Two key figures in 19th century logging on the Upper Kennebec were Ira Daggett Sturgis (1814-1891) and Josiah Manchester Haynes (1839-1906). They had close ties to each other, and to three men who preceded them in the region—Joseph Southwick (1791-1866), and the Sturgis twins (b. 1806).
The Sturgis legacy in the Upper Kennebec actually began with Ira’s slightly older twin cousins, Edward G. and Benaiah P. Sturgis. The brothers were owners of the Sturgis Hotel at the south end of the bridge at The Forks, from about 1831 to 1833, many years before Ira was active there.
When the first bridge over the East Branch of the Kennebec washed away in the freshet of 1832, the Sturgis men were there to help reconstruct it. The ability to pass along the Canada Road with ease would have been critical to their business, and the new bridge was open by the winter of 1833. The Sturgis brothers sold the tavern stand later in 1833, and left to run a hotel at Mattawamkeag. Both soon moved out of state.*
The name Sturgis is well-known in the history of logging and lumber production in Central Maine. Ira Daggett Sturgis was a Vassalboro farmer turned lumber baron, who was founder and president of the Kennebec Land and Lumber Company at Augusta, among other enterprises. He conducted timber operations in the Upper Kennebec for many years, and was associated with Joseph Clark, Jr. and others in the region. Ira was the son of James and Nancy (Packard) Sturgis.
The Sturgis family lived in the Vassalboro/Sidney area, as did another wealthy man who was heavily engaged in logging the north woods. Joseph Southwick, a Quaker well-known for his later involvement in the anti-slavery movement, was cutting timber in the Upper Kennebec as early as 1820. In 1822, he bought a share of the Sandwich Academy Tract, north of The Forks. He also owned a small mill property on Wilson Stream at West Forks, on land settled and occupied by Brown Baker. Floating timber down Dead River and the East Branch to the Kennebec was important to the operation of his businesses, which included mills, a tannery, and shipping. Southwick’s businesses failed in the financial crisis of the 1830’s, and he moved his family to Boston.
When Ira Sturgis was twenty-one, he married Rebecca Russell Goodenow, and they had four children: Angeline Blackington, Ira Smith, Sarah Elizabeth, and Horace Russell. Ira’s father, James Sturgis, once kept a tavern on his farmland on the River Road in Vassalboro, which burned in the late fall of 1839. James was overcome by smoke while he tried to save some of the contents, and he died. Ira, the eldest of James and Nancy’s children, assumed responsibility for their large family farm in Vassalboro after his father’s death.
Joseph Southwick sold his former mill at Seven Mile Brook in Vassalboro to Ira D. Sturgis and his older half-brother John S. Sturgis, in 1847. The Sturgis brothers rebuilt the aging Southwick sawmills and began manufacturing. Ira then gradually bought large tracts of land, at one time owning Little W Township at the north end of Moosehead Lake, as well as tracts in Long Pond, Enchanted, Haynestown, and others.
In 1867, Ira’s daughter Sarah Elizabeth married Josiah Manchester Haynes of Waterville.
That same year, Ira and his new son-in-law incorporated the Kennebec Land and Lumber Company at Augusta, with Haynes as its treasurer. Haynes succeeded Sturgis as president in 1875. Ira later went into business with his nephew, Ira Randall, and with Thomas Lambard of Augusta. They did business as Sturgis, Lambard and Co., later incorporated as Augusta Lumber Company. Correspondence in the Joseph Clark, Jr. Collection at the Old Canada Road Historical Society includes letters from Ira Sturgis and others on the various letterheads of their businesses.
Transcription of the above letter:
Augusta May 24 / 78 – Joseph Clark, Esq – Dear Sir,
We want some men put on the River between Waterville and Augusta. There are a great many logs between here and there, and from what I know there should be 20 more men between Skowhegan and Waterville. You should keep the logs moving along so that our men can have work, and the mills running, and not have the logs come all in a lump. I hope you will do in this matter as has been done before. – Yours from Ira D Sturgis.
Josiah Haynes bought the large tract of Parlin Pond Township lying east of the Canada Road in 1893. He died in 1806, and his widow, Elizabeth (Sturgis), sold a portion of it to Henry McKenney in 1908. McKenney then built the large Parlin Pond Hotel and Cabins on the lot beside the pond.
The Sturgis name was again heard in the Upper Kennebec in the 1960’s, when Horace “Hollie” Sturgis married veneer mill-owner Allen Quimby’s daughter Julianne, and they came to live in Bingham. Sturgis and Myron Morris started a business known as Hol-Mor. Hollie was the grandson of Ira D. Sturgis, and son of Horace Russell Sturgis.
* For more about the Sturgis twins and the early hotel, and about Joseph Southwick, see my book The Forks of the Kennebec: Sources for an early history of settlement and timber speculation (2017).
- Representative Men of Maine [Portland: The Lakeside Press, 1893], 228.
- Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine [New York: H.W. Blake & Co., 1892], 448.
- Vital Records, Ancestry.com.
- Somerset County Registry of Deeds, Skowhegan, Maine.
- Collections of Old Canada Road Historical Society.
- Author’s papers.
- Article about the 1839 Sturgis Fire, at Genealogybank.com (subscription service)
© 2018, Marilyn Sterling-Gondek