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Seboomook’s Prisoner of War Camp

By Everett L. Parker

Note: Because we had so much interest this summer about Seboomook’s WWII POW camp that held young German men, we’re running a short series about it, as detailed in Everett Parker’s book. He was the first director of the Moosehead Historical Society & Museums and is now a Director Emeritus. He laid the foundation of the accessioning system which now houses tens of thousands of items telling the stories of the Moosehead Lake Region’s people and places. During his time as director, Dr. Parker also wrote a series of books based on his research about the area. These popular books are available for purchase in the Carriage House office.

 

Few people who venture into the Seboomook area today, and particularly to the Seboomook Wilderness Campground, realize that a World War II prisoner of war camp was located on the site during the 1940s. It is almost as if the veil of secrecy, which was necessary during the war years, continues to this day. Even decades after the camp closed and the buildings were bulldozed, it is difficult to find pictures of the facilities, or the military personnel who were stationed there. There were four prisoners of war camps in Maine during and after World War II: Hobbstown (Township 4, Range 6, BKP WKR in Somerset County); Houlton (Aroostook County), Princeton (Washington County), and Seboomook in Somerset County.

It was not on a whim that prisoner of war camps were set up in remote areas of Maine. The reason was the need for paper products. The war effort called for a dramatic increase in the amount of paper production, which in turn required increased production of wood for the mills.

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POWs quartered at Seboomook were used on logging operations in Burbank Township shown above loading wood.    1976.1.31

At the time, the Hollingsworth & Whitney Company, a precursor to Scott Paper Company, was the only company in the United States producing “tabulating card stock,” which was in great demand by the U.S. armed forces. Since there was a critical labor shortage because of the war, the need for increased wood production, particularly in pulpwood, could be met, some believed, by importing German prisoners of war to work in the woods. There would be obvious advantages, too, in the remote locations; if prisoners escaped, as some did, there would be virtually nowhere to go, and wintertime escapes could be deadly to the escapee.

Less in known about the Seboomook POW camp than any of the other three in Maine. It is known that Great Northern Paper Company contracted with the U.S. Government in late 1943 or early 1944 to use POWs in its woods operation on the northern end of Moosehead Lake. By June of 1944, the first two POW camps in Maine were operating – Seboomook and Princeton, the latter being near the U.S. – Canada border in Washington County. Surprisingly, the POW camp at Houlton was constructed within feet of the Canadian border.

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The barracks at the Seboomook camp was said to have housed most of the 250 prisoners, all from Rommel’s Africa Korps. A guard tower is situated on the left.    2002.49.0005

The Seboomook operation would eventually house 250 prisoners, although the camp was built to house 300. GNP constructed the camp to U.S. Army specifications at the Seboomook Farm, and only a short distance from the Seboomook House. The large horse barn, part of the farm, was enlarged and converted into living quarters for the prisoners, with toilet and laundry facilities in the basement. The potato house, near the barn, was converted into a mess hall, with the kitchen in the lower level and the dining area upstairs. The carriage house was made into a recreation room, and the blacksmith shop was converted into an infirmary on the first floor and quarters for medical personnel on the second floor. Other buildings were constructed to house military personnel and guards. Officers were housed in the farmhouse building outside the compound. It is reported that some soldiers and their wives rented rooms during the summer months at the Seboomook House.

 

Summer 2019 …… a glance back

THANK YOU to all MHS members and donors for making this a remarkable year! You made “Treasure in Our Own Backyard” a great success!

Every year, we work hard to create a fresh, fun, and informative exchange about the stories of the Moosehead Lake region and our people, past and present. This year was super busy and a high success, both in the number of programs we offered and for the number of visitors who saw them. This year the docents’ theme was “Treasure in Our Own Back Yard.” All our tours and programs endeavored to show that.

Toward that end, a first in our region’s history — and to rave reviews — The Moosehead Outdoor Heritage Museum was unveiled in June. Very sincere thanks go to the wonderful financial support from Bob Hirshberg, Telford Allen III, Jock Moore and Cathy Sweetser, and Charlie and Barbara Adams, without whom this year-long project in the making could not have been created.  It is a testament to the commitment to our culture and heritage, and speaks volumes about the good all of our members.  Special thanks, too, to all of our volunteers and to members and trustees who helped bring programs alive, including Bob Cowan, Eric Ward, Bruce Marsh, and Rocky Rockwell.

In addition to the professionally guided tours at the Eveleth-Crafts-Sheridan Historical House, the Moosehead Lumbermen’s and Outdoor Heritage museums, we offered 14 programs, seven of them off grounds, within our greater community. We partnered with many local organizations, including the Natural Resource Education Center, Shaw Public Library, the Moosehead Marine Museum, The Depot, Dean Hospital & Nursing Home, and Forest Heritage Days.

In keeping with our mission, we also partnered with the Penobscot Nation, the Abbe Museum, Maine Archives & Museums, Maine Woods Forever, the University of Maine, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. Also for the first time, the historical society hosted a professional workshop as part of the annual Thoreau-Wabanaki Festival, which found wide appeal and great interest for next year.

Here are a few photographs in a glance back over the summer.

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Retired Forester Rocky Rockwell tells a logging story during Forest Heritage Days at the Moosehead Lumbermen’s Museum.

 

 

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Colleen Moureux of Chewonki’s Traveling Natural History Program educates children and adults during the Live Owls! afternoon at The Center for Moosehead History.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Called “truly treasures in our backyard,” women from the Knights of Columbus group tour said they were fascinated by all of the exhibits. Here, MHS President Bob Cowan tells the story behind brick tea used in lumber camps.

 

 

 

 

 

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James E. Francis, Penobscot Nation Tribal Historian, presents “Penobscot Sense of Place” in the professional workshop offered during the Thoreau Wabanaki Festival in July.

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Trustee Eric Ward demonstrates moose calling during the popular All About Moose program, with moose expert Lee Kantar of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

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During the Games of Logging competition, a logger shaves the tension off a spring pole, Forest Heritage Days.

 

 

Masterman Farm’s Elisabeth Damon Odiorne

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Elizabeth Damon Odiorne    2017.72.0005

Some years ago we were given a trove of personal letters, correspondence, and photographs between Elisabeth Odiorne and her husband and various other family members. In them is a wonderful, important link to our past. She was a fine writer, providing first-account description about her days, months, and years as a member of the Masterman family living on Moosehead Lake. In the coming newsletters to our members, we will be publishing a series about her and what captured her imagination about life here on the lake.

We thank Christopher Livesay for submitting these to the Moosehead Historical Society’s archives. They will be forever saved for public enjoyment and research. Thank you also to Keith Smith, who donated a diary of Mrs. Odiorne’s he found at the West Paris dump and thought enough to send it to the Moosehead Historical Society for safekeeping. These provide many items of historic, cultural interest pertaining to Moosehead Lake and the Mastermans.   — SA

 

Elisabeth Damon Odiorne was born in 1902, the daughter of Cornelius John “CJ” Damon (1858-1941) and Mary Ann Masterman (1869-1947). She was the grand-daughter of Edward Goff Masterman of Masterman Farm in Sandbar Tract, on the shore of Moosehead Lake located between Greenville and Rockwood. She was courted by and eventually married Joseph Odiorne (1904-1983). Elisabeth died in 1988.

Her story begins with her family. Anyone driving to Rockwood from Greenville will see the Masterman Farm sign on Rt. 15. Edward Masterman, George Masterman, John Masterman, and CJ Damon were well known hunters, trappers, guides, and farmers.

Her grandfather, Edward Goff Masterman, was born in Sangerville in 1842; her grandmother, Betsey Ella Cousens, was born in Dexter, 1851. They had four children. One — Elisabeth’s mother, Mary Ann — was born in Kingsbury. The other three were all born at Sandbar Tract.

From an early age, Elisabeth and Joe began a correspondence that would span a lifetime. They started out as pals during their teens, which soon turned into a true courtship, with many letters exchanged over many years before they were united into marriage. By today’s standards their romance might be considered quaint. Their letters are full of the pronouncement of budding love, though guided by the social keeping of the turn of the last century. He was much more demonstrative in his letters, while she in the early years demurred, in apparent no rush to union. There were certain accommodations that had to be met before marriage was even considered, a societal construct understood and accepted by both of them.

After graduating high school, Elisabeth (fondly referred to as “dear Bette” by Joseph), became a teacher. Joe wasn’t sure what he wanted to do at first and was completely smitten with Bette. Letters were traded back and forth as he attended first Bowdoin College, then Harvard for medical school. In 1925, he writes, “Mother asked me when we planned to be married. Of course I said ‘Not until I am through at Harvard’ but I made a mental reservation to the effect that it was not from choice and that I’d ask you to marry me tomorrow if it were possible or perhaps, better, practical.”

In another letter, he writes, “I’ve known you nearly 6 years and loved you more than 5! … and before long you will have worn the ring a year. I shall never forget the excitement of buying it and keeping it a secret,” and later that summer, “I am hoping that you will be as happy as possible at Kineo.”

The letters also spark with youthful fun and full awareness of the social mores of the time. That fall, freshly back at college, Joe quotes to Bette from the French novelist Honoré de Balzac’s Physiology of Marriage, “Between two beings susceptible of love, the duration of passion is in proportion to the original resistance of the woman or to the obstacles which the accidents of social life put in the way of your happiness,” to which Joe comments, “Those should be encouraging, especially the last, when you think that by 1928 we will have experienced 8 years of obstacles.”

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Elizabeth Damon is flanked by her brother (left) and an unknown man, posed after a hunt, circa 1915.    2008.90.0001

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louis Oakes

Forester, First Chief Fire warden, Philanthropist

Louis Oakes (1871-1964) was born in Sangerville and moved to Greenville in 1907, where he remained in residence for the remainder of his days. He graduated Foxcroft Academy and the University of Maine in forestry. During his early years, he was appointed the first Chief Fire Warden by the Maine Forestry District upon its inception in 1909.

Of particular significance, Mr. Oakes financed exploration efforts conducted by his brother, the famed Sir Harry Oakes, who ultimately discovered a $250 million gold mine in Ontario. Louis shared in his brother’s wealth, much of which he invested in his local community for the benefit of its residents.

Louis Oakes was instrumental in re-opening the Kineo Hotel and had the sidewalks built on West Street, now Pritham Avenue in downtown Greenville. His contributions included his alma mater, the Oakes Room at the University of Maine.    1995.4.237

Over the years he acquired large timberland holdings and served as director of two paper companies, including Hollingsworth & Whitney, where he served as superintendent until his retirement in 1951.

One of his most cherished undertakings was the $500,000 Greenville Consolidated School which he gave to the town in 1935. He further established an $80,000 trust fund with the income to be used for certain school departments and repairs. Mr. Oakes was also intimately connected with the Squaw Mountain ski area, believing in the great recreational possibilities of ski development, especially for young people.

He was named one of the outstanding citizens of Piscataquis County in recognition of, among other contributions, his commitment to the community which included terms of service as trustees of the Guilford Trust Company, Charles A. Dean Hospital, and the Shaw Public Library. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Maine in 1953 and, in 1954, an honorary degree from Colby College.

When he passed away in Nov. 1964, his obituary in the Piscataquis Observer read simply, yet eloquently, “Louis Oakes: Builder. If you seek his monuments, look around you.” His beneficiaries included his grandson, the late Louis O. Hilton, one of Greenville’s most philanthropic citizens, and Foxcroft Academy to which he left a bequeath of $450,000.

Greenville Consolidate School, built by Mr. Oakes in 1935, then given to the town.     1978.2.23

His work as a surveyor and superintendent of Hollingsworth & Whitney, and as the State of Maine’s first Fire Chief Warden, is on permanent display at the Moosehead Outdoor Heritage Museum on our main campus, 444 Pritham Ave., Greenville Junction.  

This is an excerpt from an article originally written by Bob Cowan as part of a series about Moosehead Lake benefactors.

John Henry Eveleth: early settler of Greenville

A lot of money was made, and a lot lost — JH Eveleth

 John Henry Eveleth was born in Monson in 1826, died in Greenville in 1899. He seemed to be a man of unbound energy throughout his lifetime. He found mostly successes in many businesses, with the key to his success apparently found in the diversification of that entrepreneurial spirit. At any given time, and often at the same time, he was a store owner, owner and investor in timberlands, a mill owner in a family-run operation, owner and stockholder of steamboats. For decades, he was the Greenville postmaster.

Eveleth began work as a youth in his father’s store in Monson. With his father’s encouragement, as a young man he opened his own store in Greenville, which was successful, but he did not like it. In 1849, he left his father in charge of the store and went to California to try mining. After two years, he returned to Greenville, and here he stayed for good.

In 1874, he bought half an interest in Frenchtown Township, quite possibly the other half was with Milton G. Shaw, another Greenville benefactor. Mr. Eveleth would eventually come to own most of Frenchtown. He purchased many other tracts of land. He saw potential in steamboats and became a stockholder of the Moosehead Lake Navigation Company. He also was the sole owner of three boats. He owned a number of houses.

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John Henry Eveleth

Mr. Eveleth invested in many interests, near and far, from the American Waltham Watch Company in Boston to the Penobscot River Dam Improvement Company. He had large shareholding interests in a Monson slate vein and in the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad. He was a stockholder of a West Cove hotel, the Kineo Hotel, and of the Moosehead Inn, here in Greenville Junction. The Moosehead Inn was located across the street from what is now the Eveleth-Crafts-Sheridan Historical House. When his grand-daughter, Julia, acquired it, she eventually bequeathed it to the Town of Greenville, with the intention that it become a public park on the waterfront for all residents to enjoy. The land passed out of the Town of Greenville’s ownership. Today, it comprises the site of Weyerhaeuser offices and of Currier’s Flying Service.

According to an 1898 biography of leading Piscataquis County citizens, John H. Eveleth was Greenville postmaster for 21 years, was a selectman, town clerk, and town treasurer. His first wife and he had two children; she died in 1885. In 1888, he again married, though had no children in that union. He was Republican and on religious subjects his views were liberal.

In his waning years, he willed Frenchtown Township to his grandson, Oliver Crafts. His estate was willed to his daughter, Rebecca Crafts. Farm Island and his ownership of lands in Taunton & Raynham Academy Grant and Squaretown Township went to his grand-daughter, Julia Crafts.

When asked about the plethora of business adventures he, and many other men, tried in the height of the speculative 1800s, as an old man Mr. Eveleth said simply, “A lot of money was made, and a lot lost.”

One such venture centered on Deer Island. First purchased circa 1832 by one of the earliest speculators of the area, General Aaron Capen, the white pine was cut and sold, to great advantage. He also established Capen Hotel and Camps there. But, in a land deal gone bad, he lost over $30,000 buying Sugar Island from a Mr. E. Crehore. Capen decided to sell Deer Island in order to cover his losses.

Mr. Eveleth himself was not immune to losses. He was used to conducting business on a handshake and gentleman’s agreement. But he once lost the princely sum of $10,000 due him by two businessmen who never did pay him.– SA

Climate, Trees & Ecosystems

TreeBuds.jpgLong-term weather patterns, including day and night temperatures, precipitation, air pressures, and wind direction, that effect a change in climate is part of a program called “Climate, Trees & Ecosystems,” that is taking place on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m. in The Center for Moosehead History, 6 Lakeview St., downtown Greenville.

The program provides a fascinating account of the physiological responses of northeastern forests to long-term weather patterns and an historical overview of the data that has been collected over decades of field research.

Jay Wason, assistant professor of Forest Ecosystem Physiology at the University of Maine, will present information about climate patterns in relation to forests and ecosystems. Sean Birkel, research assistant professor at the University of Maine and Maine State Climatologist, will provide an overview of Maine’s climate, general impacts, and what may be expected in the future.

Dr. Wason joined the University of Maine School of Forest Resources faculty in 2018. Prior to that, he was a post-doctoral research associate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His research centers on the physiological responses of northeastern forests to climate conditions. He is especially interested in spruce-fir forests.

Professor Birkel’s expertise is in climate and ice sheet modeling, with research including Pleistocene glaciation, Maine historical climatology, and today’s changes in the environment.

For more information, please contact the Moosehead Historical Society & Museums, 207-695-2909.  $5 suggested admission.

 

Maine Soldiers at Gettysburg

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Hold at Any Hazard is the telling about Maine soldiers in the Battle of Gettysburg by Civil War aficionado Scott Settlemire.  Hold comes to The Center of Moosehead History, 6 Lakeview St., downtown Greenville on Wednesday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. 

Mr. Settlemire has studied the Civil War for 40 years, reading primary sources and visiting most of the major battlefields. Many Maine soldiers fought at Gettysburg at critical times and places. On Wednesday, he takes the words of these Maine men from diaries, letters, and unit histories to describe their experiences in what became a major turning point in American military history. Maps and photographs help put the intimate stories of these Maine men into context.

Scott Settlemire is a chemical engineer. He grew up in Maine and began his career at the Rumford paper mill. He is married to Candace Ayer, daughter of Nancy Ayer of Rockwood. The Settlemires currently live in Ohio and often return to Moosehead Lake.