Old Orchard, Maine: Pen and Pencil Sketches

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This article contains the contents of Old Orchard, Maine: Pen and Pencil Sketches by John Staples Locke (1836-1906) as published in 1879.[1]

For an updated version of this publication, see Historical Sketches Of Old Orchard And The Shores Of Saco Bay Biddeford Pool, Old Orchard Beach, Pine Point, Prout's Neck, published in 1884.






When an individual becomes distinguished, there is a demand for his biography ; and when a locality springs into notoriety, there is a demand for its history.

As a summer resort, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, has been growing in popular favor for many years. To gratify the demands of its numerous patrons, who would learn more of its history and character than can be acquired in a brief visit, is the author's excuse for publishing these pen and pencil sketches.

J S. L.

Boston, 1879.

Early History

Discoveries. — Settlements. — Sagamore of Saco. — Rogers' Garden. — The First Orchard. — Battles on the Beach. — The First Hotel in Maine. — Successive Hotels. — An Hotel-keeper's Captivity. — Colonial Laws.

Two English exploring vessels, commanded by Captain Martin Pring, arrived on the coast of Maine, called by the natives Mavooshen, and entered the Saco River, in 1603. These were the first recorded vessels that ever anchored in the bay or ploughed the waters of the river. The journal of this fleet, which was published in England after the return, gave such a glowing account of the country and its resources, that a spirit of enterprise was aroused, and adventurers soon sought the shores of Saco.

For several years many trading and fishing expeditions were made to this coast. Among the noted adventurers was Captain John Smith, whose story is well known in connection with the family of Powhattan and history of Virginia. He sailed up the Saco in 1614 as far as the Falls, where now stand the cotton mills, and with Indian guides explored the river to Salmon Falls, twelve miles from the ocean. Sir Fernando Gorges, of Plymouth, England, a gentleman of wealth and distinction, became so interested in these expeditions that lie employed men, as he said "at large cost," and fitted out a vessel, which he placed in command of Richard Vines, and sent it to the mouth of the Saco River, to explore the country, fish, and trade with the natives.

Captain Vines arrived in early autumn. No season could have better displayed the beauty and grandeur of the country. The giant forests, with strong arms interlocked, stood defiantly before the axe of civilization. The tall, dark pines and waving hemlocks, gray with the moss of age, contrasted richly with the ruby autumnal foliage of the oak and maple, and the russet tints of the poplar and birch. The waters were bordered by long, luxuriant grass, whose verdure no civilized foot had pressed and no scythe but Time's had touched. Innumerable sea-birds almost darkened the air in their continuous flight, and, unaccustomed to the sound of lire-arms, they fearlessly approached the vessel of the voyagers.

Captain Vines spent the autumn in exploring the coast for a suitable location for winter quarters. He and his party were the first English who trod the silvery sands of Old Orchard. The west side of Saco River was finally chosen for a settlement. Here this company built a log-house and spent the winter. This was in 1616. These settlers had no European neighbors nearer than Jamestown, Virginia. The local name, Winter Harbor, was derived from this circumstance.

The winter being over, Vines returned to England. His fishing and trading had been a pecuniary success, and Gorges, his patron, was gratified with the voyage. lie therefore obtained from King James I. a grant of lands along this coast, and became the first individual land-owner of Maine. Captain Vines continued transporting settlers to this coast, and became so interested in the country that he obtained, in association with John Oldham, all the lands on the west side of the river within the present limits of Biddeford ; and to Richard Bonython and Thomas Lewis were granted all the lands on the east side within the present limits of Saco. This was in 1629, and in 1631 the grantees took legal possession. Richard Bonython settled, as did the others, near the sea-shore, on the east side of the river ; he, therefore, was the first resident proprietor of Old Orchard.

The early settlers were principally engaged in fishing. This was the quickest way to get returns for their labor, for American codfish found a ready sale in the English market. The fish were caught and dried upon flakes or stages. "Stage Island," at the mouth of the river, received its name from the fish stages erected by the early fishermen.

For many years the only travelled road from New Hampshire to eastern Maine was along the sea-shore. No road was built till 1750; then a highway was opened from Strawberry Bank, now Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Falmouth, now Portland, Maine. Old Orchard Beach, with its continuous solid surface, was, no doubt, gratefully trodden by the weary-footed horses of the early travellers. The small rivers were crossed at wading -places or fords. The word Biddeford means "by the ford." Biddeford, Maine, however, receives its name from Bideford, England, from whence came many of the early settlers on this coast. As the population increased, and there became a demand for more direct thoroughfares, ferries were established across the larger rivers. The Saco was crossed a short distance from its mouth, at what is still called the Lower Ferry. All Journeying was on horseback or on foot. No carriages were in the settlement for man); years, and no horses till the year 1658. The sea-shore being the only highway, and also most convenient for fishing, the settlers at first located here ; hence, along the shores of Old Orchard, and upon the banks of the river, were the first settlements made.

For more than fifty years the white settlers lived at peace with the natives, and a barter trade was carried on between them, the Indians readily exchanging furs for knives and trinkets. Garrisons, however, were built by the settlers for mutual protection in case there should ever arise any trouble, but they were of little use till 1675, when commenced that terrible struggle which almost exterminated the white inhabitants on the coast of Maine.

The settlers at Saco severely suffered. From 1675 to 1748 they were engaged in almost constant warfare. There were occasional seasons of peace, but during these years the settlers lived in continual dread of their treacherous enemies. Behind every rock or tree, along the highway or in the open field, a stealthy foe was liable to lurk. Men went armed to their labor, and women kept the well-charged musket ready. So great was the danger to the scattered settlers along the coast of Old Orchard during these wars, that many went over to the west side of the river, where more secure garrisons were erected. Ruins of some of these are still seen, and several houses are now standing which stood the test of Indian warfare ; but along the shores of Old Orchard and the east side of the Saco River the houses were nearly all burned, and many of the inhabitants slain or carried into captivity. The story of their adventures is of much interest, but is too extended for mention here.

After the capture of Louisburg by the English in 1745, which resulted in the overthrow of French power in America, the Indians had none to furnish them ammunition, or incite them to war, and they, becoming disheartened, signed a treaty of peace at Falmouth, now Portland, and afterwards there were no more battles in this vicinity. The scattered settlers hopefully returned to their plantations, and the angel of peace smiled upon Saco. Lumbering had now become an important industry at the Falls. Mills were erected, and there the population rapidly increased, but only sturdy farmers and adventurous fishermen remained along the Old Orchard coast.

The most of the land-titles here were received through Richard Bonython, the early patentee, and his son and heir, John Bonython, who acquired a vast amount of land besides that inherited from his father. He seems to have taken life his own way. He denied the authority of the General Court, and refused to be in any way governed by the laws of the country. He was several times lined for his disobedience and contempt of court, but he proved so incorrigible that he was declared an "outlaw, a rebel, and unworthy of His Majesty's protection." There is no evidence that he was a criminal, but he was punished for refusing to submit to the authority of the government. His vast possessions, his contempt for all in authority, and his wild and almost savage dress and manner, gave him the title of Sagamore of Saco. There is a tradition that he obtained his lands by deed from Mogg Megone, the chief of the Sakoki tribe, which dwelt on the river. It is said that Bonython promised his daughter Ruth in marriage to this chieftain for a deed of the lands. Mogg was made drunk, and his signature obtained. Ruth refused the marriage, and fled from her home to the Indian settlement at Norridgewock, on the Androscoggin, and Mogg lost his bride and his lands. The poet Whittier, in his historical poem "Mogg Megone," graphically tells the story. He. thus describes the character and appearance of Mogg:

"But Mogg Megone never trembled yet ;
Wherever his eye or foot is set,
lie is watchful : each form in the moonlight dim,
Of rock or tree, is seen of him ;
He listens : each sound from afar is caught,
The faintest shiver of leaf and limb.
His head is bare, save only where
Waves in the wind a lock of hair.
He hath a knife and hatchet and gun,
And a gaudy, tasselled blanket on."

Bonython is described thus:

" A low, lean, swarthy man is he.
With blanket garb and buskined knee,
And naught of the English fashion on,
For he hates the race from which he sprung,
And couches his word in the Indian tongue."

It seems from the records that Bonython repented of his wayward course, apologized to those in authority, was pardoned by the General Court, and again became a citizen. He lived and died at Old Orchard, and was buried on the east bank of the Saco, near the Lower Ferry. Nearly fifty years after his death his estate was divided among his heirs. The name of Bonython — or Boniton, as it was sometimes spelt — has become extinct.

Though these sketches were not intended to be biographical, yet there was another early settler at Old Orchard worthy of mention. As early as 1638 Thomas Rogers settled at the mouth of the Goose Fair Brook, and entered into agricultural pursuits more extensively than any of his neighbors. The Goose Fair Brook rises in a heath in the northern part of Saco, and empties into the ocean about half-way between the Saco River and the town of Scarborough . It is a shallow stream, and at low tide is easily crossed. Here was an ancient wading-place, and here upon the marshes flocked multitudes of wild geese ; from which, probably, the river received its name.

Thomas Rogers dwelt on the east side, near the ocean. His fields were the first cleared, and most extensively cultivated on the coast. lie planted fruit-trees, and cultivated the grape-vine, which was brought from Wood Island, where an abundance of them grew when the coast was first discovered. His farm was considered of so much importance that it was called "Rogers' Garden" by the early geographers, and was so recorded on the maps. The lands now owned by the Old Orchard Association were a portion of his farm. The apple-trees which lie planted remained nearly a hundred and fifty years, and became the Old Orchard, from which the place takes its name.

In 1676 his place was attacked by Indians, and after a severe struggle, in which several of them were killed and wounded, they withdrew, mortified at their repulse, and, taking to their canoes, went to Scarborough, where, at Black Point, they burnt several houses. Rogers immediately after this, with his family, went to Kittery, leaving some of his goods in his house. A party of young men were sent to take them away, when they were attacked by Indians in ambush, and all slain. A son of Mr. Rogers was one of the number. The house was burnt by the Indians. The bodies of the young men were afterwards found upon the beach by the inhabitants, and buried on the shore near where the house stood.

In the same year, when all the eastern settlements were suffering from Indian depredations, a company of soldiers, under command of Captain Wicoll, came from Newichawannock (South Berwick), to aid the settlers at Scarborough and Black Point (Prout's Neck). They had several encounters with the enemy before reaching Saco, and their number was greatly reduced. While marching along the beach at low tide, they were suddenly startled by the terrible warwhoop, and a volley of shot and arrows was poured in upon them with such fury that several were wounded and fell. The Indians were in ambush in the pine forest just back of the beach, in the vicinity of the house now known as "Camp Comfort."

The soldiers immediately recovered from this sudden attack, and returned fire with a precision so overwhelmingly fatal to the Indians, that they were at once scattered and driven back to the forest. It being low tide, the ledge known as "Googin's Rocks," in the vicinity, offered the soldiers a temporary fortification, and taking refuge behind these, they were ready for a second attack, in which they were equally successful in driving back the enemy.

Again, another attack, and the savages were defeated. They then returned to the forest, and sounded a war-cry for reinforcements. The soldiers now felt the horrors of their situation. Behind them was the returning ocean, against which their position could not be held. In a few hours their fortification would be submerged. To leave it would expose them to the fatal fire of their enemy's expected reinforcements. They must fall into the hands of merciless savages, or be ingulfed by the insatiable ocean. They chose the latter, and firmly resolved to hold their position, and fight till the waters overwhelmed them. The Indians soon returned to renew the attack, but by a discharge from the well-aimed muskets of the soldiers four of their number were killed, and three fell mortally wounded. The intrenched soldiers now saw the enemy's reinforcements running down the beach, and they felt that a critical moment had come. They were to be overpowered by superior numbers ; yet they heroically prepared for another attack, when, to their astonishment and joy, they saw that a company of soldiers had just crossed Goose Fair Brook, and was running rapidly to their rescue.

The firing had alarmed the settlement at the Ferry, and the soldiers had hastened to offer relief. The Indians, seeing superior numbers, and being unaccustomed to open-field warfare, fled to the woods, leaving their dead upon the sand. The heroic soldiers, rescued from this perilous position, hastened on to duty at Scarborough, and the ocean came dashing over the rocks, gathered up the bodies of the slain, and washed away the stains and footprints of human strife.

Imagined sketch of Waddock's Ordinary as it would have appeared in 1654.

One of the first demands of civilization was a public-house. After settlements had been made at various points along the coast, and a highway opened from one to another, travellers needed some place for entertainment. To meet this want, the court, in 1654, granted a license to Henry Waddock "to keep an ordinary to entertain strangers for their money." He was also licensed to act as ferryman at the lower ferry, and was "authorized to receive 2d. from every one he set over the river." This "ordinary" was probably the first public-house in Maine. It stood on the east bank of the Saco River, a short distance from its mouth, just below the Lower Ferry. As no "special artist" or photographer has furnished a picture "taken on the spot," it must be painted by the imagination, aided by tradition and historical facts.

On a sunny bank, sloping southward to the Saco, stood this structure. A tall forest of primitive pines, thick with whispering foliage, sheltered it from the north winds in winter, and in summer the south wind fanned it with an ocean coolness. It was but a low log habitation, thickly thatched with meadow-grass, and ceiled with bark of basswood. Through small, high windows the sunlight was admitted, and the chilliness of the night was excluded by heavy wooden shutters. At each end stood an immense chimney, built of beach-stones and clay, and in each chimney was an enormous fireplace, in which in winter crackled and hissed the huge burning back-logs and fore-sticks, and from which flared the bright light of flaming pitch-knots. A wide, heavy door opened on the side of the house, to which, in winter, oxen were driven with a sled-load of fuel, and with handspikes the back-logs were rolled into proper position.

The furnishings of such a house were of the most primitive kind. All the furniture in the settlement was of rude domestic manufacture, except what few pieces had been brought from England. Stools, chairs, and tables were manufactured by each settler to meet the requirements of his circumstances. The floors of each house were made of hewn timbers, fitted solidly together. Overhead were the large beams, to which were attached hanging shelves, on which were kept the food supplies of the family. The culinary utensils were of iron, pewter, and wood, and perhaps some brown ware from England and Holland; but no china or white glazed ware was in use. Wooden bowls, plates, and spoons were most common. Teacups and saucers were not in use. Tea-drinking was not then known in America. No tea was used in the American colonies till after 1700.

Beds were made from meadow-grasses or dried leaves gathered in autumn, and skins of wild animals furnished covering. Over each fireplace, upon wooden hooks, hung the well-charged musket and powder-horn, and upon the end of the rude mantelpiece sat constantly the tinder-box, with flint and steel, ever ready for kindling fire. No glass windows were in the houses till many years later, and no houses were built of boards or sawed lumber. The first saw-mill in Maine was erected on Saco Falls in 1653, which soon supplied the town and neighboring settlements with boards ; but previous to this all the houses were built of logs or hewn timbers trunnelled together. In this rude way lived the early settlers of Saco, and such was the character of the first "ordinary," or tavern, at Old Orchard.

This first public-house was kept by Henry Waddock for twenty-five years. lie was succeeded by Thomas Haley, who, to meet the increasing demands of travel, received from the court in 1673 an order, "For the more secure transportation of travellers, to provide a good, Sufficient boat, for carrying persons and their horses, large enough to carry three horses at one time."

Haley was succeeded, in 1679, by Humphry Scamman, from whom have descended most of the families in this vicinity who bear that name. He was proprietor of this ordinary, or tavern, which he gradually improved with the progress of civilization. His romantic history, though foreign to these sketches, may be thrown ir as an interesting episode, showing the adventures of an Old Orchard hotel-keeper at that period.

In 1688 the second Indian war broke out. The French on the Canadian border furnished the Indians with ammunition, and incited them to fight the English. During this war a party of Indians who had been doing serious depredations in Kittery and Berwick, came upon the inhabitants of Saco. Mr. Scamman was mowing in a meadow, when this party came upon his house, in which were his wife and five children. His little son, a lad of ten years, was bearing to his father a mug of beer, when he saw the Indians coming towards the house. He immediately returned to inform his mother, and placed the mug of beer on the dresser. Mrs. Scamman had no time to make her escape or alarm the neighboring settlers, and became a captive with her whole family. She firmly refused to give information concerning the whereabouts of her husband. Threats were of no avail ; but having received from the chief a promise that all their lives should be spared, she told where he could be found, and he also was made a captive.

Drawing of Scamman mug from Old Times In Saco, 1891.[2]
Drawing of medallion detail on Scamman mug from Old Times In Saco, 1891.[2]

The Indians, fearing an attack from the garrison on the opposite side of the river, made a hasty flight, only taking with them a few articles of plunder. Elated with the number of captives they had taken, they hastened to Canada, following an Indian trail through the woods, stopping at Peckwoket (now Fryburg), formerly the capital of the Sokoki tribe. Here the prisoners were made the objects of savage: cruelty. A council was held, and it was decided that the captives should be slain ; but the chief was faithful to the promise made to Mrs. Scamman, and he ordered them to be taken to Canada, where they were disposed of to the French, and scattered through different parts of the province. They passed through various hardships during their captivity. About a year later a treaty was made, when they were all returned in safety. They found their house in the same condition in which they left it ; no one had disturbed it, and at the door sat a favorite cat, which had been the only occupant of the premises during their absence. Upon the dresser still stood the beer-mug which the boy placed there when he returned to give the alarm. This mug is still in existence in Saco, owned by a descendant of the family. It is brown stoneware, evidently made in Holland, and bears an etched outline picture of William, Prince of Orange, who married Mary, the daughter of James II., and was called to the English throne in 1689 ; previous to which he had acquired great popularity in Holland by successfully conducting wars against the French. The mug was evidently made in commemoration of his victories, and is more than two hundred years old. A daughter, who had heen in captivity with her parents, was again captured in Scarborough in 1723, and carried to Canada, where she was received into the governor's family, educated, and married to a gentleman in Quebec. Mr. Scamman dwelt at the "ordinary " after his return, and entertained travellers till his death, in 1727.

A portion of the Scamman estate was purchased in 1753, by Deacon Amos Chase, who kept the ferry and "ordinary" till 1758, when the first bridge across Saco River was built, at the Falls, with the proceeds of a lottery ; and as the population in that vicinity had greatly increased, the travel turned in that direction, and the Lower Ferry and the public-house were discontinued.

At the Ferry, where stood the first public-house, was the Winter port of Saco. Above here ice blockaded the river, and from here all foreign and coastwise commerce was carried on. The now dilapidated storehouse standing on the grassgrown wharf, is a remnant of those busy days.

In 1800, Captain Asa Stevens, who had acquired a fortune in West India trade, erected a large threestory mansion at this place. After the war of 1812, it was converted into a tavern, called the Perry House. This passed under the management of various proprietors, till burned in 1876. The patronage of this house was principally from citizens of Saco and Biddeford, who made it a terminus for sleighing parties and summer drives.

The Ferry House was the last of what may be termed the "old-time taverns," in this vicinity ; and before commencing a chapter on modern hotels, it may be interesting to read some of the colonial laws regarding public-houses.

None to keep a Publick House without a license from the County Court, on penalty of 5l., or imprisonment during pleasure.

Publick Houses must have a sign within 3 months, or forfeit their license.

If they brew with anything instead of Malt, they must pay 5l.

They must suffer none to be drunk, or to have above half a pint of Wine, or sit above half an Hour, or after Nine at Night, on penalty of 5s.

If they conceal a Drunkard, or send not for the Constable, they pay £5.

Whoever is drunk pays 3s. 4d. for drinking too much, 2s. 6d. for staying more than half an hour, and 5s. for sitting after Nine at Night, to be imprisoned till he pays, or sit in the Stocks 3 Hours.

Private persons pay 20s. or sit in the Stocks, for the First Offense, in permitting people to tipple in their houses — 5s. for the Second Offense, and bound to better behavior or committed for the third.

Drunkards forfeit double for the Second Offense. Treble for the third : if unable to pay it, they must be whipped with ten Stripes.

No dancing in public houses on penalty of 5s.

Whoever sells strong drink to an Indian pays 40s. — a third to the informer.

Whoever curses or swears, pays 10s., or sits in the Stocks. If more than once, the penalty is doubled.

Licenses must be renewed every year, on penalty of £5.

The above were some of the primitive laws, but as Late as 1712 an act was passed which forbade "all singing or dancing at a tavern or in the street after dark."

But these laws have become obsolete, and the customs of those days have passed away. In seven successive generations time has changed the character of the people, and the daring deeds and heroic struggles of their ancestors live only in history and song. Fair fields flourish where forests frowned, and stately structures stand where the red warrior reared his rude wigwam. Only old ocean remains unchanged. Its breakers still beat upon the beach in regular rhythm, and its tides come and go, as aye they will, "till the heavens are rolled together as a scroll," and "there shall be no more sea."

Old Customs - Modern History

Twenty-sixth of June. — General Court. — First Boarders. — E. C. Staples. — First Old Orchard House. — Cause of Greatness. — The Ocean. — The Beach at Low Tide. — Poem. — Climate. — Fern Park. — Ross Woods. — Ferry Beach. — Camp-Meeting Association. — Modern Hotels. — Portland Steamers. — Boston and Maine Railroad. — Song of Old Orchard.

The Twenty-sixth of June, for many years, J., has been a gala day at the Beach. There used to exist a popular tradition that on this day the waters of the ocean were especially endowed with healing properties, that at this time they were "troubled," and "whoever stepped in was cured of whatsoever disease he possessed." This led thousands of the credulous and superstitious to flock to these shores to be healed. Old age came to be rejuvenated, middle age to be strengthened and childhood and infancy must be "dipped" annually to insure safety against disease and death. From the surrounding country, back for many miles, came, early on the morning of this day, vehicles of every description, bearing the "withered, the halt, and the blind," and every other character and condition of humanity, who reverently plunged or were "dipped" in the rolling breakers of Old Orchard. Many are the accounts of the credulous who have been cured or benefited by bathing on this day.

This custom is of great antiquity : it goes back to the mystic ages of mythology, to those days when wells, pools, or fountains were consecrated to various gods, goddesses, and nymphs, and considered sacred. At each body of water was supposed to preside some nymph or goddess, to please whom devotees made offerings, or bathed in its waters. The Romans celebrated a religious feast, called Fontinalia, in honor of the "nymphs of wells and fountains." Flowers were carried to the fountains by young men and maidens, wreaths and bouquets were thrown into them and scattered about the shore ; and those upon whom the waters were sprinkled were considered under the especial care of the patron nymph.

The Greeks had their sacred fountains. There was one in Laconia sacred to Juno, and many others, some of which were supposed to have healing properties, and others to be of a prophetic nature. From the figures portrayed upon a mirror dipped in a fountain the Greeks thought they obtained notice of coming good or evil.

When Christianity began to dispel the customs of mythology, waters, which had been considered sacred to some tutelary god or goddess, were dedicated to some church saint and called by his name. These fountains are still common throughout Europe, especially in the British Isles. Even now, in Ireland and Scotland they are considered sacred by many, who visit them annually to be partakers of their healing waters. The early settlers on this coast came from England and Ireland, and with them came the customs of the old country. There is a Mind deference for old usages, which continues them in practice long after their original significance is forgotten, and this led our early settlers to continue their annual visits to some body of water. As the ocean at Old Orchard seemed more impressive than any other waters in the vicinity, this beach became the place for holding their Fontinalia, or Festival of Waters.

The first settlers visited the beach on the 24th of June, St. John the Baptist's day. But when it was ordered that "there should be one General Court holden at Saco for the whole Province of Maine, every year on the 25th of June," it changed the day. The court brought people from all parts of the province. It was a great day in Maine. Those who came attended court on the 25th and rested from their journey, and the day following they visited the ocean to bathe. Thus the celebration, which formerly occurred on the 24th, was carried forward two days, and the 26th of June became the celebrated bathing-day at Old Orchard. It is not now kept with the same superstitious regard as formerly ; but, it being the most leisure season in the agricultural districts, they still keep up the custom of visiting the beach on this day. Many hotel guests arrive at this time, and it may be considered the opening of the pleasure season.

The Beach

Sketch of E. C. Staples' Old Orchard House as it appeared in 1830.

Though Old Orchard, which is a suburb of the city of Saco, and embraces the Atlantic coast line from Saco River to the town of Scarboro', had for nearly two centuries been the favorite resort on June 26th, and a popular bathing-place for those in the vicinity, yet it never began to receive distant patronage till about 1840. In 1837, however, a few individuals, impressed with the beauty of the beach and the invigorating climate, besought E. C. Staples, the present proprietor of the Old Orchard House, to furnish them with board during the summer. Mr. Staples dwelt in a plain farmhouse (see cover), the home of his ancestors. This house has been remodelled into the Staples' Cottage. It stood near where it now stands, and is more than a century old. The first boarders were charmed with the place, and the next year brought more than the house could accommodate.

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 accommodation increased with great rapidity.

Mr. Staples commenced to build additions to his house, and from year to year continued to enlarge, until the Old Orchard House, accommodating three hundred guests, had been erected. This was popular and prosperous till destroyed by fire, July 21, 1875. Boarding-houses and hotels have been increasing and enlarging for several years, and now there are more than twenty-five, with accommodations for four thousand quests.

There is always a cause to produce an effect ; and the causes which have led to the greatness of Old Orchard are its own inherent attractions. Nature has here lavished her charms, and especially fitted the place for the distinction it receives. The ocean is always grand and impressive : at morn, when the rising sun burnishes its surface with gold and crimson ; at noon, when its blue waters blend with the distant sky ; at evening, when the rosy sunset lingers upon its waves, and tints the light clouds that float like fairy chariots above it ; and at night, when the moon overspread its surface with spangles of silver. The eye is always charmed with the grandeur of ocean scenes, and the ear is filled with the melody of the breeze touched waves as they play gently upon the beach, or dash with tremendous powers in the hands of the tempest, "swelling the profound eternal bass in Nature's anthem."

There is pleasure in watching the distant ocean, bearing upon its swelling surface the swift-winged crafts of pleasure, the steam-propelled palaces of travel, and the white-robed ships of commerce. They come and go, pass and repass, bearing an exchange of thoughts and commodities from country to country, travelling continually upon this mighty highway of nations.

Not only the ocean, but the land here has its charms. Old Orchard is a crescent-shaped shore, nine miles in length — a smooth, solid, prairie-like beach, sloping gently to the water, and the heavy rolling waves, rising continually in the distant depths, chase each other in regular succession, and dash upon the beach their foam-crested heads. There are no dangerous under-currents or treacherous quicksands in these waves, and at low tide the beach is a smooth, solid driving-course, upon which hundreds of carriages may pass and repass without interruption. During the pleasure season thousands here assemble to engage in seaside sports ; nothing can exceed the gayety and joyousness of the scene. For miles, gay equipages throng this wave-washed highway, and the surf is alive with jubilant bathers. The sportive find lively recreations, and the meditative find subjects for moral and elevating reflections. One of the latter once wrote:


Alone I walked the Ocean's strand ;
A pearly shell was in my hand ;
I stooped and wrote upon the sand
My name, the year and day.
As onward from the place I passed,
A lingering look behind I cast:
A wave came rolling high and fast,
And washed my words away.

Thus, methought, soon it will be
With every mark on earth of me;
A wave from dark Oblivion's sea
Will sweep across the place
Where I have trod the sandy shore
Of Time, and been to be no more —
Of me, my day, the name I bore,
And leave no track nor trace.

And yet with Him, who counts the sands,
And holds the waters in his hands,
I know a lasting record stands
Inscribed against my name, —
Of all these mortal hands have wrought,
Of all this thinking soul has thought,
Or from life's fleeting moments caught,
For glory or for shame.

The jaded toilers, released from the tread-mill of daily duties, come here to throw off the'r burdens and repair their labor-worn lives. The change of scene, the climate, the baths, the food, and the social contact, all contribute to their needs, and revive their enervated natures ; but especially are they benefited by the climate.

Recent scientific investigation has shown that ozone, a peculiar element of the atmosphere, is found most abundantly upon the tops of high mountains and at the sea-shore. The constant inhaling of this element gives an especially healthy tone to the human system. The robust forms and ruddy features of mountain and seaside inhabitants are attributable to this cause. At Old Orchard the air is said to be especially charged with this invigorating element. Those suffering from diseases of the throat and lungs have been benefited by even a brief sojourn in this cool and strengthening climate. Those weary with city life find here reviving and restful influences ; and, like Whittier, they say:

Good-bye to pain and care ! I like
Mine ease to-day:
Here, where these sunny waters break,
And ripple this keen breeze, I shake
All burdens from the heart,
All weary thoughts away.

I draw a freer breath : I seem, —
Like all I sec, —
Waves in the sun, — the while-winged gleam
Of sea-birds in the slanting beam,
And fancy sails which Hit before the
South wind free.

What heed I of the dusty land,
And noisy town ?
I see the mighty deep expand
From its white line of gleaming sand,
To where the blue of heaven on bluer
Waves shuts down !

In listless quietude of mind
I yield to all
The change of cloud, and wave, and wind,
And passive by the flood reclined,
I wander with the waves, and with them
Rise and fall.

Fern Park

The ocean and the beach are not the only attractions at Old Orchard. There is an inland scenery of marsh, meadow, field, forest, and flourishing farms ; and Fern Park, a short distance from the hotels, is a place of great natural beauty. It is a dense forest of hard wood and evergreen trees, through which walks and avenues have been laid out, and rustic arbors erected. This was done under the direction of Mr. Bull, one of the early patrons of the Old Orchard House, — a man of great taste and refinement, who spent much time in this charming place. The mottoes which he erected over the arbors and along the avenues remain memorials of his poetic genius and refinement.

In this natural park are found many of the wild flowers of Maine, and the botanist here has facilities for pursuing his interesting studies. Those who gather flowers simply because they love them, find here pleasure in hunting out and bringing to human admiration the little bright-eyed blossoms that in the dark depths of the forest were" born to blush unseen, and waste their sweetness on the desert air." Here, like a cluster of corals in an emerald setting, grows the bright bunch-berry, and the partridge-vine and sweet tiny twin-flower twine the moss-covered logs. The modest violet, the delicate star-flower, and the fragrant checkerberry nourish here, and from the abundance of lichens and ferns the place is appropriately called Fern Park. It is about one mile from the beach, on the Saco road, directly opposite the grounds of the Camp-Meeting Association.

Ferry Beach

Its name is derived from the Lower Ferry at the mouth of the Saco River. It is that portion of Old Orchard west of Goose Fair Brook. At the west end of this beach is what was early known as Bare-Knee Point; the gradual curve of the sandy shore, having a fancied resemblance to a human limb, gave it this name. From this extends the Breakwater, which was completed by Government in 1876, at a cost of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It is composed of huge granite blocks dropped in a continuous line for more than a mile, and was made for the purpose of extending the channel of the river so as to remove the sand bar at its mouth, which at low tides obstructed shipping. The breakwater accomplished the desired object, and huge ships can now pass at lowest tides without grounding.

Back of this beach, at the west end, is a pine forest of eight acres, which has recently been laid out in walks, rambles, streets, and avenues, and called Ferry Beach Park. This place offers many attractions for summer homes. It was originally a favorite resort for the Indian tribes. In winter they journeyed, on moose-hide snow-shoes, from their inland homes to feast upon the shell-fish and sea-birds so abundant on this shore.

The abundant shell-heaps in the vicinity are relics of the red man's residence.

"Here they built their tall hark wigwams;
Here they danced and sang their war-songs ;
Here they sat and, looking westward,
Smoked the pipe of peace together,
Sung aloud to the Great Spirit,
Whose bright realms they would inherit,
Far beyond the golden sunset.
Him they saw in clouds and tempests,
Heard him talking in the thunder,
Felt he loved his bave red children,
And would bring them all together
Where the hunting-grounds were better,
In that far-off bright Forever."

The Ross Woods

One of the thoroughfares leading "up town," or to Saco Falls, passes two miles through a dense woodland landscape. A forest of pine, spruce, and hemlock, interspersed with birch, oak, and maple, walls the highway on either side, and in some places overshadows it with protecting branches. The carriage-track is closely bordered by ferns and foliage, and in summer the hedges are bright with the wild rose and laurel ; as the summer declines, the golden-rod and purple-asters appear, waving their bright sceptres, prophetic of approaching autumn.

Nothing can be more charming than a drive through these woods at approaching sunset. The light pierces the treetops with its slender golden arrows, and falls here and there in little gilded oases among the dark shadows. The still air is fragrant with the odor of sweet-scented pines, and vocal with voices of birds; — the robin chants his measured requiem, the whippoorwill sings a melodious lullaby, and the echoing voice of the thrush reverberates through the still forest. Whoever, at this enchanting hour, is favored with a drive through these woods, will find it a ran; enjoyment, and ever feel thankful that the vandal hand of civilization has spared this fascinating forest.

Song of Old Orchard

By Eugene Batchelder.

AIR — My Maryland.

Old Orchard Beach is broad and fair;
Happy, fair Old Orchard.
Old On-hard Beach is free from care;
Happy, fair Old Orchard.
When we feel our cares increase,
When we wish to be at peace,
Then we fly where sorrows cease,
To happy, fair Old Orchard. (Repeat.)

The wit and grace of all the land
Resort to fair Old Orchard ;
They roam along the yellow strand,
At happy, fair Old Orchard.
Here the world seems bright and gay,
Here the hours fly swift away,
On the shores of Saco Bay,
At happy, fair Old Orchard.

Here's a right good ringing cheer
For happy, lair Old Orchard;
Here's to friends, both far and near,
We've met at fair Old Orchard.
When we wander far away,
Still we'll think of those who stay,
And trust again to meet some day,
At happy, fair Old Orchard!

Old Orchard House, August 7, 1862.

Camp-Meeting Association

In July, 1873, an association was formed under this title, with Rev. I. Luce, President, which purchased a tract of land, containing about fifty acres, within half a mile of the beach. A large portion of this was covered by a dense forest of oak, maple, and pine, in which was a valley forming a natural amphitheatre. In this the Association erected commodious seats for the accommodation of seven thousand worshippers. At the centre of this stands the speaker's desk, and so remarkable are the acoustic properties of the place that throughout this vast auditorium the voice of an ordinary speaker can be distinctly heard. It seems as if Nature designed this place especially for camp-meetings. Around this auditorium are erected tents and cottages. Many families spend the whole season there. The grounds of the Association are regularly laid out in streets and avenues. On many of the cottage lots buildings are already erected, and others are inviting purchasers. There are no sea-side resorts that offer more social and religious advantages than Old Orchard. During 1879, from July 16th till September 1st, there will be five camp-meetings, at which will be present the best talent and highest culture of the country.

The present officers of the Association are : President, Rev. I.D. Munger : Secretary, Rev. D. B. Randall; Treasurer, J. M. Palmer, Esq. With these gentlemen, any business with the Association may be transacted.

To accommodate the patrons of the camp-meetings, the Boston and Maine Railroad has erected a depot (Camp-Ground Station) a short distance from the ground, at which all passengers for the camp-meetings should leave the trains.

Portland and Boston Steamers

For Bostonians and tourists passing through Boston, to or from Old Orchard, there is no conveyance more convenient and comfortable than by these steamers. They leave India Wharf, Boston, for Portland, every evening, at seven o'clock, and returning, leave Portland for Boston at the same hour. Old Orchard is fifteen miles west of Portland, from which six trains daily pass it, the earliest leaving Portland at six A. M.

Passengers by this route can leave Boston at night; thus they have a view of Boston harbor, see islands and distant shores at sunset, avoid the heat, dust, and fatigue of railroad travel, have a night's quiet slumber, pass the island, and picturesque scenery of Portland at sunrise, and with a railroad ride of only thirty minutes arrive at Old Orchard in time for early breakfast. By taking advantage of the generous excursion rates offered by the company, an interesting tour may be made at a trifling expense.

Boston and Maine Railroad

In 1873 this road, which had previously extended only from Boston to South Berwick, on the west side of Maine, was opened through to Portland along the coast, through Wells, Kennebunk, Saco, and Scarboro'. Thus the seaside resorts were accommodated with railroad facilities, and Old Orchard, which previously could he reached only by a stage journey of four miles, was favored with two commodious depots on its shores. This brought increased patronage, and each summer the Boston and Maine has been a popular thoroughfare for all guests of Old Orchard. During the present year the depot has been enlarged to meet the demand of travel. Four trains daily pass between Boston and Portland, besides local trains between Kennebunk and Portland ; hence the train accommodations on this road are all that can be desired.


The Bay View

Is the only public house at Ferry Beach. The proprietors, O. F. Page & Co., have recently put it in thorough order and placed it under the management of E. E. Post, Esq. This house is nearly two miles from the thickly-settled portions of the beach. It can be reached by stage or private conveyance from the Saco station of the Boston and Maine or Eastern railroads, and also from the Old Orchard station of the Boston and Maine, at low tide. All that need to be said of this house is to quote from one of Boston's most popular preachers.

This place combines all the advantages of Old Orchard, with freedom from its crowds and confusion, and the inexorable burdens and demands of society. I regard it one of the best places for rest and recuperation I have ever found.

—M. J. Savage.

Pleasant House

This house, in location, construction, and management, is all that the name implies. The owner and manager, Mrs. Sarah D. Moullon, by a careful and judicious control of her household, gives it the charm of a cheerful and Pleasant Home.

Ocean House

John Lindsey, for five years proprietor of the Fabyan House, White Mountains, assumed the management of this house last year, and it acquired great popularity under his control. He is still the proprietor, and the house, which accommodates four hundred guests, is kept with great care and especial attention to the comfort of patrons.

Lawrence House

This house stands upon the shore within twenty feet of the water. Bathers can step directly from the piazza to the ocean. One hundred and fifty guests here find cheerful rooms and satisfactory table supplies. E. W. Barton, the gentlemanly and efficient proprietor, was formerly of Lawrence, Mass., from which his house takes its name.

Gorham House

This is one of the oldest modern hotels at Old Orchard. It stands at the terminus of the Saco road, between the beach and the Boston and Maine Depot. The proprietor, Charles E. Gorham, gives especial attention to the entertainment of pleasure parties and transient company. Refreshments are served at all hours, and pleasure facilities furnished. A good livery and boarding-stable is under the management of this house.

The Blanchard House

Has been remodelled and enlarged during the present year. Mrs. A. B. Blanchard, proprietress, has acquired great popularity in her past management. With increased facilities, which will add to the comfort of its guests, this house ranks among the best of seaside hotels. Its situation is upon the border of the sea, and its rooms overlook the beach and the distant ocean.

The Old Orchard House

This hotel, which was erected in 1876, stands upon the spot where once was the residence of Rev. John Fairfield, first minister of Saco. It is on an eminence commanding a full view of the whole beach and the surrounding country. It has accommodations for five hundred guests, and is a perfect house in all its appointments. E. C. Staples, the pioneer in modern hotel business, is the proprietor.

Central House

From its location this house takes its name. It stands on the beach, about half-way between Saco River and Scarboro'. Two hundred guests can be entertained here. The rooms on each side of the house command a full view of the ocean. Wesley G. Smith, the proprietor, manages this house with much satisfaction to his guests.

Sea-Shore House

This is new and attractive, with facilities for entertaining one hundred and fifty guests. It stands upon the beach close to the ocean — literally "upon the sand;" but the proprietor, F. G. Staples, with more wisdom than the foolish man in the parable, has made his "foundation sure." His numerous guests enjoy the grandeur of the situation, and bathe in the rolling breakers that come beating at the door. The rooms are all so located that from them there is a pleasing ocean prospect.

St. Cloud

This house takes its name from the celebrated French palace built near Paris in the sixteenth century. During the present year it has been enlarged to meet the demands of its numerous Canadian and American guests. The proprietress, Mrs. E. Manson, labors to give her patrons a cheerful home ; and should the popularity of this house increase in years to come as it has in the six years since it was opened, it will become as distinguished as the foreign chateau whose name it bears.

Other Accommodations

Besides the principal hotels which are represented on the chart, and here especially mentioned, there are more than twenty others worthy of public patronage, and those who seek rest and recreation at this beach can always find ample accommodations.

Falmouth Hotel

Portland, Maine.


O. M. Shaw & Son, Proprietors.

Biddeford House

Biddeford. Maine.

Fred. Yates, Proprietor.

Saco House

SACO HOUSE, Saco, Maine.

L. P. True, Proprietor.

Those visiting Saco or Biddeford, for business or pleasure will find either of the above houses well managed and the right hotels to patronize.

Tremont House

Cor. of Tremont and Beacon Streets, BOSTON.

No hotel has had a more extensive popularity than the Tremont House. It has received the patronage of the most distinguished American and foreign guests, and all have spoken of it in terms of highest commendation.

It is centrally located, street cars pass to all the railroad depots and the suburbs. To those visiting the city this house is most easy of access.

Silas Gurney & Co., Proprietors.


Color pullout poster containing sketches of Old Orchard area hotels and the beach.

Ferry Beach Park Advert

Pullout advert included with this book which detailed a layout of plots in Ferry Beach, Saco.


  1. Locke, John S. Old Orchard, Maine: Pen and Pencil Sketches. Boston: Graves, Locke, 1879
  2. 2.0 2.1 Owen, Daniel E., "Old Times in Saco" (1891). Books and Publications. 22. https://digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/books_pubs/22