Millinocket Snowmobile History
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
With winter and a good snow cover on the ground come the snowmobilers to join the locals on the area trails. Some readers may not know that some of the earliest of these snow sleds came from right here in Maine and Millinocket! Variations of the Lombard log hauler were used by Great Northern Paper Company in the North Woods in the early 1900’s. They provided the power for the “log trains” that pulled multiple sleds of wood to areas where they could be transported to the paper mill.
The name Fred Salem is huge in local snow sled history. In 1937 he built the first air driven snow machine. Between 1937 and 1947, he built four such sleds which came to be used by the Civil Air Patrol for rescue missions during WWII. By 1957, Earlan Campbell began selling Sno-Travelers at his garage on Medway Road. In the 1960’s, the Polaris Company sent representatives to Millinocket to test new machines with Campbell serving as guide and mechanic. Two of those machines tested here can be seen at the Northern Timber Cruisers Antique Snowmobile Museum (on the Millinocket Lake Road).
From the 1960’s through the 1980’s and early 1990’s, several different local dealers sold a variety of the rapidly improving machines. Ski-doos were sold at Ron Leet’s business on Aroostook Avenue and later on Central Street. Bob Moscone owned a Sno-jet dealership. Ellery Dumas sold Hus-ski’s, Bob Ouellette had Moto Skis and David Wyse peddled Sno-Jet. In the early 1990’s, Brian Wiley and David Moore opened Destination Sports and sold Polaris.
In February of 1961, an historic long-distance ride was undertaken. It was the first in Maine and included nine men participating on a two-day ride from Rip Dam to Churchill Lake. This ride was organized by Campbell. Later, in 1985, a re-creation of this same ride took place. Named the Earlan B. Campbell Memorial Expedition, this reenactment ride covered 75 miles each way and took 4 days. In 1985, the Northern Timber Cruisers opened the snow sled museum. Visitors there can see a varied collection of antique snow-sleds.
The Millinocket Historical Society has many photos available for viewing including a 1937 photo of Fred Salem shown with Dr. Ernest Young as they prepare for a rescue mission at an area camp. In another photo, Frank “Binky” LePage, Oville Gonya, Sr., Fred Brown, Father Arsenault and Mr. Bennett are seen near a 1940 sled built by Salem for search and rescue. On the back of the photo, it states that this sled was to be used by the War Department. A large photo showing several men and their sleds at Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park is displayed at the museum. The photo was taken by and donated to the museum by local photographer Roger Boynton.