SOLON & BEYOND: Remembering Flagstaff, Dead River & Bigelow

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

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

Last week I was so happy to have had lots of e-mails sent to me with recent news. Just checked my e-mails and nothing of interest there for this week. 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 back 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. History only one reason to visit area.

“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 become 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 1949 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 Caratunk 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 that “the actual spot is now under water.”

Not far from the marker is the Arnold Trail turnout. Here another marker memorializes Col. Timothy Bigelow, an officer with Arnold and an eight-year military veteran . Bigelow reputedly climbed to the top of a nearby mountain to view the countryside and if possible, to see Québec. Today the mountain range bears his name.”

The Bingham Country Jammers! Bingham Grange Hall, first and third Sundays of each month. Open Mic from 1 – 4 p.m., Acoustic Only. Potluck To Tickle Me Appetite! Bring a hot or cold dish. Salads, desserts, cakes or pies! Price Range: 1 oz. of Gold. Also – Grange sponsored kitchen will be open. Hot dogs, burgers, and coffee. Entrance by donation to help with costs. Directions to 23 Meadow Street, Bingham, off Main Street (Rt. 201); Turn right on Meadow Street, across from Camden National Bank. The Grange is fourth building on the right, on the corner of Milford Avenue. Host: Ralph Van Dyke and MC : Bill Messer.

There was more to the above article, but want to save room for Percy’s memoir; hope you enjoyed reading about past history.

And now for Percy’s memoir, it was one I used back in 2008. Cultivating Friends: Sow a word of praise today, Plant a kindness-seed, Listen to a troubled friend, Help someone in need. Compliment a weary soul too fatigued to try; Shine forth rays of hope on all, Comfort those who cry. Scatter deeds of love each day, plant each row with care; Sprinkle joy along your way, soak each one in prayer. Ask the Lord to bless each one, and one day you’ll reap a harvestful of loving friends to cherish and to keep. (words by Connie Hinnen.)


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