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An Early Millinocket Resident Arrives

Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!

By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum

A newspaper article, date unknown, tells of the arrival in Millinocket by a man who would become one of the town’s leading citizens and a well-known businessman. This is the story as written by Frank Rush.

“I arrived in Millinocket on June 14, 1899. I walked from the railroad station on a road that was passable only by horse and buckboard and found my way to what was going to be the main business street now called Penobscot Avenue. There was no grading done, only surveyor’s stakes to mark the street lines.

F.M. Peasley was putting in the foundation for the building now occupied by Fuller Furniture. They were also working on the Decker Block on the opposite corner later occupied by Wm. J. Heebner as a drugstore and now known as the Gonya Block.

Further down the staked off street was a building partly boarded in being built by Mr. & Mrs. Quinn for a millinery store.

I still wandered around looking for shelter for the night but there was not a building in town with a roof on it, except for some shacks built by the Great Northern Paper Company on Shack Hill. These were to house the engineers and all the workmen employed by them. No one else was allowed to live in them.

There was no place to eat except a place near the railroad. A man by the name of Reed had an open tent and was serving hot biscuits and bean-hole beans, which we all know are beans baked in a hole in the ground, with black tea, no milk or sugar. After eating, I walked down Katahdin Avenue to where Joe McErwin had a lean-to that he kept his horse in. He had a buckboard that he hitched his horse to and used to carry passengers back and forth from the railroad. I found a grassy spot and laid there for the night, with an old wagon body turned on its side for a shelter.

The next morning I was up early and helped a man put a roof on a barn that stands behind where Mrs. Rosalie Ryan and her daughter and son-in-law Mr. & Mrs. Oville Gonya and family live. We got the roof on and covered with tarred paper and I slept there on the floor for several nights. Then I went to work for Kenneth Bryenton on the house that stands behind the Rush block. We got it far enough along that Mrs. Bryenton took in a few boarders.

I stayed there for some time. Then my father-in-law-to-be Richard Boynton moved his family here and lived in a tent while we built the ell part of the house now occupied by Edward Boynton in front of the park on Penobscot Avenue. The building was 16 x 24 feet and in a few days the family had 16 boarders and roomers besides their own family. That seems impossible but we had a field bed on the floor upstairs and a long table with long benches downstairs. The women used a piano box standing on end in which to change their clothes. It had a curtain on one side and someone to guard the outside.

From there I went to work on a place of my own. I bought the lot on which the A.C. Smart Grocery Store stands, and built the foundation in the fall of 1899, covered it over for the winter and got the lumber on the spot for an early start in the spring. When spring came people began to come for lumber to build some kind of a shack for them and their families to live in. Soon my pile of lumber was gone so I replaced it several times to have the same thing happen each time. That is how I got started in the lumber business. I finally got enough lumber ahead so that I could build what is now A.C. Smart’s Store.

On June 20, 1900 I married Agnes Boynton and lived over the store for two years. I rented the store to William St. John for a novelty store. Later I sold the building to Higgins and Batch and it was used for the sale of meat and groceries. It was later sold to Smart.

Later on I built the store and lumber yard shed now used and owned by Frank W. Rush and Sons, Inc. By that time my lumber business had grown to the extent that it required a saw mill. I started building the mill in the fall of 1905 and finished in the spring of 1906. I sawed and finished all the native lumber used in the building of the Paper Mill at East Millinocket for the Great Northern Paper company and have been operating the saw mill ever since.”

(More stories of Millinocket’s early settlers? Do you have one to share?)

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