The Olive Tree
Archivists working in the Special Collections Department at Fogler Library often spend a lot of time in the woods, at least in spirit, as they arrange and process the Department's manuscript collections about the timber industry. This is especially true since the Department received a grant in 2003 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to make this work possible and to open up these wonderful collections to researchers worldwide. The first phase of this project involves records of timberlands owners, sawmill and log boom operators, and lumber company proprietors, all those who in some way made their living from Maine's most abundant resource, its trees. The collections document the activities of very rich and prominent owners of vast tracts of Maine land, small business owners who struggled in obscurity to pay their loans and keep their businesses operating, people who worked at many different jobs to make a living, and people who devoted all of their time to forestry research in order to manage the woods properly and to develop new products from this very old resource.
The Stetson family papers were the first to be finished and serve as an introduction to the world of the woods. The Stetsons were a Bangor family involved in a wide variety of businesses: manufacturing and shipping lumber, operating a sawmill, owning a shipyard, cutting ice, even owning a slate mine. In addition to all of these endeavors, they found time to serve in the Maine legislature, help plan and build the Bangor Waterworks, serve the University of Maine in various capacities, and be early promoters and enthusiasts of bicycles and motorcars.
Austin Cary is another interesting character who is represented in this project. Born in 1865 in East Machias, he was one of the first people to enter the new profession of forestry. His collection reflects his passion for his field and shows his very hands-on approach to his research. He began his career in 1895 by spending a season in the woods near the Androscoggin River gathering information for the State Land Agent's report; he then spent six years working for the Brown Company surveying and mapping the company's lands in Maine. He later moved on to have a twenty-five year career as a logging engineer with the U.S. Forest Service, extending his interests to include every forest region in the country. After his retirement, he continued to be active in his field and died suddenly in 1936, holding a book on forestry he had authored while talking to "the boys" at the University of Florida's Forestry Department.
The Amos and Octavia Graffte papers exemplify the life of Maine people who make their living from the woods and work diligently to better their communities. Living in Dennisville, Maine, a small community near the Canadian border, in the early part of the 20th century, Amos Graffte was a farmer and lumberman, operating logging camps near his home. He also served as superintendent of schools, town clerk and town treasurer. His wife, Octavia, was for many years a teacher, as well as being the first woman elected as an assessor in Maine. Their collection, though small, has a freshness and immediacy that takes the researcher into their world and reveals the richness of life in this remote area.
These collections, different in content and scope, serve as a small sample of the kinds of records found in the Special Collections Department. Each collection introduces its users to an important aspect of Maine's history and its economy and provides a view of its subject that is ever new and ever open to fresh interpretations and research uses.
Home | Olive Tree | Summer 2004