Ever driven by an old mill, monument, or some other oddity along the highway and wondered what its history might be?
Well, thanks to dedicated volunteers in Piscataquis County, a new audio tour is available to answer questions about the region. The “Villages of Piscataquis County” tour was originally a project of the Penquis Leadership Institute Class of 2006, which designed the product and voluntarily implemented it.
Spring 2010 marked the release of a downloadable MP3 file/CD tracks of the East Loop tour, available on the group’s Web site, www.villagestour.org.
The East Loop tour takes motorists from the Southern Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce parking lot in Dover-Foxcroft to Sebec, Brownville, Milo, Atkinson, East Dover, and back to Dover-Foxcroft. The tour directs travelers to interpretive signs along the way.
The audio also includes local tales and poetry by Dover-Foxcroft author Tom Lyford and other storytellers, finger-picking solo guitar by Jim Gal-lant, and songs and flat-picking instrumentals by Sid Stutzman and the Doughty Hill band, which includes Stutzman, Sunny and Tracy Stutzman, Brian Smith, Ron Hall, and Craig Stutzman.
Between songs and stories, motorists are directed to stop and read interpretive signage in each small town along the East Loop tour. Visitors will learn:
• About the region’s first known settler, Abel Blood, who “felled an opening” in Piscataquis County in June 1799;
• That Dover-Foxcroft is the only hyphenated town name in Maine, and this came about via a wedding;
• About Moses Greenleaf, who created the first map of Maine and a companion book, “Statistics of Maine” in the early 1800s.
The importance of the region’s slate quarries, railroads, and farms are explained on various signs. The history of an early volunteer fire departments is detailed on another. One sign delves into the unique geology of the region.
Most Piscataquis towns grew up along rivers, but each village has a special tale to tell. Stories about the settlers and early industries that sprouted along the riverbanks are also an important part of the tour.
There are opportunities for inter-esting side trips along the route, like the 3.2-mile Pleasant River Walk and the children’s playground in Brownville, the downtown walking tour in Dover-Foxcroft, and multiple histori-cal society museums along the way.
The “Village People,” as they are known locally, were fortunate to in-clude many skilled individuals among their numbers. Local historian George Barton researched sign content. Brownville artist Suzette East designed the Villages logo and cover for CDs eventually to be on sale online by mail order and at local stores. James Macomber, an alumni and member of the PLI steering committee, owns Mainesbest.com and brought his web design and marketing skills to the table. In addition to donating much of the music, Sid Stutzman pulled to-gether the soundtrack in his studio. Gayle Worden, director of Community Fitness in Sangerville, brought her managerial skills to the table by serv-ing as committee chair. Several other volunteers gathered information, proofed sign copy, and test drove the East Loop.
The Villages of Piscataquis County Web site is an entertaining destination in its own right. In addition to the downloadable tour, the site offers samples of music and stories, as well as written driving directions. Villagestours.com also contains back-ground information about the Villages project, Piscataquis County claims to fame, maps of the two loop tours (a West Loop Tour is in production), coloring pages for the kids, and several other features of interest.