Around the Maine’s Northwestern Mountains Region
The Northwestern Mountains region of western Maine, rich in history, is home to a number of the highest mountains in Maine, including the Bigelow, Sugarloaf, Mount Abraham and Saddleback ranges. In 1760 Col. John Montressor, a British officer, traveled across the Great Carry and up the Dead River, passing Mount Bigelow, which he called “the Mountain of the river of Tewyongyadight,” apparently the name of a former Norridgewock chieftain.
It received its current name when Benedict Arnold took his army up the Dead River in the fall of 1775 and ordered his young officer, Lt. Timothy Bigelow of Worcester, to climb the mountain to see if Quebec City could be seen. They evidently only climbed part way up the mountain and got no view of the city, but the mountain forever bore his name.
The first known ascent of Saddleback was made by surveyor Ephraim Ballard of Hallowell when he was commissioned by the State of Massachusetts in 1794 to create an east-west a baseline across western Maine. Starting at the western border of the Bingham Purchase, he traveled over Saddleback and across two unnamed ponds – later named Rangeley and Mooselucmeguntic Lakes. The mountain had already been named by the early settlers of Farmington, as it took them on the appearance of a horse saddle, with one peak called The Horn.
Mount Abraham was named for the famous Bible figure and in the nineteenth century, people referred to all the summits from Abraham to Sugarloaf as Mount Abraham, and therefore the second highest mountain in Maine after Katahdin. Sugarloaf originally bore the name Bald Peak, but by the 1920s took on its current name due to its conical shape resembling a sugar cone. Spaulding Mountain is named for an early lumberman and Burnt Mountain obtained its current name when a fire burned over the summit in the early 1900’s.
The other large mountains in the region are Crocker Mountain, named for Thomas Crocker of Paris, Me., who obtained Crockertown Township. Asa Redington, one of a handful of soldiers who kept a journal of the Battle of Yorktown, and who later became a personal bodyguard to George Washington, settled in Waterville, Maine where he built the first dam across the Kennebec. Later he purchased land in Eustis and in 1821 sent the first log drive down the Dead River. The township of Redington and the Redington Range are named for him.
By Steve Pinkham, author of Mountains of Maine, Intriguing Stories Behind Their Names, (Down East Books, 2009) and Old Tales of the Maine Woods (Merrimack Media, 2012)