Posts Tagged With: sawmills

Maine’s first electric sawmill

Everything changes with time, and the lumber industry of Maine has not been an exception to the rule. Today, we’re used to these machines that can drive into the woods, cut and de-limb a tree, de-bark it and load it into a pulp truck in less time than most folks take to smoke a short cigarette. It wasn’t always that way, but as time progressed, Mainers kept up with technology, adopting those methods and machines that fir the bill, and adapting others that didn’t exactly fit the bill, but could with a little tweaking. A 1921 issue of Popular Mechanics had a few articles that looked at this very same knack that die-hard Mainers have for adopting and adapting, as the need fits.

In the first article, we read that Maine seems to have been a pioneer in using electricity to run their backwoods sawmills, and the report says that we had the first ever such mill to replace steam and water powered mills for the task of sawing logs into useable lumber.

A second article from that same magazine shows that one of the backcountry lumber operations adapted a modern gas or diesel powered version of the Lombard Hauler to tow a converted box car to haul cargo, the mail and people back and forth from the deep woods of Maine.

The third article isn’t about technology, but it is about someone adapting materials at hand to fill a need. A couple of deep woods camp owners, female at that, utilized a log to make a unique table for their camp. Cutting the log in half and using the smaller diameter upper parts of the tree for legs, they hand milled the table top with a broadax, planed the flats until they were smooth and varnished the table until it had a glossy finish. I guess we know why they call it a broad ax now. (Just kidding, no offense meant!:0)

Advertisements
Categories: articles, history, stories, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sawmills: a vanishing heritage

I actually made this vedeo some time ago, and had it over at Vimeo, so you may have seen it there already. Recently, I migrated all of my Vimeo videos over to my YouTube channel as this is going to be the platform for all of my video programs.

This one concerns the legacy and vanishing heritage of the old logging and lumbering days. Enjoy…

Categories: history, Maine | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pejepscot Falls 2012

Every spring the rain showers and snowmelt comes rolling down from the mountains, tumbling through the many valleys and ravines creating the spring freshets, most years providing a least a few parts of the state with devastating results. This year at Pejepscot Falls the freshet was mild, with little to no reports heard of flooding along the Androscoggin watershed. I took some video of it earlier today and uploaded it to YouTube. Comparatively speaking, it appears to be just a lot of water flowing under the bridge, but when you stand back and look at the history surrounding this place, one cannot help but wonder at the awesome power these rains bring to the falls every year. The following piece is an excerpt from the 1868 copy of the Hydrographic Survey of 1867, a report on the water powers of Maine.

The history behind this place is too lengthy to share here, but suffice it to say that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the towns of Brunswick and Topsham. Perhaps I’ll do a post on the bar-hopping ladies of the early 1800s someday. Enjoy watching the video while reading about some of the mills that made use of this waterpower in the mid 1800s.

First, the “Pejepscot Falls,” on the Androscoggin river, at the head of tide; total height of fall about forty-one (40 83) feet above common high tide; whole horizontal distance, 1,980 feet. “The fall can be increased to fifty-five feet by raising the upper dam, and the damage from flowage would be very slight, the land on both sides of the river for eight miles to Little River Village being mostly high.”

Formation of the Falls.—The natural falls consist of coarse graphic granite and gneiss. The rock upon the middle fall projects above the water at several points, serving as natural abutments to the several sections of the dam. The lower fall has an island near middle of stream, Shad Island. There are three pitches.

The minimum power at this point, as at others above, is capable of very great increase, at least trebled, by the improvement of the great natural reservoirs upon the river. This I shall be able to set forth more fully in the next report. It is a power, at the lowest estimate that can be put upon it, of the first magnitude.

Lay of the land excellent for the location of mills and factories, there being a broad natural slope below the falls of sufficient extent to accommodate any required number of constructions. Colonel Baldwin judges the best sites to be upon the left bank. Advantages for the conveyance of water by canals, first-class. The stone in the immediate vicinity of the falls is suitable for foundations and such coarse work. Building granite of excellent quality within two miles, and excellent clay for bricks close at hand. Lime burned in town.

The privilege is owned by about fifteen different proprietors, resident in the vicinity.

-Improvements.—Two dams constructed of wood, leaky at present, as indeed they always have been. The upper or third dam rotted down and was carried away a few years ago. The power has been so much in surplus that the leakage has been of no importance. The machinery employed is by no means of the best construction for economizing power or in other respects. This statement does not apply, however, to the cotton mill. This is located on the middle dam on the Brunswick side, a natural site for a mill of 50,000 spindles being close by it on the same dam, and is the property of the Cabot Manufacturing Co., organized 1857, capital $400,000 ; mill recently enlarged, best of machinery put in, 25,000 spindles, employs about 500 hands, manufactures fine and coarse sheetings and drills. The company own thirty acres of land on the two sides of the river, and seventy-five tenements. Agent, Benjamin Greene, Brunswick. There are also on the Brunswick side two flour mills andtwo saw mills. Upon the Topsham side are one flour mill and two sawmills. Various small machinery, in addition, is run upon both sides of the river. A very small proportion of the power is now used. It was formerly employed in manufacturing lumber, thirty saws being used; now only four single saws and a gang.

Accessibility.—Brunswick and Topsham are connected by railroads with Portland, Bath and the interior. Vessels of 1,000 tons can come within five miles of the falls, but from that point would be obliged to “lighter up,” the channel being obstructed with shifting sands. The river is “frozen for four and a half to five months yearly.” From the falls to Casco bay is three miles, the country a dead level; a railroad could be built at small expense, opening upon excellent harborage.

Second power, Quaker Mill pond, on the Androscoggin, three miles above the Pejepscot falls, will furnish power for a number of saws. It may in time serve a purpose of great importance as a reservoir against the day drouths at Brunswick, caused by the stoppage of the run at Lewiston by night in the low water season.

“Any parties who come amongst us with a view to the improvement of our water-power, will meet a cordial reception and substantial cooperation from both sides of the river.”

Categories: history, Maine, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Meadows Canal

One of the earlier methods of transportation in this country was our waterways, (viz. rivers and lakes) and as time progressed in the early days; canals were often built when there was no waterway. Here in Maine we had few canals that were actually built for the purpose of moving freight and people. The vast majority were simply for the direction of our water powers to better advantage of the mills that used them.

One of the best known canals would be the Cumberland and Oxford Canal, stretching from Portland’s Fore River estuary to Sebago Lake, and thence to Long Lake through the Songo River. A total of 27 locks for the canal and one on the Songo allowed travelers and freight to journey from Harrison, ME, all the way to Portland Harbor. Another well known canal is the Telow Canal, This canal was engineered strictly for the passage of logs from Telos Lake into Webster lake and then on down to the Penobscot River. We will get into these stories another day though. Today, I want to share a little about a relatively unknown canal in Maine called the Merry Meeting Canal.

Constructed in the early 1800’s, this canal was cut for the purpose of trafficking logs from Merry Meeting bay. It was not a successful enterprise, although the mill at New Meadows found it useful for a time. Authorized by the Massachusetts legislature in 1790 before Maine gained its independence, the canal was constructed in the early 1798.

John Peterson, one of the proprietors lived on the Brunswick side of the New Meadows river, and built a dam across the river, and erected tide mills, one of them a sawmill which utilized the canal to obtains logs. Peterson also built ships there at New Meadows and was involved in a successful trade with the West Indies.

Unfortunately for the proprietors, there was an insufficient difference between the water levels of the two waterways, and while if it had been dug much deeper with the intent of navigation for vessels instead of for light traffic with an emphasis on the lumber trade, perhaps it would still be in existence today. Steamboat travel had yet to come into existence when the plans for the canal were laid, but if it had, I am certain the outcome would have been much difference. A great deal of time would have been saved if the steamboats could have travelled from Harpswell to Brunswick and up the Kennebec through this canal.

Dug eight feet wide and only a few feet deep, enough to float logs, the canal would only have allowed passage of very shallow draft boats of the one and a half miles of its length.

William C. Purrington wrote about the canal in “A Look Into West Bath’s Past” and had this to say:

It might be mentioned here that because of the difference in the incoming tides between the New Meadows River and the Kennebec River at Welch’sCreek, and because it was not excavated deep enough, this canal never proved to be a success. I am quoting from Professor George Leonard Vose’s article entitled ” The Old Canal at New Meadows”, which was originally read March 12, 1901, and republished by the Pejepscot Historical Society in a book entitled “our Town” in 1967: “We find that the New Meadows tide came in about two hours before the tide from the Kennebec making it hard work to get logs up to the summit. That after a while the Kennebec tide came up, and balanced that from the New Meadows, so that there was little or no movement of the water in either direction. That the New Meadows tide commenced to go down first, and soon lowered the water in the canal so that it was of no use. The length of the time during each tide that the canal could be used was only about three hours; and this time, depending upon the moons position, was not a fixed time, but varied from day to day through the month.” That canal was built for the purpose of floating logs through, but these had to be poled through with great difficulty. Because of the difference of the dates given in various history books we find it hard to date this exactly, but we can come to one conclusion, that it was between 1179 and 17798, for Capt. John Peterson had removed to Bath by the later date because the Brunswick people had taken so little interest in it.

The dates given are fairly accurate here, as the Massachusetts Legislature granted approval for the incorporation and construction of the canal in 1790. The proprietors were allowed four years to construct the canal of forfeit the right by the act as passed, so Peterson and company would have had the canal finished prior to 1795, and would have been using it until 1800 or so. The following is an excerpt from those records:

Re Canal from New Meadow River to Merry Meeting Bay. Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety

An Act for incorporating certain persons into a corporation for the purpose of opening a Canal from the head of New Meadow river to Merry meeting bay —

Whereas great advantages may arise to the towns west of New Meadow river, and to the publick[sic] in general, by opening a Canal from the head of the same river to Merry Meeting Bay —

Be it therefore Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court Assembled, and by the authority of the same that Isaac Snow, Aaron Hinkley, and Samuel Thompson Esquires, Phillip Higgins, Nathaniel Larrabee, Benjamin Hammon, John Peterson, and Samuel Snow, so long as they shall continue to be proprietors in said Incorporation, together with all those who are and those who shall become proprietors thereof, shall be a Corporation and body Politic for the purpose of opening and keeping open a Canal from the head of New Meadow river to Merry meeting Bay, under the name of “The Proprietors of the New Meddow[sic] Canal”

And by that name may sue & prosecute, & be sued & prosecuted to final Judgment and Execution, and do & suffer all other matters and things which bodies politic, may or ought to do and suffer, and that the said Corporation shall & may have full power and authority to make have & use a Common Seal, and the same to break alter & renew at pleasure—

And be it further Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, that if it shall so happen that any individual or body corporate shall be damaged in his or their lands or other property, by cutting & keeping open said Canal the damage so done shall be recompensed by the proprietors thereof in such sums or proportions as shall be ordered by the Court of General Sessions of the peace in the county of Cumberland A upon inquiry into the same by a Jury summoned for that purpose at the expence[sic] of the proprietors of the aforesaid Canal.

And be it further Enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that Isaac Snow Esqr be & hereby is empowered & directed to issue his warrant to one of the proprietors aforesaid requiring him to notify a meeting of the proprietors in manner as the Law directs — And the proprietors at said meeting shall choose a Clerk (who shall be duly sworn to a faithful discharge of his office) and also shall agree on a method for calling future meetings.

And be it further Enacted that if the said proprietors shall refuse or neglect for the space of four years after the passing of this Act to open and compleat[sic] said Canal then this act shall be void & of none Effect

And be it further Enacted that the said Canal shall be kept open — for the passage of Boats, Rafts & other water craft and for all persons who may wish to pass or transact business therein; and c no fee, toll, or other perquisite for the same shall be required

In Senate March 1, 1790

This Bill having had two several readings, passed to be Engrossed

Sent down for concurrence

Sam Phillips Presid

In the House of Representatives March 5, 1790.

This Bill having had three several Readings passed a concurrence to be Engrossed with amendments Sent up for concurrence

David Cobb Spk “”

The mills Peterson built at New Meadows were powered by the tide, not by the flowing of the river as there really is no current sufficient for that purpose. According to Parker Reed’s History of Bath, Peterson moved from New Meadows to Bath about 1798, where he built a home just above his shipyard on the Kennebec. About 1809, he left for Liverpool England with two ships loaded with cargo, sold them and then moved to Newport, RI, and settled to end his life at Portsmouth.

An interesting side note here is that in 1807, plans for a canal to be constructed from the Androscoggin over to Maqouit Bay were also discussed, but no work was ever started, even though a thorough survey had been completed. The photo in the above corner is an early 20th century postcard from my collection of the New Meadows Inn.

Categories: Geneology, history, Maine, Maine oddities, stories, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: