HARVESTING WOOD IN THE 20
TH CENTURY

Article prepared by John Dudley 2014
 

At the beginning of the last century, logging was much unchanged from colonial days. Oxen or horses and men powered axes and saws [cross-cut or buck saws]. About WWII, machines supplied power, chainsaws, bulldozers, cable skidders and trucks. Fewer men produced more wood. Before the century ended, even fewer huge machines guided by operators in climate controlled cabs produced even more wood. Tree harvesters [saw or shear] and forwarders or grapple skidders were and still are found at most woods operations. Wood yards featured delimbers [stroke or pull through], chippers or tub grinders, mechanical loaders and mostly tractor trailer trucks. And fewer men working in the woods resulted in fewer families living in rural communities in eastern and northern Maine. Many of the rural towns are disappearing. Alexander, an exception, became a bedroom community for those working in Calais and Woodland and just a few loggers.

Some good information here came from Fletcher Perkins and Charlie White in the spring of 2014. Great memories!


WOOD FOR BUILDING

From earliest times settlers in Maine have cut trees for building ships, houses and furniture Many woods operations in Alexander were for white pine that was driven down the rivers to the mills of East Machias, Dennysville and Calais. Some lumber for local building was sawn at the mill on 16th Stream or at Cheney’s Mill or Labelle’s Mill on Pokey Lake. Pine and spruce logs are still harvested for building, but now are transported to the mills by trucks.

There was a Log Hauler Road from 16th Stream area in Alexander to Woodland via the Flat Road area and down Wapsaconhagan Stream. Local teamsters used this to haul spruce pulp to the paper mill starting in 1906 and spruce logs to a big saw mill in Woodland starting in 1911. Tommy Long used this road to haul wood with horses or oxen & sleds.

                                         
That’s Forrest Gillespie on a stack of    logs in 1944. The Army tank was used by Cooledge White for opening woods roads and skidding. Everett Bates is in front of logging camp in 1957, all near 16
th
Stream.

Ellery Frost cut pine on Sixteenth Stream, drove it down Stream, boomed it, and the wind helped move it to Meddybemps Village, probably the last to drive there.

Wood for building is being harvested today in Alexander, but most harvest operations are intergrated. Huge machines cut trees of many species that are separated in the wood yard. Wood for building is the most valuable for the logger and landowner.
 

WOOD FOR FUEL

Cordwood was sold either 48 or 56 inches long. The buyer would then cut up the wood stove length, 14 inches or 16 inches or 24 inches. Firewood was sold cut to length, either split or unsplit. Two articles in COMMUNITY LIFE tell of earning cash by selling firewood. Under DIARIES – Lelia Scribner’s 1918 Diary we read of her husband Mort making 17 trips to Woodland with fuel for two customers, Reid Seamans and Ernest Wilson, both former Alexander residents. Under MEMORIES we find Bert Varnum’s story of firewood sales in 1933 and 34.
 

HILLSIDE FARM – FIREWOOD SALES

LEFT TO RIGHT: Vesta, Adla (seated), Aunt Ada Berry, Muriel and Carrie in 1939. What caught my eye in this image is that huge pile of wood. Bert told how that each winter the men would cut 300 cords of firewood. The day after the March town meeting men would start sawing the wood to stove length. They used a sawing machine and could do about 15 cords a day. Later the wood would be split with a mechanical up and down splitter. Earl and Bert applied labor to a product of the land to produce cash income.

An account book tells of wood sales in 1933 and 1934. Here are some names of buyers:

John Tori $27.00 Charlie Tori $30.00 Phil Holmes $57.50

Austin Bradish $58.50 Mrs. Alley $79.00 L. Brooks 16 cords at $9.00 each

Emery Babb $7.00 Mrs. Emack $69.00 Peterson Brothers 25 cords cash

Dr. Murphy $49.00 C. C. Whitlock $24.00 Mr. Bass 3¾ cords furnace wood $33.75

Tori Brothers ran an ice cream store on Main Street in Calais (across from NAPA today) and purchased cream from Earl and Bert Varnum. The Peterson Brothers, Pete, Carl and Bill ran a Chevrolet garage on Main Street in Calais, about where NAPA is today.

On November 1, 1940, Al Richards of Hillside Street in Woodland was billed $64.00 for wood delivered between August 11 and October 23; five cords of range wood at $8.00 per cord and 3 cords of heater wood at the same price. Most deliveries were of 1½ cords.

Today commercial loggers will often separate some hardwood in the wood yard and sell it tree-length to individuals or to a commercial firewood business. Then and there the logs are cut to required stove length and split as needed
 

WOOD FOR SPOOL BARS 1933 – 1945

Probably in the winter of 1939 - 40 Roland Perkins and his sons Fletcher and Ivan were hired by Mel Hunnewell to cut white birch. The trees were felled by 2 men with a cross cut saw, limbed with axe, twitched to wood yard on river bank by horse, cut to 50 inch length with buck saw and piled 4-feet high. Mel then trucked it over ice to Stowell MacGregor Mill at lake-end of Pokey Road. Trucks were loaded and unloaded by man power until the early 1960s. With spring approaching, Fletcher was offered a job in the mill by foreman Coolidge White.


Mel Hunnewell on the Big Goodhue – image from Rena Kneeland
 

WOOD FOR PAPER

The local market for wood changed greatly after 1900. In 1905 a dam was built at Sprague Falls in what would become the village of Woodland in Baileyville. A paper mill was built and on September 22, 1906 the first roll come off the paper machine. The mill was called St. Croix Paper Company and eventually it owned thousands of acres of forest land that was managed by Eastern Pulpwood Company. Eastern Pulp also purchased wood from other landowners.

At first tree-length peeled spruce was used. It was hauled to the mill along winter roads cut through low flat lands. Tommy Long either hauled or remembers others hauling wood by horse drawn sleds on a road that started near 16th Stream in Alexander, went along the Flat Road and followed Wapsaconhagan Stream to Woodland. At one point Lombard Log-haulers used this road to move wood to the paper mill and or to the St. Croix Spruce Sawmill, located near Woodland Junction from 1911 – 1919. Products of these two mills got to market via railroad.

Georgia Pacific acquired St. Croix in 1963. They opened the Chip & Saw mill in 1975 and shortly thereafter a Chip-board plant. Both used wood transported by trucks or rail and both. These plants ceased operations. G-P sold the timberlands. Domtar followed by Woodland Pulp, LLC acquired the paper mill.

Early on, wood for paper was purchased in 4-foot lengths. Percy Strout of Alexander was known for his ability to saw up tree-length wood to 4-ft lengths in the woodyard. He had long and strong arms. Some mills still use it. G-P tried buying 8-foot wood and eventually went to buying tree length green wood that they would process in their yard into peeled wood that they chipped.

In 1942 EPC rented out a power saw. It was a two-man MAUL, first power saw in Alexander. Later they rented out McCulloughs [a one man saw] for $1.00 a day. Ivan Jeffery was EPW buyer. Bruce Seamans of Princeton scaler for St Croix or GP, as was Clarence Cox.


Foster Carlow’s truck load of pulp

 

PEELED PULP

About 1939 Fletcher Perkins and his brother Ivan were hired by Mel Hunnewell to cut, limb and peel fir on lit #16 in Alexander. The wood was on a piece of low land bounded by Pug Lake, Upper Mud Lake and the Maine River. Peeling fir or any tree is best done while the sap is running between the full moon in May and the full moon in August.

A neighbor named Morey Hunnewell had told them that the place was full of snakes, “big as your arm and as long as a rake handle”. So the boys built a platform about 3 feet off the ground and pitched their tent there. They weren’t afraid of snakes and never saw one while there. By the tent they had a fire pit for cooking. Generally the worked from dawn to dark, “What else was there to do?”

They would walk from their home on lot 70 [behind L. S. Lord’s Well Drilling], west on the Airline, down the South Princeton and Pokey roads, then along woods roads and trails to their campsite. They walked in on Sunday night and out on Saturday night. On Sunday they carried enough food and supplies for the week.

Their tools were a bucksaw and an axe each. They were paid ten cents for each tree cut, limbed and peeled. In the fall, their father Roland Perkins and Morey Hunnewell came in, sawed the trees to 4-foot length and hauled them on a horse drawn jumper (sled) to the edge of the meadow along the river. After Pokey Lake and the meadows were frozen, Mel would go down in his ton and a half truck and haul the wood to Woodland.

King Maxwell cut pulp on Breakneck. Axes, bucksaws, men and horses; He used a sled road from the mountain to Everett Dwelley’s yard next to Pleasant Lake. This was when we first started hauling pulp by truck to Woodland. Charlie Gillespie of Meddybemps hauled the pulp with his Mack trucks likely soon after 1929. King lived in Alexander from the mid 1920s to the mid 30s.


Peeled pulp at Sucker Brook in Crawford – ca 1958 from Luther Thornton Images
 

CARLETON DAVIS OPERATIONS - 1949 TO 1960

After Fletcher Perkins returned from WWII and a short stay in Portland, he went to work for Carleton Davis. Carleton had bought most of lot 97 [Breakneck Mountain] and the Sears Lot [92]. His crew was made up of Roland Perkins, Earl Seavey, Harold Dwelley and Fletcher. Over a period or years they cut spruce and fir for rough pulp [i. e. four foot & not peeled]. Pine logs [12, 14, or 16 feet long] and firewood [4 foot]. The tools were same old bucksaw and axe. Starting about 1950 Fletcher got a Precision chain saw that he wore out cutting trees, limbing and cutting to length. Carleton also had a bulldozer that he used for opening roads and skidding [especially big pines]. Carleton had his own truck to take the wood to market. He paid $6.00 for a piled cord of 4-foot wood.
 

FLETCHER PERKINS OPERATIONS – 1970 to 2000+

Fletcher worked construction in Woodland during the 1960s and bought some land. About 1970 he bought an old Huff tractor that was rigged as a skidder. It was top heavy so Fletcher got a used Timberjack skidder from Vince Dineen and used it for years. Fletcher’s source on income became his blueberry lands and woods operations on his own land. Long after normal retirement age could be found putting up a load of pulp or firewood.
 

CHARLIE WHITE OPERATIONS 1950 – 2014

Like so many others Charlie started in the woods with an axe and buck saw. He owned and used horses, his most memorable was Maggie. She was a 2300 pound western horse that had never been shoed. He kept Maggie at Les Worrell’s [Herbert Perkins] on Gooch Hill while he cut pulp. Maggie wouldn’t go to the woods alone, i. e. go from the wood yard to where the chopper was cutting down trees. But this big horse would take a twitch [several delimbed trees] to the yard alone. The only problem was that she was so strong that if the twitch got caught up on a rock or stump, she would pull so hard as to break her harness or whiffle tree. Charlie got Maggie from Stan Sabean in Machias and sold her a year later to  Eastern Pulpwood.
                   

Pulp Crew on Breakneck – Dukey Hunnewell, Calvin & Coolidge White. Charlie White with Maggie 

Charlie turned his money into land. He eventually owned 1000 acres on 16th Stream and 460 acres on Breakneck. His crew included Everett Bates, Lawrence Lord, Roy Carlow, Elden Hunnewell, son Richard Hunnewell, Dyer Crosby & Alden Batram. Horses were still in use and men were using McCulluogh 325 chainsaws. Charlie hired Irving McKeown to truck with GMC. Neil Seavey was the striker. [The striker helped the driver load and unload the truck. In the 1960s this man was replaced by a mechanical loader.] Arthur Perkins sometimes drove for Irving.

Pliney Frost worked for Charlie. Pliney ran a crew of Passamaquoddies and kept the books. This was the only time Charlie KNEW that his operations were profitable.

At one point Charlie and Lawrence Lord trucked pulp from Chain Lake to Machias. Charlie had a ‘48 Dodge & Lawrence a ‘53 Dodge. They were paid $6.00 a cord loaded in boxcar. Each worked alone, no striker.
 

WOOD FOR ENERGY

The more recent integrated wood harvest operations include a big wood chipper or wood grinder in the yard to process solid wood [trees including their limbs and leaves] into chips. The trees chipped normally aren’t suited for other uses because of size, specie, or defect. Their value to the land owner may be as low as a dollar per ton. These chips are transported in box trailers
 

During the last three decades chipped wood has been burned for energy. At the mill complex in Woodland wood chips have been burned for the co-generation of industrial heat and electricity. At Deblois wood chips have been mixed with peat moss to produce electricity. Neither of these operations is ongoing today.

In 2014 a plant in Jonesboro continues to generate electric power from wood chips. The plant, built by Babcock and Wilcox in 1986, burns a tractor-trailer load of chips each hour. This plant has a capacity of 25000 megawatts. Total Washington County needs are 18000 megawatts. We export wood in the form of electricity. This plant has changed hands often. Its present owner also burns garbage elsewhere, and gets credit for the green energy from this plant.

INDECK Wood Chip Powered Electric Generation Plant – 2005 image Pictured on the right is plant manager Dan Heald, son of Mary Ellen (Jeffery) Heald, formerly of Crawford.
 

Helen Hamlin Nine Mile Bridge – Three Years in the Maine Woods 1945 has many good descriptions of life in pulp and logging camps during the early 20th century