Maine Genealogy Blog

A Brief History of Andover North Surplus

Source: Lewiston Saturday Journal, Aug. 10, 1889.

The Tale of an Almost Deserted Neighorhood

Matthias Morten, the Tavern Keeper, and Aunt Sophy

A Maine Youngster's Desperate Struggle with an Old Runner

[Written for the Lewiston Journal]

In the northerly portion of Oxford Co., bordering on the lake country and six miles from the beautiful town of Andover, lies a little borough or neighborhood long known as Andover North Surplus, it being a gore of land containing several square miles consisting of timber lands mostly, except a strip of rich and productive interval some two miles in length, by half a mile in breadth, stretching along the banks of a sparkling stream of water known as Stony Brook which has from the earliest settlement been a favorite resort of the angler, and to this day is well stocked with the speckled beauties. This brook takes its rise among the mountains of Township C and Grafton, flowing through Dunn's Notch, at which place the best fishing ground is to be found. On the East and West rise grand and lofty mountains so abrupt and high as to in a great measure shorten the days by at least several hours. Some forty-five years ago a country road was laid out through this notch and the contract to build was taken by one Sanderson of Waterford.

After expending a large sum in the notch and building by far the hardest portion of the road, which was to connect the lower towns with the lake country by a far more feasible route then that in present use, by some oversight in the securing of a large culvert, he beheld the whole thing carried off by one of those sudden freshets so common in this hilly region. Thus was the labor of months swept away in a single hour and the entire fortune of the contractor with it. So the enterprise was abandoned and the old road to East Bluehill which is four good miles of up, up, up until you reach an altitude of 854 feet. This road lies mostly in Township C and is mantained by a state tax on the extensive and valuable timber lands owned by Coe & Pingree.

Forty years ago this borough comprised fifteen families and had a plantation organization. They had a neat and convenient school-house, patronized by over forty scholars. Here they held their annual town meeting and chose officers like the larger towns, reminding one of children playing "keep house." For many years Mathias Morton, one of the early settlers, kept a kind of one-horse tavern which was well patronized by all classes, comprising teamsters, lumbermen, sportsmen and not unfrequently smugglers, who were quite plenty at that day and were often desperate characters if one stepped in their path, but ever kind and obligating if not molested.

The good wife familiarly known as

"Aunt Sophy"
possessed a fair knowledge of roots and herbs and their medical properties and was also quite an expert in the unknown of diseases most prevalent in that locality. Often in the dead of night would she be called from her warm bed to ride a distance of ten miles to the adjoining towns to visit the sick, facing the cold wintry blast and ofttimes floundering in huge snow banks which often blocked those unfrequented by-roads. With no other light than a pine torch or perhaps a lighted rag inserted in a saucer of grease, she watched by the couch of the sufferer and assist in the last rites. For this no charge was ever made. If any one felt able to bestow some present as a token of gratitude, it was thankfully received, but otherwise it was all right and passed without a murmur.

Their doors were open alike to rich and poor. Those who were able paid twelve and one-half cents per meal for man and horses lodging included but the poor were just as welcome and fared the same. True they sold some of the "Oh be joyful," but at that day it was considered no crime.

During these early days, the surrounding forests were infested with wild animals that obliged the settlers to closely house and guard their sheep and young stock each night. Packs of wolves were often heard uttering fearful howls on the adjacent mountains and anon the frightful scream as they gave chase to some ill-fated deer.

A young man named Charles E. Bean came to this place in the summer of 1852, in company with his parents, and married the dauuhter of Joshua Dunn. He was at that time but eighteen years of age, tall, straight and remarkably fine looking. Though not much skilled in the art of hunting, he was as brave as a Spartan and as lithe as a panther. It was a melting hot day about the middle of August that young Bean and Horace Dunn, a lad about twelve years of age, went to a field half a mile from the house for the purpose of raking and bunching a small patch of hay. They were accompanied by a dog and Bean carried a gun charged with small shot, hoping by chance they might get a partridge, as they were then uncommmonly plenty. While the twain were busy at their work, the dog strayed to the edge of the adjacent forest and in a few minutes began to bark in a most furious manner. Bean, thinking the dog had treed a partridge, made haste to seize his gun and rush to his aid.

Approaching with cautious tread so as to not frighten the bird he kept his eye elevated toward the tree-tops where the expected bird might be seated, but soon discovered that the dog's attention was drawn in another direction, where to his surprise and consternation he beheld a monstrous bear with

Jaws Extended
and ears laid back making furious jumps in the direction of the brave little canine, vainly endeavoring to grasp him in his huge paws. The dog, meantime, kept up a running fight, uttering the most fearful cries, answered by the fierce growls of the bear. Bean boldly stood his ground, gradually approaching the huge beast, which was of the species known as an old ranger, with most of his tusks broken or gone and his huge claws dulled by long and constant use. When the bear beheld his second adversary he turned to flee, followed by the charge of shot from Bean's gun, which struck him in his hind parts. With a loud howl of mingled rage and pain he turned upon his pursuers and charged.

Bean saw the folly of his act, but too late.

Clubbing his gun, he dealt furious blows at the head of his adversary, but to no purpose, as they were adroitly parried by the paws of bear. In this manner he slowly retreated backward until he chanced to encounter some obstacle which threw him flat upon his back.

The bear was quickly upon him, making furious grabs at his head and breast, in defending which one hand was caught between his jaws, which though fearfully lascerated was not disabled. Succeeding in wrenching his hand from his jaws, the next move was to insert the bleeding and torn hand in his mouth and force it down his throat. This at once served to disconcert the movements of the enraged beast, as it evidently was his intention to obtain a firm hold upon Bean's head or shoulders in order to bring his hind paws into play, by which his victim would at once have been disemboweled; but as it was, he choked and strangled as though he had like Dave Crockett's pet, swallowed something little end foremost.

Had the bear been young and vigorous, armed with good tusks and sharp claws the contest would have been short; but as it was the brave youngster now had him at his advantage. Holding him with a desperate effort he called loudly for aid the dog meantime making furious attacks in his rear from which he tore mouthfuls of coarse long hair in his vain endeavor to aid his master.

Horace heard the cry and ran quickly to the scene of the conflict, but being a mere lad and without weapon of any kind was at first completely at a loss.

"Get my knife from my pocket and open it," gasped Bean, "and I'll cut his throat."

But this was not so easily done, as the monster, whose weight was nearly three hundred pounds, lay upon his victim. The lad seized the bear by his long coarse hair, and for a time tugged away with might and main until at last he succeeded in reaching the knife which he wrenched from beneath him pocket and all. This he quickly opened and placed in the other hand of his companion.

With One Mighty Effort,
though faint from loss of blood and nearly exhausted by his desperate struggles, he inserted the sharp blade in the neck of the bear at the same time shoving his hand and arm down his throat with all his might. Again and again was the blade inserted until the blood flowed in torrents from the several wounds. In his haste he forgot his arm was in the way, consequently a severe puncture was made in his wrist, which was not discovered till some time after. The blood continued to flow until the bear ceased his struggles and rolled heavily to the ground.

Young Bean reached his home in an exhausted condition; his wounds were dressed and he was made comfortable.

Mr. Dunn, armed with a heavy rifle, started for the scene of the encounter but found the beast had gone. Following his trail which was well marked hy blood stains, he discovered him a few rods distant lying flat upon the ground with his head pressed close to one side in vain endeavor to staunch the blood which still oozed slowly from the wounds. Dunn raised his piece and sped a bullet through his brains, which closed the scene.

Great changes have taken place in this little borough during the last few years. The place is fast becoming depopulated and but three or four families now remain. The great industries of our country and the extensive mannfactories have called them to the villaqes and cities whose steady employment and ready pay gives them a sure living and many privileges which here are denied. The people have long since lost their organization, most of the houses having disappeared, but those who remain are well-to do farmers living above board and raising large crops.

 Published March 29, 2010