Day 2 On The Allagash River
The north Maine woods were once the home of Native American tribes. It is believed they first appeared in the tundra-like environment left by the last Ice Age about 10,000 or more years ago.
Groups of Paleo Indians traveled through region between 12,000 to 9,000 years ago. A larger population during the Archaic period from10,000 to 4,000 years ago followed. These people were generally nomadic, using nets for fishing and stone or wood tools. Artifacts discovered from these periods include arrow and spearheads, scrappers, stone cutting tools, stone axes and gouges for woodworking.
The Ceramic Period from 3,000 to 500 years ago is named for the emergence of the use of pottery. This enabled cooking directly on the fire, rather than heating stones and placing them into a bark or wooden container. Archaeologists have found pottery in the Allagash region at least 2,000 years old.
The arrival of Europeans slowly forced most of the Indians to move away from the Allagash area. By the early 1800’s, after thousands of years of Native American occupation, the area was ripe for the lumberman’s axe.
As the story is told by historians at Maine’s Department of Conservation, about the time Maine became a state in1820, a businessman from Salem, Massachusetts, named David Pingree, inherited large tracts of land in the Allagash region. His keen eye for commerce eventually gazed upon the seemingly unending tracts of timber-covered land in the northern half of the state. Basing his new enterprise in Bangor, a town that hosted more than three hundred sawmills by the mid-1830s, Pingree, under the guidance of his partner Ebenezer Coe, began to profit handsomely from his operations, wresting mighty trees from the wilderness, running them down river to Bangor where they were milled into lumber and put aboard ships that could carry them wherever a market beckoned.
In 1837, the first of several financial panics struck the region, and though Bangor’s lumber interests suffered under competition from states to the west, Pingree expanded his holdings and pressed on. In time, he owned more than one million acres of Maine forestland, was the state’s largest taxpayer, and held more land than any other private entity in New England.
Before long depots or small villages associated with the lumber industry were scattered throughout the region. Farms sprouted to provided food and forage for the many villages and logging camps. At one point the 3.5 million acres that is the North Maine Woods today, supported seven softball teams among the villages that traveled the rivers and roads to play against one another.