The Canal from Lake to Bay (Damascotta Canal), Alewifes Fishery and Mills, Match and Leatherboard Factories
The Canal from Lake to Bay (Damascotta Canal)
Intended to extend from Muscongus Bay on Damariscotta Lake along the Great Heath and Bog to Oyster Creek and from there to Great Salt Bay at the head of the Damariscotta River. The state granted a charter in 1821. Two extensions were granted in 1827 and 1834. Only 3 hand-dug miles were completed from Muscongus Bay with no connection to Oyster Creek. Today, no trace of the canal can be seen in this area.
More than two hundred years ago (first referenced in town meeting in April 1794), the people of Damariscotta Mills noticed the impact of their dam on alewives trying to swim up stream to Damariscotta Lake to spawn. Year after year, the fish threw themselves against the concrete dam to no avail. The townspeople depended on the power generated from the dam to run their mills, but they also depended on the alewives for food and trade. So in 1807, they decided to build a fish ladder to give the alewives an alternate route around the dam. The original fish ladder was a twisting maze of rocks creating small waterfalls and resting pools guiding the alewives up 42 vertical feet.
This continues to be an active fishway with alewife migration starting around Mother's Day each spring. Informative brochures are available at the fish ladder.
Mills, Match and Leatherboard Factories
Located in Damariscotta Mills at the top of the present day Alewife Stream. In 1730, this was the site of the original Vaughn mill. Also located in this area was the Nathaniel Bryant IV sawmill and the Old Grist Mill which had three stones. The sawmill and grist mill burned in 1883.
The original match factory was built by Joseph Haines. The Diamond Match Co. was constructed shortly after a fire in 1863 destroyed the long-standing double sawmill. The building was sold in 1906 and demolished to make way for new construction of a Leatherboard factory. That building was destroyed by fire in 1921.