The Very Early Days
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
On March 16th, 1901, an act to incorporate the town of Millinocket was passed by the Legislature and approved by the governor. As a result of that action, Millinocket will be 122 years old on March 16, 2023. Happy Birthday!
Just two years previously, GNP had acquired a number of lots west of Millinocket Stream which were part of Indian Township No. 3. At that time the total population of the area was very small. The only buildings were the old Powers house, the B & A section house and a small hunter’s camp. Lots were laid out in 1899 as the Millinocket Townsite and consisted of about 500 acres with Charles Mullen as land agent.
When work started on the mill, temporary buildings were erected for workmen as no accommodations were available. It became necessary to create a town in the forest for about 2000 people in one year. (Note: this and the following information was gleaned from a seven-page History of Millinocket, author and source unknown, in the collection at the museum.)
To speed the building process, lot prices were low. The company quickly built the Great Northern Hotel and furnished it. The Little Northern and other hotels and boarding houses were erected quickly and were located near the mill site on Penobscot and Katahdin Avenues. Business buildings appeared along Penobscot Avenue.
At this time, the township was unorganized and there was no municipal government. As more workers came and more buildings were constructed, a sewerage system was needed. GNP laid out a sewer system along Katahdin Avenue and Central, Spruce, Pine and Poplar Streets forming the backbone of the sewerage system. A water company was formed with the water supply from Ferguson Pond. Thirty hydrants were installed for fire purposes. GNP had a deputy sheriff who also had to handle town responsibilities. The only communication with the world outside was via the B & A Railroad. Penobscot County Commissioners laid out a route beginning at Central Street and extending across Millinocket Stream. This route followed the Old Sourdnahunk tote road leading to Medway and a bridge over the stream was constructed giving a way out of Millinocket other than by rail.
The Millinocket Light Company was formed (1903) to provide acetylene gas for street lights and downtown businesses. That same year, epidemics of smallpox and typhoid resulted in over 100 people in quarantine. The company’s boarding house, “Mountain View” became a temporary hospital. In 1905, GNP gifted two lots on Penobscot Avenue to the town for a fire station building and a Gamewell fire alarm system was installed. (Note: the museum has on display an important piece of this Gamewell system.)
In addition, in the time period between 1901 and 1911, two school buildings (housing 700 students), four churches and two-and three-story business buildings arose in the downtown area. The population had risen from approximately 5 persons to 5000. Ten miles of streets, a half-mile of concrete sidewalk and three miles of gravel sidewalk allowed for safe pedestrian traffic. The townsite had 408 dwellings, 26 business blocks, a laundry, a foundry, saw mill, two blacksmiths and two opera houses.
Happy 122th birthday, Millinocket!