Every spring the rain showers and snowmelt comes rolling down from the mountains, tumbling through the many valleys and ravines creating the spring freshets, most years providing a least a few parts of the state with devastating results. This year at Pejepscot Falls the freshet was mild, with little to no reports heard of flooding along the Androscoggin watershed. I took some video of it earlier today and uploaded it to YouTube. Comparatively speaking, it appears to be just a lot of water flowing under the bridge, but when you stand back and look at the history surrounding this place, one cannot help but wonder at the awesome power these rains bring to the falls every year. The following piece is an excerpt from the 1868 copy of the Hydrographic Survey of 1867, a report on the water powers of Maine.
The history behind this place is too lengthy to share here, but suffice it to say that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the towns of Brunswick and Topsham. Perhaps I’ll do a post on the bar-hopping ladies of the early 1800s someday. Enjoy watching the video while reading about some of the mills that made use of this waterpower in the mid 1800s.
First, the “Pejepscot Falls,” on the Androscoggin river, at the head of tide; total height of fall about forty-one (40 83) feet above common high tide; whole horizontal distance, 1,980 feet. “The fall can be increased to fifty-five feet by raising the upper dam, and the damage from flowage would be very slight, the land on both sides of the river for eight miles to Little River Village being mostly high.”
Formation of the Falls.—The natural falls consist of coarse graphic granite and gneiss. The rock upon the middle fall projects above the water at several points, serving as natural abutments to the several sections of the dam. The lower fall has an island near middle of stream, Shad Island. There are three pitches.
The minimum power at this point, as at others above, is capable of very great increase, at least trebled, by the improvement of the great natural reservoirs upon the river. This I shall be able to set forth more fully in the next report. It is a power, at the lowest estimate that can be put upon it, of the first magnitude.
Lay of the land excellent for the location of mills and factories, there being a broad natural slope below the falls of sufficient extent to accommodate any required number of constructions. Colonel Baldwin judges the best sites to be upon the left bank. Advantages for the conveyance of water by canals, first-class. The stone in the immediate vicinity of the falls is suitable for foundations and such coarse work. Building granite of excellent quality within two miles, and excellent clay for bricks close at hand. Lime burned in town.
The privilege is owned by about fifteen different proprietors, resident in the vicinity.
-Improvements.—Two dams constructed of wood, leaky at present, as indeed they always have been. The upper or third dam rotted down and was carried away a few years ago. The power has been so much in surplus that the leakage has been of no importance. The machinery employed is by no means of the best construction for economizing power or in other respects. This statement does not apply, however, to the cotton mill. This is located on the middle dam on the Brunswick side, a natural site for a mill of 50,000 spindles being close by it on the same dam, and is the property of the Cabot Manufacturing Co., organized 1857, capital $400,000 ; mill recently enlarged, best of machinery put in, 25,000 spindles, employs about 500 hands, manufactures fine and coarse sheetings and drills. The company own thirty acres of land on the two sides of the river, and seventy-five tenements. Agent, Benjamin Greene, Brunswick. There are also on the Brunswick side two flour mills andtwo saw mills. Upon the Topsham side are one flour mill and two sawmills. Various small machinery, in addition, is run upon both sides of the river. A very small proportion of the power is now used. It was formerly employed in manufacturing lumber, thirty saws being used; now only four single saws and a gang.
Accessibility.—Brunswick and Topsham are connected by railroads with Portland, Bath and the interior. Vessels of 1,000 tons can come within five miles of the falls, but from that point would be obliged to “lighter up,” the channel being obstructed with shifting sands. The river is “frozen for four and a half to five months yearly.” From the falls to Casco bay is three miles, the country a dead level; a railroad could be built at small expense, opening upon excellent harborage.
Second power, Quaker Mill pond, on the Androscoggin, three miles above the Pejepscot falls, will furnish power for a number of saws. It may in time serve a purpose of great importance as a reservoir against the day drouths at Brunswick, caused by the stoppage of the run at Lewiston by night in the low water season.
“Any parties who come amongst us with a view to the improvement of our water-power, will meet a cordial reception and substantial cooperation from both sides of the river.”