Town of Monroe, ME

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Marsh Stream


The Marsh Stream is one of the scenic and historic wonders of Monroe, ME.  It played a significant role in the early settlement of Monroe.  Early settlers came to Monroe, in part, because the Marsh Stream had many places upon which they could build mills powered by water wheels.  Mills of all sorts were built, including grist mills, lumber mills, carding mills, and shingle mills.  The mills provided work for many directly and indirectly.  Today, the Marsh Stream is known not only for its beauty but for the recreational opportunities it provides including fishing, canoeing and white water rafting.
There are two branches of the Marsh Stream.  The North Branch starts out in northwestern Jackson from the outflow of Drake Pond.  It winds south through the town of Jackson and turns east towards Monroe VIllage.  Along the way it is added to by scores of small year-round brooks and streams, such as the Chase Stream and Thurlow Brook, and by countless seasonal streams created by winter snow melt and spring rains.  It continues winding southeast between Robertson Mountain and Twombly Mountain until it pours over the falls in Monroe Village.  It continues southeasterly until it meets up with the South Branch at the intersection of the Moody Road and Marsh Stream Road.
The South Branch begins in Knox from the runoff off Frye Mountain.  As it flows to the northwest towards Brooks it is added to by several smaller streams such as the Stantial Brook and the Meadow Brook and by many seasonal brooks and streams.  It continues to the northeast following the valley between the hills to the north, including Mason Hill, Wilde Hill and Plummer Hill, and the hills to the south, including Robert's Hill, Clement's Hill and Irish Hill.  Along the way it is also added to by runoff from Basin Pond and Thistle Pond.  It finally reaches the narrow gorge at Monroe Center where it crashes over the spectacular Monroe Falls.  It then turns to the southeast, still following the valley between the hills named for the early settlers, Parker Hill, McDonald Hill, and Irish Hill.  When it reaches Route 141 it is joined by the Dead Brook and makes another turn.  This time it turns to the northeast and finally meets up with the North Branch at the intersection of the Marsh Stream Road and the Moody Road. 
By now the Marsh Stream is more than a stream.  It continues its journey to the northeast, heading for Winterport.  However, when it gets to the Stream Road in Winterport, it swings to the south and becomes the North Branch of the Marsh River which crashes over the damn in the town of Frankfort, which, I am sure, most of us have driven over.  The North Branch of the Marsh River joins up with the South Branch of the Marsh River and both empty into the Penobscot River in Frankfort.    
The Marsh Stream was ideally suited for water power.  In George J. Varney's History of Monroe, ME, published in 1886, Mr. Varney states the following: "It [Monroe] is drained by both the north and south branches of Marsh River; and on these many water-powers.  There is one saw-mill for long and short lumber, one grist-mill, a carding-mill, barrel-factory, cheese-factory, and other manufactures common to villages.  A few years ago there were in operation in this town the following: "Willis's Mills," on a fall of 15 feet on Marsh River, comprising a saw-mill with the capacity of producing annually 400,000 feet of long lumber and 800,000 shingles, and a grist-mill with four sets of stones.  On a fall of 10 feet, half a mile above, were fulling, and carding mills.  Half a mile above the last was a lumber and stave mill, and two miles above this were saw and shingle mills.  On the outlet of Northern Pond was "Thurlough Mill", with capacity of manufacturing annually 200,000 feet of lumber.  On the outlet of the Thomas Chase Bog, was a stone dam unoccupied; and half a mile further down were board, lath, shingle and stave mills.  On the outlet of a pond in Swanville were the "Mayo Mills", including a first-class grist-mill.  On the Emery Mills Stream was a saw and stave mill, a pail-factory, and still earlier, a grist-mill.  At the outlet of Jones' Bog there was a grist-mill."  The following link gives a good description of the types of mills there were in the 19th century and how they worked.

Mills and Water Power

The North Branch of the Marsh Stream starts at Drake Pond in northwest Jackson

The North Branch of the Marsh Stream at Monroe Village

The South Branch of the Marsh Stream becomes the Falls at Monroe Center

The North and South Branchs of the Marsh Stream meet at the Moody Road