Fletcher’s Annals of Camden, part VI
For the present time, I shall continue with Nathan Fletcher’s column written in 1883-84. Although he had written it for a year in The Rockland Opinion, I really have condensed it so you will get the general idea of the early history of Camden from his information plus the addition of a few things I know.
According to Col. Fletcher, in 1883 Camden was the largest town in the state of Maine, and had a population of nearly 5,000 inhabitants. But that did include Rockport, West Camden (now West Rockport); Rockville and Camden, and they all had their own post offices. West Camden and Rockville were known as rural villages because their land was representative of good farming. Our latitude is 44 degrees and 16 minutes north. The longitude is 69 degrees and 48 minutes west. How many today know that? How do we know it? Well, the observation was taken by Captain Isaac Sherman, one of the best stearing men of his time, from Islesboro . He lived after retirement at 4 Union St. in Camden.
There were many hot topics at the town meetings. One of the biggest arguments was when shipbuilder William McGlathry organized his own group to put through an appropriation of 150 pounds to build a bridge over Megunticook River, with himself being the builder. It took the Goose River group by surprise and it was passed.
Then they called another meeting and reduced the amount to 12 pounds and 12 shillings. They also changed the specifications. He did build it and they claimed it was too high and frail. So they didn’t pay him. He complained. So they did pay him, but also charged him the same amount for highway tax and that wiped the slate clean.
Some say that Capt. McGlathry never got over it and that is why he left Camden a few years later and went to Frankfort. Other arguments were because the “River” was rural in character and farming was their trade. The “Harbor” kept advancing socially and economically. They wanted to put in streets because of all the tourists, and the “River” wanted an iron bridge over Goose River. The “Harbor” wanted to split, but the “River” did not. The fight was sent to the House of Representatives in Augusta, passed by the Senate, for Camden to separate from Rockport and they became two towns, in February 1891. One member of the Legislature said,” You should be celebrating a Centennial, instead of suing for a divorce.” For many years one heard ”Rockport paddy-wackers live on soda crackers.” The reply was, “Camden bum lives on rum.” I believe we love each other now, but step aside if somewhere someone says to a Rockporter, “Oh yes, I know where Rockport is, it is quite near Camden.”
Fletcher writes about climbing the mountain, ”On the way, we called at the store of our mutual friend, George L. Follansbee, who kindly suggested to us the necessity of our “stove-pipe hats” being discarded for broad brim “sombrerus” (sic) and our clerical looking coats for those of lighter texture. It was a happy suggestion, and from his ample store he generously furnished us with a suit, better adapted for the occasion. Atlas we left the village. We soon reached the residence of the late Timothy Fay, and entered through his gate and soon began to climb Mt. Batty. There was formerly quite a good pathway up the mountain, but it had been neglected, and the drenching rains of many a year had gulled it out and left much debris to block the way. We persevered, and cautiously, in a serpentine manner wound our way up steep after steep, until we reached the summit, and facing to the east, we exhibited glorious old Charley and our humble selves to the villagers who were looking out for us 1,322 feet above them. We were somewhat weary and we came to the conclusion that if Jordan was “a hard road to travel,” climbing the Camden mountains were much harder. Here we sat in our carriage, and viewed the magnificent prospect before us. At our feet was the picturesque village, with its lofty spires, its charming gardens and its cozy cottages, its residences of greater pretensions with their white walls, and the green blinds, shimmering and dashing in the morning sun, and the magnificent bay of Penobscot, with not a ripple to disturb is surface. In the background, Megunticook rears its crest, 1,457 feet above the level of the sea. Turning your eyes to the north, you discover Northport hill and the village of Lincolnville nestling down beneath her elevated hills and skirting the waters of the Penobscot; between us and old “historic Castine,” which is seen in the distance, lie innumerable islands dividing the eastern from the western bay. These two bays are gemmed with islands stretching out to the south, their last lines bounded on the sea. The sugar loaf peak of Blue Hill is seen on the eastern horizon, and the Kench mountain and the highlands of Cape Rosier stretch down towards the west, and appear to mingle with the blue-ridge upon we are resting in our carriage, smoking our cigars. And now loom in majestic grandeur the noted mountains of Mount Desert. Here in a beautiful spot formed by a creek in the narrows, the eccentric and brilliant Madame DeLowell, banished from the court by Louis XVI, by the French Revolution built a splendid residence…etc., etc. If we turn to the southwest, we behold the broad Atlantic, with its turbulent waters dotted here and there with passing ships, and their whitened canvas glittering in the sunbeams. And here stands Owl’s Head, twelve miles distant, bold and defiant, with its sentinel, the lighthouse, to guide the sea beaten mariner to his destined haven.”
Well, I guess you get the flourished description. Now, that we have life so easy, you can just drive your car up the wonderful road, engineered so carefully not to spoil the face of Mt. Battie, and easily enjoy the view as described by Col. Fletcher.
Barbara Dyer is Camden's official town historian.