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


Heather Rojo said...

I like the idea of the "router" to cut the grooves for the sleighs to haul the loads of wood. It reminds me of the grooming boards towed behind snowmobiles for making X-country ski trails. I'm also working on a genealogy story about logging for tomorrow. It's about the northern part of New Hampshire. Same stuff as Maine. It used to be such a big industry, but it's all going away fast.

Bill West said...

We used to drive up from Milan NH to
Wilsons Mills Me next to the Androscoggin River and there'd be
mile after mile of those big lumber
"rafts" heading doen river to the Brown Paper Company in Berlin,NH.
Didn't see any at all when we went up that way in 2009 for the Ellingwood Family Reunion.

Thanks for the comment Heather and I'm looking forward to reading your post!