In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Strong, a Mussul Unsquit village

A Legacy of Woods and Waters

"Fly Rod" Crosby

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Jeremy Porter home, Strong, ca. 1880
Jeremy Porter home, Strong, ca. 1880

Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

Fly Rod's mother was a Porter, and through her she was connected to some of the earliest settlers in Strong. The Porter family owned and operated wood turning and matchstick mills, built iconic buildings in the downtown area and served the community in the House of Representatives, State Senate and on the Governor’s Council. Jeremy Porter built one of Strong’s most beautiful homes, which later became the Hotel Strong and then served as a 16 bed hospital run by Dr. Charles Bell and owned by the Forster Manufacturing Company. Tourists on their way to or from the Rangeley Lakes often stopped at the hotel (which eventually fell into disrepair and was torn down in 1969). Fly Rod’s mother, Thirza, was the daughter of Ezekiel Porter and sister of Jeremy.

Amos Dolbier Starbird family of Freeman, ca. 1886
Amos Dolbier Starbird family of Freeman, ca. 1886
Edwin Starbird, pictured in center of the back row, took many of the pictures that made Fly Rod Crosby famous.
Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

Ms. Crosby owes much of her success to the photos taken by Edwin R. Starbird, of Strong. Edwin (1853-1921) was born to Amos and Mary Jane Gilkey Starbird in Freeman Village. Today, Freeman TWP is located directly north of Strong. Starbird started out as a teacher but soon turned to photography and studied under Francis Stanley in Lewiston Maine. He returned to Farmington soon afterwards and opened a studio specializing in landscape and portrait photography. Starbird released a series of photographs called “The Woods of Maine,” which he worked on for 20 years, between 1883 and 1903. These 600 photographs were taken all over the Moosehead and Rangeley Lakes region. Fly Rod is present in a few of them and occasionally accompanied Starbird on his trips into the Maine woods.

Loading deer on the train at Strong station, ca. 1915
Loading deer on the train at Strong station, ca. 1915
Strong was a popular stop for "sports" traveling to and from the Rangeley Region on the Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Item Contributed by
Strong Historical Society

The Maine Central employed Crosby as a writer and sent her all over the east coast to represent the Maine Woods at expositions and on boards promoting tourism. However, with the introduction of the automobile and trucking industry, ridership began to decline. In 1936 the railroad disbanded, ripped up the tracks, sold off its assets and destroyed what it could not sell. Some remnants were salvaged and are on display at the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad Museum in Phillips. Visitors to the museum can still ride the railroad along the Sandy River, albeit only for a limited distance.

Fly Rod retired to a quiet life in downtown Phillips. Much of her memorabilia and many of her writings are on display at the Phillips Historical Society. Visitors can see the ornate tea set that Crosby took on fishing trips, numerous photographs and even the shingle that hung outside “Saint Anthony’s Cottage,” her modest house in town. The Historical Society is also home to a comprehensive collection of the Maine Woodsman and Phillips Phonograph publications. Much of their Fly Rod Crosby collection, as well as items from the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum in Oquossoc and the Maine State Museum, are temporarily on loan to the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester Vermont as part of an exhibit entitled: “A Graceful Rise – Women in Fly Fishing, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”