An Illustrated Timeline of Alexander, Maine
LAND 13000 YEARS AGO
BATTLES, REBELLION FROM 1000 TO 1774
* TURNING LAND
INTO MONEY FROM 1781 TO 1795
PUTTING ALEXANDER ON THE MAP FROM 1785 TO 1808
EARLY SETTLERS FROM 1808 TO 1825
YEARS OF GROWTH 1830
READY OR NOT FOR WAR ~ 1860 TO 1865
WHERE PEOPLE LIVED IN 1880
THRU THE TAX COLLECTORS EYES - 1914
BOUND FOR EXTINCTION 1970
* THE NEW MILLENNIUM *
CHAPTER 10 – BOUND FOR EXTINCTION FROM 1940 TO 1970
1970 - LOWEST
POPULATION SINCE 1820
1940 census = 292
1941 Pearl Harbor – 56 Alexander men served their country. Only one did not return. That was Alton “Jimmy” Bohanon who drowned in a tank while crossing a river in the Holland - Belgium area on December 21, 1944.
1944 – 45 POW: In the spring of 1944 a Prisoner of War camp was established at the recently abandoned CCC camp on Indian Township. Between 250 and 500 German prisoners were housed here until mid 1945. Most were under age 24 and had been captured in North Africa. These men worked in the woods, mostly cutting pulpwood. The local men who had done this job were off to war! When the men came home from war, they weren’t content to work on the farms and in the woods in winter, Also machines like tractors, chainsaws and skidders meant fewer workers were needed. Fewer jobs lead to population decline.
1947 Elbridge McArthur became one of the first to commute to work in Woodland from Alexander
1947 - OCTOBER FOREST FIRES IN TOWNSHIP 19 ED
as printed in issue 125 of the ACHS Newsletter
October 1947 is considered the worst time in Maine forest fire history. A period of 108 days with no measurable rain started in mid-July leaving vegetation, wells, and streams bone dry. October 5th was the first day of Fire Prevention Week in Maine. That day the temperature reached 80 degrees in Bangor and five fires were burning in Washington County, including the Centerville fire. A hundred-acre fire at Bar Harbor had burned all weekend, but was contained. Within hours all that changed when the wind started blowing. Bar Harbor and York County suffered the most and are remembered by many. The Centerville fire eventually consumed 19,970 acres. Statewide that month, sixteen people lost their lives and 2500 were made homeless. 205,678 acres of forests, fields and pasture were burned.
The Maine fire that burned the most acres was the Miramichi fire of October 7, 1825. There also was a Miramichi fire in New Brunswick on the same day and that is how the Maine fire got its name. The Canadian fire burned forests, farms, and several villages. The Maine Miramichi fire burned 832,000 acres of forestland.
Man starts 80% of the forest fires, and lightning starts the rest. The cause of the Centerville fire was smoking. Of 533 fires in unorganized towns in 1947, 12 were caused by lightning, 109 had unknown origins, and the rest were caused by man.
Forest fire detection and fighting have changed greatly in the past century. Between 1910 and 1920 forest fires averaged 205 acres in size, fifty years later, each fire averaged 2.5 acres. It was in the teens that the state started having lookout towers connected by telephones. By 1947, airplanes were used to spot fires and radio information to the firefighters.
The purpose of this paper is to look at the fires of
October 1947 that occurred in Township #19. Unfortunately, the
Department of Conservation threw away all the records of all 1947 fires
in the mid-eighties, so our official record of these fires is brief. We
do have some great memories to share and some memories of other fires at
OFFICIAL RECORD: The Forest Commissioner’s Report for 1947 - 48 states:
Township #19 ED on October 22 a fire started by lightning eventually burned 10 acres. *
Township #19 ED on October 25 a fire started by campfire eventually burned 275 acres.*
Township #19 ED on October 25 a fire started by unknown eventually burned 10 acres. –Nfi-
MEMORIES OF THE #19 FIRES: I thank
those who shared these memories. Their names are in bold print. It is
amazing how much detail was remembered after a half century. These are
much more interesting than the Official Record.
*The first three accounts are
about the October 22 fire.
Cecil Keen tells about the night, “My brother Horace and I were out to the Frank Day Field looking for the Bar Harbor fire. We could see the glow in the sky. Then Horace saw a fire in #19. We went to my father’s place and called Everett Grant, he was the fire warden down in Marion. He told us to get a crew and go in and put out the fire.” Those who arrived at the fire site about 2 AM the next morning included Harold Vining, Phillip Day, Harold Sadler, Wesley Ireland, Alden Keith, Horace, and Cecil. They were on the scene three days and nights with no break. “We were ten days getting that fire out. It started from lightning, there had been an old ripper of a storm the night before.”
“Everett got a 6x6 army vehicle from Cole Bridges, Elbridge McArthur drove it. He’d bring us food and pumps and hose, we had to put a pole bridge across Northern Stream. We had a hose from the stream to the fire, about half a mile, filled our 5 gallon Indian pump cans.”
“We slept on the ground. Women made the food, sent it in on the truck. We were fed better than at home. We couldn’t use the pumped water for coffee, it tasted of gas. Wes Ireland found a spring for coffee water. Once when Wes was coming back in the dark, Horace tried to scare him from behind a tree. Wes set down the pails, took out his jackknife and said, “All right, Mr. Fire Bug, I’ve got you now.”
fire was east of the 19 Road, between Spectacle Lake and the Cooper
line. Cecil’s pants were so shredded that a man from East Machias asked
him if he’d been clawed by a bear! He remembers there was no legal deer
hunting season because of the dry conditions that year. He also
remembers that Everett Grant was “liberal with the hours.”
Bill Hatfield was at that fire and added these names Cecil Hatfield, Everett Dwelley, and Glenwood Sadler. Bill recalls that “Wes Ireland kept the campfire going and the coffee pot hot. Men kept complaining that the coffee was weak. Wes finally put a pound of coffee in a 10-quart pail and boiled it. And it was so terrible they had to dilute it.”
thing I remember was a fellow from Jacksonville who gathered dry pine
branches one evening to keep the fire going. He had quite a large pile
when we decided to put it all on the fire at once. Several of the men
were sleeping near the fire. When it got too hot, they began to wake-up
and turned the air blue with profanity while we stood back in the
shadows and laughed. Wes Ireland was sleeping with his feet to the fire.
His shoes got hot and he got up, but couldn’t stand on them. He got on
his hands and knees and crawled away from the fire and went back to
Keith, Sr.’s account as told by his children Alden and Dorothy
Nickerson. “He was staying out there on that fire for nearly a week, and
when they finished mopping up every last spark, the fire warden told the
men that they could all go home. It being late in the evening, Dad
decided to head for camp (home) right through the woods. I remember him
telling that it became pitch dark, as he was deep in the woods and that
he headed toward the tower light on Cooper Hill. During his trek through
the woods he sometimes fell into a wet bog hole or running brook. At no
time was he ever afraid, he always said that wild animals are more
afraid of you than you of them. Eventually he came out at Earl Frost’s
blueberry field there on Cooper Hill and down the road to Cathance Lake
and back to camp. No one would have followed my father on such a journey
in the middle of the night, but this was his territory where he was
brought up as a young man. He relished every tree in that forest.”
**The 275-acre fire,
started by a campfire, was at Joe Hanscom Heath. That is west of the 19
Road, between it and the East Machias River.
White’s father Coolidge was a boss on this fire for at least two weeks.
Coolidge had a car and State Trooper Moose Harriman gave Charlie
permission to drive men to and from the fire even though he was too
young for a license. Irving Bangs a clerk for Stowell-MacGregor drew a
map of the fire. Charlie remembers that Cole Bridges had two 6x6s and a
10-wheeler tanker truck on this fire. Darrell Frost drove the tanker.
Charlie remembers eating mustard sardines. Clifford Lund had a crew of
men there from Machias.
Pike Seavey worked on a crew with Linwood Archer as boss. Lawrence
McArthur, Orris Cousins, Raymond Flood, Orris McKeown and Frank Williams
were also on this crew. Neil remembers the Spam sandwiches and that
Frank Williams could work all day with a grub hoe. Bill Cushing was
another boss. Elliot Hatt and Neil hauled food. Victor and Russell
Archer and Cecil McKeown were also working on this fire. Neil remembers
with disgust that the Red Cross charged 15 cents for coffee and a donut
on the first day. That was when men got 75 cents an hour for fire
Gordon Lord wrote the following: In 1947 when a major forest fire hit Bar Harbor, we had our own fire to tend to. Smoke from a fire back in the woods of Township 19 was sighted and Bill Cushing began rounding up able bodies, both boys and men, to help fight the fire. We (Gordon, his brother Lawrence and their dad Joe Lord) arrived about two miles from the Crawford line where we found a group ready to move into the fire sight. Wardens issued hand pump Indian tanks. We filled them up and headed west toward the smoke. We walked perhaps a quarter of a mile when we came to a huge heath. Now we could see plainly the smoke and prior to getting all the way across the heath, about three quarters of a mile across we saw the fire on the treetops. Several of us boys were walking behind, our bodies struggling with the wicked load on our backs. Half way across the thick, soft, hard walking heath we decided to ease our load. When no men were looking, we would squirt some of the water onto the dry heath. I only had about 25 percent of my water left by the time we could feel the heat from the fire.
It was mid afternoon when we got to the fire and found the fire not raging as we expected although it was burning good. There was a brook nearby to refill our hungry tanks and no one was the wiser, about our loss of water. We fought the fire until l0pm when we went to a "safe place" to take a nap. After we were asleep, someone came and told us to get up quickly and move out because the fire had us nearly surrounded. That done and after another nap on the cold ground, (it was October), we grabbed our tanks and started off toward the fire. At least it would be warm there. When we arrived we found a larger group had arrived and those crews had now surrounded the perimeter of the fire. We were there 6 or 7 days moping up. Good use was made of Calais garage owner Cole Bridges' s army surplus 6 by 6 all terrain World War II surplus vehicles. They were great for carrying in fire fighting equipment, meals and transportation for fire fighters.
Late that fall Dad was hired to cut all the usable
trees on the burn site. If trees are cut soon after a burn, they still
are usable. Most of the trees in the area were pine so they were cut
into 12,14 and 16-foot logs for lumber. We built a hovel for the horse
to stay in all winter near water and the horse hauled in enough of his
own food to last all winter. We walked or snow shoed in all winter no
matter the weather. We worked six days because we had to feed the horse
daily, on Sundays Dad usually went in early to feed and water him,
although we gave him a break occasionally.
Many people who didn’t fight the fires were involved in other ways.
Thornton didn’t fight the fire. He lived with his aunt and uncle, Marcia
and Frank Williams in Crawford. When Frank went off to Township 19, he
told Luther to load everything onto the truck and if the fire approached
the house, to lead the horses to the lake (Crawford) and “drive ‘em into
Cousins remembers Fire Warden Everett Grant and his wife Flora. They
lived in Marion and had trained raccoons. Everett had a trapeze set up
in the yard where the coons would play. The raccoons also were fed in
the house and watched TV. Everett (Feb. 2, 1894 – June 9, 1990) was a
son of Adelbert and Ezinnia (MacArthur) Grant. Orris’s brother Ronald
Cousins and Bert Flood were in the same crew as Orris.
(Crosby) Gillespie was living with my Dudley family at 20 Germain Street
in Calais. She remembers the fire because it was her first time staying
in that house alone. The Dudley family was at the family camp on
(Day) Beaupre made yeast rolls for the men and Cecil McKeown delivered
them to the crews.
Norma (Frost) Donahue and, her sister Zettie helped their mother Hazel (Cousins) Frost make egg salad and roast beef sandwiches. The families supplied the makings. They also made coffee. Other women who cooked were Dora (McGraw) Frost and Bertha Dwelley. Frank Dwelley was in Township 19. Leon Scribner and Lyston Frost delivered the food. Even with this homemade food, many of the men remember eating Spam sandwiches and sardines.
About 40 students from Calais Academy came out on a bus one Saturday. (The Academy had burned, so these kids were taking classes in the gym and at the South Street School). Most went home on the bus that night, but some stayed including Bernie Donahue, Louie Hill, Gerald Carter, Norman Blaney, and Frankie Hill.
Gray and a bunch, maybe 15 or 20, from Wesley went over to fight the
fire. They were met at Sally Corner in Crawford, and rode on the back of
Carleton Davis’s truck down the 19 Road. James Patrick Day, Roger Gray
and Richard Hayward (the mailman) were in the group. Lil Pope (wife of
Gardner Pope) of East Machias came up the 19 Road from Route 191 with a
load of sandwiches for the crew. She wasn’t supposed to be there in a
car, the road was quite rough and was reserved for official vehicles.
The crew from Wesley hung around most of the day, were fed a corn beef
dinner, and went home. Apparently they weren’t needed. Even though they
never saw the fire, they got paid.
memories of other fires as a result of our call for help in an earlier
Hunnewell was in the National Guard and was returning from two weeks
training at Wellsfleet, Massachusetts (Camp Edwards?) when his group was
stopped and put to work fighting a fire.
Magoon was also in the National Guard. The Calais Unit was sent to
Machias to help fight a fire. They rode over in open 2-ton rack body
trucks and about froze to death. While in Machias they stayed at the
Grange Hall. They worked four hours on and four hours off and were there
for a couple of weeks. The State of Maine Guard had been disbanded in
Calais and a National Guard unit established on March 17, 1947. A
private’s pay was $2.67/day. Ron O’Neill was a sergeant.
(Church) Dray said her dad, Chuck Church, was stationed at Dow Air Force
Base in Bangor. He and others were sent to Bar Harbor to fight that fire
and that’s where Chuck met Kaye Cushing. They eventually married and
Wilma is their daughter.
Thornton remembers a fire in the mid-50s at Allen Stream Heath. Orris
Cousins was working for Entwhistles’ on Crawford Lake and that day the
northwest wind pushed up huge waves on the lake. Orris used a canoe to
move men and equipment to the fire. Everett Grant was some scared on
that trip up lake!
White remembers a fire on Pokey Lake in 1948. The crew took a pump and
hoses to the site by boat. They pumped water from the lake and had the
fire out in one day.
Perkins was working at the Portland Terminal Company in Portland in
October 1947. He remembers seeing the glow from their 3rd
floor apartment and that the air was thick with smoke.
Sources: Only in Maine by
Rita Rammrath, Wildfire Loose by Joyce Butler, Forest
Commissioner’s Report 1947-48, A COUNTRY BOY’S VIEW, Growing up
in Crawford during the Depression and World War II by Gordon Lord
1950 census = 282
1950 PLAY BALL