Good Ol’ Forest City
With his lead pencil, my father often began writing in the upper right hand corner of drugstore tablet paper “Good Ol’ Forest City”.
He came to love Forest City for its very rural, simple lifestyle, rich sporting tradition and great fishing. The old Shaw Bros. tannery site, the border crossing, and the fond memories of our deceased elder residents like the Grahams, the Butterfields and the Brooks are remembered with affection by all of us. Old sporting camps like Hendersons, Mushys, Driki at Forest City, Weatherbys (Balls Camps), Grand Lake Camps (Treadwell’s, Indian Rock Camps) and Grand Lake Lodge at Grand Lake Stream are part of the area’s great fishing tradition. The Grand Lake Stream Historical Society has wonderful photos from the past: remnants of the Shaw Bros. Tannery, the old paddle wheelers, birch bark and canvas double end canoes that were part of the landscape in the later 1800’s.
The outboard motor became the mother of invention when Beaver Bacon and Arthur R. Wheaton began to make Grand Laker square stern canoes in the 1930’s. Some examples exist at the Grand Lake Stream museum. The “Grand Laker” is a hallmark of Washington County, Maine along with landlocked salmon and smallmouth bass fishing. My brother, Lance, still builds a beauty on occasion, and he might sell it to you if you have been a good boy.
“Good ol’ Forest City” is now the home of the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust, built on the site where the tannery supervisor lived. Our sister village of Grand Lake Stream also has its Downeast Lakes Land Trust. If it were not for a few guides and passionate, generous contributors, our world on this watershed would not look like it does today. As one “sport” put it, “I didn’t think there was a place left like this.” Maybe it takes “folks from away” to so deeply impress us that it is impossible to assign a monetary value to the places we have conserved.
The wonderful Maine author, Edmund Ware Smith prowled many of our gin clear lakes and rivers, skated across as well by Waldo Brooks. These were distances measured in steps by the Hermit of Greenland Island, Billy Springer, and little did they realize one of our most precious commodities is the quality of our class A water. Aghast, one “sport” said to me as I dipped a cup of water from the side of my Grand Laker, are you going to drink that water?”
“Yes ma’am,” I responded, “even though fish pee in it.”
‐ Art Wheaton