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The Love Story of A.P. Faye and the Indian Store

Tourists adored Greenville’s Shaw Block Shop

He adored his wife, family & business

Albert P. Faye had a knack for knowing what made life tick, for him and for his store. Records indicate he was born in Van Buren, Maine, in 1902, but arrived in Greenville in 1922 from California.

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Mr. & Mrs. Faye in the early years when they sold baskets out of a section of the Shaw Block. 2018.40.0007

As a young man he worked in the woods, then as a clerk at the popular Sander’s General Store, which is just across the street from The Shaw Block – then, as now — the architectural center of the downtown. In the 1930s, A.P. Faye rented a room there in which to sell his wife Molly Tomer’s Indian baskets. By 1946, the dapper young man on the move owned the Block.

Nothing seemed to faze A.P. Faye. If he had a mind to do a thing, he did it, apparently with great joy and flair. When he clerked at Sander’s Store, which catered to hundreds of sportsmen, he saw that customers also liked buying souvenirs and handcrafted items, so he and Molly opened an Indian craft store in their home on Main St. and erected a totem pole in the front yard.

A.P. Faye, who dressed in a shirt and tie, became known as “The Basketman” and began selling the intricate handcraft out of his car. Eventually, he traveled throughout New England, then throughout the U.S., often on Indian reservations, to buy handcrafted items directly from Natives that he thought would sell in Greenville. He was right. After purchasing the Shaw Block, he lined it from

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Husband and wife Albert Faye and Molly Tomer relax at camp.  2018.40.0001

floor to ceiling with thousands of novelty items that tourists, especially those driving by motorcar in the 1930s through 1950s, found fun to take home. The Indian Store expanded to include the Dairy Chief and a rock collection. The birch bark canoe, built in the traditional way by Old Town Indians, bound by spruce and fir pitch, hung in the center of a room and became a major attraction, as did his tall straw men and wooden Indian carving near the entrance.

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Two women pose for the camera in front of The Indian Store, circa 1950s.  2018.40.0003

The walls and floors were a kaleidoscope of colorful knickknacks, from authentic Skookum dolls to knives, tiny plastic horses and drums to grandma teacups and leather belts. If an item sold, it was immediately replaced with another. Generations of tourists flocked there. It was a must stop for anyone traveling the Moosehead region. Mr. Faye died in 1972. The store, run by his second wife, Ida, closed its doors in 1997.

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Albert Faye and Molly Tomer front the thousands of items sold in their gift shop.  2018.40.0006

A.P. Faye was not only successful in business but also in his family life. He adored his wife Molly, an Abenaki, whose father was a guide in Rockwood. Together they traveled for the store. Together they worked the store. He loved children and, while they could not have any of their own, they lovingly adopted Native children from Indian Island in Old Town and made an adventurous home for them. When he traveled, his family went with him.

Recently, two of his adopted daughters, Sally Tomer Boryszweski and Patricia Sapiel Lizotte, were reunited here at the Carriage House. Boxes of their family pictures were left abandoned in a house in Monson that was to be torn down in the Main St. re-make by the Libra Foundation.

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The Fayes in California.  They traveled throughout the U.S., buying items, ofter on Indian reservations, to sell at the Greenville Store.  2018.40.0002

Last summer we acquired the old boxes filled with family pictures and gave them back. Both of his adopted daughters say he was a great Dad who taught them well.

When The Indian Store closed, his niece Cathy Craft remembered him much the same way. She said that Faye had an abiding love of children and some of her fondest memories was of visiting him.

“My most vivid memory was of going to camp in Rockwood and he used to push my cousins and me on a huge swing tree. He always had a jar of white and pink mints, and a ton of old cars. When he got tired, he’s send us out to pick berries,” said Craft.

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The Indian Store, in the Shaw Block, owned by A.P. Faye, was downtown Greenville’s famous tourist stop “back in the days.”  2015.0066

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Tribute to Rockwood’s Joe Munster

Joe Munster died suddenly on December 5, at 51 years of age. We lost one of the Moosehead region’s best people. He was from the Munster family in Rockwood. He lived for hunting, fishing, and trapping, was a Maine guide, and a great teacher of hunter safety to young kids coming up. He lived large, was larger than life, and could fill a room just by his sheer personality. He could rub some adults the wrong way because he was outspoken and told it just like he saw it. No kid was beyond his reach. He inspired them with his knowledge and pride about their homeland and his wicked sense of humor that gave even the shyest kid something to laugh over and latch onto. He calling card was “Half Man; Half Amazing!” Or, as I like to remember him: Half Cat and All Wild. We knew each other and could talk over just about anything. He was hilarious. He was a terrible tease and he knew some outrageous stories. jmunster2The mold broke when he was made. He was a force to be reckoned with, and ran with a big heart. He will surely be missed here. He always made sure I left his company with a smile on my face and a light step in my feet.

In tribute to Joe, a hunting story he might’ve liked goes like this. This one hunter up in the north country came across a button buck and took a shot. It ended up not to be a kill shot and wounded it in the shoulder. He followed the blood trail until the trail ran out, then lost the track. The hunter and his friends never found the deer. About a week later, another hunter was out. It was the last day of the season. It was nearing dark. The hunter was walking some bush, looked up, and happened to see some movement out through a clearing at a nearby lake. It was a deer, doing an odd thing. The deer was lying butt end in the shallows of the lake just beyond the trees, its hind legs were sunk in, head crouched low, peering outward from the water, searching toward the trees. The hunter raised his gun and shot the deer dead. Turns out, the shot scared off a pack of coyotes that had been chasing the deer. His shot put an end to that hunt. The man hunter went to the deer and saw that it was the one that had been wounded the week before by the first hunter. The wound had turned gangrene, weakening the young buck, making him a prime target for the coyote kill. The man hunter cut the shoulder off the button buck, and brought the rest of the meat home.

~ Suzanne M. AuClair, MHS executive director

Journey of the Templeton Canoe Form

Wooden canoe form a tradition born on Moosehead Lake

The Moosehead Lake region has a great history of renowned builders of traditional wooden canoes. The 20-foot Templeton canoe fit the requirements of hunting and fishing the region’s great waters: it was lightweight, could carry a very heavy load, and ably managed swift waters due to its wide, steady beam. Many of the men who built these canoes lived along the Moose River in Rockwood. They built canoes more or less for a hobby, while making a living in other jobs. But the “hobby” turned into a small business as sportsmen and tourists kept buying up the one that was finished!

One of the best known wooden canoe forms was designed by Fred Templeton. Templeton was born in Willimantic on Feb. 15, 1876 and moved to Moosehead in 1898.

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2000.33.0014  Canoe form.  The bones are shown of an early 20-foot Templeton canoe under construction.

He guided from Mt. Kineo through 1945. He died in Greenville, Oct. 9, 1952. During the winter, Fred said some guides made a living by trapping and by collecting spruce gum, which was purchased by drug firms in Boston for as much as a dollar a pound. He recalled it garnered enough pay that a person could “break even” and, together with the sale of beaver pelts, a man could turn a small profit. Over the years, his canoe forms were handed down from builder to builder. In time, it was used by Merton Comstock, Fred Reckards, and Harold “Doc” Blanchard.

Merton Comstock’s daughter, Dorothy Comstock Judkins-Titcomb, now 89 years old, wrote a fine letter detailing how she remembers the journey of the Templeton forms.

Merton Comstock and his wife, Helen, lived in Farmington, Maine, all of their early lives, but lost a son in WWII. In 1948, the Comstocks decided to relocate to Moosehead Lake, where the fishing and hunting were great. They purchased land on the Moose River from Paul King, built a cottage, and enjoyed life. Merton was a guide, trapper, carpenter and mason. Helen worked for an elderly gentleman, Mr. Tom Addie. Their daughter Dorothy recounts a full life for her and sister Mabelle.

Merton purchased the Templeton canoe forms in the early 1960s, which included a 10-footer, 15-footer and 20-footer. Wife Helen died of cancer in 1969 and it was then that Fred Reckards came up to help him. Fred Reckards was Merton’s son-in-law who had married his daughter Mabelle “Connie” – known as great fly tyer.

Fred Reckards had already been building canoes for some years. Fred was considered a perfectionist and became known for his own clear cedar canoes. Merton eventually decided to move back to Farmington and sold his canoe business to Fred. When Fred lost Mabelle, he eventually married Betty, and together they built up the canoe business. The 20-footer became known as the “Moose River Taxi” for all of its steady attributes in plying these waters. Betty Reckards continues living along the Moose River. Many years later, Betty sold the forms and canoe business to one Peter Smith, and the Templeton forms passed out of the region. Mr. Smith, now of advanced years, recently called indicating that he would like to donate the Templeton forms back to the Moosehead Historical Society & Museums for permanent home. When Mr. Smith is ready, the Templeton forms will be the center of our new Moosehead Outdoor Heritage exhibition.

 

Atlas Plywood: Moosehead mill managers straddle two worlds

By Bruce Marsh

In the spring of 1940 William R. Marsh (1918-2009), my father, fresh from Bliss Business School in Lewiston, made a remarkable trip from Greenville across Canada to, what became in many ways, a sister village on the shore of Lake Superior, establishing a connection persisting to this day. The motivation for this trip centered on the ongoing success of the Atlas Plywood mill in Greenville, which had been established there by 1920. Wanting to expand their operating sphere, the New England based Atlas Plywood Corporation sought to purchase additional veneer mills along with large stands of fine hardwood timber, mainly maple and birch, from which to make veneer. Their forte was originally based on making tough, lightweight packing crates with the slogan: “Carry the Weight, save the Freight.”

Based in Boston and beginning with three veneer mills in Vermont and one in Greenville, Atlas Plywood acquired a major contract to handle the shipping of tea from Africa and India to Great Britain. The veneer mills previously handling containers for tea shipping were primarily in Latvia, Estonia, and Finland and with approach to WW II these mills all ended up under control of the Soviet Union and became off limits to international trade. Veneer making had been invented in France in the mid-1800s and by the 1930s there were literally tens of dozens of plants throughout the U.S. But the Atlas Plywood Corporation was carefully run, highly profitable, and careful in branching out. The Munising Veneer Company on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula caught their eye. This successful mill had closed in 1939 when a severe storm had blown down a critical smoke stack and Atlas was able to make a good deal on the purchase of the entire mill and some land holdings.

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1978.2.61A Atlas Plywood Mill

To facilitate bringing this mill rapidly back on line, the Atlas leadership decided to take a group of managers and supervisors from Greenville directly to Munising. They hired a train and along with these people they took all their household belongings, lock, stock and barrel, straight across Canada to Munising. From Greenville came Douglas M. Cowie as plant manager, Alfred (‘Fred’) Boucher as plant superintendent, along with his wife, Elaine, and sons, Clifford and Paul, and as plant supervisors, Wilbur Carter and Woody Harris. Wilbur (‘Rosie’) Carter –related to Charles Carter in town today—was married to Florence Marsh, my father’s older sister.

After nearly a year in Munising, Florence and Wilbur wanted to have their car brought out and, jobs being scarce for freshly minted accountants, Dad agreed to drive their car out to Munising. Grandmother (Bessie, 1882-1960) Marsh carefully equipped the touring car with pies, vegetables, and other foods along with a bearskin robe and other special items from the farm. For the 1,000 mile plus trip across Canada, some companionship was needed, so Harold ‘Pat’ Hubbard –future husband of Dad’s sister Etta—and Mr. Cormier, son of Vic Cormier — signed on as able bodied travelers. They all set off from Greenville in mid June for Michigan. The route, of course, led straight across Canada, through Montreal where Grandmother’s brother, Harry Wood, lived and had a large family. Grandmother’s (Elizabeth Jane McGown Wood Marsh) family, like the Marsh family, had deep colonial roots, stemming originally from Philadelphia. As family lore has it, with the onset of the Revolutionary War, they found they were Loyalists and when General Henry Clinton evacuated Philadelphia with 15,000 troops on 18 June 1778, the British fleet also carried away many Loyalists. Some ended up in Boston, but the Wood family chose to continue on to Prince Edward Island, where they resumed their lives, eventually coming back into Maine and to Greenville in the later 1800s. While these three twenty-year old young men were enjoying life in Montreal the pies and other perishables, naturally perished. Arriving in Munising, they stayed with Florence and Wilbur, and Dad immediately went to the Plywood mill to visit with the other Greenville transplants.

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 thirty 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 in 1700. When the war broke out they headed for Canada 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 WW 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 Rte. 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.”

 

Moosehead’s Outdoor Tradition: A Sporting Paradise

New exhibit at Eveleth-Crafts-Sheridan barn, summer 2019

 Fred Reckards, a master craftsman who lived on the Moose River in Rockwood, became famous for his canoes. He made canoes in his workshop overlooking the river until his death in 1994. Fred was married to well-known fly tier Mabelle “Connie” Comstock, and began building canoes with her father, Merton Comstock, a respected canoe builder from the Moosehead region.  Eventually, Fred purchased the 10-ft., 15-ft., and 20-ft. canoes forms  from Merton.  In a long line of traditional canoe builders on the Moose River, Merton had purchased the canoe forms from Fred Templeton, who in his own day had built hundreds of canoes off of them.

If you happen to own one, they are much revered, and very much in use today. The 20-footers were called “Moose River Taxis” because they could carry two men and 1,000 lbs. of gear, a typical load for packing a long trip. The canoe was known for its wide bottom and was very stable for trips on Moosehead Lake, the West Branch of the Penobscot River, and the Allagash River.

Next fall, a 20-footer built from the form and used for decades by Moosehead resident Roger AuClair, one of the first surveyors of the waters of northern Maine, will be a centerpiece of a new, permanent exhibit to be unveiled at the Eveleth-Crafts-Sheridan barn next summer.

Some of the exhibit, titled Moosehead: A Sportsman’s Paradise, will also be on display at the Moosehead Visitor’s Center, in partnership with the Natural Resource Education Center, owner of the center. The exhibits will celebrate our region’s famed outdoor heritage and introduce visitors to the spectacular places, plants, and animals Moosehead is known for. We will tell the stories of the sporting camps and have on display many photographs and items particular to them.

The habits of our wildlife population, including moose, deer and bear, and the native fisheries, including wild brook trout and togue, as well as the landlocked salmon and rare arctic charr will be put on display to educate and inform travelers.

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A raw November day on the East Outlet of the Kennebec River, Moosehead Lake.

The great river drainages that flow into Moosehead Lake will be shown, when ice-out occurs, and what traditional foods, gear, and equipment that were used will all be part of the display. The stories and photographs of the guides and the skills they were known for will be told. We will have maps and ask that visitors participate in the exhibit by pinpointing where they have been, what mountains and what waters they have been on, and what they have seen while here.

The new exhibit is an important piece of our culture and heritage. We are excited to be sharing this story of our region, especially as we welcome a new century of tourists. Its telling is part of our mission as we go about interpreting and exhibiting the history of the Moosehead Lake region and its watershed, and in perpetuating the contributions that were — and are — being made by area residents, past and present.

 

Can’t you hear the Wild? — it’s calling you

Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;

Let us journey to a lonely land I know.

There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s

a star agleam to guide us,

And the Wild is calling, calling … let us go.

______

from The Call of the Wild by Robert W. Service

 

 

 

 

Seasoned Warden Pilot Malcolm Maheu identified as July Mystery Man hunter

By Bill Meyer

Note: Long-time Historical Society member Bill Meyer began his career as a fisheries biologist here at Moosehead and completed it many years later as a federal director on the west coast. He continues to keep up with friends and news here. Here is his account of the Mystery Man hunter from the July issue he correctly identified as Rockwood native Malcolm Maheu.

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The “mystery Man” in the July issue of Insight was none other than Malcolm Maheu of Greenville.  A native of Rockwood, Maheu was a long-time pilot for the Maine Warden Service.

I knew Mac more as a seasoned, terrific pilot than a hunter. For years he was a warden pilot for the Maine Department of Inland Fish and Game, Aviation Division.

He had many hours of flight experience and was a delightful gentleman. He taught young WWII men how to fly from a base in Nebraska and knew northern Maine like the back of his hand. Mac was cool in adversity and relaxed in normal flight.

We once had a canoe come loose off the float while in flight almost immediately after taking off from a lake near Millinocket. Mac did a 180-degree turn to keep the canoe from banging into the plane’s fuselage, then landed down wind in the lake we had just left. The metal propeller had chewed off the end of the canoe, creating a “sugar scoop” effect, spinning the plane when we landed.

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Maine Department of Inland Fish & Game Flying Warden Malcolm Maheu

He used a hatchet to pound the prop back into shape, called the Greenville base to report what had happened and where we were, and took off. When the instruments did not vibrate excessively, he returned for me.

Mac and I saw caribou swimming in Prong Pond, just north of Greenville. Mac was an interesting guy and a superb pilot.

 

Odyssey of the Eagle Lake Tramway

The description of the construction of the tramway is a first-hand account by O.A. Harkness, published Nov. 1927 in The Northern magazine by Great Northern Paper Company. Harkness was in charge of tramway operations.

One of the great feats of northern entrepreneurial ingenuity came about at the turn of the last century, when a tramway was built to procure wood from deep in the interior of Maine at Eagle Lake to bring to Millinocket paper mills. The tramway connected two great river systems: the St. John and the Penobscot.

The problem of moving logs to market from remote forests vexed timbermen for decades. Using the river systems was an answer.

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A hand-drawn map showing The Tramway and route of the Eagle Lake & West Branch Railroad and Chesuncook & Chamberlain Lake Railroad.  This map was originally published in the November 1927 issue of The Northern magazine.

In 1901, A.O. Harkness, then working for Eastern Manufacturing Company in S. Brewer, wrote that he’d heard rumors of a proposed tramway to be built at the head of Chamberlain Lake. Fred T. Dow of Bangor surveyed the spit of land that separated Eagle Lake of the St. John River system from Chamberlain Lake, which flowed into the Penobscot River drainage. The distance was about 3,000 feet.

Different types of possible conveyors were studied, then a contract was made with Taylor Iron and Steel Company of High Bridge, NJ, the first in the country to manufacture manganese steel castings. All of the trucks, castings, and clamps of the tramway were made from this.

Harkness writes that nearly all of the machinery was taken across Moosehead Lake to Northeast Carry in the fall of 1901. When the lake froze over, what was left in Greenville was taken across with teams by H.N. Bartley. Brown and Wiggin, of Patten, contracted to move the machinery from Northeast Carry to Eagle Lake. The cable itself weighed 14 tons. It wasn’t possible to move it all in one piece, as originally intended, so below Smith’s Halfway House on the West Branch it was cut into two pieces.

In March 1902, Mr. Dow and a crew began building the foundations for the boilers and heavy machinery on the Chamberlain side. He had a small rotary saw to cut out timber that he ran with a donkey engine, as the crankshaft on the large engine had been broken on the way in. Harkness built a tow boat at Chamberlain, which was ready to take logs from the tramway on May 10, 1903.

The tramway was built of steel cable, was 6,000 feet long, and fastened together to connect Eagle Lake and Chamberlain Lake. At intervals of 10 feet the trucks were clamped on. The trucks consisted of a steel saddle onto which the log rested, and two 11” wheels that ran on steel rails 22” apart. There were two tracks, one above the other. The loaded one went on the top track and empty one returned on the lower track. Halfway between the trucks there was a steel clamp. Both the clamp and the truck fitted into the sprocket wheel, situated at the Chamberlain end of the tramway. This wheel made nine revolutions per minute, so the logs traveled at the rate of 250 feet per minute. The sprocket wheel was geared to a Westinghouse Compound engine, designed specifically for electric light plants. The engine made 255 revolutions per minute with 100 lbs. of steam. Wood was used to fuel the two boilers furnishing the steam for the engines. It took a lot of power to start the machinery, but it rolled easily once it was in motion.

The crew ran into some problems before the tramway was practical to use. Each of the 600 trucks and 600 clamps were fastened to the cable with four 7-8” bolts, making 4,800 bolts in all. It was discovered that the threads on the bolts weren’t cut down far enough to allow the nut to be tightened sufficiently. When the tramway was loaded with logs, the trucks and clamps began to slip. Each of the 4,800 bolts had to be removed and run with a hand die then replaced.

The tramway was used for six seasons, under the management of Harkness, until 1909 when all available timber had been extracted. He said they managed an average of 500,000 board feet for each operating day, the day beginning at 4 a.m., ending around 8 p.m. He said the total amount of lumber taken over the tramway amounted to about 100 million feet. He called the tramway an excellent bit of machinery, very efficient in doing what it was designed for.

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A long abandoned locomotive rests in the woods, a relic from the Eagle Lake & West Branch Railroad. In an average week, more than 6,500 cords of wood were hauled from Eagle Lake to Umbazooksus Lake, where it was then taken to market on the Penobscot River drainage. A pair of railroad cars, by 1933 obsolete and left abandoned, remain as symbols of that logging era.

By the 1920s timber was again ready to cut. The tramway was determined to be obsolete, no longer able to handle the volume of wood that could be cut. It was never used again. Instead, the answer was railroads. In 1926 a railroad was designed near the tramway, laid on the west shore of Eagle Lake to Allagash Stream, along the west shore of Chamberlain Lake, to the headwaters of Umbazooksus Lake. It’s said the most incredible feat was the moving in of two steam locomotives, each weighing almost 100 tons. The trains ran four seasons, hauling pulpwood from one watershed to the next, until the area’s surrounding timber had again been taken. By 1933, train use ended. Roads began being built into the interior for logging.

Today, hikers may visit the site. It’s a long drive. It is not easy to get to, but the curious will find remnants of the long lost tramway and a pair of tremendous full size steam locomotives resting among the trees.

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Today logging trucks move wood along a network of private roads owned by timbering companies.