The spell of the woods stayed for weeks with Henry Withee and Horace Bailey after they canoed down the Allagash River for nine days in July 1911. Their folks told them they were quiet, serene, and the voice of the river seemed to be still with them.
They were among the men and women who heeded the call of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad to explore the Maine wilderness. The railroad, of course, promoted tourism to fill its seats with passengers.
Henry Withee grew up in Blanchard, Maine, where his mother ran a boardinghouse for lumbermen. He graduated from Colby College, worked as a school principal and then earned a law degree at Harvard University. In 1911, he started a law practice in Rockland, Maine. He was about 35 years old.
Horace ‘Hod’ Bailey, a native of Howland, Maine, was a lumber salesman in Boston seven years younger than Henry. The two men had talked about canoeing down the Allagash for several years.
Afterward, Henry typed an account of their nine-day trip and gave a copy to Hod. He described how they portaged in the heat, struggled over logjams, raced rapids, fished for trout, savored the beauty of the country and communed with deer, moose and songbirds. One day they narrowly escaped a spruce log hurtling toward them. One night they slept in a barn. Another evening they camped near a patch of wild blueberries and had for dinner baked potatoes, fried trout rolled in corn meal, fresh biscuit, cake and blueberries, tea and milk.
Henry inscribed the book, "To H.A.B. Competent Woodsman, Cheerful Dishwasher, Willing Worker and Agreeable Companion, this book is heartily dedicated."
On July 6, 1911, Henry Withee wrote:
Before starting, we had resolved to do the trip as befitted men accustomed to the woods. We were not to employ a guide, we would tote our canoe and duffle across every carry without aid of any sort, sleep every night under our own shelter and cook and eat our own grub.
We kept all but three of these resolutions.
We arrived at the lake at seven, took the canoe on our shoulders and started back, replying chestily to some drummers who sat on the store steps.
Our gait was brisk until we got into the woods out of sight of the store - then, with perfect accord, we cast the canoe from us and sat down by the road.
That craft was scheduled to weigh sixty-five pounds. It deserved excess baggage charge of two hundred pounds more, in our opinion.
To learn more about their trip down the Allagash and to see Henry’s photos, click here to the Maine Memory Network.