History of Oldtown, Maine
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine

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

Oldtown, in Penobscot County, lies on the west side of Penobscot River, 12 miles north of Bangor. The towns which bound it are Alton and Argyle on the north, Hudson and Glenburn on the west, Orono on the south and Milford on the east. The last is separated from it by the river. The surface of the town is generally quite even; but 2 hill of the kind known as a "horse back," runs the entire length north and south. Besides the Penobscot, the water-courses are Pushaw and Birch streams. The first is the outlet of Pushaw Lake, which lies on a portion of the west line of the town. Another stream is the so-called Stiliwater River, which is fed by Birch and Pushaw streams, and discharges into the Penobscot by three mouths, two of which are in Oldtown, and one in Orono. Between these and the Penobscot are several islands, of which the largest extends from the middle of the town into Orono on the south. Upon the eastern side of this is situated Oldtown village, and on the west the little hamlet of "Pushaw," and at the southern verge of the town Upper Stiliwater village, and post-office. The other principal islands are Orson and Orono islands, and Oldtown Island. The latter is the property and the principal residence of the remnant of the Penobscot tribe of Indians. In reply to a letter of inquiry, Chas. A. Bailey Esq., State Agent for the Penobscot Indians, has courteously furnished the following statement respecting them.

"The Penobscot Tribe of Indians is located on the islands In the Penobscot River between Oldtown and Lincoln, a distance of 35 miles. There are 146 islands in this river between Oldtown and Mattawamkeag, containing in all 4482 acres, which are reserved for their tribe. Their present number is about 245. They live in frame houses and some have very comfortable and tasty houses.

They maintain a tribal form of government, electing annually a governor and a lieutenant-governor, also a delegate to the State Legislature which they are aUowed. Politically, they are divided into two parties; the "Old" or conservative, and the "New" or progressive. Schools are maintained among them; and on Oldtown Island they have a convenient house of worship. In religious faith, they are adherents of the Roman Catholic church, having a priest to care for their religious interests. A community of Sisters of Mercy is established among them, and these have a salutary influence upon their moral and domestic condition. The schools are also taught by them.

Agriculture receives some attention under the stimulus of State appropriations. The men are employed as rivermen by those engaged in lumbering, also as guides to tourists in the Maine woods, and as boatmen on the lake and streams of Northern Maine. The women find constant employment at basket-making; their wares being unique and ornamental in design and workmanship. They frequent the summer resorts along the coast of New England during the "open season" for the purpose of vending their handiwork, and find it quite profitable.

The State annually distributes to the tribe about $10,000 under treaty stipulations, and in specific appropriations for the advancement of their moral, intellectual and industrial interests."

For further details respecting these see the article on Indians in the first part of this volume.

The European and North American Railway connects Oldtown with Bangor. The Bangor and Piscataquis Railroad forms a junction with the former at the village. The village also occupies the larger part of an island in the Penobscot. An excellent bridge across the river at this point connects with Bradley. The Penobscot River here affords what has been called the finest water-power in the United States. In the broad upper outlet of the Still water River is the Main Boom of the "Penobscot Boom Assqciation," for the storage of logs. The number of logs held in this boom are usually numbered by millions. It is currently stated th4 it originally cost about $100,000. The object is to stop all the lumber coming down the river, letting it out in small quantities that can be controlled, lest great bodies of it should escape to sea in freshets, and be lost. During the rafting season there are often three hundred men employed upon the logs which come into this boom, assorting them according to ownership, and forming them into rafts, to be floated to the various mills upon the river below. In 1855 there were rafted here 181,000,000 feet. At one time it was estimated that there were six hundred acres of logs in the boom.

The lower power in this town is the Great Works Falls, of which the natural fall is formed by two ridges of ledge extending across the river about 80 rods apart with a fall of about 3½ feet each. The river at this point is about 700 feet in width. The Oldtown Falls are at Oldtown village, and consist of a wing dam at the upper part of the village, and a dam on the west stream of the Penobscot which separates the island part from the main village. Other powers are at Upper Stillwater, Cooper's Falls, three miles above the last, Pushaw Falls, on the Pushaw Stream in the north-western part of the town near Alton. On these different powers are four large mills for long lumber, threc for shingles and short lumber, and a grist-mill. The size of these mills will be apprehended better by an enumeration of saws. In 1870 two blocks of mills here formerly owned by Samuel Veazie, contained 14 single saws, 5 tang, 3 shingle, 2 clapboard and 4 lath mills. These usually run about seven months in the year, manufacturing in that time, 25,000,000 feet of long lumber, 4,500,000 shingles, 1,000,000 clapboards, 13,500,000 laths, pickets, etc. There are also three steam saw-mills. The smaller manufactures consist of two barrel factories, a batteaux, a brush-wood, a sample case, a saw-filing machine, and an oar factory, together with the handicraft work usually found in our villages.

Oldtown village has some handsome residences, and several streets laid out in good style, and beautified with shade and ornamental trees. There is an excellent town hail, with a seating capacity for 1,500 perSons. Other villages in the town merit the same description according to their extent. The roads and bridges are generally in excellent condition. The post-offices are Upper Stiliwater, West Great Works and Pea Cove. As might be supposed, the principal occupations relate to lumber. The inhabitants are now a homogeneous people, but their parentage embraces a great number of nationalities. Hons. Samuel Coney and Geo. P. Sewall, are probably the most distinguished citizens. The central portion of the town has an excellent system of graded schools, from primary to high. The number of public schoolhouses in the town at the present time is nine, valued at $10,000. The churches here arc. Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Episcopal, Universalist and Catholic.

This town was formerly a part of Orono, but was set off and incorporated March 16th, 1840. The population in 1870 was 4,529. In 1880 it was 3,070. The valuation in 1870 was $684,308. In 1880 it was $528,109. The rate of taxation in the latter year was .031, subject to 10 per cent discount.

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