Moosehead Lumbering Trip 1867

Uriah Foss

Uriah Lew Foss

Lumbering was a tough and dangerous business in 1867. Uriah Foss, born in Brighton, Maine in 1847, died about one year after this article was printed in the Independent-Reporter newspaper on May 24, 1928. It tells of a lumbering team’s harrowing steamboat ride across Moosehead just as the winter ice was taking over.  My transcription of the article follows.

LUMBERING IN THE MOOSEHEAD LAKE REGION SIXTY YEARS AGO

How the Old Sidewheeler, Anthertripe[1], Rode Through A Winter Gale In ‘67

(By Uriah L. Foss)[2]

(Special to the Independent-Reporter)

There may be a few readers of the Independent-Reporter who still remember lumbering operations in the Moosehead Lake region sixty years ago. It might be interesting to recall an incident connected with the “going into the woods” in the fall of 1867.

At the time Parker and Steward were lumbering on the west side of the lake above Kineo and about the middle of November they sent up an outfit from Skowhegan. They started with wagons on a bitterly cold day, the ground frozen hard but no snow. I joined them at Athens and the first day took us to Brighton where we put up at the hotel then run by Life Foss.[3] There the crew was completed to 25 men with 12 horses and the next morning we changed to sleds starting for Greenville over Russell Mountain, the New England road had not then been cut through. We reached Greenville that night, still freezing cold where we stopped at Ivory Littlefield’s[4] hotel. There were not enough beds to go around and part of the crew slept on the bar-room floor with blankets and a roaring fire to keep them warm.

Capt. Wm. Parker had been running supplies up the lake all fall but at this time the foot of the lake had frozen over until he could not get within four miles of Greenville. The next morning we walked to Whitcomb’s Landing where, after hard work breaking ice, we managed to get the boat near enough to shore to put the horses aboard and place the supplies on the scow which was towed behind. The boat was an old side-wheeler called the Antherippe [sic]; probably the first steamer built on the lake as it was then very old and was not too good condition. Capt. Parker was taken sick that morning and turned the boat over to Capt. Robinson. The rest of the crew consisted of an Indian pilot, Louis Gill;[5] and engineer, John Micheu with his son Jimmie as fireman; Lawberry Way[6] was cook.

We left Whitcomb’s Landing at ten o’clock with the wind blowing a gale. Coming opposite Spencer Bay we could see a 12 mile stretch of white caps with no black water showing. Capt. Robinson allowed he could not make headway in that direction, so he turned the boat for Deer Island, a distance of about six miles which we covered in six hours. Seams began to open in the planking and the high waves pounded the steamer until we had to pile bailed hay between the horses to keep them on their feet. George Goodwin, of Skowhegan, just back from the Civil War, was on board with a pair of grey horses, Billy and Bonnie. He stood between their heads, very cool, singing “I wish I was in Dixie.” When it came time for dinner, as dishes could not be kept on the table, the cook came around pouring tea into cups held in the hand.

We reached the lee side of Deer Island at four o’clock where Aaron Capen[7] stood on the shore watching us trying to make a landing. Some of the crew went on shore but were called back at twelve o’clock by the Captain as he knew there were few hours left for him to land his cargo before the lake froze for the winter. He finally landed us near the mouth of Sockatean stream where we had to break ice again to reach shore. The steamer immediately started back but was frozen in the mouth of Moose river, where it stayed the winter. That was the last trip the boat ever made as a new steamer was built that winter called, I believe, The Lumberman.

We cut big pine around the lake in those days. One I recall measured 5 ½ feet on the stump from which we cut a 20 foot log scaling 2100 feet; its three prongs scaled 1000 feet each making over 5000 feet for the tree. When we got the log to the landing, Levi Steward said it could not be run out the stream so Frank Morrisette,[8] of Skowhegan, cracked it open with powder as white and clean as a hounds tooth. We though that a pretty good tree but it was not as big as the one brothers Emerson said Ase Connor cut on Brassua many years before.

As near as I can learn I am the only one left who made that trip up the lake in the fall of 1867; unless George Scribner of Athens was in the crew. I think his father was there instead.

Uriah L. Foss

Skowhegan

  • [1] Probably the Aphritite, built in 1846. See Moosehead Steamboats, Maine Memory Network at http://www.mainememory.net
  • [2] Uriah Lew Foss was born (1847) in Brighton, ME, son of Joseph Jr. and Lucy (Wyman) Foss. He died in 1929.
  • [3] Probably Eliphlet J. Foss of Brighton.
  • [4] Ivory Littlefield who m. Philancy Masterman at Greenville in 1868. They moved to Michigan.
  • [5] Louis Gill was born in Canada about 1828. He worked as a boatman at Kineo from at least 1850, and married Hattie Barrows, daughter of Harrison Gray Otis Barrows, the innkeeper at Kineo. Foss refers to him as an “Indian.” He may be the Louis Gill baptized at St. Francois-du-Lac, Quebec in 1827, son of “Pierre Jean Guill et de Marie Magdelaine – Abnakis.”
  • [6] Lawberry Way was born in St. Francis, Quebec in 1815. He lived in Skowhegan and Madison.
  • [7] Aaron Capen, Jr. His father Aaron Capen, Sr. died in 1866.
  • [8] Frank Morrisette was born in Canada. He worked as an axe grinder in Skowhegan and West Waterville.

3 thoughts on “Moosehead Lumbering Trip 1867

  1. Wonderful article ! Great story !!
    I applaud the preservation of History and culture guaranteed with the publishing of this piece .
    Thanks so much for sharing !!

  2. What a great story! Having a place on Moosehead Lake in the middle of the lake on deer Island makes this article even more interesting.

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