Dotted by watering holes and rivers, life in Coos Canyon has always been focused on the landscape. Nicknamed "Hop City", the towns surrounding Byron experienced a mini-goldrush when gold was discovered in the 1840s. It was believed that an undiscovered gold vein was hidden beneath the Swift River and its tributaries, leading to the town's peak around 1900 when there was a commercial gold mine operating in Byron. Over the years, attempts to tap into the vein were unsuccessful and the mine eventually closed.
Still, locals in the area used the gold they found to supplement their earnings. Some people — like the reknowned hermit, Carl Shilling — took it to the extreme by panning as his full-time occupation. Originally from Germany, Carl lived in a small shack on the Swift River not far from where our existing campground stands today. His eccentric personality and cheerful greetings made him popular among residents and visitors alike.
However, the most well-known Coos Canyon inhabitant was Molly Ockett, an indigenous woman from the Abenaki nation. Her skills as a healer more than 250 years ago make her a legendary figure to this day, as it is believed she saved the life of U.S. Vice President Hannibal Hamlin as an infant. She has been celebrated annually in Bethel, Maine, with her very own Molly Ockett Day, now part of the Bethel Area Summerfest in July.