Text Box: Sunday River: A Brief History
The Locke Farm—Locke Mt. House– Summer Boarders


In 1797 Samuel Barron Locke (1767-1840), born in Ashby, Mass.,  settled his family in North Bethel about a one mile walk from the mouth of  Sunday River.  Maple Grove  became his farm’s name.  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 , in Riley and advised town committees on building and repairing bridges.

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.

Locke’s two youngest sons, James and Charles R.,  inherited the old homestead—James the north half and Charles the south portion.   According to the 1858 map of Bethel, Charles and James lived in adjacent houses on the Sunday River Road.

James died in 1862.  Charles was active in 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.

Either in his retirement years or after his death in 1883, Charles’ two daughters, Phila and Mary Ellen turned to lodging summer boarders at the farm.  The two women enjoyed steady success in their farm inn business. 

From newspaper reports they accommodated about 40 guests at a time at the Locke Mountain House. 

In April 1893, Phila Locke died at age 63.  News of her death explained that  as the business manager of the  Locke boarding house, she had hosts of friends all over the country.   Her sister Mary Ellen  continued the business another 20 years until her death in 1913.

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 guest , Ruth Crosby, titled I Was A Summer Boarder.

Miss 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.




Rectangular Callout: Swan’s Corner
Rectangular Callout: Riverbend Condos

Swan Farm/

Locke Farm

1901—loading up for a mountain climbing trip.

1905—building a footbridge over Sunday River at the Locke Farm was a “made by boarders” project.

1899—ready to climb Speck mountain, time for a group photo for the occasion.

The Locke Farm acres today belong to the Swan family:  Top, view of the Locke homestead site today.  Barn built by Charles R. Locke still stands; two Google Earth images spot the Locke Mountain House in relation to the Riverbend Condos and Swan’s Corner.











Front Page