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History of Mars Hill

Canadian Hezekiah Mars came from the St. John River and established a camp at the bottom of the mountain. He and his son lived in this area for three years; after they returned to England, the area became known as Mars Hill.

In l834, John Ayers began cutting and hauling from Mars Hill Mountain to St. John. Many of the tall trees were used for ship masts; Mars Hill has had a good forest industry for many years. Because of the “bloodless” Aroostook War of 1839, Moses Snow and his men started clearing the boundary line, which was between Maine and New Brunswick. Iron posts were installed as line markers in 1842. Families from Canada constantly came and settled close to Mars Hill Mountain despite the establishment of the new boundary line. Many of the names of the new people settling are still familiar today such as Banks, Getchell, Bell, Shaw, Rackliffe, Harmon, McCormick, Smith, Towle, Whitney, York, and Snow.

In 1856, the Wilson family settled at Rocky Brook, and a new mill called Wilson’s Mill was opened. In 1860, the first school in the town opened and became the center for community activity. A bridge was constructed across the Prestile Stream with wood from the Wilson’s Mill in 1857. Roads were being built, and more land was cleared for farming by the end of the Civil War.

The demand for lumber increased; as a result, Mars Hill became a busy community. During the years 1876 to 1879, a dam was built. The first sawmill and boarding house was built by William Magee. A popular crop in this area was the potato; however, there was a lack of outside market until the B & A Railroad came in 1892. The retail and trade business in Mars Hill started at about the turn of the century. During this time, a bank, a movie theater, a jewelry store, and several millinery shops were opened. Service stations and garages began to open as a result of the emergence of the automobile in 1915. In 1919, the main street was widened, and it remains one of the widest main streets of any town in Aroostook County. Fire, however, destroyed many businesses in the area along with the new grammar school in 1922.

In 1895, the White Mountain Telephone Co. opened in Blaine. In 1906, a new office was opened in Mars Hill, and the name was changed to Aroostook Telephone & Telegraph Co. The first telephones were installed at Guy Wilson’s drug store and John Ramsey’s law office. The telephone company was sold to the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company in 1932.

A school called the Aroostook Central Institute, which was for Mars Hill and Blaine students was established, and because it burned in 1918, it was rebuilt. By 1912, a community hospital was built with the help of a nurse, Janet Brown, RN and Dr. R. J. Kincaid. It was the residence of H.W. Safford; it could hold up to 5 or 6 patients. As the hospital expanded, doctors from the surrounding area chipped in to help. It wasn’t until 1958 that The Aroostook Health Center was built. Mars Hill now has its own nursing home, including a skilled unit and its own local doctor. Horizons Health Services is also located on Main Street. The Walter T.A. Hansen Memorial Library was founded in 1937. Funds left by a Mars Hill businessman made the new building in 1952 possible.

One of the first religious organizations in the town was the East Ridge Sewing Circle. Over time, other churches were gradually built. From the results of the Mars Hill Junior Chamber of Commerce’s 4th of July celebration on Mars Hill Mountain, the Mars Hill Development Corp was established. The purchase of 200 acres of the mountain was for recreational development. Mars Hill Mountain is the location of Big Rock, which is a ski center owned by Maine Winter Sports Center, and it’s open from early December to April (depending on the weather). They offer ski and snowboard lessons for any level. Big Rock has rental equipment that includes Alpine Skis, Cross Country Skis, snowboards, snowshoes and Boeri Helmets. Fall foliage chair lift rides are offered so people can get a great view of western New Brunswick and Northern Maine.