Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Society Museum
Pittston Farm came under the control of Great Northern Paper Company in 1906. But did you know the history of the area goes back to the 1830’s when the state legislature authorized the cutting of roads through the wilderness to what was considered to be the boundary line between the U.S. and Canada? This was the time of the “bloodless” Aroostook War and the roads were meant to provide access to Canada for troops. Never used, the road that passed through where Pittston Farm would later be located was known as the “Old Canada Tote Road.”
Pittston Township had a few settlers in the late 1800’s and a bit of land was cleared and a few buildings erected. In 1906, GNP purchased the entire township of Pittston Academy Grant and immediately began setting up headquarters for the cutting operation of the North and South Branches of the Penobscot River. The only access was the Canada Tote Road from Rockwood, usable only in winter. Wagons from Seboomook (on Moosehead Lake 14 miles away) could haul 1500 or 1800 pounds in a one-way trip once a day.
When purchased, the farm had a stable for 16 horses, 200 bushels of potatoes, 25 bushels of root vegetables and 12 tons of hay. New frame buildings with masonry foundations were built starting in 1908. Included were the upper stable (for 24 horses, 4 cows, storage for 50 tons loose hay), a blacksmith shop and wagon shed. Portable pig pens were set up in the basement.
In 1910, a storehouse (space for 6000 bushels of grain and 250 tons of miscellaneous supplies), boarding house with ice house, middle barn and water works were constructed. The boarding house (two story) could house 30 men (dormitory style) plus 17 guests. The ice house held 132 tons of ice. Two built-in refrigerators could hold two sides of beef and 200 pounds of dairy supplies. The middle barn (later destroyed by fire) housed 50 horses and 225 tons of hay. The water works had a 20 ft. deep well, three pumps (600 gallon per hour capacity) and a 9000-gallon cypress tank on a 30 ft. tower.
In 1911, the lower barn, a hen house and potato house (held 6,759 bushels) were built. A new boarding house with a dining room large enough to feed 50 men was constructed. It also had nine bedrooms on the second floor and dormitory space for 40 men on the third floor.
Between purchase by GNP in 1906 to1911, five short years, much expansion had taken place in the isolated spot in the woods. Pittston Farm had become the distribution point for supplies to the wood cutting operations in the North and South Branch area. It’s hard to imagine how all this could be accomplished with the limited access provided to the area by that early tote road.
The story continues next week!