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Western Maine Foothills Region

Mexico

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Stephen Barnard was the first chosen selectman and settled one mile from Mexico Corner on Harlow Hill. Harlow Hill was named for Thomas Harlow, a farmer and the appointed keeper of the village pound for some time. Judge Charles W. Walton of the Supreme Court of the State of Maine opened a law office before 1905. Henry W. Park came to Mexico from Dixfield. He first moved to a farm on Mann Hill and the next year bought a store at Mexico Corner, becoming a prominent citizen. In 1864 he sold his store and went to Washington, D. C., where he served in Ordnance Department until the close of the war. Returning to Mexico in 1865, he bought back his old store at the Corner and revived his trade.

Over the years he served as Crier for the Courts, Selectman, Town Treasurer, and in 1875 was Representative to the State Legislature. Mr. Park was an active temperance worker and an able correspondent of the local papers. An excerpt from his diary reads:

I packed my goods, loaded them and started for Mann Hill about 10 o'clock A.M. Got Stowell with his oxen to help me over bare ground up to the Huntress Ferry. Hauled my load with hard pulling up to the top of the [?] way hill left it there and went up and got John Babcocks steers.

Drove them back put them on and hauled my load up to the hill beyond Babcocks barn when his steers swung and broke my sled tongue. Babcock let me have his sled and helped me reload and haul my load up the Mason Wilson Hill with my own oxen. I then hauled my load up to the road that leads to Sewall Ayers. There I was met by Ayers with 2 yoke of steers and by Whitman with 2 yoke more, they having been sent to my aid by Nelson Rose who had gone ahead with my wife up as far as Ayers. By dint of hard labor and peeseverance we after much trouble arrived at Mann Hill house. Ayers stopped and helped me unload. Set up stove etc. I built a fire and then with Ayers went down to his house where with my wife and child and I took supper After supper I took the boy in my arms and started for the pinnacle.

Metalluk, son of a great chief and the last of the Cooask-aukes (dwellers-of-the-pines) and respected friend of the early settlers, showed them where river fording was feasible and where it wasn't. He also urged them to settle high on the hills, knowing that the Androscoggin and Swift Rivers often flooded in early spring.

According to the writing of Anna Virgin Farrington, Indians from the Pennacook tribe had a camp on the mountain in back of what is known as the Ira Wing farm. They made baskets and other useful items to trade for food and other necessary items. Many Indian tribes in Maine were nomadic, traveling to the coast in the summer for fishing, stopping to plant crops in fertile lands along the way. In the fall they would go north, stopping to harvest crops, then going on to the woodlands for hunting and trapping. The old Indian trail extending up along the Androscoggin River through Dixfield, Mexico, and Rumford, and then on up into the lakes is worthy of mention. Many a pioneer used the Indian route to travel from the coast, moving inland, seeking refuge from the British.

Porter Covered Bridge, 1870
Porter Covered Bridge, 1870

Item Contributed by
Mexico Historical Society

Early ferries were conveyances that were mainly boards and ropes fashioned to make a raft, or they could be boats, large or small, which could carry men and provisions from one shore to the other. When Mexico celebrated its 150th birthday, E. G. Kimball wrote The History of Mexico in which he mentions a ferry that was located on the Swift River in 1858. Before that time crossings were made by fording. The first bridge to cross the Swift River was in the Hale section of town. This bridge was swept away during the freshet of 1869. In a place considered a more accessible location a covered bridge was built and named Porter Bridge.

Elizabeth Abbott recalls that in earlier years a ferry made regular crossings within sight of her home, near where the Congregationalist Church is now. About 1887 a ferry was in operation across the Androscoggin River between Mexico and Peru. An unusual feature of this ferry was that it only went half way to an island. Passengers then would ford the river to Peru. When the river was low, foot passengers could walk across from the island to Peru on a natural causeway. When the river was high and swift, they would be rowed across by boat.

In 1894, George W. Ridlon arrived in Mexico. He was well aware of the growth taking place in the area. Across the river were the Rumford Falls Paper Company, Rumford Falls Power Company, and the Rumford Falls and Rangeley Lakes Railroad. With the construction of the Oxford Paper Company in the planning stages, he could see that there would be a shortage of housing.