Tuesday, March 17, 2015


((I first published this and two other posts back in 2008. Today is the 120th
anniversary of Clarence's birth, so I thought I'd repost the series. It's an
interesting look into life in the lumber industry in early 20th century

My granduncle Clarence P(hilip) West was the caretaker of
the Azizcoos Dam in Wilsons Mills, Oxford, Maine for
fifty years. He was born in Cambridge, New Hampshire on
17 March, 1895 to Philip J. West and Clara (Ellingwood)West
and died on 5 June 1983. The SSDI gives his place of
residence as Errol, Coos Co., New Hampshire at the time
of his death.

Clarence married Mabel Jane Ilsley on 25 Jun 1919 and
together they had three children: their son Lee and their
daughters Leita and Ruth.

When Wilsons Mills celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1975
they decided to mark the occasion by publishing a book:
“The History of Wilsons Mills-and- the- Magalloway-
It includes an interview with Clarence about
his memories of his time at the Azizcoos Dam and it makes an
interesting companion to the memories my Aunt Dorothy
sent me about her and my Dad’s time there as children,
which I posted here.

Today is the 120th anniversary of Clarence’s birth, so in
honor of him, here’s part one of the interview from the book:

“Clarence P. West, at eighty still caretaker at Aziscoos
is an interesting man to talk with. He was here
recently to look at some
old pictures that had been brought
into the book committee on the
building of the Azizcoos
Dam and we got him talking of the old days.
He came here
as caretaker in 1924 and has been here ever since. We
asked him how he happened to come here. These are some
his comments.

“When we were first married I went to Pontook to work on
a survey
with Walter Sawyer. Mabel and I lived in a tent
that summer. Sawyer
would have had a nice dam there if
they had let him. He had one
planned that was near four
thousand feet across with penstocks clear
to Twitchell’s
for power. From that job I went to Lisbon to work in a

sawmill for West Bros. Later I went to see Mr. Bean about
a job and
he told me to send in my application. There were
about a hundred
other applications but when they got
narrowed down to five I was still
one of them. After
Vashaw died, Lewis Chadwick was transferred to
Errol and
I came up here. That was in 1924.

When the new Dam was built the gate house on the old dam
removed and set up for a blacksmith shop. It still stands
there to-day
just in back of the parking area. You know, the
timbers in that old
shop were hewed by hand.

One of the big towers to hold the cable was up back of the
the other one was almost over to where the road to
Rangeley is now.
There was a double track from the end of
the dam to the quarry up
back on the hill. The cars worked
from a cable, when one went down,
the other came back
up. There was a track with a whole string of cars
that they
loaded with a steam shovel. The tops of the cars turned

around to dump. That shovel was on wheels and they had
to keep
planks under the wheels all the time. It was set up
in a pit to load dirt
for fill on the south side of the cam. The
cars were hauled along the
tracks by a big black horse. And
when the whistle blew at quitting
time that horse stopped
right in his tracks and there he stood till
someone unhitched
him and headed him for the stables.

When they were building the dam it was nothing to meet
a string
of horses a half mile long from Colebrook to

(to be continued)

Source: The Town of Wilsons Mills Maine, “The History of
Wilsons Mills-and- the- Magalloway-Settlements”
(Wilsons Mills, Me. 1975.) pp.94-95

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