Thursday, October 28, 2010


The temperature today was a very unAutumn-like 76 so I went out to
enjoy the weather. After all, this is New England.; we're not likely to see
this warm a day again until next April! So I headed out in Ping the
Wonder Car down Rte 123 through Norwell, then up Rte 3A to
Hingham to World's End. World's End is a land preserve that has
winding paths designed by Frederick Olmstead. After World War II
it was among the locations considered for the location of the United
Nations. Well, we know how that turned out. Back in my younger days
I used to bring my kid brother out there to hike around the four hills
and enjoy the scenery. It's been awhile since the last time I'd been
there (so long in fact that I missed the turnoff for it twice) so that's
where I went today with my camera

As I said, the park consists of four hills, drumlins caused and left behind
by glaciers in the Ice Age. The eastern side looks out towards the town
of Hull and the Atlantic Ocean beyond, while the western faces Hingham
Harbor and the Boston skyline. Admission is $5.00 but the parking is free.
Quite a few other folks had the same idea as I and there were hikers,
joggers, and dog-walkers out enjoying the day and the view.

There was quite a stiff wind today, the remnants of the storms that had
swept through the Midwest yesterday. You can hear it in the video I took:

I spent an hour and a half walking about and taking pictures, although I
didn't go out to the furthest drumlin, which is actually named World's End.
It was nearly 3pm and I know how bad the traffic gets in the area in the
late afternoon. I left for home, driving back home on Rte 228 through
Hingham past houses built the 1700's. A short stop for some groceries
and I was home by 4:30pm.

All in all, a nice afternoon, and I plan to return to World's End again

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We decided to eat when we reached Ellis island so we headed into the
cafe and bought lunch. I had a turkey burger with french fries and we
found a seat outside on the patio. The food was good, and the portions
were generous so the meal was well worth the price. But there were 
a lot of pigeons hanging about the tables looking for food and when one
tourist obliged with her leftover kettle chips we had a ringside seat to the
pigeon version of "King of the Hill". Other than that, it was a pleasant

We went inside afterwards and picked up our audio players and started
our tour. The Ellis Island tour consists of 20 stops numbered 1 to 20.
Each stop has additional information audios starting with number 100 if
you want to learn more about the subjects the exhibits cover. It starts in
the large hall where the immigrants sat waiting to be questioned by
immigration officials. The audios include the memories of immigrants
who came through Ellis island and combined with the displays in each
room they provide a moving experience for the listener.

I won't go into a description of the tour here, but I think it's something
every American with immigrant ancestors should see. My Irish and
German ancestors entered America through Castle Garden in the years
before Ellis Island but I'm sure there were similiarities in the process at
both places. Seeing Ellis Island gave me a greater appreciation for what
my McFarland and Offinger relatives went through to enter this country.

 It took us a little over an hour to finish the tour and we decided to forego
the additional exhibits on the second and third floor because we wanted
to visit the World Trade Center site on the way out of NYC. We returned
the audio players and boarded the next ferry back to Battery Park where
there were a lot of people out enjoying the great weather and a large
number of street artists.We retrieved the car from the garage and headed
up West Broadway which took us right past the WTC. It's a sobering
site and I wondered how long it would take before the construction there
is finally completed.

Cheryl navigated us through the busy street without a hitch and after a
brief delay on Roosevelt Blvd. we were back on I-95. We stopped at a
Crackerbarrel in Connecticut for dinner and there was a brief (successful)
hunt for an open Dunkin Donuts in the wilds of Coventry, Rhode Island,
but we were back here in Abington by 11:05 pm!  It had been a long but
very enjoyable day.

Thanks again to Cheryl for the pleasure of her company and for helping 
make some good memories!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Back in August my sister and I had to cancel a weekend trip to New
York City, but last week Cheryl suggested we try a one day run down
this past weekend. So Saturday night I went to bed early and got up
Sunday Cheryl picked me up at 5 and we were on our way down to
visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

We made fairly good time and were at Battery Park before 10am. We
found a parking garage across the street with all day parking for under
twenty dollars and then made our way over to buy tickets. We chose
the self guided audio tours with monument access up to the base of
the statue and then went to join the line to board a boat. It was a
warm sunny day and while the line was long it moved along quickly.
As we waited our turn we could hear many foreign languages being
spoken by the tourists around us. I was struck by the irony that a
century ago there were equally large crowds of immigrants waiting on
Ellis Island to board boats to take them where we now stood!

As we stood there I noticed the monuments to the Merchant Marines .
I noticed that the figures are leaning over to grab at a hand coming out
of the water and as the waves rose and fell I could see the head of the
drowning figure emerge.

It took about a half hour to reach the building where we all had to have
an airport style security check. It's sad to think it's come to this but I
know it had to be done. Afterward we boarded our boat and we were
on our way to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty.We sat outside
on the second level and had a great view of everything. My only concern
was that my camera batteries were dying, but I optimistically hoped the
gift shop on the island would have some. That hope was squashed when
we arrived. My camera takes AAA batteries and all they had were AA's!
But we picked up our guide audio players and headed over to the
Statue itself. After another security scan we moved on inside.

Now while I'm walking better nowadays I haven't climbed many stairs
for a long time. I'd brought my cane with me, and luckily there is a small
elevator that takes you up to the mezzanine. There's an extensive display
on the construction of the Statue and even replicas of it's face and a foot
that you can pose with.

Once we were done there we went up to the base of the statue to take
in the view. Again, I took an elevator which didn't take me all the way
up but got me close enough so I only had to climb four flights of stairs
up the rest of the way. It was worth it. The view was spectacular. I
coaxed more pictures out of my camera and then we headed back
down to the ground. By now it was nearly 1pm and we wanted to visit
Ellis Island next so we returned our audio players and moved out
to the dock to wait for the next arrive.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Last week singer-songwriter  Nick Humphrey shared with us his song
"The Wangan Camp"  which is based on the poem of the same name by
Holman Day.

Today Nick emailed me a link to another of his great songs, which has
meaning both in regards to Maine and to his wife's family history.

Check it out at and enjoy it at:

Saturday, October 16, 2010


This afternoon I needed a pen to write something down and a co-worker
handed me one. When I pulled the cap off, I was surprised to see it was
a fountain pen, and a disposable one at that!  This brought back
memories which, lucky readers, I shall now share with you.

I was born at the end of one era and the beginning of another. They
were still using ink pens and inkwells in when I started school, and I
recall being an "ink monitor" for my classroom one week at the Frank V
Thompson School in Dorchester, Ma. This meant I checked the inkwell
at each desk and used a watering can full of ink to top off each one. But
by the time I graduated from high school the age of the ballpoint pen had

Now fountain pens did go gently into that good night. Somebody invented
the ink cartridge, a portable inkwell that fit right inside the pen. And for
my graduation, somebody gave me one as part of a "pen and pencil" set,
and so the stage was set for one of the most embarassing incidents of my
college years.

It happened in Prof. Rothstein's History of Western Civilization1 class. I
was sitting in the front row of class with my Bridgewater State College 5
subject notebook open and pen at hand, ready to take notes during the
class. As the Professor started to speak and I wrote a topic header at
the top of the page. I noticed that the ink in my fountain pen had run dry.
No problem. I had a refill with me. I reached into my shirt pocket, got it
out, opened the pen, removed the empty cartridge, loaded the new cartridge

I don't know how it happened. All I knew was that somehow I'd done
something that was causing the pen to link ink at a rapid rate all over the
notebook. I stared at it for a few seconds, then rippend an empty page
from the back of the notebook and tried to blot up the ink. By now I had
ink on my hands and a frantic look at my friend sitting next to me failed
to produce a kleenex. So I closed the notebook with the leaking pen still
inside it.

Now while all this was going on, Professor Rothstein was trying to give
his lecture but I was sitting right in front of him with my leaking pen and
notebook and as he watched the disaster he spoke slower and slower.
By this time the spreading ink was getting closer to the edge of the desk.
And so Prof. Rothstein stopped speaking, stood up and walked around
the back of his desk, and out of a deskdrawer he brought out a box of
Kleenex. He walked back around the desk, handed me the Kleenex,
and then went on with the lecture.

I had a nice wad of inkblue Kleenex sitting on my desktop by lecture's
end. Afterwards I washed my hands in the restroom and bought some
ballpoint pens at the Student Union before my next class later that
afternoon. I never again used a cartridge fountain pen to take notes in

And that my friends, is the story of the stain on my college career!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


The house that stood here
was big and white, and nearly a century old.
It had a  big kitchen, a walk-through bathroom,
And a small cold pantry where we kept the feral kittens.

There was an old barn beside it with a rotten floor,
And every night, except in winter,
Swallows flew in and out at twilight
Swooping and darting about, catching bugs.

There was an arbor with a grapevine
That we sat under in the summertime
And a lawn so big
It had to be cut in stages.

This is where we were living when I woke
My sister in the morning with a rocket ship's roar.
And this is where we were living when she
Married my friend from high school.

I forget how long we lived there.
Was it two years? Three?
Then we moved away from there
And thirty years later, the house is gone.

A housing development sits there now.
New houses with new memories.
But the houses don't make the memories.
It's the people inside them that do.


It's time for the Second Great American Local Poem And Song
Genealogy Challenge! As you can see, I've added music to
this year's event.

In the mid to late 19th century every region of America boasted one
or more poets whose works reflected local history and folklore.
Chances are that our ancestors had read some of those poems during
the course of their lives.

It is also very likely they had heard or sung a song that dealt with
some aspect of their life, whether it was their job or something in the
area they lived in.

So, my challenge to my readers is this:

1. Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region
one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a
legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local
animal.Or if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a video
of someone performing the song.

2. Post the poem or song to your blog (remembering to cite the source
where you found it.)

3.Tell us how the subject of the poem or song relates to your ancestor's
home or life.

4.Submit your post's link here to me by November 18th and I'll publish
all the entries on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th!

Last year we had a good selection of poetry and I'm hoping this year's
edition will be just as great. I'd dedicating it to the memory of Terry
Thornton, a fellow lover of local poetry and folklore.So if you
have a humorous poem or song, that will be entered under the "Willy
Puckerbrush" division. (Willy was Terry's alias for some humorous
posts and comments).

If you aren't sure about poems or poets from your ancestor's area, try
searching for them on Google and Wikipedia using the name of the
area and "poems" or "poets" or "poetry" as search words. Also, if
your ancestors were immigrants, you may use poems or songs from
the land of their birth.

So there you have it. There's over a month until the deadline so there's
plenty of time for a Google search for poems and songs. I'm looking
forward to seeing what the geneablogging community comes up with
this year!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


A few weeks back I shared a poem by Maine poet Holman Day,
entitled "The Wangan Camp" which was about a company store
in a lumber camp.

Well, today, I received an email from songwriter/musician Nick
Humphrey who wrote a song a few years ago based on the poem.
Here's a link to Youtube to a video of Nick performing the song.
I enjoyed it, and I think you will too!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Having failed last Sunday in my quest to find the gravestone of my
distant cousin James C Gurney, I returned to Mt Pleasant Cemetery
in Rockland determined to succeed today. It was another perfect
Autumn Sunday afternoon; a cloudless blue sky, temperatures in
the 60's and more trees whose leaves were turning from green to
orange and gold. When I drove Ping the Wondercar  into the
Cemetery, the only other living beings there were a lady walking
her dog slowly along the road.

I had much better luck this week than last. I'd noticed a large
grave monument with the name "Paine" facing the road as I
pulled to a stop. I knew that James Gurney's daughter Clara
had married George Paine, and I reasoned that if this stone was
theirs, the Gurneys should be buried nearby their daughter. I got
out of the car and noticed that the gravestone was surrounded
by a cement curbing. I walked around the other side of the stone,
and there engraved on that side was the name Gurney.

This is what was engraved on the Gurney side:

James Calvin Gurney
November 3 1831-February 8 1912

His Wife
Rebecca J. Foster
May 13 1831-December 13  1909

Their Daughter
Myra E Gurney
July 26 1850-March 22 1872

On the other side, it reads:
George L Paine
September 20 1856-February 10 1922

His Wife
Clara A Paine
September 2 1857-October 25 1933

James L Paine
November 28 1880-September 5 1963   

There's grave markers in the ground by the stone on the
Gurney side. They read to the left of the step, left to right:

To the right, the first two stones are covered but the third
one is "JLP" so the first two must be for George and Clara.

So, having found what I came for, I took my pictures to
send off to cousin Chris Dunham. I spent a few minutes just looking
around, took a few pictures of the foliage, and then headed on out
for my next stop, the laundrymat

Saturday, October 09, 2010


In the final installment of excerpts from a 1975 interview, GrandUncle
Clarence recalls more about his life as a logger in Oxford County, Maine.

Thanks once again to Alan Johnson for sharing this interview with me.
Alan is working on a book about the region in Maine my West ancestors
come from, entitled "Another Day in Paradise: History and Memories
of the Magalloway Settlements"
. I look forward to reading it when it's

A note here: part of this deals with how Clarence lost two fingers so
be warned:

“When I was 17 they wanted me to roll logs on the carriage and I 
did that all summer long. I loved it.

The next year I went to Stratford to haul logs for George Van Dyke, 

a lumber tycoon with the Connecticut Valley Lumber Co., and 
Holyoke Lumber Co., Holyoke, Mass. That was in the days before 
there were very many cars and Van Dyke used to ride around in 
one driven by a chauffeur. The chauffer drove him onto a high 
ledge over the dam so he could oversee the operation. The 
chauffer must have let the car out of gear because it rolled 
over the cliff and that was the end of both of them. I was just 
upriver working
“The equipment we used was capable of hauling 40 foot logs and 

about 7,000 feet of lumber a load. Our runners were hard wood, 
seven inches by nine and the roll was seven feet long. The bunks 
were 12” by 12” of hard wood and the rockers were 12 feet long. 
I’ve loaded many of them. Mister, drove many of them too.

Several times we hauled over the ice and lookout when she starts

to go under you. Just haul a chain around the horses’ collars and 
get them out. Let the sledge go. That happened more than once, 
I’ll tell you. But, many a driver could tell you that.
I remember the time I was monkeying around trying to make an
adjustment under the mill and hadn’t bothered to shut it off. Well,

she snipped off two of my fingers.

I come out from under her and went down to the doctor. He said 

he couldn’t help me, to go to the hospital. Well, I remember I 
hadn’t filed my report, so I come back here and wrote out my 
dam report.

After and hour or so I got it filed and I posted it, then my friend 

started to the hospital with me. I had my hand in a raincoat and it 
was filled with blood dripping onto the floor of the car. I said to 
my friend, ‘I think I’m going to take a little snooze,’ and then 
keeled right over.

They got me to Dr. Paul Brinkman and he fixed me up lovely.”
I’ve been a lumberjack, teamster, truck driver, mechanic and river

driver and dam tender. I’ve been here at this dam since 1924 tending 
it and next month they’re shipping me out. I might add that I don’t 
like that a bit.

What am I going to do? I’ll probably get my old sawmill into 

operation and saw some lumber.”


Friday, October 08, 2010


 GrandUncle Clarence led an interesting life. Here he talks about
blowing up a mountaintop and handling a team of skittish horses.

And he was still a teenager at the time! :

“I was born March 17, 1895 in Cambridge, NH. I’m 80, and mister, 
last winter I shoveled snow off 35 camps!

Father used to blacksmith for Blanchard and Twitchell. He looked 

after the campsite and he was a good logger.

I never got much learning, left school in the fourth grade and by the 

time I was 15 had my own steam drill. I was going to be an engineer.

Just happened the engineer, Silas F. Peasely, same engineer who put 

the road up Mount Washington, was working in these parts and I 
went up to see him.

He had a job taking the top of a mountain and I wanted the chance to 

do it.

‘Well’, he said ‘I don’t see why not.’ He messed around a little with

pencil and paper and finally he said, ‘I’ll give you $ 66.25 if you drill it, 
blow and furnish your own dynamite. I’ll have the teams there to 
move the rock.’

 I was a tickled to death youngster, I’ll tell you.

My drills was 30 inches and ten feet, and I bought 25 drills and a set of
sharpening tools. Just to test out the new stuff I set the machine up on
granite ledge and let her go full steam. At about 8 inches the drills quit
cutting. I pulled them out and they were as flat as a broomstick. Never
cut the top off a mountain that way

I proceeded to temper those drills and I tempered them right.

I didn’t know anything about dynamite so I put what I figured was 

going to most certainly be enough. I put a box and a half into the holes 
and set my wire. I had bought 500 feet, figuring that would be plenty, 
but overlooked that I would have to double my wire so I could then 
only reach 250 feet.

So I set my charger behind a thicket of water maples no bigger than 

your arm about 200 feet from the charge.

Now, Peaseley had brought his wife and family to see the mountain

top go up and he had his teams and men ready to haul it away.

I set her off, and Jesus, if the rocks didn’t rain down on us. There was
enough charge in that mountain to do the job four times. It set the rock
right in the road. Peaseley was tickled to death. I got my $66.25 and 

felt like an accomplished engineer. Peaseley went on to become world

After that my father took me with him to drive horses, and gave me a 

six horse team. We went through Bethel and Andover with sledges and 
just as I got my team onto the tracks in Lewiston a train came blowing 
and steaming and roaring. I wish you could have seen those horse eyes 
when they saw that. I got down and went up to the leaders and calmed 
them and just lucky they didn’t get destroyed themselves and me too 
into that train.

Then after we got across the track along comes an electric car. Now, 

mister my pole horses weighed 1700 lbs. each and the one on the electric 
car side jumped over his pole. I got them untangled- I’ll admit I was a 
rugged chap and I got the sledge where they wanted it.”

Thursday, October 07, 2010


In this installment, My granduncle Clarence P. West talks about
driving logs over the Azicohos Dam, and describes how a wad
of chewing tobacco saved his life:

“We used to sluice here,  and when I started they had to have 25 men 
on the sluice boom or they wouldn’t open it up. My job was to get up 
in the morning, build a fire under the boiler to get up steam, and open 
the sluice to get them six feet of water. Then the fireman come on and 
took over, winding the boom.

Well, they used to wind in three logs, unmarry them, take them back 

and it used to take six men just to do that. When they was sluicing they
averaged 150 cords an hour with 25 men working.

“They stopped driving here and after a number of years commenced to
drive again. A fellow named Stan Wenslow of Gorham was woods 

superintendent for the Brown Company. He stopped in down to my 
old mill here and said they was going to have a drive here and would
I show him what to do.

I said that I’d like to see ‘em put the wood over the spillway. The sluice

was an antique.

I went ahead and showed him what I meant and I put the whole drive
through with three men, and I didn’t need them. Mister, the second 

year I put that drive over with one man and the Brown company felt so 
good about it they sent me a check for $ 300 and gave me a medal as 

The last drive through here I put through alone with one boy on the pier 

to help me. I’ll tell you, I got a power of enjoyment out of that.

I’d like to put a drive over this dam today. The wood was driven down

to Berlin, NH. The funny part of it was, when that wood came in here 
with bark on it, when it left the pool at the bottom of the dam it was 
peeled perfect. It got an awful cleaning in that dam pool, I’ll tell you.

I'd stay here forever if I could. I love it."

“ I was cutting out of that hill across from the dam and it was steep. It 

don’t look it maybe, but it was. When I made my turn the scoot caught 
on a tree about four inches through. It was yellow birch and it took me 
right across the side of the head. I went right off old Kate and I guess 
she kept on going. The scoot run right over me, runners 14 feet long 
and 8 inches wide.

My friend Littlehill  was right there and he picked the scoot up where

it had run over me and let the tractor go. She walked right up a tree,
fell off and turned over. I don’t know how they ever got it straightened 
up again because I waren’t there.

Littlehill lugged me out to the main road, I don’t know how in hell he 

done it. He was a pretty rugged chap. He piled me into the truck we 
was hauling to and rove me to Berlin to hospital. Kept my head in an 
ice bag all that time. The nurse tried to prise my chaw of tobacco out 
of my mouth, but I had my teeth closed tight around it and nobody 
was going to get it loose. The doctor happened by just then and stopped 
the nurse just in time. She was going to pry my chaw out with a stick. 
‘Leave it in there,’ says the doctor, ‘That’s what saved his life.’ I’d 
been swallowing that raw tobacco juice and it kept my heart going. 
Nothing else could have done it.”

To be continued


I've been so absorbed in working on my sources and with transcribing
GrandUncle Clarence's interview that I missed seeing until this morning
that the latest edition of Jasia's Carnival of Genealogy is up at Creative 
Gene. This one deals with Document Analysis and features fourteen
geneabloggers' stories about documents that helped them breakdown
a brickwall in their research. (I debated entering one of my posts from
this summer when I had a streak of good luck with my own research
but I am trying to only submit newly written articles for the CoG topics.)

This is the topic for the upcoming 99th edition:

"Call for Submissions! The topic for the next edition of the 
Carnival of Genealogy will be: Religious Rites. Baptisms/Christenings, 
First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, church 
large part in many of our family histories. Virtually all religions have 
their rites/ceremonies. Has your family participated in any of these 
rites? Write about it and submit your article to the Carnival of Genealogy. 
The deadline for submissions will be November 1st. Thirty submissions 
will be accepted. 

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the 
Carnival of Genealogy 
using our carnival submission form. Please use a descriptive phrase in the
title of any articles you plan to submit and/or write a brief description/
introduction to your articles in the "comment" box of the blog carnival 
submission form. This will give readers an idea of what you've written 
about and hopefully interest them in clicking on your link."

I already know what I will be writing about for this one. And if you are
a geneablogger who hasn't participated in the CoG before, try it now.
It's a great way to stretch your writing skills and to make connections
with your fellow bloggers!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


In this excerpt from the 1975 interview, GrandUncle Clarence talks
about water power and some of the aspects of logging and lumber
drives. I've seen some of those rafts of logs on the rivers and
lakes up in Maine and New Hampshire, but never knew just how
much wood they could contain!

By the way, the "babbitt" Clarence talks about in the mill fire is a
metal alloy invented in Taunton, Massachusetts by Isaac Babbitt in
1839. According to Wikipedia, "Babbitt metal is most commonly 
used in as a thin surface layer in a complex, multi-metal structure...
Lead-based Babbitt tends to work-harden and develop cracks but 
it is suitable for constant-turning tools such as sawblades."

Here's Part 3:

"We figured 1,000 feet a second of water would give us 66,000 hp and 
none of that waterpower is being used to generate electricity. It’s just 
storage here and the same with the other dams.

From Middle dam down to Umbagog, I think the drop is 400 feet. It’s 

five miles right down hill.

 A string of turbines could run off that and there would be no need for
fuel oil from anyplace. I can’t understand it, why we don’t make 

electricity from our own waterpower. Seems mighty strange to me. 
We got the dams.

My grandfather was a farmer, always had horses. Father, when he first
started out, he worked between Andover and Rumford Point. There 

was a mill there and father worked there. But his main job was in the 
woods and on the drive. That’s about all there was. We worked in 
the woods from fall to spring, come out and go on the drive. Over 
and over. That was our work and just about our life too.

When my mill burned, the lightening went into the mill over the wire.
The transformer, they didn’t ground it. After the fire, we didn’t find 

a trace of copper. The mainshaft was four inch and had babbitt 
bearings and a concrete base. So I figured I could salvage some of
that babbitt.I’ll bet you can’t imagine what happened to them.

People outside watching the fire were brushing their faces. You’d

think the midges was too thick to see through. Not midges, mister,
it was that babbitt going up in the air and lighting on the people’s 
faces. You wouldn’t believe it, spattering of the babbitts all over.

Didn’t we haul wood with horses. I’ll tell you, we had a router. It 

went along with a knife in the runner and it just planed the grooves 
for the runners. Then we came along with a sprinkler, a great big 
water box on a set of sleds. They’d run the water into the runner 
tracks, deep tracks mister. We could haul an awful load in those

The biggest load I ever heard of hauling was over here in the 

Cupsuptic Valley, a fellow by the name of Pete Petegan. He hauled
21,000 feet of logs and he worked for Albert Bean of Milan at the 

We used to cut the trees 40 feet and if we wanted boom logs we 

took one of them and fitted it.

It takes 75 boom sticks 40 feet long to hold a million feet of wood. 

100 sticks would hold two million feet afloat in the lake. 
To be continued

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Here's more from the 1975 interview in Maine Profiles of my
Granduncle Clarence West by Lynne Franklin. In this excerpt he
talks about memories of P.C. Ripley's encounters with game
wardens and a school principal (the "school pa"). Clarence
also recalls how he got his job at the Aziscohos Dam with the
Brown Paper Company:

"Rip and Walter Bucknam built two camps on the Little Magalloway 
and in the spring of the year he would take parties.

Well, one time they got some liqour and about noon they decided to
have some fish. They went and caught 'em and by the time they had
'em dressed on the bank they see the game wardens peeking over
at 'em.

'Now Mister Ripley,' says one, 'you've been breaking the law. I'm
going to have to take you down.'

'Oh, no, chummy,' says Rip, 'me and Buck is having a party. We're 

going upriver.'

'Oh, no.' says the warden, 'you've got to go down river with me.'

'Oh, no,' says Rip, and he starts to grow a little bit. 'We ain't going 

down.' They started to move around a bit and then it started.

Old Rip,he catched each one of them wardens by the nap of the 

neck and he bumped their heads together and as he did he growled:

'We going upriver, we going upriver.' And he danced like a bear 

bringing the wardens heads together bonk, bonk, and swinging 
them out one on each side and then crashing them together again 
and chanting: 'We going upriver, we going up river...'

I tell you they had an iron form in the hop here to make rings on.

It was two feet wide at the base and tapered up so you could make 
any size ring and it was solid iron. I know it weighed 400 pounds.

Rip would take that thing and lug it around the shop and think 

nothing of it. Now, Rip could be awful proud of his children even 
if they didn't always deserve it.

His boy had a little trouble with the school pa here and the school 

pa came up here to see his father.

Well, ol Rip, he talked with the school pa and I could see he was

getting madder and madder. He started stamping his feet and pretty 
soon he went in and got that iron ring form and lugged it out and 
layed it on the bench.Then he picked it up and set it down again, 
stamping his feet, growling, and the school pa took right out down 
the road.'

'About fifty years ago I was working in the garage and I decided to 

ask the Brown Company for a job. I wanted a recommend and I 
went down to old Eugene Croyden, at that time Mayor of Lewiston. 
He always called me Old Trapper and so I went over to the city 
building and asked him if he'd write a recommend.

'Sure, Old Trapper,' he says and you should have seen him. He'd 

stick a piece of paper in the typewriter and zzzzzzippp, bap bap bap 
out he'd pull another one, smash it up and throw it in the trash. By 
and by he got one to suit him.

I got another recommend from Carl Woodcock, one of the professors  

at Bates College. I'd worked on a survey with him for a lawyer. 'Yes,' 
he said. 'I'd be glad to write you one, but I'd rather not do it with you 
looking over my shoulder.'

'Alright,' I says; and here it is better than 50 years later and I'm still

in the job that they had the recommends for."

To be continued....

Monday, October 04, 2010


Back in 2008 I did a series of posts in which I shared a published
interview with my granduncle Clarence P. West in which he looked
back on his life. Recently Alan Johnson, who is writing a book about
the area in Maine where my West ancestors lived, sent me  a copy
of another interview with Clarence. This one appeared in a publication
called Maine Profiles back in 1975 and Lynne Franklin the interviewer.
Clarence was 80 years old at the time and had been forced to retire
from his job as caretaker at the Aziscohos Dam and was not happy
about it. He'd held the position since 1924.

"Rip" was P.C. Ripley, and "father" was my great grandfather P.J.West.
In this installment, Clarence reminisces about a log drive, a trip to
Rangeley, and some advice from "Rip":

“I remember just a boy on a drive. I had the wood going alright
past my station and I built myself a birch bark shelter to get out of 
the rain.

Well, I had got in there, everything going alright, and gone to sleep. 

I woke up thinking I heard something funny and listened for it. I 
heard a clucking and cracking, like chickens but not altogether, 
then I looked out of my hut and lookout! It was afire.

Now, who in the hell could have done that? I don’t smoke on the 

drive, just chewed, you know, so it weren’t me. I looked over by 
the riverbank  and there was the boss trying to walk away out of 

He had come around and found me asleep and played a trick on 

me, burned my shack over my head.

Them was the days mister. You had your breakfast before daylight, 

then at 10 o’clock cookee (cook’s helper) comes up with two pails 
full of beans and a knapsack of biscuits and you had baked beans, 
boiled potatoes, meat, pie, cake, coffee, tea. And at 2 o’clock you
got it again and you got another feed when you got back to camp. 
Four times a day they fed us, but you worked and that’s why we 
fed the way we did. I liked it. No, I loved it.

One time I was working with my father up near Deer Mountain. It 

was winter, but it commenced to rain and it cut the ice right out. 
What with one thing or another, father says we'll go out through 
Rangeley and down around Phillips and to Andover and go home 
that way.

I was tickled to death. I was going to see Rangeley. Why, we went 

through Rangeley and never saw a person. They roll the carpet up
right after Labor Day, deadest place you ever saw.

But go there in the summer season, well, you'll have hard work to 

get down Main St.

They used to have a sawmill there, but that's gone by. All they got

now is filling stations and stores. It's the highest priced place I think 
I ever tried to buy  anything in. Terrible. It costs more to go there 
than it does to go to Berlin, N.H. or to Colbrook, Canada.

It's 26 miles to  Rangeley, 38 to Colbrook and 56 to Berlin.
I was down in Berlin coming up one day and I run into old Rip. 

'Hey,kid' says Rip. 'Can I ride up with you?' .

'Why sure.'  So he gets in the car and we started up.

He says 'You know, the Brown Company has all the ingredients in

their locker to make whiskey.'  

'Yeah,' I says, 'I believe it.'

'Now,'  he says, 'You take a jug and you put your prunes and your 

raisins and...'

He tells me all the folderol you want in the jug and you mix it up 

and bury it in the ground.

'And when you take it out of the ground,' he says, 'you got squirrel 

whiskey.That stuff's so strong it will make a squirrel run up a tree 

Sunday, October 03, 2010


It was a Sunday without a Patriots football game to watch, so after
sorting and loading up my laundry I drove Ping the Wonder Car over
to Mt Pleasant Cemetery in Rockland to search for the grave of my
distant cousin James Gurney. I'd hoped to take a picture to send on
to Chris Dunham. (See my previous post here about the Gurney
connection the Dunhams.) Well, it turns out that the cemetery is much
larger than I anticipated. I decided to start at the back and work my
way up to the front, but right away ran into a problem: the headstones
weren't all facing in the same direction. Now I'm sort of new to visiting
older cemeteries, but this was the first time I've run into this sort of thing.
There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to which way they faced.

So, while I did find a Gurney marker, it wasn't for James and his wife.

Nevertheless, it was a suitable day for a stroll in a cemetery on an
autumn afternoon in New England, a bit cool with a breeze and an
overcast sky and the beginnings of red and gold among the green

After about an hour it was nearly pm and I still that dirty laundry waiting
back in my car, so I had to give up my search for today but I'll return
on Thursday or next Sunday (another day without a Patriots' game). I
got my laundry done and returned home just in time to enjoy a nice
sunset at the end of my street.

All in all, a nice relaxing Sunday afternoon!


Robert Frost was Californian by birth but lived for a time here in New
England and many of his poems speak about life here. The following one
is from his collection "North of Boston" published in 1914, and when I
first read it I could picture my ancestors in New Hampshire and Maine
mending the stone walls on their farms on the first warm day of Spring:

Mending Wall
Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn't it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'  I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself.  I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'