Friday, September 3, 2021

Remembering a Raymond legend, Edgar Welch

Once each year, Edgar Welch of Raymond would
run from Raymond to the top of Mount
Washington in New Hampshire while wearing a
suit, boots and a tall beaver hat. Here he is shown
following one of those runs.

By Ernest H. Knight

Raymond and Casco have had many distinguished sons, but perhaps none captured the imagination or stirred the spirit of the people as did our legendary Edgar Welch.

He was born close to the Raymond/Casco line on the County Road to Otisfield (Route 85) in Raymond, though his labors and exploits covered both towns.

Edgar’s grandfather, James, born 1765, came from Cape Elizabeth as an early pioneer settler of Raymond where his son was born in 1819 and Edgar on Sept. 21, 1849. As was the norm in those days, Edgar was adopted into the life of a farmer and worked all of his later years for a neighbor, David McLellan, whose barn and part of his house are still in use, the main house having burned about 1954.

Edgar was a bright, pleasant person though inclined toward strange ideas on work and physical activity, which were extreme to say the least. Besides hard work, running was his pastime for which the urge seized him after a week or so of labor. Dropping whatever he was doing at the time, winter or summer, he would be off running to Portland, Norway or wherever fancy directed, and on his return, he’d pick up where he left off.  On frequent occasions his route was through the White Mountains and once a year he would jaunt to the top of Mount Washington, an event to which proprietors and guests looked forward to with anticipation.

For this event he wore a suit, boots and a tall beaver hat where on his ordinary runs his garb was his overalls with woolen socks in the winter and barefoot in the summer.

On one occasion he ran to Boston, circled through Tremont Street and Boston Common and then head for home. Once an owner of a nice span of driving horses challenged Edgar to a race to Portland. Starting from Raymond Village, the team soon left him far behind but when the team reached its destination on Congress Street, Edgar was there waiting for them. 

Edgar had friends everywhere and my mother fondly recalled that in the 1880s and 1890s when my grandfather farmed what is now called Crockett House by the marina on Jordan River there would be a cry from somewhere “Here comes Edgar” and all those able would go to the edge of the road to greet and cheer Edgar on his way.

Edgard had other unique ideas of labor and benefits to mankind. An astute observation that the McLellan farm, being on the easterly slope of Rattlesnake Mountain, had the sun set much earlier than farms to the north or south, set him on a mission.

To correct this fact of nature, he worked for many years off and on as time permitted, day or night, rolling boulders from the top of the mountain to reduce this bothersome interference. In the stillness of the night, people would awaken to the sound of crashing on the mountain, and remark that Edgar was at it again, and go back to sleep.

While piling logs on the ice at Crescent Lake (then Great Rattlesnake Pond) to be floated to Sebago when the ice melted, Edgar would get hot feet, take off his boots and run on the ice or snow until he could go back to work in comfort.

He was a great conversationalist and interested in the politics of the day. As a composer of rhymes and ballads, with a good voice always in true pitch, he would sing on picnic occasions accompanied by Carrie McLellan on her portable melodeon. His physical make-up baffled doctors, though he never had need of their services as he never even had so much as a cold. With all his work and running, Edgar never perspired, which the doctors said should have killed him.

He did perhaps have one more attribute, clairvoyance or a sixth sense. When he was young, a man named Eastman Bean in Otisfield fell from a haymow holding a pitchfork, was impaled on the tines and died. This was on Edgar’s mind all of his life and at odd times he was overheard muttering some rhyme of reference to Eastman Bean.

On Dec. 23, 1903, Edgar was working in the McLellan barn (still standing on the easterly side of Route 85 not far from the Raymond-Casco line) when he slid from the mow while pitching hay down for the cattle. He was impaled on his pitchfork and died as did Eastman Bean. His funeral was conducted from the Village School at Webb’s Mills (now Crescent Lake Village) and was attended by so many that the overflow stood outside near the windows, left open so they could hear the orations honoring their friend. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.

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