Summer Boarders

 The Locke Mountain House

The Bethel area was home to a number of similar summer boarding farms such as the Chandler’s Waterspout Mountain House and the Valentine’s Spring Grove Farm.  However, we know more about the Locke Mountain House than the others due to a book written by a former boarder, Ruth Crosby author of “I Was A Summer Boarder”.

Ellen Locke kept her boarders busy with mountain climbing trips, picnic excursions and sunset picnics as well as helping boarders with their own ideas for things to do.  One of the summer program’s activities was to climb Barker Mountain.  As we learn later, the climb followed much the same route as was chosen in 1959 to be the area’s first commercial ski slope.

The boarders for the summer of 1907 included this interesting group:

Starting with Carl and Bessie Hansmann and Henry and Abbie Finck who were regulars from New York - Mr. Hansmann was a lawyer; Mr. Finck was a music critic and music editor of the New York Evening Post who knew Bethel’s impresario, William Rogers Chapman. After the Locke Mountain House inn closed, the Hansmanns and Fincks  bought the Chamberlain place in Mayville – now owned by Norm and Sylvania Clanton. Mr. Hansmann led the other boarders on long walks and mountain climbs. He also took most of the pictures and developed the films in the dark room at the back of the bath house.*

A gentleman named Spaulding was also a photographer who took photos to illustrate stories. Miss Jessie Smith was a New York school teacher whose father also came some years. A Deane family from New York came with their two girls and a boy. There were the Strong’s, a couple from Cambridge, Mass., who lived at Riverbank Court, a hotel by the Charles River.

The Rider’s from Danbury, CT, were regulars each summer. He was a dentist who did a lot of carpenter work including building a bath house behind the cottage (a large building across the driveway from the main house) and a foot bridge over Sunday River used by all the guests. Then there were a Mrs. Smith from Bridgeport, CT, whose daughter and son came with her - the Smiths grandfather and great uncle were the bearded men whose pictures appeared on boxes of Smith Brothers’ cough drops. Their friends were a Mrs. Joy and daughter Ella from Danbury, CT.

Ruth Crosby came with her three sisters, Helen, Phyllis and Evelyn and her mother Mrs. Daisy Crosby who lived in Arlington, Mass.; sometimes other Crosby cousins came with them. And other regulars included the Merritt’s from Newton, Mass.; also from Newton a Mrs. Seaver and her daughter, Linda.

Each summer guests would also come for vacations but not become a regular summer boarder. One of these boarders asked Ellen Locke why the regulars returned year after year. At that moment a chicken had wandered up onto the porch and into the kitchen. Miss Locke’s reply was, “I guess - looking at the chicken - folks come here because they can do as they like”.

Ellen Locke died in 1913, the last of three generations of Lockes. In 1797 Samuel Barron Locke (1767-1840), born in Ashby, Mass., settled his family in North Bethel and named his farm Maple Grove.  Locke was an expert millwright whose skills put him much in demand.  He knew water power.  Married twice, he was the father of 10 children.  He built mills on Sunday River, and in Riley and advised town committees on building and repairing bridges. **

But Samuel Locke is best remembered as the builder of the original Locke mills in the town of Greenwood—creating the village of Locke’s Mills.  The mills would be rebuilt and improved by his son, Samuel Barron Locke, Jr.

* The Fincks and the Hansmanns as well as the Hansmanns’ son Carl are buried in Bethel Riverside Cemetery.

** Charles Locke, father of Ellen Locke, was active in Bethel public life:  selectman, Justice of the Peace, an honorary vice president of the Bethel Centennial celebration, and a member of the Bethel committee charged with writing a petition to the Legislature for a charter to build a bridge and operate as it as a toll bridge –this would be the huge two lane covered bridge over the Androscoggin River, 1869 to 1927.



Locke Farm Barn Survives

2010  Photo Tour of Barn

More Reading

Locke Farm on the Sunday River Road

Swimming in Sunday River at foot bridge made by Dr. Ryder a regular vacationer from Danbury, Connecticut.

Locke Mt House vacationers set to climb Mt. Speck; other climbs and picnics included Barker Mt and Mt. Abram.

The Valentines’ Spring Grove Farm on the Northwest Bethel road—besides boarder, Charles Valentine could drive his show cattle home at night from a day at the Bethel  Agricultural Fair.

In 2010 James Swan the barn’s present owner held an open house for a tour of the 1891 Locke Farm barn.

Brief History of Sunday River

From Riley to the Androscoggin



The Grovers’ Maple Lane Farm in West Bethel.  Although the barn remains standing, in 2013 the house was replaced with a new one—owners, members of the Rupert Grover family.

    Logging required tons and tons of hay for horses during the winter.  A drive to Bethel for food and clothes, required a horse and that meant a good supply of hay and pasture year round. The sawmills and dowel mills disappeared and logging drives down Sunday River ended in the middle 1940s.

Poplar Tavern on Bear River

A Community Center 1860-1920



Poplar Hotel or Poplar Tavern’s story provides a glimpse  into one of the Bethel-Newry-Upton areas most  interesting 19th Century stagecoach inns and vacation enterprises.  It was located on the well  traveled route from Bethel to the “lakes”.

 Ladd’s Wayside Inn in Mayville operated by Mrs. Mary Ladd for over a generation mid 20th Century was a favorite summer vacation home for families.


PO Box 763

Bethel, Maine 04217

Contact the Bethel Journals