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woodsy
01-06-2008, 13:37
Is the title of a book I am reading with the history of the land and it's people which now lies under what is called Flagstaff Lake in the shadow of the Bigelow Mountain Range.

Before the Dead River Valley was flooded by a man made dam in 1949-50, the thriving communities of Flagstaff, Dead River Plantation and Bigelow plantation spread across the valley floor, from one end of the Bigelow Range to the other.

Dead River Plantation was near the foot of Little Bigelow Mtn at what is now called Round Barn area at Safford Brook Trailhead.Flagstaff village was about 10 miles upstream from here and Bigelow Plantation was near the Stratton end.

Before white settlers moved to this area the Abenaki Indians inhabitated the area with a settlement at what later became Flagstaff Village. This area was said to be chosen by natives for its rich hunting grounds. Natives numbering in the range of about 50 or so were said to inhabitat the area.
This original native settlement was at the confluence of the Flagstaff Pond brook and the Dead River. It was a serpentine like river with intervales of lush grassy lands.

This picture (http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=19985&c=member&imageuser=7914%5D)taken from Cranberry Peak shows the area of native settlement and later Flagstaff Village in far right where the two water bodies connect, in the background was the original Flagstaff Pond. The pond was said to be a half mile from the Dead River before the flood.

In the book are memoirs from seventy different people who either lived here or had descendants that lived in the valley before the flooding.
Many of these people have very fond memories of living in the valley and considered themselves one big family.

They were lumbermen and farmers and largely self sufficient.
The first white settler came In the 1830's to look out for timber barons interests in the area.
As lumbering increased, so did the settlers.

In 1933, the CCC set up camp at Flagstaff and were involved in activities such as road and bridge building, fighting forest fires and many other projects as they arose. Their numbers totaled 200 at peak and many were unemployed city boys from Conn. The CCC was only here for a few years.

At the outlet of Flagstaff Pond a dam was built along with gristmill and lumbermill. Later, in 1915, a paddlewheel was put in for electricity. This limited DC supply was used to power the sawmill and light the town and homes when the mill wasn't running. Anyone with appliances(later) had to use a converter to power their AC fridges and stoves.

At times, the power to homes and streetlights was shut off in order to power the lights at the gymnasium for sports events. It was said that there was always a good turnout at these events:-?

The Firetower on Avery Peak (http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=17884&c=member&imageuser=7914)(on distant peak) was built around 1900 and many locals enjoyed hiking the mountain. Some made special trips in summer to pick Mountain Cranberries.
Many stayed at Horns Pond Lean to and Porcupines were such a nuisance they took turns feeding the fire all night to keep the rascals away.
As the dam became a reality in the late 40's, huge fires burned from across the 26,000 acres that were being lumbered and cleared.
Some of the holdouts stayed till the very end with smoke filling the air and water lapping at their doorsteps.
Most of the evacuees moved to neighboring town like Stratton and Eustis.

Such was life in the Dead River Valley before the flooding of the land.

Thought some of you history buffs who have been or will pass through the area might enjoy this brief piece of history.
The book is a good read if you can find it.

BR360
01-06-2008, 13:45
Thanks for the very interesting overview. Having the history of an area adds that "4th dimension" to the natural beauty of the wild lands we hike in.

rafe
01-06-2008, 13:49
I certainly did think about what might have laid under the current surface of that lake. I knew it was a dam lake... and they're always a bit sad that way. But seriously pretty in spite of the uggh.. history. Fontana too, and Watauga... and...

emerald
01-06-2008, 14:00
At Hinckley, I believe they were still cutting ice from the Kennebec River until sometime in the 1940s. Just thought I'd point out that refrigerators are actually a fairly recent development for those who never gave much thought to life without refrigerators.

woodsy, do you know when the last native Maine caribou roamed on the other side of Bigelow? I once knew, but don't remember now.

woodsy
01-06-2008, 14:08
SOG:do you know when the last native Maine caribou roamed on the other side of Bigelow? I once knew, but don't remember now. They were all pretty well gone statewide by the time 1900 rolled around.
There was no mention in THERE WAS A LAND 1845-1949 of Caribou hunting in this area.

warraghiyagey
01-07-2008, 04:04
Nice work Woodsy!:) :)

peakbagger
01-07-2008, 07:36
To tie it back into the AT, the original AT went down off of Avery (skipped Little Bigelow) and was roued through the area that was flooded. Prior to the dam being built there were two options that counted for hiking the AT, the former AT route and the Arnold Trail. Either route counted for a thru hike.
After the dam went in, the original AT route was abandoned (extreme aqua blazing anyone?) and the Arnold trail became the official route.

ofthearth
01-07-2008, 09:39
At Hinckley, I believe they were still cutting ice from the Kennebec River until sometime in the 1940s. Just thought I'd point out that refrigerators are actually a fairly recent development for those who never gave much thought to life without refrigerators.

woodsy, do you know when the last native Maine caribou roamed on the other side of Bigelow? I once knew, but don't remember now.

Refrigerators? I thought they were called an icebox:rolleyes:

ofthearth

mudhead
01-07-2008, 10:11
Not since the '80's.

Unless you are at camp.

Takes awhile up here, I still see big hair.

Folks from those communities have reunions, trade lies about the good old days and such. I bet the fishing was crazy-good.

woodsy
01-07-2008, 11:02
Fishing in Flagstaff Pond and other area ponds and streams was said to be real good in the "old days", noted from the book.
All you can eat Brook Trout in the 10-14" range and some big ones 4" between the eyes. Those were the days huh?
Another photo (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=16018&c=563) here of some of the above waterline road remaining between Round Barn and Flagstaff Village. Photo was a scan so not the best quality, taken while on a paddling excursion.

The Old Fhart
01-07-2008, 14:13
Peakbagger-"To tie it back into the AT, the original AT went down off of Avery (skipped Little Bigelow) and was roued through the area that was flooded. Prior to the dam being built there were two options that counted for hiking the AT, the former AT route and the Arnold Trail. Either route counted for a thru hike.
After the dam went in, the original AT route was abandoned (extreme aqua blazing anyone?) and the Arnold trail became the official route."

What follows is the 1938 Guide To The Appalachian Trail In Maine Trail description of the A.T. heading north from Avery Peak at 9.96 miles. My 1936 edition has basically the same description. The 1953 edition says the two routes existed from 1935-1939.
..At 11.72 m. white-blazed Arnold Trail comes in on right. This is alternative route, also marked by white paint blazes, which continue east over Little Bigelow and Roundtop Mtns., past West, Middle, and East Carry Ponds, then turns north, joining the Dead River Route at Pierce Pond. See Chapter, THE ARNOLD TRAIL.
At 12.18 m., in log yard, tractor road comes into gravel road. Follow this road, descending. At 12.33 m. road comes in on right; lumber camps 200 ft. to right. At 12.96 m. take left fork, leaving better worn road to right. At 13.03 m. bear right, leaving dirt road, into trail across field, following telephone poles.
At 13.18 m. (1,149 ft.) turn right on Me. Highway 16. At 13.38 m. pass Dead River Schoolhouse on left (north). Pass, on left at 14.26 m., residence of Bert Witham (accommodations available here). Reach Dead River Post Office at 14.58 m. (Accommodations are also available at Ledge House, Dead River, Arnold Trail.)
................................
Arnold Trail(northbound from Avery Peak) ..From junction with Dead River Route, in stand of mature spruce (0 m.), follow white-blazed trail east. Cross at .25 m., deeply gullied stream, branch of Safford Brook. Ascend steeply through hardwoods, bearing right up north slope of ridge. At .8 m., ledge affords view north; crest of ridge is to right at slightly higher elevation. Beyond, Trail Ascends gradually, slabbing north crest of ridge. Reach crest at app. 1.7 m.; continue east along crest. Ledges at 1.97 m. and 2.1 m. afford views north. (Former ledge bears mark 3 m. to Ledge House.) Beyond, at 2.45 m., Trail leads along top of cliff, sheer southern slope of ridge. (Backward views of Mt. Bigelow are striking here.) Ascend slightly to ledge on crest of ridge at 2.6 m., with fine view south. Trail then descends very steeply for m. Cross old lumbered road in slight sag at 2.89 m. and descend steadily on trail.
At 3.23 m., in sag, turn left, uphill, on logging road. (To right 10 yds. Leads to fireplace, seats, and spring, 10 yds. Back of fireplace.) After 100 ft., on crest, turn right from road uphill on trail, ascending over ledge. At 3.5 m. cross summit, with striking backward view of the cone of East Peak of Mt. Bigelow and the crest of Little Bigelow Mtn. Descend steadily on trail. Beyond 4.2 m., spruce growth gives way to hardwoods. At 4.81 m., turn left on logging road for 100 ft., then turn right again from road onto trail, descending. Emerge from woods at 5.06 m. and cross field. Reach Me. Highway 15 at 5.1 m., at south end of clearing with Ledge House, with Forest Service campground on right. (Spring is in woods back of campground.)
Dead River Post Office is 1.9 m. north on Me. Highway 16.
My 1942 guidebook mentions the damage the 1938 hurricane and the route to the Ledge House being effective closed by blowdowns and abandoned. The route over Little Bigelow was more scenic so the other trail was never reopened and the route over Little Bigelow became the official A.T. years before the dam was completed in 1950.

woodsy
01-08-2008, 09:25
Thanks for that old AT trail description TOF.
Anyone passing through this area of Little Bigelow today wouldn't know it but there were 30 or more buildings here in this part of the Dead River Valley( today) (http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=19362&c=member&imageuser=7914%5D)including homes, farms, a couple sawmills, grist mill, general store and post office. There was also a ferry used to cross the Dead River primarily for a farm and camps on the north side of river. A north side of river road led to Flagstaff Village also.
There is only one original home here remaining which escaped the flood.

Flagstaff village had some 70 buildings, some of which were moved to
neighboring Stratton area, others were burned or flooded. There is a picture (http://www.maine.gov/sos/arc/exhibits/Frenchpg.htm) of the village at this link at bottom of page.
300 graves were also dug up and moved to New Flagstaff, now called Eustis.
Other activities in the area at the time were sporting camps on East and West Carry Ponds and also Spring Lake. Many of the local men became guides summer through fall and were wood choppers in winter(axes and bucksaws then) and river drivers in spring.
After the dam was built, tugboats transported huge booms of pulp and logs across Flagstaff lake to the dam where the pulp and logs would be sluiced down the Dead River into the Kennebec River and on to area pulp and sawmills. Some of the pulp booms were said to hold 2,000 cord of wood.

weary
01-08-2008, 12:36
Two adendums:

In 1963 an old guy who had worked on the survey crews for the Flagstaff dam first told me about the Maine Public Reserved Lands that had been created between 1830 and 1870 as Maine sold the rest of its 7 million acre public domain -- and then had mostly been forgotten.

The surveyor knew about the lands because the Flagstaff Dam was built on one of the public lots. Other lots were scattered as 1,000 acre or 1,280 acre preserves in each 21,000 acre unorganized township. The lots had been set aside as a way to provide income for the towns as settlers gradually populated the wildlands of Maine, as then was expected.

In 1870 the Maine Legislature sold the cutting rights to the reserved lands and the state thereafter assumed that it only owned the minerals under the soil.

I thought otherwise. In addition to being a place to construct a dam, maybe, I wrote that the public lots might also be used for walking, camping, hunting, fishing, whatnot, all without damaging any right "to cut and carry away the timber and grass."

I wrote my first story describing these forgotten lands 35 years ago last March. It stirred a bit of interest. The governor appointed a study committee. The paper companies that owned most of the cutting rights sued the state for trying to usurp their property rights.

Ten years later the Maine Supreme Court ruled that the state still owned the 400,000 acres of scatterd lands free and clear -- the cutting rights having long since expired.

The state negotiated land swaps in which the scattered parcels were consolidated into large blocks of forest and recreational lands.

The 35,000 acre Bigelow Preserve was one of these large parcels. Others along the Appalachian Trail are the 45,000 acre Mahoosuc Preserve, around 15,000 acres in the Four Ponds region south of Saddleback, and part of the 40,000 acre Nahmakanta Preserve in the middle of the "100 mile wilderness," south of Baxter Park. So the loss of Flagstaff Village and a wild river had a small bright side.

Oh yes. Addendum 2: I occasionally hunted in the Flagstaff area in the 1950s. After the dam was closed, great herds of deer roamed the area, having been displaced by the rising waters. Then in the mid 50s came a particularly severe winter and the deer, displaced from their winter shelter and food along the river, died by the hundreds. Their bodies were found everywhere the next spring.

Weary

JoeHiker
01-14-2008, 14:09
This reminds me of the tale of the towns of Enfield and Dana Massachusetts which used to exist where the Quabbin Reservoir now sits. Fascinating tale. There are roads in the area which go right into the water and then come out on the other side. When the state decided to create the Reservoir, they bought up all the property. The citizens of Dana had a final party at the townhall on the final night before they all had to leave.

PBS showed a great documentary about this that included divers with underwater cameras swimming through the reservoir to show what remains. It was called "Under Quabbin" or something like that.

I realize this is isn't quite AT related as the Quabbin is over 40 miles from where the AT crosses Massachusetts but it seemed interesting.