Excerpts from the Annals of Maine’s Sporting Past
(Reprinted from above link)
What follows is an interesting article from the Maine Woods dated March 31, 1905 and was originally taken from a story that appeared in the Bangor Commercial in that same year. It’s the story of the shooting and eventual capture of one of the most notorious poachers of his day, Peter Fontaine. The Warden who shot him during his first arrest, later exhibits great compassion and no ill will towards his former adversary. One of the wardens that eventually nabbed Fontaine was a rookie at the time who would go on to serve 46 years in the Maine Warden Service, Ed Lowell. Lowell is a true Northwoods legend. He had a stellar career at a time when the woods of Maine were vast, far less forgiving, had few roads, and more closely resembled the Wild West than what we have today. Lowell would go on to hold a national reputation as a premiere woodsman and was considered “The Dean of American Game Wardens” in his day. Lowell was in just his first year on the job when then Commissioner Carleton, sent him and his fellow Warden Nate Carr, also from Rangeley, upcountry to finally nab Fontaine once and for all.
The history of true legends like Ed Lowell are born in the Maine Woods. Be sure to get outside and make some legal and safe history of your own!
MAINE’S FAMOUS POACHER.
NATT CARR AND ED LOWELL, RANGELEY GUIDES, CAPTURE HIM
After a lapse of three years since he was apparently fatally shot by Game Warden Herman O. Templeton in his camp near Turner Pond, March 19, 1902, Peter Fontaine, Maine’s most famous game poacher, was taken into custody last week; brought to Greenville and down to Bangor Wednesday morning by Game Wardens Tim Pollard, E. F. Lowell and N. R. Carr. After a conference with Game Commissioner Carleton, who arrived Wednesday evening, a weak, Fontaine was arraigned in the Bangor police court on Thursday on a charge of illegal killing of game. The wardens were reluctant about telling of the affair further than of the arrest. Nothing will be done until Commissioner Carleton answers, but it is thought that the officials will not insist on a full punishment of the prisoner and that he will be let off with a sentence which will be light, considering what there is against him.
Fontaine was taken by Wardens Lowell and Carr on the St. John river early Saturday morning. There was no trouble such as attended the arrest of the prisoner on the evening of March 19, 1902. Fontaine made no resistance and accompanied the officers to Bangor as any ordinary person would have done. He was arrested opposite what is known as Little Eight Township on the northern border of the state, north northwest of Moosehead lake, but a few miles from the scene of the shooting of three years ago.
Began the Journey
The wardens and Fontaine at once began the journey toward Greenville, covering 150 miles in getting out of the woods although the air-line distance is not as great. The traveling was bad all the way out. They took him over to Baker lake and down around the lumber camps, choosing the best roads possible, which were few and bad at the best. The party used teams for the greater part of the way, but the wardens were obliged to tramp much of the time and let their prisoner ride as much as possible on account of his physical condition, which is far from being the same as it was three years ago. He is a broken-down man and shows it in his appearance. Since he was shot by Warden Templeton, three years ago last Sunday, March 19, Fontaine has spent most of his time on the Canadian border, rarely venturing across to the American side. He has been across several times, but never have the wardens been able to catch him in that wild and wooded country.
Last year a New York sporting club bought all the land on the Quebec side of the St. John river formerly occupied by Fontaine as a sporting camp. These camps have been in charge of Wardens Lowell and Carr and they have been living on that side of the river all winter patrolling the northern boundary on account of the camp being more comfortable in the winter weather.
During the past winter Fontaine has been setting traps for otter on the St. John river which was supposed by the wardens to be neutral ground. On receiving instructions recently from Game Commissioner Carleton, they took him on the river and brought him down for trial. On Saturday morning Fontaine came down to the river with an ax and pail, for water, and while in the middle of the river he was taken by the officers and the journey to Greenville and Bangor begun. He offered no resistance to the officials. Fontaine admitted to the officers on the way down that he had taken one otter out of the spring hole, which is on the American side of the river.
No Ill Feeling
Warden Templeton said to the Commercial Wednesday that he had no ill feeling against Fontaine and had no desire to see him severely punished.
“There are many up that way a great deal worse than Peter,” said Mr. Templeton. “If he was a younger man and still engaged in the work, I would like to see him severely punished for what he has done in the 15 or 20 years that the wardens have been after him, but he is a broken-down man now. That pill took the life out of him and he is not the same man he was three years ago.”
Doesn’t Look Badly
Fontaine had a bad cold Wednesday and was not feeling well after his long journey down through the woods. He sat on a couch in a room at the Penobscot Exchange and spoke but little, except when spoken to by one of the wardens. He does not look badly, but those who know him say he is not the man he was three years ago. He says, himself, he is well and that the bullet. which entered his body but two inches over his heart and went out through the shoulder blade, causes him no inconvenience.
“I felt it some the next summer,’’ he said, “and sometimes I feel it in wet weather, but not much. It is like rheumatism.”
“It broke my wind,” he continued, placing his hand over the spot where the bullet entered. He is a man 51 years old but looks all of 50. He stands about five feet, ten inches in height, slightly stooping shoulders and is a typical French-Canadian. His features are a trifle prominent and his coal black hair is somewhat streaked with gray. He was inclined to be gloomy and spoke with a tone of sadness in his voice, saying but little.
Story of Former Arrest
The shooting of La Fontaine on March 19, 1902 by Warden Herman O. Templeton was one of the sensations of that time in Maine. La Fontaine had a camp at Baker lake, away up near the Quebec boundary, and had a line of traps extending for miles around in which, it was said, he had taken many beaver. Complaints became so numerous that finally, although many unsuccessful attemps to capture him had been made, and the job was regarded dangerous, Commissioner Carleton directed Warden Templeton to take a good man or men with him and go after the poacher. Templeton selected as a companion George Houston of Caribou. They came to Peter’s camp at dusk, and Templeton, knowing the risk he was taking, stepped up with cocked revolver and suddenly threw open the door. La Fontaine lay on a bed of furs, with his rifle in easy reach. At the click of the latch the poacher had half risen and grabbed his rifle. It seemed to be a question, merely, of who could get in the first shot, and Templeton, being erect and ready, was quickest on the trigger. The bullet went in just over La Fontaine’s heart and came out under his left shoulder blade. It seemed that there was no chance for him to live, and, in any event, transporting a dangerously wounded man through the wilderness to the nearest railroad station, which was Greenville, was out of the question. So, when friends of the poacher who were at work in a nearby logging camp begged that he be allowed to go home to die and offered to carry him by tote and team to his native village of St. Francis, P. Q., the wardens consented, and away went Peter over the border. It was supposed that that would be the last of the famous poacher, but he didn’t die. He survived, to get more traps and give the wardens more worry. The bullet wound took most of the snap and ginger out of him, however, and the Peter La Fontaine of today is very unlike him who kept the officers on the jump in years past. He is 51 years old, but looks ten years older, and looks thin and sad. His poaching days are about over