Down to the sea

Barbara Dyer: The seaside mountains of Camden

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 8:45pm

In Camden we have something that only one other place on the whole East Coast has —Mountains that meet the Sea. The other place is Bar Harbor.

Mount Battie is about 1,000 feet high and in some places would be considered a "hill."

In 1965, the town asked the State of Maine to build a road up over the face of it, but not to show and spoil the landscape. Governor Reed came. They took him up the old carriage road to see the view that so many missed because they were unable to climb the mountain.

The younger people had made the climb for years and the view was spectacular. The world renowned poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who grew up in Camden, climbed it every day and wrote:

"The path up the mountain is stoney and in places steep.
And here it is really dark – wonderful, wonderful,
Wonderful – the smell of bark
And rotten leaves and dew! And nobody awake
In all the world but you!
\Who lie high on a cliff until your elbows ache
To see the sun come up over Penobscot Bay."

Mount Battie has a lot of history beginning in 1784, when according to John Locke, the historian: Richards, Metcalf and Webber went moose hunting with only one gun among them. Metcalf met up with a bear and rode him down the mountain.

Also, in the War of 1812, Camden citizens knew they had to protect themselves from the British. They erected a fort on Eaton's Point (now Lyman-Morse at Wayfarer) and one on Bay View Street. Then, they placed an 18-pounder and two 12-pounder cannons on the summit of Mt. Battie. John Grose took the contract for $25.

In 1918, a fire went rather wild there. A hotel, known as the Mt. Battie House, escaped the flames but was soon after torn down. The World War I Memorial Tower was built and dedicated in 1920. Camden has its own star placed on that tower from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, that is seen for miles around.

Another large fire swept a two-mile path across the summit and summer cottages that were threatened along the High Street ridge. It burned for days.

Speaking of burning, in the 1930s the KKK burned a large cross on the mountain. Yes, they were active in Camden, but not because we had any black population, but they disliked the Catholic religion.

The other mountain we have is Mt. Megunticook. That is well known for the cross placed in honor of a young girl who fell from the cliff while on a picnic with friends on a lovely day in 1863. She was Eleanora French from French's Beach (Lincolnville Beach).

No one knows exactly why she fell, as the group looked and she was gone.

Her frail body hit many jagged rocks for 300 feet before she became lodged in a clump of bushes. She died later that night.

In her honor, a cross was placed on Maiden's Cliff.

Several crosses have been replaced, as they have been damaged by weather and/or vandalism. It is not an easy place to work, but there are always people who volunteer their time, and materials are donated. Even the National Guard has sent helicopters to help.

From a parking lot, where the old Barrett Farm once stood, there is a nice path to enjoy an easy hike to the cross and a wonderful view of the Megunticook Lake.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all of her life, so far.


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