Old newspaper provides fascinating look at Maine

Maine Woods Newspaper uprightAdam Fisher is surrounded by a treasury of history on the second floor of the State Library in Augusta. I first met Adam when I was writing a book about Maine Sporting Camps last year, and he alerted me to the many books and other documents that were available at the library.

Earlier this year I stopped in to talk with Adam about his effort to digitize historic documents throughout the state and he showed me an amazing collection of copies of Maine Woods, a newspaper published in the early 1900s. I was so fascinated that I asked him to keep them out for a while so I could read and write about them.

One morning last week, I pulled out the copies of Maine News published in 1911. And surprise! Right there on the front page was an ad for Tim Pond Camps, one of the most natural hatcheries in Maine for trout.” It still is, and the camps are still there.

Alas, there are ads for many sporting camps that are only memories today: Hough’s Camps in Rangeley, Brown’s Camps on Lake Kezar in Center Lovell, The Elmwood Hotel in Phillips, Round Mountain Lake Camps, Blakeslee Lake Camps on the Dead River – and these are just the camps advertised on page one. The front page photo of the huge Rangeley Lake House, “Center of the best Trout and Salmon Fishing,” is impressive. Don’t I wish I’d been able to stay there!

And I sure do wish I’d have been able to visit Mountain View. “Where are you ‘Goin Fishing?” read the headline. “Sparkling, dancing waters will soon displace ice and snow and the beautiful spring days will witness exciting sport with gamy fish. You are overhauling rods and tackle with all the enthusiasm of the true sportsman. Why not come to Mountain View and have the time of your life? Here are up-to-date conveniences, guides, boats, canoes and waters teeming with trout and salmon.” Sadly, long gone.

Also on the front page of the August 3, 1911 Maine Woods are ads for Monmouth Moccasins “made for sportsmen, guides, lumbermen,” and rods and snowshoes made by E.T. Hoar in Rangeley, who reports, “I make Rangeley wood and split bamboo rods for dry fishing and trolling.”

At the top of the front page, a large headline grabbed me: “15 SHOTS as Quick as a Flash.” The text begins, “That’s what you get when you’re shooting with the Stevens Visible Loading Repeating Rifle.” The ad includes a drawing of the shotgun.

The paper includes local columnists reporting from communities including Upper Dam, West Freeman, and North Phillips. I loved the ads for medicines including Electric bitters, “to regulate stomach, liver and kidneys and to expel poisons from the blood.” Reported to be a “Safe Treatment for Headache,” another article notes that, “L.F. Atwood’s medicine will speedily help you by carrying off impurities and restoring the clogged digestive organs to their normal activity.” The report claims this medicine has, “a record of sixty years as a safe headache remedy.”

On page 6 there’s a large ad for the “Maine Guides’ Rifle Contest” and on page 8 I find a section titled, “Where to go in Maine.” Listed are Jim Pond Camps in Eustis, Lake Parlin House and Camps in Jackman, Howes’ Debsconeag Camps, Jones’ Camps on Moxie Pond, Mt. Bigelow House on the Dead River, Ouaniche Lodge and Cottages in Grand Lake Stream, Carry Pond Camps, Spencer Lake Camps, Durkee’s Camps in Upton, Scott’s Camps on Quimby Pond, and The Belgrade, “Best sportsman’s Hotel in New England – Best black bass fishing in the world.” Actually, the Belgrades still provide pretty good bass fishing. But all of those camps and inns are gone.

Now I’m into the August 10, 1911 edition, reading an article with a huge headline, “SAVED FROM AN OPERATION.” Christina Reed’s story was that, after years of problems with tumors, she found a cure in Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. Don’t we wish!

See if you can guess where this is. Here’s the headline and introduction: Great Lake Region. The Sportsmen’s Empire. Primeval Wilderness of Maine – a Reservation for Tourists. A Vast Region Threaded with Rivers and Streams, Dotted with Lakes and Ponds, and Ridged with Mountains – the Realm of Fish and Game.”

Got a good guess? It’s the region north of Rangeley, including the headwaters of the Kennebec River. I fish there, and the headline is not an exaggeration!

I’ll have more columns about the fascinating stories in these newspaper, as we progress through this year.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.