SOLON & BEYOND: The longest obituary ever written for a Maine community

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

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

This mixed up computer has given me a terrible headache this morning as I have been trying to get it to work so I can write my column! Hopefully, I will be able to save it after I get it written, so I can send it along to China.

Have been thinking more and more about getting driven out of our homes in Flagstaff when CMP built the dam, as I read the pros and cons of their proposed corridor through Maine. It made me wonder how many of you may have read the book, There Was A Land. I am going to turn 91 in April and I don’t think there are many people left who lived during that awful time! ….but, I have a clipping out of a newspaper back in 2002 that states it well. “Treasured memories of a place now covered in water.”.. and it goes on to say, On the face of it, 70 authors focusing on one subject, in one volume, does not suggest a good result. However, in the case of There Was A Land, a source book on life in the plantation of Flagstaff, Bigelow and Dead River before their destruction in 1949, we are given a treasure.

Anyone who has ever watched Elia Kazan’s film, Wild River (1960) will grasp the situation immediately. In the movie the Tennessee Valley Authority moved people off the bottomlands in order to build hydroelectric dams in the 1930s. Similarly Central Maine Power had long planned to dam Dead River at Long Falls and the Legislature granted the company rights of eminent domain in 1924. The Great Depression and Second World War delayed action, but in the end, 130 Maine citizens were uprooted and their homes moved or destroyed. Today it all lies beneath massive Flagstaff Lake.

There Was A Land might honestly be called the longest obituary ever written for a Maine community. Yet it is a story that proves as uplifting as it does wrenching. What we have in these pages is an unmatched community scrapbook – diaries, recollections, articles and photographs that describe a hardscrabble but fully functional community before the flood.

Readers will find a fair amount of repetition as they move through these short, sometimes humorous, sometimes gripping essays. Indeed, one starts to believe things are about to get too repetitive when the different views start to build to a critical mass. No two witnesses give exactly the same view though each confirms the story as a whole.

The paper had printed some of the things that different people from Flagstaff and Dead River had written, and then it goes on to say: “Though many residents of the plantations were distressed and depressed by the CMP dam project, there was no public outcry. In that era nobody challenged multi-million dollar projects. As one resident put it: ‘The water be much greater, the possibility of floods far less; a great service for many towns at the expense of only two small communities and the homes of very few people.'”

Though driven from their home, many of the citizens remain joined by continued friendships, kinship and shared memories. Flagstaff Memorial Chapel built by CMP in Eustis, serves as a headquarters for the publishers of this informative and fascinating book.

There have been several printings of the book, There Was A Land. The last time I talked with Kenny Wing he said there were just a few books left.

Now for Percy’s memoir entitled Winning Ways; We walk along life’s highway meet the bitter and the sweet. Rejoice with those who’ve made it… pit those who’ve met defeat. And as we journey down the road, see sadness, joy and pain, We wonder why some lose the race while others, goals attain. We know misfortune comes to all and problems we must weigh; The Lord will stand beside us every minute of each day. So walk the road with head held high, though life, at times, seems glum; But if you keep the faith you’ll find… your battles can be won. (words by Angie Monnens.)

Now I hold my breath as I attempt to send this!


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