A stack of “River Voices” for sale at the Town Landing Market in Falmouth. Chance Viles / American Journal

WESTBROOK — A recently published book celebrates both the culture and the science of the Presumpscot River.

“River Voices,” compiled by and benefiting the Friends of the Presumpscot River, provides insights into the river from a multitude of “lenses,” said co-author and Friends board President Robert Sanford of Gorham.

“Our notion of stewardship isn’t just knowing about the river, it’s knowing more about those who live on it and love it,” Sanford said. “Different people have different lenses that are more important to them in the book.”

The book, 10 years in the making, features chapters from hobbyists, scholars, artists and poets, with scientific and artistic illustrations throughout. Topics range from the old mills on the river to the Native Americans who inhabited its banks prior to European settlement. One chapter is dedicated specifically to the modern-day experience of paddling down the Presumpscot.

The 25-mile river starts at Sebago Lake and flows through Standish, Windham, Gorham, Westbrook and Portland before emptying into Casco Bay in Falmouth.

A 2018 painting, “Golden Canoe II,” by Westbrook artist Mary Brooking, as seen in “River Voices.” Courtesy / Friends of the Presumpscot River

With a number of mills along the river using it to power their operations through the years, the river had a poor reputation and was not always seen as a natural resource to be treasured, said co-editor William Plumley of Windham.


“People turned their backs to it and avoided it, it smelled,” Plumley said. “Now, after all of these years, the fact that it’s a rallying point is important for all of us in the watershed and this tells those stories of love.”

Contributing author Wayne Cobb wrote in the book about the lesser-known Quaker business ventures on the river in Westbrook.

“While known for their religion, Quakers were lucrative businessmen and then owned shares of mills off the lower falls of the Presumpscot,” Cobb said.

“It’s an interesting historical tidbit, not really known at all about that portion of the river,” he said.

The author of “Quakers in Early Falmouth and Portland, Maine: 1740-1850,” Cobb welcomed the opportunity to get more information out on a group of people “too modest to write about themselves.”

Other chapters focus on the inhabitants of the river itself, and drawings of fish by Westbrook City Councilor and Friends President Michael Shaughnessy.


The Presumpscot provides “authentic experiences” for local students, which in turn gives them a connection to the river, says contributing author and University of Southern Maine professor Robert Kuech.

“My chapter is about how the river helps folks develop a sense of place,” Kuech said. “Educational programs that occur along the Presumpscot provide authentic experiences for students to study chemistry or biology or entomology or things like that. It also then connects them to this area and to the environment by giving them that sense of place.”

That sense of place is what drives people to protect rivers, he said.

“When people learn or connect to a place they start to take more responsibility for it. As they grow older, when they think of the environment and how different things affect it, the Presumpscot will be in their mind,” he said.

The book, published last month by North Country Press, can be found in local book stores and shops, on Amazon and can be ordered directly on the Friends of the Presumpscot website. All proceeds will benefit the organization.

A photo in the book, captioned “The Hugh C. Leighton Company, Presumpscot River, near Riverton Park, Portland Maine,” from 1905. Courtesy / Friends of the Presumpscot River

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