Historical Sketch of Skowhegan, Maine
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THE oddity of its old Indian name has secured to Skowhegan a wider celebrity beyond the borders of the State than most towns of its size enjoy, but in the beauty of its situation, the character and refinement of its people and the solidity of its interests, this enterprising town is worthy of all and even more fame than it has received. It is situated thirty-three miles from Augusta, and can be reached directly by a branch of the Maine Central Railroad, of which it is the terminus. Sheltered by lovely hills, with fine water privileges, a fertile soil and salubrious climate, this beautiful town near the center of Maine is one of those delightful spots which sometimes surprise, an experienced traveler with glimpses of charms he has never seen before, and remain one of the most treasured of memory’s bright pictures. The name of the town was about the only thing bequeathed to it by its earliest, inhabitants, who were quite famous for inventing odd cognomens of this character, and who seem to have exhausted most of their inventive talent in this way. It does not seem to have had the distinction, shared by most of the towns on the Kennebec River, of having been a national burying-ground for the untold number of ancestors of that powerful tribe, but rather to have been one of the earliest summer resorts of this Garden State. The Kennebec pronunciation of the same was “Skoohegan,” and meant “the place to water.” Hither the worthy warriors of the Kennebec tribe, with their families, used to come in the spring and stay till autumn, the great attraction being the salmon fishing which was largely indulged in. The king of fish was very numerous here at that time, and could be caught, by wading into the stream, in great numbers. This favored spot seems to have been the chief fishing resort of the Kennebec tribe, other varieties beside the salmon being very plenty. When this region of Maine was first settled in the latter part of the last century, the present town of Skowhegan was then a part of Canaan; the beauty of the place suggesting to the original Puritan settlers the thought that it was not unworthy of being associated, at least by name, with the promised land. Its individual history began with its separation from Canaan and incorporation in. 1823, but the first settler of Canaan, named Peter Hayward, had planted the little log cabin that grew into a prosperous town near Skowhegan Falls as early as 1771. For a number of years growth was unusually rapid, and sufficient to allow this region to furnish about one hundred men to the advancing of the cause of independence during the Revolutionary War. Despite the set-back given by the embargo and war of 1812, the growth of the town went on steadily up to the time of its incorporation in 1823. The first officials of the town were as follows: Moderator, Joseph Patten; Town Clerk, Samuel Weston; Selectmen, Benjamin Eaton, Joseph Merrill, Samuel Weston, Josiah Parlin. When the town was incorporated it went by the name of Milburn, but the majority of the peo. pie preferred to keep the ancient name of the place, and, as is generally the case, they had their way, and the name was changed back again to Skowbegan. The town contains 19,071 acres of valuable territory, forming the best part of the old town of Canaan. Though the town pursued its unbroken path of progress quietly and steadily, it yet took a deep and hearty interest in the great questions which agitated the whole country from 1850 to 1860, and when the war broke out in 1861, it had many loyal sons ready at once to offer their lives and their fortunes for the sake of the country. Enlistments were made in one of the first regiments to leave the State, the Second Maine Volunteers, Col. Jameson, from Bangor. Other Skowhegan men went out and performed gallant service, chiefly in the ranks of the Sixth, Ninth, Fourteenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-eighth and Thirty.first Regiments. Of over a hundred who enlisted, at least a third were tenderly and deeply mourned by those who could ill spare their generous, noble lives, and no fitting commemoration of their memory has been spared. The quarter of a century which has elapsed since the war, while witnessing no remarkable changes, has seen steady progress and evolution in every department of town life. The germs of prosperity have been carefully nurtured, and are springing up with promise of large harvests. The sanitary, educational, and religious interests have received general and careful attention. In two lint’s, especially during the present decade, when the greatest progress has been seen, namely, the commercial and summer tourist interests have marked advances been made.

Situated on an advantageous portion of the great Kennebec, the possibilities of development of water-power at Skowbegan have long attracted the attention of careful observers, but only in recent years have they received a tithe of the improvement which they deserve. The most noted of these powers is situated at Skowhegan Falls. At this point there is a natural fall of twenty-eight feet in half a mile, almost all in perpendicular sections, and the power obtainable can be further increased by dams so as to be practicably unlimited. The bed and banks of the river, as well as an island in the center of the channel, are all of solid rock, so that admirable sites can be obtained, and the present “North” and “South Channel” dams are rendered of impregnable strength. The bulk of the manufacturing interest is situated here at the “Falls,” and largely on the channel island, where the opportunities for an advantageous site are unsurpassed. There is another immense power lower down the stream, at what is known as the "Basin,” and a great fortune here awaits the skilled eye and experienced management of some enterprising merchant who may develop it. There are also two other good privileges on the Wessernnsett Stream, which empties into the Kennebec at Skowhegan. Not only the fact that there is such a vast water-power here, but its situation as the natural and controling center of trade for all upper Somerset, and parts of Franklin and Piscataquis Counties, the great quantities of lumber available here, and the advantageous privileges of site and exemption from taxes given to manufacturers, render this a peculiarly favorable location for commercial enterprises. The business of Skowhegan has considerably increased during the present decade, and is undoubtedly destined to undergo great development in the not far distant future.

Skowhegan has also enjoyed no small share of the swelling tide of summer visitors every year. The drives and walks through the surrounding country are unsurpassed, the hunting in the forests and fishing in river and lake are excellent, and the facilities for quiet, homelike board render the pleasant old town of Skowhegan one of the most satisfactory places to spend a summer vacation in the State.

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