History

A Brief History of Norcross

norcross_1900

It is not documented how Norcross acquired its name, but there was a lumberman named Norcross who operated on the upper reaches of the West Branch in the late 1800’s. This seems to be a plausible explanation.

The Bangor & Aroostook railroad construction reached Norcross in 1893, and this opened up the opportunity for some type of business to be established. One individual was a man named Stratton from Mattawamkeag, who built a hotel on the hill, along with a barn, ice house and outlying buildings. A wharf was constructed for a boating business. There was also considerable land clearing accomplished. A man named Peasely opened a store next to the railway station. A post office was also established.

Brothers Fred and Albert Fowler [ed.: the author's uncle & father respectively] purchased the interests of Stratton and Peasely sometime in 1898 together with enough surrounding land to satisfy their needs. The Stratton House burned to the ground in the fall of 1899, leaving only the barn and the ice house, and the Fowlers relocated to the store near the station and began expanding.

With the railroad came a whole new type of business: sporting camps. The vast region above the lakes, with its beautiful scenery and virgin areas for hunting, fishing, or just relaxing with nature brought people from the cities. Business began to boom at Norcross. Sportsmen arriving by train required lodging, guides, supplies and transportation. There was also an added opportunity to build up a freight boating business serving the sawmills and logging being done around the lakes, and the possibility of business from the paper company, which was beginning construction of a mill in Millinocket. By 1916 there were over a dozen sporting camps that listed Norcross as their postal address. The new hotel, renamed The Norcross House, and the supply store expanded several times over the next decade, catering to the increasing volume of sportsmen as well as guides and woodsmen.

The population of Norcross was comprised of families of the railway workers, the station agent, some of the sporting camp owners and guides, the two Fowler families and their complement of employees. The largest population occurred in the years 1915-1920, with a dozen or so families totaling fifty to fifty-five people. The state maintained a one-room school for grades one through eight which functioned continuously from 1909-1965. There were ten schoolchildren the first year and eleven enrolled in the last year, after which pupils were transported to Millinocket.

The years after 1930 saw a gradual decline of activities in Norcross. The Depression and the automobile had arrived. Roads improved and sportsmen were able to reach camps more quickly and easily. The Millinocket to Brownville road and the side road to Norcross¬†were completed by 1938. The railroad station closed in 1937, though Norcross remained a flag stop until the mid-1950’s, when the station building was removed. The post office closed on Nov. 30, 1946. The Norcross House along with its complement of outlying buildings was removed in the 1960’s. The schoolhouse served as a private residence for a few years, but burned in the 1970’s.

Norcross today is a small, quiet community of residences and seasonal camps along the lake. The occasional freight train still whistles at the crossing, but there are few, if any, persons living today who remember firsthand when there was a lot of “goings on.” It is through recording those memories, preserving the written records that we have, and collecting historical photographs that the story of Norcross will live on for the generations to come.

adapted from Fred Fowler’s essay
Norcross: A Village by the Railroad at the Foot of North Twin Lake
(©1999 Fred Fowler, used by permission of the author)