Old Orchard Beach lies between Wood Island Light at
the mouth of the Saco River and Prout's Neck in Scarborough. This beach has been called the finest in New England.
Its actual limits are from near the mouth of the Saco to Pine Point near the mouth of Scarborough River, having
the form of the arc of a circle. At low tide the beach is about 300 feet in width, of fine, hard, smooth sand,
at no point wholly interrupted by rocks for the whole distance of 9 miles, and affording an excellent drive-way;
while from the absence of undertow, the surf-bathing is perfectly safe. It is reached by stage from Saco, and by
the cars of the Eastern and the Boston and Maine railroads. A branch of the Eastern road has now been extended
southward along the beach for 3 miles to Bay View at the mouth of the Saco, where connection is made with the Pool
in Biddeford by means of a ferry-boat, and with Saco and Biddeford at the falls by steamers. The two latter afford
a convenient means of viewing the river scenery, the buildings and the beach. Near the hotels and a little back
from the shore, is a beautiful forest park of 30 acres, with pleasant paths, arbors and rustic adornments. About
2 miles towards Saco on Foxwell's Brook is a picturesque waterfall about 40 feet in perpendicular height. Half
a mile south of the large hotels is the picturesque camp-meeting ground of the Methodists. It is situated
in a hollow among hillocks, and beneath the shade of noble trees growing in a thick grove. Between the camp-ground
and the beach, scattered over rocky knolls, is a village of summer cottages owned by the brethren who annually
sojourn in the place through the weeks of religious and temperance meetings. At the beach and its neighborhood
are a large number of public houses, from the country tavern to the palatial hotel of 500 rooms, furnished in the
best manner, and supplied with all the latest appliances for comfort and entertainment.
This beach received its name from an orchard set by Thomas Rogers who settled here in 1638. His farm, near Goose
Fare Brook, became of so much importance that the early geographers of Maine designated it on their maps as "
Rogers' Garden." The trees that he planted remained more than a century. But long after the first hotels were
built, and even to this day, there are standing some of the trees of an "old orchard," but a subsequent
one, planted by some later disciple of pomoculture.
In the early days, the councillors [sic] constituting the government of Gorges' province of Maine met for business
at the house of Richard Bonython, which stood on the east side of Saco River, near the lower ferry, or just above
the terminus of the Old Orchard Beach Railroad. This form of government continued from 1639 to 1652, from which
date Massachusetts most of the time maintained her authority and government here by the strong hand. In 1677, however,
the heirs of Gorges sold their right to the Common wealth, which thenceforth held undisputed jurisdiction, until
separated from her and admitted as a State in 1820.
No summer resort can be complete without a picturesque character in its history ; and this want is supplied
to Old Orchard by its pioneer caterer, Ned Clemens-half hermit, half epicure. The first knowledge of him in this
region was his arrival at a hotel in Saco, where his genial deportment soon won him many friends. By his apt quotations,
he exhibited a knowledge of the dramatic poets and classic authors; and his acquaintance with American scenery
showed that he had acquired much knowledge from travel. In music he was accomplished, and often beguiled
his leisure with his flute. He was reticent in regard to his previous life, but in later years it became known
that he was a native of Philadelphia, where be was educated for a dramatic life; and several years acted in that
profession. He was with Barnum in the first organization of his popular exhibition. Evidently he was not successful
in this line; and having met with disaster in a matrimonial project, lie had wandered to Saco to start afresh in
a new place. Looking about for a means of livelihood, he opened some bathing-rooms under the Thornton House. After
awhile this house was burned down, and poor Ned had to make a new shift; and he next alighted with his bathing-tubs
in the basement of Cataract Block. Then to his bathing he added victualling. By the death of an artist brother
in a distant State, he became the possessor of a panorama of the River Rhine, with which he travelled [sic] for
awhile. His tastes-and poverty-at length led him to Old Orchard Beach, where among the whispering pines which then
stood near the site of the present Sea Shore House, he erected a small building which he furnished, ornamenting
it with natural history specimens. This received the name of "Old Orchard Retreat," where he dwelt alone,
and entertained such patrons as came with chowders and other simple fare. He also supplied bathing-suits to his
patrons. Here, too, he issued a small newspaper called the "Goose Fare Guide and Old Orchard Bellows."
It is acknowledged to be the first " Guide " to these shores, and the " Bellows " which first
blew abroad the praises of Old Orchard. But E. C. Staples, proprietor of the Old Orchard House, was the first to
open a house for boarders, which he did in 1837, at the solicitation of a few individuals who had been impressed
with the beauty of the beach and the invigorating quality of the climate. He then dwelt in a plain farm-house,
the home of his ancestors; but it has been remodeled, and is now the Staples' Cottage. The first season's boarders
were charmed with the place, and the next year there were more applications than the house could accommodate;
and he soon increased its capacity by an addition. Among the early patrons of Mr. Staples were gentlemen and their
families from Montreal, who came the whole distance in their own private carriages. The Portsmouth and Portland
Railroad was opened in 1842, and the Grand Trunk from Montreal to Portland in 1852. These brought passengers to
Saco Station, within four miles of the beach; and from that time the demand for hotel accommodations increased
with great rapidity. Mr. Staples enlarged his house from year to year until his "Old Orchard House,"
accommodating 300 guests, had been erected. This was popular and prosperous, until destroyed by fire, July 21,
1875. The new "Old Orchard House" was erected in 1876, with accommodations for 500 guests. Boarding-houses
and hotels have since been increasing and enlarging for several years, until now they number above 30, with
accommodations for more than 4,000 guests.
Adjuncts of Old Orchard Beach are Bay View or Ferry Beach, at the mouth of the Saco River, the Pool in Biddeford
on the opposite shove,* Pine Point, and Prout's Neck.† All these places are supplied with hotels ‡-some of superior
* See article on Biddeford. † See article on Scarborough. ‡ See article on Saco.
(Note: Old Orchard Beach was incorporated as a town in 1883, this 1886 printing of the book was an update to an
earlier one and this was not updated.)