Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Society Museum
Creating the Great Northern Paper company mill in Millinocket in the 1890’s was an immense effort for the times. The wood and the water were here. There was no town. The railroad passed by over a mile away from the proposed mill site. Yet Mullen, Schenck and others went ahead with building the largest paper mill in the world at this location on the West Branch of the Penobscot. Men and horses would do the work!
Information from a Bangor Daily Commercial (2/2/1900), McLeod’s book and other sources give us some of the numbers starting with the excavation of over 300,000
yards of soil (mill site). Quote from the newspaper… "just think how many shovelfuls of dirt that means and how many blows of the pick.” All the mill buildings were of brick. Six million bricks were used. Roofs had 3-inch pine planks and floors were supported on steel. 40,000 to 50,000 barrels of cement were used. When the construction was finished, “nearly 1,000,000 of hard pine and over 1,500,000 of hemlock and spruce will have been used plus about 900,000 feet of white pine.” A 235-foot brick chimney was constructed.
The mill foundation was made from 25,000 cubic yards of masonry. Sixteen hundred tons of steel went into the penstocks. About six acres of roofing were covered with gravel and ten acres of concrete flooring were done. There were over 1400 windows installed.
A dam was needed (1200 feet long, 40-foot log sluice) at the foot of Quakish Lake. A 6 ft. deep canal was made through a bog and when full this area could float 60,000,000 feet of timber. The bog “stretches for ½ a mile to the top of a hill, the face of which faces Millinocket Stream.” They cut through the top of the hill using several 100 men and 100 teams of horses. Eleven head gates would be built at the head of the canal. 200,000 cubic yards of earth have been taken out in the excavation of the big trench.”
These figures are just some of the numbers in the construction phase of the mill. It was expected that when operation began, the company would use annually 40,000 tons of coal, 46,000,000 feet of spruce logs, 4,500 tons of sulphur and about the same amount of lime.
McLeod states there are no accurate figures as to the number of men working on mill construction at any one time, but estimates there at least 1500 of many nationalities.
It was expected that within a year, the mill would have 12 paper machines and 350-400 tons of finished paper would be turned out every 24 hours. “From the time logs enter the wood preparing room but 24 hours will elapse hence they are changed into finished rolls ready for the printing press nor will there be any delay in shipment on account of weather as the company has a car shed of its own, with accommodation for 18 cars, in the finishing room.”
A huge job considering the location, the need to transport men and materials to the site in the woods and the to get the actual construction done! But they did it!