Autumn in the Maine woods…100 years ago

By Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist & Cataloger

Harris S. Colt, grandson of longtime Parmachenee Club member Harris D. Colt of New York City, poses with the staff of the private hunting-fishing club at Parmachenee Lake.

Harris S. Colt, grandson of longtime Parmachenee Club member Harris D. Colt of New York City, poses with the staff of the private hunting-fishing club at Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19381

Being outdoors in the Maine woods in the fall is the best time – crisp cool nights, warm days, colorful autumn foliage, and, best of all, no mosquitoes or black flies. In northern Maine there are many sporting camps that lure folks from afar to where hunting and fishing opportunities abound. At the turn of the 20th century one of these camps, owned by the Parmachenee Club, offered expeditions into these northern woods.

Teresa Colt (Mrs. Harris D. Colt Jr.) and her father-in-law, Harris D. Colt, with an unidentified friend at the Parmachenee Club on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19387

Teresa Colt and her father-in-law, Harris D. Colt, with an unidentified friend at the Parmachenee Club on Parmachenee Lake, ca. 1940. MMN# 19387

The Parmachenee Club was formed in 1890 by a group of (mostly) New York City lawyers. The members obtained a lease of 120,000 acres of land, from the Old Aziscohos Dam above Wilson’s Mills to the Canadian border. They hunted and fished within these acres, and built a camp, called “Camp in the Meadows,” along the Magalloway River in Oxford County, where they lodged. Maine Guides assisted the members on their hunting and fishing expeditions.

The Parmachenee Club, a private hunting-fishing club on Treat's Island at Parmachenee Lake is seen from a distance across the lake. MMN# 19389

The Parmachenee Club, a private hunting-fishing club on Treat’s Island at Parmachenee Lake is seen from a distance across the lake, ca. 1940 . MMN# 19389

In 1910, the Berlin Mills Company and the International Paper Company built a dam in the leased territory to move cut lumber. Club members were able to penetrate further into the woods due to the new dam, but it also placed the Camp in the Meadows under twelve feet of water. The Parmachenee Club was re-established on Treat’s Island on Parmachenee Lake.

Some of the buildings of the Parmachenee Club, a private hunting-fishing club at Camp Caribou on Treat's Island, Parmachenee Lake, in about 1940. The club was founded in 1890 on the Meadows of the Magalloway River and moved to the island when a paper company dam flooded the first location. MMN# 19385

Some of the buildings of the Parmachenee Club, a private hunting-fishing club at Camp Caribou on Treat’s Island, Parmachenee Lake, in about 1940. MMN# 19385

The membership, which included women, loved the woods and the streams. Their ideal was sportsmanship, and their goal the preservation of the woods and the wildlife within it. Henry P. Wells, a member, invented a lure called the “Parmachenee Belle,” named after the club. Harris D. Colt was the oldest member. He fished there for 41 consecutive seasons.

Teresa Colt with an unidentified friend at the Parmachenee Club on Parmachenee Lake. She was married to Harris D. Colt Jr., son of longtime Parmachenee Club member Harris D. Colt of New York City. MMN #19382

Teresa Colt with an unidentified friend at the Parmachenee Club on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19382

It wasn’t easy to get to the camps – you had to travel by train, steamboat, canoe, and on foot, along rails, rivers, and roads. But it was worth it. The season started as soon as the ice melted in the spring and went through October 1st, “but as always, the Club will be open as early and as long as the members desire it.”

Harris D. Colt wrote to his grandson Harris S. Colt, “The first time I visited the club was in 1896. With your grandmother Colt we spent two or three weeks there in the month of September.”

Harris S. Colt, grandson of longtime Parmachenee Club member Harris D. Colt, at the private hunting-fishing camp on Caribou Island on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19386

Harris S. Colt with fish, in about 1940. MMN# 19386

The club disbanded in the 1960s. Many sporting camps still exist today and may be visited. Although they’re still not easy to reach, it’s not the arduous journey of 100 years ago.

For more information, search “Parmachenee” or items 19381-19387 and 19389 on the Maine Memory Network.

Harris D. Colt, a New York City lawyer, on the steps of a cabin at the Parmachenee Club on Caribou Island on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19383

Harris D. Colt, a New York City lawyer, on the steps of a cabin at the Parmachenee Club on Caribou Island on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19383

Teresa Colt (Mrs. Harris D. Colt Jr.) and friends relax at the Parmachenee Club on Camp Caribou on Treat's Island on Parmachenee Lake, ca. 1940. MMN# 19384

Teresa Colt (Mrs. Harris D. Colt Jr.) and friends relax at the Parmachenee Club on Camp Caribou on Treat’s Island on Parmachenee Lake, ca. 1940. MMN# 19384

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