Oxford County occupies about two-thirds of our New
England border, having a length of about 100 miles. Lying in near neighborhood with the White Hills of New Hampshire,
Oxford County is emphatically the hill-region of Maine. Though it does not contain the highest eminences in the
State, it presents more lofty peaks than any other equal extent of territory in New England. Among the most noted
we should mention Mount Pleasant in Denmark, about 2,000 feet in height, and peculiar in its isolation, Speckled
Mountain in Trafton and Streaked Mountain in Buckfield, striking in their appearance; and Mount Mica in Paris,
noted for the variety and beauty of its minerals. Granite, largely in the form of gneiss, underlies most of the
county. Silver, gold, lead, zinc, arsenic, plumbago and iron are found in various places, also many varieties of
valuable minerals. Tokens of former extensive action of water is shown everywhere in the excavation of valleys
and the deposit of drift, while the bed rock, when uncovered, often exhibits glacial or drift markings. The soil
in general is a gravelly loam, resting usually upon a solid bed of coarse gravel called "pan." It is
generally productive. Along the streams are many broad tracts of interval, with a soil of mingled vegetable and
mineral matter, formed by the overflow waters in spring and autumn. The great pinetrees, which were formerly numerous
in all parts of the county, have been largely cut off, but there still remain, especially in northern and western
parts, heavy growths of spruce, hemlock, rock-maple, beech and birch. The scenery of Oxford County is unsurpassed
of its kind. Lofty and snowclad peaks, with almost impassable glens between, have their peculiar and thrilling
attraction; but the peaceful verdure of great woods, grassy valleys, rich meadows, hillsides enlivened with flocks
and herds, shining streams, and sky-repeating ponds, with occasional breeze-swept eminences, affording wide views
of the surrounding beauties, hold the regard of the lover of nature for a longer time, and are more restorative
in their influences.
Oxford County contains the larger portion of the lakes which form the source of the Androscoggin River, which also
runs for nearly onethird of its length through the midst of the county. In the central portion of the county lie
the ponds from which the Little Androscoggin takes its rise. By numerous turnings and windings, the beautiful Saco
River confers on this county, in its southern portion, about one half its length.
The Androscoggin Lakes, lying in unsettled territory in this and adjacent divisions, can best be noticed in this
connection. The aggregate area of these lakes is nearly 80 square miles. They lie on the western part of the great
elevated plateau of Maine. Their altitude above the sea is as follows : -Rangely, 1,511 feet; Mooselucmaguntic,
1,486; Richardson, 1,456; Umbagog, 1,256. Jataska, at the extreme head-waters of the Mississippi River, has an
elevation of only 64 feet more than Rangely, 75 miles from the sea. Rangely Lake, the first large body of water
in this series, lies wholly in Franklin County, and has been partially described in the article on the town of
Rangely. We may mention here, however, that this lake is some 10 miles from one extreme to the other, and about
1 3/4 miles in extreme width, with an area of 14 square miles. Rangely has its name from an English gentleman who
for several years resided with his family in the seclusion of its northern shore. The Indian name was Oquossoc,
perpetuated in the name of an angling association, by one of their camps, a hotel, and a steamer that plies upon
these lakes. Cupsuptic Lake, at the north-west of Rangely, and separated from it only by Bald Mountain and a narrow
isthmus at its base, has an area of 3 square miles. On this lake where it rcceives the waters of Rangely Lake,
is "Indian Rock." Cupsuptic River. the principal feeder of this lake, has its source in Canadian soil.
Great Lake or Mooselucmaguntic, lying south of the last, and south-west of Rangely, is the largest of this chain
of lakes. It is about 9 miles in length, and about 3½ in the broadest part and 1¼ in the narrowest.
Its area is 21 square miles. On its outlet, the Richardson Lake Dam Company have their "Upper Dam," the
"Lower Dair "being on the outlet of Lower Richardson Lake. This dani is situated about midway of the
rapid stream between the lakes, and is a vast and ponderous rampart of wood and iron, whose purpose is to hold
back the waters of the upper lakes, in order to control the supply for manufacturing purposes. The ownership of
the water privilege of these lakes is in the Union Water Power Company, at Lewiston. Next, at the outlet of Great
Lake, about 2 miles to the south-west, is Upper Richardson, or Molechunkeinunk Lake, having a length of some 5
miles and a breadth varying from 2 to 3 miles, with an area of 10 square miles. Still south-west of this and connected
by a broad, quiet stream, is the lower Richardson. or Welokenabacook Lake. This is a little larger in each direction
than Upper Richardson, and has an area of 11.15 square miles. On its outlet is the Middle Dam. It discharges into
Umbagog Lake, on the line between Maine and New Hampshire, which is the last in this series of lakes. Its length
is nearly 11 miles, its greatest width about 3½, and its least, 1¼ miles. Its area is 18 square niiles.
About a mile west of the lake its outlet receives the waters of Megalloway River, and here the stream of the Androscoggin
is fully formed. About 3 miles below this junction is Errol Dam, the lowest landing-place of the lake steamers.
The Megallowa.y has its rise in Parmachene Lake, some 25 miles north of Umbagog. An interesting locality on these
lakes is "Indian Rock," which has long been a well-known fishing-place and camp. A national post-office
is now established here under the name. A short distance up the stream is Indian Eddy, and just below it on the
opposite side, sparkling Kennebago River comes in. Almost in view from the outlet are Kennebago Falls; and in the
space between the mouth and Cupsuptic Lake, is located Camp Kennebago, with a hotel and all necessary appurtenances.
This establishment is the property of the Oquossoc Angling Association. The course of the Kennebago is dotted with
ponds, one of which is Kennebago Lake, some 15 miles from Rangely. This river has its rise a few miles east of
the southernmost point of the British Dominion on this side of Maine, in a group of seven ponds lying near each
other. At the extremity of the southern area of Lower Richardson Lake is McAlister's Camp and the steamboat wharf
for this part of the lake,-connecting with a carriage road to Andover Corner, distant about 15 miles.
The Indians of Oxford County were all of the Abenaki nation. They were the Anasagunticooks and the Sokokis tribes.
The first was a powerful tribe who occupied the entire valley of the Androscoggin to Merrymeeting Bay, and were
quite fierce and warlike. The Sokokis are regarded as the most ancient tribe in Maine. The clan or branch, which
dwelt in Oxford County was known under the name of Pequakets.
Soon after the downfall of the French power in the north relieved the inhabitants of the northern border from the
fear of Indian wars, attention turned more strongly to the lands of Maine. In 1762 a township of land on Saco River
was granted to Gen. Joseph Frye, a native of Andover, Mass., and a distinguished soldier during the French and
Indian wars. This was the first grant made within the limits of Oxford County, and received the name of Fryeburg.
Its settlement began the following year. Other grants followed, and settlements were made in Waterford, Bethel,
Rumford, raris, Hebron, Buckfield, and others in succession. The territory now embraced by the county of Oxford
was originally embraced in York, as, in fact, was also the whole of Maine. In 1760 Cumberland County was formed,
embracing the whole of the present Oxford, with the exception of a few western towns. Oxford County was formed
by an act approved March 4, 1805, from portion of York and Cumberland, Paris being fixed upon in the act as the
shire town. The southern tier of towns in the county, were Turner, Hebron, Norway, Waterford, Lovell, Denmark,
Hiram and Porter, and included all the territory north of these towns, between New Hampshire on the west and Kennebec
County on the east, to Canada. In 1838 the county of Franklin received five towns and a large number of plantations
from Oxford, constituting more than half its territory. In 1854 it relinquahed two towns to form Androscoggin County.
It now has 35 towns and 3 organized plantations. Its area is about 1700 square miles.
The Grand Trunk Railway was extended through the county in 1850; previous to which time the people were accommodated
by a stage-line to Portland, which made trips each way twice a week, and farmers carried their produce to Portland
with their teams. The Rumford Falls and Buckfield Railroad connects with the Grand Trunk at Mechanic Falls, but
at present has not been built beyond Canton Point. Below Mechanic Falls, the Lewiston and Auburn Railroad connects,
forming a branch to Lewiston.
Oxford County has two agricultural societies, both in a prosperous condition. They are the Oxford County society,
its grounds lying between Norway and South Paris villages, West Oxford having its fair ground at Fryeburg. The
East Oxford society is now extinct. This county has 350 public school-houses; and the school property is valued
at $117,000. The population in 1870 was 33,488. In 1880 it was 32,625. The valuation of estates in 1870 was $9,794,066.
In 1880 it was $10,058,554.