The Story of Snow Falls (Paris, Me.)

(left; Snow Falls as it appeared in 1883)

Route 26 in Western Maine travels through some pretty, and picturesque scenes, and perhaps there is none prettier than that of Snow Falls, just a few miles south of where Perham’s Mineral store was, or, still is except they closed recently due to various reasons. It is a place that holds one of Maine’s few remaining roadside picnic areas. It’s a shame to see these sites fall by the wayside and become closed. There are many places where once one could once enjoy a sunny afternoon beside a running stream or along a placid pond with the family, and enjoy the benefits of nature. But tax dollars being what they are, we are seeing these treasures disappear, and much to the shame of the Pine Tree State. Maine has long prided herself for her tourist industry, and yet we see that tourist industry demolished today through the closures of these sites.

One would think that if Maine were in fact attempting to build a solid tourist industry, then the state would make an effort to include all possible venues of possible tourist attraction in a comprehensive plan to develop said industry. But time after time we see historic structures and sites being tossed to the wind, rather that preserved for both their historic significance as well as the potential tourism generated revenue. The Scribner Mill in Harrison, Maine took a blow when the state declined to approve modified reconstruction of the dam and installation of a fish-way in favor of the supposedly endangered Sebago Salmon. And now we hear that illegal Northern Pike have been introduced into the waters. Guess what they eat? The Goddard Mansion on the grounds of the Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth is the remains of a fine specimen of a 19th century mansion. Instead of finding a way to rebuild the structure, over the years it has disintegrated and today they are talking about dismantling the structure.

There are many other sites and structures in danger of loss here in Maine, and at times, there seems to be little concern for their preservation. But there’s always money for other special interests. Tourism is, and always has been, an important aspect of Maine’s business formula. I believe if we were to take more interest in our heritage, then we would take greater pride in the places, and thus work to preserve much that we are losing. Preservation takes money, so perhaps if Maine were to somehow partner tourism and her many fine historical societies together, we may see a trend towards more of this preservation we so badly need to support, as well as increase the revenue we garner from the tourism industry. Maine isn’t just about lobster, ski resorts and golfing. It is about people. 400 years of people and more.

But to get back to Snow Falls, many ask of the legend behind the name. There are a few stories floating around, most not true, but all of them hinge upon speculation and lore. But the fact remains that at the core of the legend, these falls were named for a man named Captain Snow. The legend has it that Snow was killed there by the Indians about year 1762. This area was at that time a wilderness, with the settlement of New Gloucester, and at that time being just beginning, being the nearest community. Captain Snow and a Mr. Stinchfield, probably the James Stinchfield as described by Williamson in his work on Maine history, were engaged in the business of hunting and trapping on this stream. Their camp was said to have been pitched on the east side of the river, near the Falls. This would have put it in the vicinity of the picnic tables that now grace the rest area.

Indian depredations at that time were very frequent, or so the story goes. A party of warriors had descended from Canada, divided and spread themselves upon the scattered frontier settlements. Naturally, they were said to spread before them much devastation and terror. One party, burdened with booty, discovered these traps of the hunters, and traced their tracks back to their camp. There is however some question by historical facts as to the date, as New Gloucester had actually begun previously in 1754, and a treaty had been signed with the Indians in Halifax in 1760, effectively putting an end to the Indian raids and war parties. This would have put the true dating at anytime between 1754 and 1760. Apparently, Captain Snow was inside the camp, while Stinchfield was about tending to some chore. Returning to the camp he encountered the Indian raiding party sneaking up on the encampment.

In 1824, Elijah Hamlin wrote in the first issue of the Oxford Observer; Stinchfield, who happened to be on the outside, discovered them when within a few rods of it; he uttered a scream of terror and conjured Snow, who was within, to surrender as resistance would be useless. Snow, who was aware of the horrible sufferings to which they doomed their prisoners, replied that he never would surrender himself alive ; that it was better to perish there than at the stake. The Indians, finding themselves discovered, with a yell precipitated themselves upon the camp. Snow appeared at the door with his musket in his hand and made a demonstration of surrender ; but he only did this to single out his victim. The Indian who covered the file in its approach was of ferocious appearance and uncommon stature. His head was adorned with the plumage of the eagle taken entire, its wings depending over either shoulder, and talons and beak so arranged that it still seemed to have life and conscious of its kingly power. When within a few steps of Snow, and signifying to him good quarter, Snow suddenly elevated the muzzle of his piece, and saying that he neither asked or gave quarter, discharged it into the bosom of the Indian sachem, who rolled upon the ground in the mortal agonies of death. Before Snow could recover the camp or make another movement of offence, he himself was slain and cut in pieces by the whole party, who had Hung themselves at once in fury upon him. They then betook themselves to lamentations and howling for the loss of their chief, and having performed all the funeral rites due to his rank, and significant of their consideration of his loss, they sank him in a neighboring bog and continued their march northward, taking Stinchfield along with them, calculating to offer him up as a sacrifice for the death of their chief.

It is unknown whether this is a true rendition of the story as it was passed down by the Stinchfield descendants. There were other persons at the time of Hamlin’s article who had known either personally or indirectly both of the men, but I have not encountered anything more regarding Mr. Snow aside from his burial at the falls. But that is how the falls received their name and that tale has stood for over two centuries.

Of course, there certainly is more to the story of Snow Falls. After all, it is a waterfall, and every waterfall needs a story containing some type of mill, doesn’t it? And there was some manufacturing to have taken place at Snow Falls. Phineas Stearns erected a chair manufactory prior to the year 1850, which burned down in 1855, on November 25th. It was immediately rebuilt, and operated until 1875 when the mill was sold to William Chase, and converted into a brown paper mill. This mill was consumed by fire on June 5th of 1877.

Next, the Exeter Wood Pulp Company built another wood pulp mill on the site and operated it until it was purchased by the Linen Mfg. Company. They enlarged the facility, and turned the mill into an experimental plant, which proved fruitless and subsequently idled its machinery, closing the facility about 1900. The remains of the old mill(s) foundations may still be seen at the falls, and on the western side runs the railroad tracks. There is a foot bridge over the falls and some short trails allowing an easy access to some of the best scenery. Snow Falls is a terrific stop on anyone’s journey, whether you’re packing a lunch or just want to stretch a bit after driving.

Just a ways above the falls, along route 26 where it meets route 219 you’ll find Trap Corner. Lots of folks have ideas as to how it got its name, but according to the History of Paris, Ebeneezer Drake built a store there, strictly for the purpose of gaining the trade of anyone from the area who might have gone down into Paris for their needs. Since there was no village to speak of at the time, the locals gave the store the nickname “Trap Corner.” He ran the store for many years, and afterwards the store passed through many owners. Even today, a store is situated in the area. Unfortunately, the much renown Perham’s Mineral shop and museum has recently closed, another victim of the current economy. There has been a mineral shop and museum there for several score years now, without interruption.

Hamlin also wrote of a curiosity that I intend to explore soon, when he wrote; “A curious circular hole has recently been discovered on the west side of the river, about half a mile from the Falls, on the summit of a hill, in a ledge of solid granite. It is between two and three feet in depth and about eighteen inches in diameter, resembling those that are found on the Falls, only vastly more perfect in its construction. There is much speculation as to the cause and manner of its formation. It seems hardly possible that it could have been formed .by a current of water passing over the rocks, as the hill is so high, this being the only cavity and there not existing the least appearance of the smallest rill ever having run in that direction. That it was hollowed out by the Indians, is still more improbable. It is in a place where they would be the least likely to congregate for any purpose, and, if made by them, must have been done at an immense expense of time and labor, and for ought we see, to no possible advantage, and, in fact, the smooth and rounded appearance of the hole on its outer surface seems rather to indicate water as the agent in its formation. We have examined it a number of times, and can only add with the poet :

‘The thing is neither strange nor rare,

But bow the devil came it there?’ “

As always there is indeed more to the story, but there isn’t space in this venue. Keep an eye out for the video on Snow Falls we’re working on, and keep checking back for more sites to see as we travel around in the tour bus, Touring Maine’s History.

Note: Snow Falls may be found on Maine state route 26, in West Paris. The coordinates may be found in DeLormes Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, ©2006 version on map11, section 1C. The St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad operate the railroad along the western edge of the Little Androscoggin River.

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Categories: history, indians, Maine | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “The Story of Snow Falls (Paris, Me.)

  1. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
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  2. Sally Cook

    We (from Vt) happened to stop there at the Snow Falls Gorge, and we enjoyed the experience immensely. While the state of Maine has done a great job to preserve the site for enjoyment of us tourists, it did a terrible job of giving any history of the site which we searched high and low for. Instead we found a nice kiosk at the site with NO information about the industry that was located there, instead there was a map and information about other areas we hadn’t gotten to yet.

    At least get the historical society to provide more info and post it at the site so we can be more informed. Why would they not anyway? There is so much more we still don’t know such as what the flume powered, the size and footprint of the buildings, shipping via the railroads, etc. etc.

    At least the site is nicely preserved, and while we were there many people seemed to really enjoy the place – even our old dog took an unprecedented interest in the views while taking the steps in stride.

    Sally and John Cook, Barnet, Vermont

  3. achamplin

    My grandparents ran a restaurant for many years just opposite the picnic area. They also rented cabins along the riverside just above the falls.

    The prevailing local wisdom at the time had that Trap Corner was named after the incident where Mollyockett, a Native American guide who was notable for working with local trappers and traders. At that site, she is said to have stepped in an iron trap and lost her foot, and so she cursed the trappers and traders and the white settlement that supported them.

    My family saw disaster after disaster at that site – floods, fires, and failed business deals – over the 30 years they owned the property. Is the curse of Mollyockett real? Hard to know, but I can bet my granddad believes it.

    Thanks for your writings on this place. My cousins and I, all grown, still treat it with a bit of childish wonder and mysticism, and remember every path and eddy.

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