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Rangeley is a town in Franklin County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,168 at the 2010 census. Rangeley is the center of the Rangeley Lakes Region, a resort area. The town includes the villages of Oquossoc, Haines Landing and South Rangeley.
It is named after an Englishman, Squire James Rangeley, who inherited a 31,000-acre (130 km2) tract bought from Massachusetts in 1796 by his father. He arrived in 1825 to establish an estate based on the English system of landlord and tenants, also giving extensive land to settlers. He built a sawmill, a gristmill, a two-story mansion, and a ten-mile (16 km) road to connect his property with the rest of the world. Rangeley resided here for 15 years, then sold the property and moved to Portland.
Farms produced hay, wheat, oats, barley and potatoes, with cattle grazing the hills. Logging became a principal industry, with booms of logs towed by steamboat across the Rangeley lakes, then guided down rivers in log drives. On March 29, 1855, the town of Rangeley was set off and incorporated from a portion of Rangeley Plantation. By 1870, the population was 313. In 1886, it had twenty dwellings, two hotels, two stores and a post office. Industries included a carriage shop, two blacksmith shops, a boat builder’s shop, a sawmill and a shoe shop.
The Phillips and Rangeley Railroad, a narrow gauge common carrier, opened in 1891, becoming part of the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad in 1908. Timber and other goods were shipped to markets, and tourists arrived from Boston; Hartford; New York; and Philadelphia. Consequently, the region developed in the 1900s into a seasonal resort area with camps, cabins, summer homes, inns and hotels. The cool mountain climate and abundance of sport fishing made this a highly desirable and exclusive resort destination. Some inhabitants became fishing guides, and among the anglers was President Herbert Hoover. The big hotels would decline, however, with World War II. In 1958, The Rangeley Lake House was razed. But motels have taken their place, and Rangeley remains a popular resort.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 55.62 square miles (144.06 km2), of which, 41.48 square miles (107.43 km2) of it is land and 14.14 square miles (36.62 km2) is water. Centrally located between the headwaters of both the Androscoggin River and Kennebec River, the town lies on the eastern shores of Rangeley Lake in the Western Maine Mountains. Smalls Falls, lying just south of the town on Route 4, is a popular tourist destination. A sign in town notes that Rangeley is halfway between the Equator and North Pole.