by 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.
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