Friday, July 22, 2022

The Wild Woman of Frye Island

By Ernest H. Knight 

A massive ground search of Frye Island by Raymond residents
in 1878 failed to turn up evidence of a 'Wild Woman' who was
reported by farmers to be involved in strange sightings and
unexplained disappearances of clothing, food and other items.
Ghosts, mysterious happenings, and extra-sensory perceptions have always had a fascination for people; few localities are without something in their past to qualify for membership in the club.

The Himalaya Mountains have their Abominable Snowman, our Pacific Northwest has its Bigfoot, and Frye Island had its Wild Woman, though she more accurately belonged more to Standish than Raymond as Frey Island has always belonged to that town even though Standish Cape and the Gore were absorbed by the town of Raymond in 1871. No one cared much about Frye Island except the people who lived there.

Frye Island was once exclusively farmed and was mostly cleared land. There were the Jose farm buildings, later owned by the Hooper family, a short way south of the present ferry landing, which had a large two-story dwellings that housed many family members and hired help as transportation across the Gut to home or to visit was not available for casual use.

Life there must have been lonely and could perhaps have contributed to fantasy or hallucinations.

However, in 1878, the residents of the farm were aware of strange sightings and unexplained disappearances. Items of clothing were missing, vegetables evaporated from root cellars, cows were occasionally dry at milking time and there were fleeting glimpses of a shadowy figure, presumably female, in the distance.

The natural conclusion was that there was a person or persons on the island who survived on pilfered food and did not want to be identified or to be friendly. Out of concern for their own safety and security, and perhaps a little compassion for the welfare of whoever, if human, might have to survive the coming winter, aid was enlisted from the mainland to supplement their unsuccessful attempts to solve the mystery.

In the late summer or fall of that year, canal boats and other craft available at the wharves and shore of Raymond and Casco were filled with men and boys for transportation to Frye Island.

Starting at one end of the island they formed almost a hand-to-hand chain as they swept over the fields and forest, always on the lookout for what they thought they were looking for, the Wild Woman.

They were denied success, either by cleverness on the part of the hunted or a failure of the hunters to do their job to perfection, and the net result of the community effort amounted to nothing more than an outing for the visitors.

After the fact, masterminding by both the participants and island dwellers gave the general store and blacksmith shop debates, as well as kitchen and across the fence conversations going for some time.

Theories abounded all the way from the Wild Woman making her escape by swimming off ahead of the searchers to there never being a physical presence at all, and it was some time before local residents got back to their normal way of life. 

Life on Frye Island apparently returned to normal with no recurrence of the disturbing incidents of the pre-posse period. It was about this time that farming on Frye Island declined, either due to the psychological impact of the spell cast by the Wild Woman or natural economic changes which altered the farming activities of Maine people. The landscape of the island returned to growing trees and brush.

Later, Frye Island was used for hunting or timber harvest.

The Wild Woman was never found and whether she was fact or fake is still a worthy legend for discussion or conjecture. Add your guesses if you will. <

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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