Historical Sketch of Mount Katahdin, Maine
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine

By Geo. J. Varney
Published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill,
Boston 1886

Mount Katahdin is the highest of a numerous group of mountains near the middle of the eastern side of Piscataquis County. The base of the cluster, of which Katahdin is the highest peak, rests on the north-eastern bank of the West Branch of the Penobscot, at a point about 70 miles north-west of Bangor. Radiating to the northwest and south-east are eight other lofty ridges, easily overlooked from the summit of Katahdin. Around this mountain, except on the north, are tablelands about 3 miles in width, rising with gentle acclivity to its base. The form of the elevation is somewhat ehptical, with its longest axis running nearly north and south; with a circumference of eight or ten miles. Its sides are covered with granite rocks of a lightgray color, which have broken and split into a thousand irregular forms, while others have crumbled into powder, forming the principal component of the soil; the latter, with many of the rocks, being covered by a deep green moss. The trees grow shorter and shorter as the height increases, until they are mere dwarfs but a few feet in height, but with very long limbs, and trunks six inches in diameter at the ground. The trees find their limit, and are succeeded by the mountain-cranberry vine and blackberry bushes; but at a mile from the top the vine ceases, and all shrubs disappear. Here the rocks, both pebbles and small bowiders, have a finer grain and.a more blueish color than those lower down. The southern and eastern sides, by reason of general steepness and projecting cliffs, are almost impossible of ascent. The ascent has usually been made on the west or southwest end, where, prior to 1816, the surface was inclined from 359 to 46° to the horizon, and was extremely ragged with ledges, so that the distance from the upper margin of the table-lands, about 2 miles in a direct line, was much extended by the circuitous and zig-zag course necessarily taken. Sometimes in the year mentioned, an enormous mass, starting from about midway of the height, slid down the mountain, rending away many obstacles, so that the ascent was rendered much easier.

The summit of Katabdin is a plain, inclining partially north-westward, and formed of solid rock. The western portion is very smooth, as if ground away by drift; but the rest is rough and broken, and the interstices filled with coarse gravel. The area of this plain is about 800 acres, being full half a mile in length, though much less in width. Over it all is spread a covering of light-gray moss. Katahdin is the highest mountain in our State, the altitude of its summit being 5,385 feet above the level of the sea. The height of Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, is 7,920 feet. Its landscapes extend from the highlands that border the Bay of Chaleur on the north-east to the White Hills of New Hampshire at the south-west; and from the long ridge that forms the line of division between Maine and Canada on the north-west to peaks of Mount Desert Island, at the south,-the latter "appearing to rise in a semi-globular form from the bosom of the ocean." [Williamson.] The Indians have shown unwillingness to visit the summit of this mountain, professing it to be the summer residence of an evil spirit, called by theni "Pam ola." This being, they say, rises in the beginning of snow-time with a great noise, and takes flight to some warmer region; and they tell, with fearful countenances, the story of seven Indians, who, a great many moons ago, were too bold, and ascended the mountain to its top, where they were killed by the terrible Pamola; "for," say they, "we never hear of them more; and our fathers told us that an Indian never goes up to the top of Katabdin and lives to return."

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