Come find Out!
The Center for Moosehead History
6 Lakeview Street, downtown Greenville
Friday . July 26 . 6:30 pm
Rare facts of early logging speculation and the making of the first steamboat on Moosehead Lake
Wednesday, July 3, at 6 pm
Shaw Public Library
THE JUNCTION — There’s plenty of intrigue, including a mysterious disappearance and suspicion of murder, in the rare details unveiled in “The Men Behind the 1836 Moosehead.”
The little known facts behind the early logging ventures and first steamboat on Moosehead Lake is revealed by first-rate researcher and historian Marilyn Sterling-Gondek at Shaw Public Library, Wednesday, July 3, at 6:00 p.m. $3 suggested donation for the program.
As Gondek tells it, the steamship Moosehead was put into service in 1836 by a group of men that includes Moses Burnham and Samuel Fitzgerald. It was for them that the two ponds near Squaw Mountain (now Big Moose) were named. Burnham and Fitzgerald also founded The Moosehead Lake Steam Navigation Company, an important early business venture for logging on the lake.
Some of the men who pioneered the first efforts at large-scale logging in the Moosehead Lake Region are tied to The Forks, where logs were sluiced from the East Outlet down to the junction of the Dead and Kennebec rivers. Their stories are woven into the history of the great timber speculation of William Bingham’s Kennebec Purchase, the Moosehead Dam Company, and the Kennebec Log Driving Company. Gondek ties the efforts of these early timber speculators together on July 3, with as yet unseen images & maps.
Gondek is an historian from the Old Canada Road Historical Society in Bingham. Her specialty is primary source research. She holds degrees from Bowdoin and Harvard.
The Cecil R. Cole Post #94 American Legion on Pritham Avenue is the very same building that used to be the offices of the Coburn Steamboat Company in Greenville Junction. During the early boom years before roads were built, the Coburn offices at the Junction were used to conduct the business of transporting freight and passengers north from Greenville to Rockwood and Mt. Kineo. When the road between Greenville and Rockwood was completed in the mid-1930s, business subsided on the wharf. By 1944, the Coburn building was closed.
For the sum of one dollar, historical records indicate that in 1947 the Coburn building was given to the American Legion by Louis Oakes, who rose to become a great benefactor of the Town of Greenville from his early days as a surveyor with the Hollingsworth & Whitney Company. Mr. Oakes had the brick school built and gave it to the Town of Greenville; it opened in 1935 and remains in operation today.
In the winter of 1947, Dominic Murray and Gerald Peachey supervised a crew of six men to maneuver the Coburn building from the Junction onto its lot on West Street, now known as Pritham Ave.
The building, constructed of concrete, measuring 22 feet by 67 feet and weighing 70 tons, was hauled 900 feet up a 30-foot grade by three tractors. The land on West Street was offered by the Rev. Robert Mayhew, long-time pastor of the Union Evangelical Church in Greenville and founder of the Log Chapel in Rockwood. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the American Legion building was set on a cellar foundation. Over the years, many renovations to the building were made from the financial contributions of the Legion Auxiliary. The final payment on a mortgage was made August 2, 1960. Today, the Cecil R. Cole Post #94 continues to be an active part of the area’s communities.
Mountain holds popularity, economic hope
as it nears its sixth decade of operation
Squaw Mountain Ski Resort, nestled on what is now called Big Moose Mountain in the unorganized territory near Greenville, has held its own, sometimes precariously, as it nears its sixth decade in operation.
It began with a belief by Louis Oakes in the great recreational possibilities of the Moosehead Lake region. Oakes, an early forestland surveyor for the Hollingsworth & Whitney Company, became a tremendous benefactor of the Town of Greenville. He built the school, town sidewalks, and gave the American Legion its first permanent home.
Mr. Oakes, and his grandson, Louis Oakes Hilton, became intimately associated with the start-up business of the ski mountain. Louis Oakes owned the land surrounding Mountain View Pond (Fitzgerald Pond). Of the land encompassing the potential ski area, 100 acres were leased from him in the early 1960s for an initial 10-year period, with an option to renew it for five years at an annual fee of $500. The lease provided that, if Mr. Oakes owned or Louis Hilton inherited the land before the lease expired, it would be sold to the Squaw Mountain Corporation, founded with the idea of building a ski resort. The sale price would be determined by the number of acres purchased, and figured at the price of wild land, before the ski area was built. Thus began the building of a ski area that today continues to hold its popularity and economic hope for an area increasingly turning to outdoor recreation to maintain its vitality.
In the winter of 1963, Squaw Mountain skiing opened with two T-bars, a base building, and 32-acres of trails. In 1969, four major landowners, including Great Northern Paper Co., Scott Paper Co., J.M. Huber Corp., and the Louis Oakes Estate, formed a corporation to build a new complex. The complex would be operated by the Squaw Mountain Corp., a group of local businessmen with a vision of seeing it run as a family friendly, affordable ski resort to benefit the entire region. Scott Paper Company eventually became the sole owner. By 1974 Scott asked the State of Maine to take it over, and it did, but by 1980 the state also decided to sell. The state leased the premises to Greenville businessman Duane Lander, who had been associated with Squaw operations from the beginning.
“We dreamt of this day. For us, this was more than a dedication –
it was a milestone in the life of our people in the Moosehead region.”
Louis O. Hilton, 1963
The ski mountain developed, with 100 acres for trails and the addition of a 3,000 foot triple chairlift, 6,000 foot double lift, 2,000 foot T-Bar, and 800 foot pony lift. Squaw offered cross-country skiing, 17 trails, and a 61-unit hotel with an indoor pool, two tennis courts, game rooms, restaurant and conference center.
Throughout time, the ski resort faltered financially but was ever popular with the public, with skiers coming from all over central Maine and parts of Canada to “Ski Squaw!” It was considered to offer one of the most beautiful vistas in Maine.
The International Sea- plane Fly-In used to hold its annual banquet there. After several successive financial tumbles and changes in management, including a bankruptcy, in 1995 James Confalone purchased the lease, then the ski area. Mr. Confalone and his investors began a broad renovation of the main lodge, which included a new gym, atrium with heated pool, floor to ceiling large stone fireplace, granite check-in counter, and upgraded hotel rooms. But he, too, ran into financial complications, renovations stopped, and the hotel closed. Despite financial pains, an abiding loyalty continues to the mountain, and its hope for bringing economic vitality to the area.
In order to keep ski operations running, in 2012 a group of local residents got together and formed the non-profit corporation “Friends of Squaw,” which has been operating the lower ski trails, ski rentals, and restaurant since. In addition, the non-profit Red Eagle Foundation (named after famed Greenville Native American “Chief Henry Red Eagle,” Henry Perley), was incorporated. While Confalone continues to own the mountain and the resort remains closed, both non-profits are committed to the mountain and ran a successful 2019 winter of skiing.
Friends of Squaw is keeping the lower mountain active during winters, with a popular restaurant run by local chef Gary Dethlefsen and a base chalet, both renovated through the efforts of Friends. Rates are some of the best in the state, and the views remain outstanding. Lift tickets for adults ran $35 this season and Squaw remains a popular destination in the greater Bangor area for family skiing.
Today the Red Eagle Foundation continues to run a successful ski program for kids. In addition, retired forester and Greenville resident Rocky Rockwell continues coaching the Greenville High School Ski Team. This year GHS student Jessica Cobb skied to a 14th place state finish for Slalom racing.
The deep snow and cold weather of the 2019 winter season kept skiers and snowboarders at Squaw cool and happy customers.
“Maine’s future Number One industry will be tourism. Squaw Mountain
and the Moose- head Lake Region look forward to being the leader
in this field in the state of Maine.” Duane Lander, 1988
Post #94 American Legion named for him
The first soldier to enlist from Greenville, last to return
Cecil Ray Cole, son of Charles D. and Dorothy (Bowker) Cole, was the first soldier to enlist in World War I from Greenville, and the last to return. The American Legion Post #94 on Pritham Avenue in Greenville was named in his honor.
He enlisted in the Navy on April 7, 1917, soon after war was declared by the United States. Because of his eyesight he was at first rejected for duty, but he re-enlisted on June 7 in the Rhode Island Coast Artillery. On the call for volunteers for engineers, at his own request he was transferred to the 101st Co. E U.S. Engineers on August 1, whereby he entered training at the Wentworth Institute in Boston. In late September he sailed to France, where he received intensive troop training. He was killed in action in his first battle, at Chateau Thierry, July 19, 1918.
He was buried at Lucy-le-Bocage Aisne, France and, according to a news article, his body was returned to Greenville two years later. Townspeople turned out in appreciation of his sacrifice in a memorial service held at the Union Church, with an address given by the Rev. Harry C. Vrooman and special readings by Mrs. Fred D. Bigney and Mrs. Squires.
Cecil Cole was born in Webster Plantation (near Springfield, Maine) on May 28, 1896. The family moved to Kingman and by 1911 had moved to Greenville, where they remained. He was educated in public schools in Kingman and Greenville.
A Poem From France
One day I got to feeling queer
And took a funny notion.
I got the idea in my head
That I wanted to cross the ocean.
That funny idea worked on my brain
And things got all twisted,
And never was I satisfied
Until I had enlisted.
And then one day the order came
That we would have to start,
For in the mighty struggle
Uncle Sam had taken part.
So we crossed the mighty Atlantic
Where the Kaiser’s U-Boats roam,
And we landed here in Sunny France
Five thousand miles from home.
They call it Sunny France at home,
But that is the wrong name,
For to tell the truth,
It hasn’t shone ten minutes since we came.
But some day we are going back
To give you all three cheers;
To brighten up your faces
And drive away your tears.
And when we see the sundowns
In good old USA,
We will put up with most anything
And be satisfied to stay.
And when they mention France to us
We’ll simply let them pass,
And if they do not like it,
They better not give us any sass.
This poem was included in a letter written to
his brother the day before Cecil died.
Marsh family, Moosehead mill managers straddle two worlds (Part II)
By Bruce Marsh
Lumbering in all its manifestations was deeply ingrained in all aspects of the Marsh Family existence. Although in the summers Grandfather Marsh (William D. Marsh, 1888-1949) was a highly successful fly fishing guide, leading canoe trips sometimes upwards of 200 miles, in the winter he had his own logging operation, cutting hardwood logs for plywood at Rainbow Lake, Prong Pond Mountain, and several other locations. He employed as many as 30 men and was unusually keen on judging the best timber, laying out roads, and doing most of the cooking. He taught all his sons (Dad, and Carl, Norm, Cobe, Clair, and Lee Roberts) how to scale logs for board feet and also how to carefully and quickly analyze the quality or grade of a log.
After meeting with all the Greenville people, Dad was taken through the mill, which was now up and running at near maximum capacity. They ended up at the log-receiving end of the mill out in the log yard, where there was a man they wanted him to meet. From a distance Dad observed the log-grader and scaler who surprisingly more often than not after looking a log over simply just wrote down the grade and board footage without even using the scale stick or rule, giving a receipt to the logger. Dad’s Dad could do this with accuracy, but he had never known of another man to be able to do this. When he asked about this man’s accuracy, Doug Cowie said: “He’s perfect. Spot on. Let me introduce you to him.”
This was Gordon “Earl” Steinhoff, a man who would forever change Dad’s life, becoming his fast friend, his father-in-law, and our grandfather (1899-1983). The Steinhoffs were also loyalists, having come here from Germany to pair up with General Burgoyne’s Hessian mercenaries fiercely fighting against, oddly enough, the Marsh Family at Saratoga in the autumn of 1777. After the war they set up shop near Niagara-on-the-Lake, later slowly making their way westward to southwestern Ontario.
Earl was one of six boys and a couple of girls, immigrating to Northern Michigan with his mother Catherine (Robbins) Steinhoff (1855-1920) and two older brothers when he was about five. The Steinhoffs were all highly talented, playing most any musical instrument, making violins, rebuilding complex engines, inventing all sorts of devices, and were generally pious, sober, and much revered. Earl was no exception. He had worked at various millwright jobs, built a beautiful cabin cruiser in his backyard in 1936, and had worked extensively in logging camps as a timber grader, scaler, and bookkeeper. By this time, now 41, he was bored with the whole lot of grading timber, and his real interests were in the genetics of breeding and raising mink. It was all the mill supervisors could do to keep him interested, as he was apt to go off for trapping season, and in mid-winter leave for the outer islands on Lake Superior to catch lake trout. The scene and conditions were ripe for Dad to take over Earl’s job handling log procurement for the Atlas Plywood.
Earl took a real liking to Dad. He had sons Dad’s age, and he immediately took him home to dinner where he met Earl and Roberta’s daughter Audrey, who within a year he married. Audrey was determined not to marry but to gather funds enough to go to nursing school, but Dad’s Maine persona won her over. She was very much in the fashion of Dad’s sisters, fun loving, athletic, and intellectual. Although as the relationship became serious, Grandmother Marsh cautioned him to, “Be careful, before making a decision, come back to Greenville and breathe some fresh Maine air.” But the die was cast; Dad would spend the rest of his life in the Northern Michigan woods with summer trips back to Greenville. A new corridor of shuttle diplomacy opened to and from Greenville, where Dad’s parents and sisters, Etta and Virginia, came off and on to Munising and Mother’s brother Bill Steinhoff went to Maine to experience the Allagash Country with Grandfather Marsh.
The fit between our New England father and his new family in Michigan was tailor made. Mother’s family was large, loaded with aunts, uncles, and cousins, with a family life that revolved around woods and waters for both livelihood and recreation; in fact, there was really no boundary between the two. Both sides of Ma’s family came from Canada around 1900 following the booming lumber economy of the Upper Great Lakes — a response to the ravenous housing market in cities of the lower Great Lakes — and they were all well versed in the lumber business in some fashion.
Not long after joining the Atlas Plywood, Dad took over Gramp’s job as log scaler when Gramp moved on to mink, and in this role Dad distinguished himself, not only in buying and evaluating timber but in managing rough and tumble men, the lumberjacks, truck drivers, sawyers and all the others who kept the log and lumber system running. His keen skills were no secret among the other mills in town, and in 1956, when the Atlas Plywood closed down, Dad went to work in the forestry division of the Kimberley Clark Paper Company, the principal employer in the county. This job brought him even deeper into woods operations where he honed his skills and expanded his range of operation over several counties, always with a transcendental curiosity about the lands he covered.
He loved the woods with an affection deeper than can be described. At its root was an eternal fascination with forested landscapes. No matter what their character, he found them endlessly interesting, even the mosquito-infested swamps, and this fascination included the people who lived and worked in the woods as well, where they came from, how they lived, and how they thought about things. In the 60 years he devoted to the Northern Michigan woods, he never forgot a single place, section corner, person, logging operation, or related event.
A particular day spent cruising timber in, say, mid-January 1968, he might recall 20 years later with uncanny clarity and detail translating into a candid, modest story stretching on to an hour or more. The central section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, an area of some 5,000 square miles, became his backyard, and he knew it so well that he moved through its most remote parts with an intuitive sense of direction and distance equal to any of the great explorers.
After World War II, the global market for plywood became highly competitive with foreign producers coming into the picture. By the mid-1950s Atlas had 33 plants, but their leadership had become troubled and to enhance revenues a number of plants, including the one in Munising, were liquidated by selling off equipment to other companies as far off as Texas. By this time most of the original Greenville people had retreated back to Maine except for Fred and Elaine Boucher who Dad continued to visit, sharing news on Maine and mutual friends. Dad’s strong Maine accent always stood out to others as my friends sometimes said, “Your Dad talks funny.” And it was then that I realized I had become bilingual, often translating a word or two of Dad’s to the local Lake Superior dialect, which all added to his universally recognized Maine charm.
Our connection to Greenville now took on a new dimension in the form of periodic summer vacation trips to Grandmother’s farm now under the guidance of Uncle Lee Roberts, which became a high point in our lives, traversing Route 17 across Canada and staying at all sorts of quaint cabins along the way, eagerly spending our allowances on odd items in odd gift shops and all the time trying to save some for the Indian Store. Riding horses, milking cows, delivering milk around Greenville, fly fishing, listening to stories, and bathing in swarms of Maine relatives made Greenville forever special to us.
In the end, it turns out that Greenville and Munising have much more in common than simply similar timber. Each is a small town at almost the exact same latitude near the Canadian border, on large bodies of water, with readily accessible beautiful bays and islands, and a rich heritage. The biggest differences are the lack of real mountains in Michigan, the huge integrated network of rivers and lakes in Maine, and the general relative preponderance of high, swamp-free land in Maine. On the other hand, Lake Superior being 650 by 150 miles in size and almost 2,000 feet deep in places is a body of water to be reckoned with. No sane person ever used a canoe on Lake Superior where, with miles of large picturesque sandstone cliffs, there is no place to hide and waves can get to 15 feet, occasionally breaking in half 750 foot ore carriers. Above all, each terrain furnished our Maine and Michigan families with an incredibly rich playground to explore, fish, hunt, log, and learn the ways of bygone days.
These similarities are also seen in many others regardless of their original heritage. In a recent conversation with Becky and John Dobbin, I asked how they ended up coming from Florida and establishing a summer home at Harfords Point. It seems they looked all over and narrowed it down to two beautiful places. The other place, they said, is also picturesque and charming, but was a place I would never have heard of. “Try me,” I responded, and John said, “Munising, Michigan.”
Dr. Bruce Marsh is Professor Emeritus in the
Department of Earth & Planetary Science at
John Hopkins University