that was much nearer to our house than that, and our only means of escape was to cross the big bridge where the fire was close by, not a pretty sight!

At this point, Flagstaff was a town of 20 families. The people of Flagstaff had been taken by surprise, and almost stunned by the news that their homes were to be inundated as a result of the dam project. They had known for years that such a move was pending, but had gotten used to the idea, and it was always something that MIGHT happen SOMETIME in the future . Folks had heard the building of such a dam talked about for 20 years. But as time passed, it had become more or less a myth.

However, there had always been a feeling of uncertainty in everything they had done. No one attempted to establish anything permanent.

Financial arrangements were made with the property holders by the development concern, but the remaining residents were now faced with a stern reality that made them sad and homesick.

Public buildings included a fine school house, a Congregational Church, a mill, one store and the Masonic lodge.

There were many residents of Flagstaff who were born and had always lived there.

The Dead River Plantation was in a similar circumstance. Although they did not have a village, there were 27 sets of buildings in the area to be flooded.

I am sending an excerpt from a letter to the editor, published on June 29, 1948, written by a wonderful friend of mine who lived in Dead River.

To the editor:

Your recent editorial on the benefits to be received from the building of the dam on the Dead River makes me shake a wrathy fist at you people who are so in need of more hydro-power that we must sacrifice our homes and lands to it. To us who have put all our love, labor, and earnings into the lands that have been in our families for years, there can be no compensation for their loss.

It seems a sad and selfish thing when the needs of urban dwellers become so demanding as to cause, to be obliterated, two communities whose inhabitants live in greater happiness, satisfaction, and far more tranquil peace of mind than you harried city folk can imagine. (Written by Frances Taylor, who I miss very much)

I hope all of those who read this column every week are enjoying this old news about days gone by. With all that is going on in our world today, I’m going to send out a bit of information in memory of my dear cat, Percy. Hope it helps!

We need to feel more to understand others, We need to love more to be loved back, We need to cry more to cleanse ourselves, We need to laugh more to enjoy ourselves, We need to be honest and fair when interacting with people, We need to establish a strong ethical basis as a way of life, We need to see more than our own fantasies, We need to hear more and listen to the needs of others, We need to give more and take less, We need to share more and own less, We need to realize the importance of the family as a backbone to stability, We need to look more and realize that we are not so different from one another, We need to create a world where we can trust one another, We need to create a world where we can all peacefully live the life we choose.

SOLON & BEYOND: The day we had to abandon our homes in the name of progress

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

It has been awhile since I sat down at this computer (I had threatened to trash it from all the problems it had given me )….. But thanks to Peter it is up and running again!

As those of you know who read this column, I am very against the CMP Corridor……. and I have managed to get a few printed to the editor of the daily paper. A lot of that is due to the fact that I can remember when we had to sell our homes and move from Flagstaff (it was a very upsetting time for many of us). But……I can also remember how happy I was when Roland and I did the four part series called The Burial of Flagstaff. The following is from the first one in the series: “Like all progress, it will not be accompanied without some heartaches, for the waters to be backed up by the dam will cover the land on which is now located the little community of Flagstaff.”

Twenty-two years ago, I asked John Alden, editor of the Somerset Reporter, if he would print a story about Flagstaff. He had never heard of the place, but he did print the article which included parts of newspaper clippings of the building of the dam that flooded the area – 1949 was the year many of us headed out to a new adventure after living in Flagstaff and Dead River our entire lives.

I wonder what my life would have been like if 35 years ago we hadn’t been ordered from our homes in Flagstaff and Dead River by Central Maine Power Co. Did you ever stop to think what it would be like not to be able to go back home-town?

Like all progress , it will not be accompanied without some heartaches, for the waters to be backed up by the dam will cover the land on which is now located the the little community of Flagstaff.

In the Waterville Morning Sentinel, Tues., July 5, 1949, Eva Bachelder wrote:

The Rev. Arthur R. Macdougall Jr. called what was perhaps Maine’s most solemn Independence Day a “seeming burial.”

At this seeming burial of your little village, Rev. Macdougall said, “You the people of Flagstaff, can broadcast for all to hear that you have lived in one of Maine’s small villages beside a river, surrounded by mountains…a place where there was room to live and to work and to own ones acre… that you have the dignity of everyday freedom the like of which there is no wealth or treasure to compare.”

The words above are all taken from the first week of this four part article written by Roland and myself, Marilyn Rogers, before I became a Bull.

It continues: “I finally went back to where Flagstaff used to be … and the peace and tranquility were still there; and the strength of Mt. Bigelow towering in the distance was as comforting as it had always been in my childhood years.

Would the pace of modern-day living have reached Flagstaff? Some of us didn’t have electricity or plumbing, and yet I don’t feel underprivileged because of the pleasant memories I treasure.

The skiing and sliding on Jim Eaton Hill, skating on Flagstaff Pond in winter and swimming in summer. Everyone turned out for school socials and plays. It was a wonderful place to grow up in. But all during my childhood, every so often during the grown ups conversations, mention was made of a dam being built and having to move. The thought was intolerable, and yet it did come to pass, and in the fall of 1949 the people of Flagstaff and Dead River sadly went their separate ways..

Any homeowner, deep rooted in his own community and neighborhood, with many long-time friends, can easily realize the feelings of those about to be dispossessed. It may not be much consolation to say that the flooding of Flagstaff and Dead River is part of the price of progress long paid in the history of our national growth. First it was the Indians, who were driven off their lands to make way for the white man. At intervals since others have had to sacrifice for the benefit of the majority.”

Like all progress, it will not be accompanied without some heartaches, for the waters to be backed up by the dam will cover the land on which is now located the little community of Flagstaff. (Some of the above was printed in the Lewiston Daily Sun on July 1, 1948.)

This first article was called The Price of Progress, by Roland Hallee and Marilyn Rogers. Tucked away diagonally east of both Eustis and Stratton, in Somerset County, was once a small hamlet known as Flagstaff. The tiny village was located in a low lying area which the Dead River snaked through. Off in the distance could be seen majestic Bigelow Mountain. It was a post card picturesque community.

It received its name from the fact that Benedict Arnold on his way to attack Québec City in 1775, encamped there with his forces. They chose a tall juniper tree and created a flag pole to fly the national standard on that site. Until the demise of the town in 1950, a flagstaff always marked the spot.

Legend has it, according to family records of Isaiah Taylor and wife, that “six families had cleared land and built log houses, then came the big freshet of 1831, water coming into the houses causing the families to leave their homes and going to John Berry’s on high land. One man with a broken leg lay in his bed when Isaiah Taylor paddled right into his bedside, taking him and his bed into his log boat, and carrying them to a place safely on high land.” The log boat referred to was a hollowed tree.

It ends with this remark from guess who? Marilyn’s final comment in that article was: “With the price of electricity climbing steadily, will someone please tell me how high is the price for this thing called progress?”

SOLON & BEYOND: Alumni reunion canceled for this year

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

My apologies to all of you for not having any column in for several weeks. That computer of mine got more contrary than ever and refused to work, and so some of this news should have been in several weeks ago.

Received the following letter from Linda Rogers French: Dear Alumni and Friends, Because of the Covid-19 we will not be having the reunion this year as there is no way to predict if it will be safe by then. We have to make our plans now, and right now it is not safe. This will put a big dent in our scholarship fund so we are hoping that folks will still donate to the scholarship fund as we are still going to give out the scholarship and have already picked the recipients for next year. The scholarships this year will be Lilyana Aloes and Chantel Lee Whittemore.

Last year we had 54 alumni and friends attend the reunion. We made $1,020 on the auction from sales and donations. Diane Oliver Poulin was the auctioneer.

Deaths reported were Ruth Hunnewell Fluet, class of 1947, Mary Andrews Jackson, class of 1948, Odber Andrews, class of 1949, Harriet Cross Dolan, class of 1949, Issac Davis Jr., class of 1956, Jean Quimby Wooster, class of 1969. Also Clara Greenlaw and Carroll Greenlaw.

So since we won’t be able to have an auction this year if anyone would like to make a donation to the scholarship fund it would be greatly appreciated. Donations may be sent to our treasurer, Jo Rancourt Holden, 66 Parkman Hill Road, Skowhegan, ME 04976.

Please make checks payable to Solon Alumni Assn. Thank you all and let’s pray that we can all get through this that we will be able to have our reunion next year. God bless. Sincerely Linda Rogers French, Sec.

And now for some more news from the Solon School News. Please join us in saying good-bye to a special teacher, Mr. Terry Corson, who is retiring this spring.

Mr. Corson has taught 40 years, all but two of those years at Solon Elementary School. He has coached many different sports including soccer, basketball, softball, and tennis. Mr. Corson also served as lead teacher at our school for a number of years.

Mr. Corson will be remembered for his love of math, sports, teaching, and children, and his sense of humor. He always wanted students to enjoy the learning process. One of the many things that Mr. Corson will be fondly remembered is the Kitty Kats Basketball Program, which he started in 1983 at our school. This program gave all of the students who were Kitty Kats over the years a chance to develop their skills to learn team work and to have fun.

We thank Mr. Corson and wish him the best as he begins his retirement. We hope he will return to substitute or just visit with us, as he is greatly missed.

Would like to let all of you know the new shop, Simply Rustic, on the River Road, in Solon, is having an open house on July 18, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. There will be 10 percent off storewide and 20 percent off crystal jewelry.

And now for Percy’s memoir: Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. (words by Dr. David M. Burns)

Now with a fluttering heart and a great big long prayer I’m going to try to send this along to Roland!