Woods History

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William Vaughan (right) and his crew of local workers in 1911 building the main trail that runs from Litchfield road to the dam.

At the turn of the 20th century brothers William and Benjamin Vaughan dreamed of restoring the industry-ravaged lost family land adjacent to their 1794 ancestral home. Between 1890 and 1930, they worked tirelessly to re-purchase the land, deconstruct the mills, and, utilizing local labor, create a nature preserve featuring 3-miles of carriage roads, footpaths and stone-arch bridges, now known as Vaughan Woods. “Nature has done its part in clothing the banks again with wood,” William wrote in 1930, “and you will, in time, I hope, see the ravine restored much to its original beauty.” Undoubtedly, he would be happy with the stream and woods of today. 

The High Arch Bridge (1930) was constructed from the stones of this dam which once stood in its place.
The High Arch Bridge (1930) was constructed from the stones of the Wire Mill dam, pictured here, which once stood in its place.

For over 100 years the Vaughan family maintained the trails and bridges and allowed public access. In 1991, prior to the Homestead’s incorporation as a nonprofit, William’s granddaughter, Diana Vaughan Gibson and her husband George, donated a conservation easement on Vaughan Woods to The Kennebec Land Trust, ensuring its protection for future generations. Today, the non-profit Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead manages the Woods for public use and allows access from dawn to dusk for recreational activities such as trail walking, nature study, picnicking, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing.

The easement on Vaughan Woods covers all of its 197 acres. The Kennebec Land Trust, which holds the easement, is a private non-profit membership

A Vaughan family winter party c. 1890 at the 12-foot falls.
A Vaughan family winter party c. 1890 at the 12-foot falls.

organization formed in 1988 by local citizens to work cooperatively with landowners and communities to protect our natural features, working landscapes, and fragile ecosystems. The KLT owns or protects over 4,000 acres of land in the Kennebec Valley, and partners with Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead, the Hallowell Conservation Commission, and the Maine Conservation Corps, to protect and maintain Vaughan Woods.