Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Calkin's Castle/Castle Rock

About the same time I came across the postcard with the steamboat on it, I found this postcard on Ebay.
It was a postcard of the river that I'd never seen before, and the rock was very familiar to me, though I knew it by a different name, Calkin’s Castle. It’s a soaring bold rock.
On the postcard they've colored over much of the rock with pale green
It’s always received a lot of attention from me, since that fall day I paddled by and found a porcupine hanging out on the rock.
Note the tide line.
I wasn’t sure if the porcupine was caught by the tide, or trying to bask in the limited sunlight.
Same shot, trimmed
I learned the name of the rock from Burpee Calkin, a nonagenarian who is one of Hampden’s treasures. He had a smelting license and was often out tending his nets when we paddled by. Though he is hard of hearing, he was very outgoing and shared with us tales of smelting. He also showed us a path, worn away to a narrow strip, which was once a road he’d used to cart ice up from the Penobscot. He’s lived through when the Penobscot was clean enough to be world renowned for its ice, through the heavily polluted years and is again seeing the river’s renaissance.

There are indents under the rock, though not properly a cave.
Looking upstream at Calkin's Castle

Looking downstream at the cliff
The tale printed on the card is plainly nonsense. When Hampden became a town, the Penobscot Indians already had an established settlement, Old Town. They traveled down the river to summer on Penobscot Bay, often in the Castine area. They traveled back up in the fall, sending the hunters to the North woods in winter. When the rivers reopened in the spring the hunters built canoes of moose skin and paddled back. The Penobscot were known as canoeing experts. They would have known the river better than anyone.

I wondered if the Braggons may have been early settlers. I did not find their name in Hampden Historical Sketches, but I thought I’d drop by Calkin’s Farm Stand, and see if they had heard the name.

Calkin’s Farm Stand is a familiar name in the area, open May through December, providing flowering plants and vegetables in spring, fresh vegetables through the summer, mums, apples, cider and more in the fall and Christmas greens in December. I spoke with Janice, Burpee’s daughter.
She’d never heard of the Braggons either, and she felt I may have been led a bit astray, that the proper name for the rock was Castle Rock.
That’s the term referred to in the interview stored at the UMaine Folklife Center.
"Castle Rock" - you may have heard that before. It is the name of the Maine town which was first used by Stephen King in the Dead Zone and was also the setting for his short story, the Body. After the Body became the hit movie, Stand By Me, Rob Reiner took the name Castle Rock for his production company.
Castle Rock, as written about by Stephen King, is not Hampden. On his own map Stephen King places Castle Rock in Oxford County. There’s no record of where Stephen King got the name, though some note there is a Castle Hill in Aroostook County.
But there is another option. Stephen King was a teacher at Hampden Academy in the early 70’s, and Janice says Burpee talked to him about local names and legends.

In either case, its a magnificant cliff, and you may see a porcupine there, so if you’re headed up the Penobscot River, keep an eye out for Castle Rock. The GPS Coordinates are 44° 43.277'N 68° 50.081'W.

If you’re headed down river, the old instructions remain true, Castle Rock is the second point below the (no longer existent) Hampden Wharf.
Left arrow, second point, Castle Rock, Right arrow by the yellowish grass is the old wharf location
And if you’re driving down Route 1A, be sure to stop in at Calkin’s Farm Stand for wonderful plants and local produce.


  1. Nice report. I love the second to last pic. Very nice!

    The Average Joe Fisherman

  2. Thank you, one of the intriguing things about the Penobscot shoreline is how unstable the rock and hills are. That means interesting surfaces are exposed when the tide goes out.

  3. Great post! I love comparing the old photo's as well of my area. Thanks for sharing!