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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Crumbs Be Gone!

Monday, we put up a post about “rusticators” — Maine’s wealthy summer visitors of yesteryear who helped established the state as a tourist mecca. How fitting then, that today’s What-in-the-WORLD?-Wednesday artifact catered to those gentle-people along about 100 years ago.

No, it’s not a hairbrush minus the bristles — but it does have something to do with brushing. According to the description on Maine Memory, this is a circa 1910 “silver plate crumb scraper … used to scrape crumbs off a dining table between courses. It was used in the Islesboro Inn, a hotel located on Gilkey Harbor.” The description goes on to summarize the history of the Inn, originally a summer cottage built for one J. K. Mitchell.

This turned out to be an easy one, though most people thought it was actually the object that catches the crumbs. Nope, but we have that dustpan-shaped object on on Maine Memory as well. Between courses, waitstaff would employ these elegant gadgets to whisk away any unsightly evidence of dining.

Both items were scanned by a student involved in Islesboro’s Maine Community Heritage Project. For a great deal more on Isleboro’s history, including its summer resorts, spend some time on their MMN website.

Today’s Tourists–Yesterday’s “Rusticators”

“There’s a good reason Maine is known as ‘Vacationland’,” according to the Maine Office of Tourism’s welcoming message on its website. “All the ingredients for a perfect summer vacation are right here, waiting for you to cook up a plan.” Those ingredients include: relaxing on the beach or at the lake, golfing, sailing, shopping and antiquing, eating at fabulous restaurants, and undertaking outdoor adventures like whitewater rafting.

Children swimming at the bathing beach, Blue Hill, 1907. Blue Hill Bay is in the background.

While that marketing message speaks to contemporary out-of-staters with the means to enjoy all those activities, it could just as easily be geared toward the well-healed tourists of yesteryear. These so-called “rusticators” came to Maine in the 19th and 20th centuries to wile away the summers at resorts and inns along the coast. Our “Vacationland” reputation started with them.

A well-researched and heavily illustrated exhibit on this particular brand of old-time tourists leads off the current THIS WEEK AT MHS. What makes this seasonal story even more impressive is that it was created by a student as part of Blue Hill’s participation in the Maine Community Heritage Project during the 2009-2010 school year. Then-senior Josh Sawyer worked closely with team members to unearth captivating photographs of rusticators and the history that surrounded them flocking to the Village’s Parker Point.

We certainly hope to have more than a few modern-day Vacationland seekers flock to MHS this summer. There’s certainly PLENTY to do once they get here, starting this holiday weekend. THIS WEEK has the run-down. Read all about it… then pass it on to those out-of-state friends of yours who just might be rusticators-in-waiting.