During the first thirty years of the twentieth century, fisherwoman Maggie Little was the most photographed person in Newport, VT, on Lake Memphremagog. She was most certainly one of Newport’s best known residents. Maggie was born in Bolton, Quebec, on November 12, 1842. Her parents moved to a farm in the USA when she was very young. At barely five feet tall, she didn’t have the stamina for farm work. She loved fishing though and enjoyed an independent lifestyle. Perhaps for these reasons, she left the farm early to relocate to Newport.
People could say many things about Little, but they surely couldn’t call her camera shy. She was a woman of many hats. She never went to school and was considered a vagrant. Her favorite fishing spot was on the Canadian Pacific railway bridge. She always wore the same clothes: a long skirt with an apron over it that was perpetually in need of washing. Even though she was constantly near the water it obviously wasn’t to do her laundry. And truth be told, fishing is not the passion of a perfumer.
Perched on a barrel, always at the same place, she would fish from morning until night, pipe clamped in her teeth. Folks getting off the train would walk her way to take her picture, as she was only a few hundred feet from the station.
Maggie was a compulsive smoker, and would often demand a handout to feed her habit before posing. When she ran out of tobacco, she was even known to split a cord of wood to earn money for more. It seems she was a victim of tobacco addiction and it was her overriding obsession. She sold the fish she caught to feed her habit. If a pipe smoker was around, she would pretend she didn’t have any tobacco. Few walked away without giving her a pipeful. Maggie always lived the life of a recluse. She liked to drink beer from a bottle and was fond of the illegal hooch made by W.H. Darling & Son, who legally made soda pop.
Maggie died in 1934, at 91, and could certainly have starred in commercials for the tobacco companies. She did come from long-lived stock, though; her mother predeceased her in 1927 at 103 years old. A lot of water will run under the railway bridge in Newport before there will be the likes of Maggie Little again?
Courtesy of Scott Wheeler