BREWER HISTORICAL SOCIETY NEWSLETTER
“Today’s news is tomorrow’s history”
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T.C. Hanna , editor (989-2245)
The Brewer Historical Society would like to thank the following corporate sponsors and supporters
Camden National Bank
City of Brewer
Brewer Federal Credit Union
Brewer High School Air Force Junior ROTC
Brewer Parks and Recreation
Creative Print Services
Dead River Company
Eastern Maine Development Corporation
Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems
Joseph Ferris, Esq.
Getchell Brothers Inc.
Gold Star Cleaners
Green Thumb Lawn Service
Marsh Property Management
PC Help (David Winslow)
Rand / Rand Dentistry
Scotts Lawn Service
TradeWinds Convenience Store
| FRIENDS OF CHAMBERLAIN FREEDOM PARK
Allen / Freeman / McDonnell Insurance
Machias Savings Bank
(Thank you for your support of Chamberlain Freedom Park and the Brewer Historical Society)
(The Brewer Historical Society newsletter is copied using the facilities at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems. Thank you to EMHS and their staff.)
(The following Article appeared in the Piscataquis and Penobscot Edition of Memories of Maine magazine in the fall of 2015)
Paper Making in Brewer, Maine
By David Hanna, Brewer Historical Society
For more than a century, the plume of smoke rising from the paper mill in South Brewer meant prosperity and stability for the community. It represented the production of nationally recognized fine-quality paper product that supported and sustained hundreds of employees.
But, the mill was more than a business, more than an industry, more than a livelihood. The paper mill in South Brewer created a community culture that defined the neighborhood of South Brewer.
During the 1800’s, Brewer was a place that took advantage of its natural resources and location by developing major industries such as brick-making, ice-harvesting and ship building.
By the late 1800s, though, the natural resources for brick clay had all but been depleted. A new invention, the refrigerator, replaced ice boxes, along with the need for Penobscot River ice harvesting. And steel ships replaced the wooden craft that had been built from the trees of the great North Woods.
Brewer needed to re-invent itself and the paper industry proved to be the impetus.
Fred Ayer was a man of vision. In the late 1800s he bought a saw mill that had been built in Brewer along the banks of the Penobscot River, near the Segeunkedunk stream. He subsequently increased the capacity of the saw mill until it was the largest in New England.
The wood waste product of the saw mill was originally used as heat for the business, but Ayer realized the greater value for the wood lay in the production of sulfite pulp, the raw material for paper making.
In 1889 he started to produce pulp from wood and rags. His company, first known as Eastern Corporation and then Eastern Manufacturing Company, entered the paper making business in 1896. It began with one paper making machine, but in a few years two more were added.
By 1916, the saw mill was shut down and paper making became the focus of operations. South Brewer had access to an immense amount of water from the Penobscot River and unlimited wood from the Maine forests. It was clear-the future was in paper making
Paper is made from a source of fiber. Originally, bales of rags were shipped to the South Brewer Mill, then cut and sorted. The rags were placed in open barrels of chemical to break down the fiber. It was hard hazardous work. Women would stand for hours performing this process, inhaling chemical fumes and working with caustic liquid.
Eventually, lumber replace rags as a source for pulp. The grinding, or mechanical, process of making wood pulp originated in Maine at the Brewer facilities. Logs were cut, trimmed of bark and chipped. Then the wood chips were fed into a large pressure cooker, called a digester, along with water, chemicals and heat.
This separated the wood fiber from waste materials. The cooked pulp stock was cleaned and bleached, then sent into a rotating screen cylinder which removed water and chemicals, while retaining the milky pulp. The pulp was dried in drying cylinders, then folded and rolled.
From pulp comes paper. The paper pulp was first processed in a beater, then mixed with water and beaten in order to break the pulp into fibers. It was then transported to a refining engine which unified the fiber length; and a screening process which removed the last waste particles.
The beaten material was fed into the paper making machine. Here, the thickness of the paper was determined. The liquid material moved across a screen to align the fibers, and finally sent across steam filled dryer rolls.
The end product was a roll of paper which could be shipped. In the Brewer paper mill, the paper was cut into sheets, wrapped, sealed, and transported to customers.
During the twentieth century, Eastern Manufacturing Company -later named Eastern Fine Paper- became the important industry in Brewer.
In 1914 Eastern merged with Katahdin Pulp and Paper Company in Lincoln, located 50 miles upstream along the Penobscot River. Eastern Manufacturing would eventually receive all their pulp from Lincoln and use it to produce a high grade paper product in Brewer.
Eastern continued operating through the Depression and World War II. During the war, paper was produced for the government and the mill ran 24 hours a day, a time schedule that continued for much of its existence.
In 1958 Eastern, along with Lincoln Pulp and Paper, was acquired by Standard Packaging Corporation. Ten years later, in March of 1968, the mill was closed and Brewer was devoid of its major employer. It was devastating, but wouldn’t last long, thanks to the support of the community,
Local residents raised capital to restart their respective mills in Brewer and in Lincoln. In all, 982 people would buy the bonds necessary to finance the operation, and in October of 1968 Eastern was back in operation.
The mill recruited a management team from former Eastern leaders and rehired many of the workers laid off in March. The mill would operate under the name of Eastern Fine Paper Inc. for the remainder of its existence.
In 1969, E. B. Eddy Ltd. Of Canada purchased Eastern Fine paper. Twenty years later the mill would be purchased by Joseph Torras of Presco, Inc., the parent company of Lincoln Pulp and Paper. The mills were once again under the same corporate umbrella. Eastern Fine Paper continued to produce an extremely high quality product until it closed its doors in 2004.
It is difficult to over-state the impact that the Mill had on South Brewer and the city as a whole.
It was a daily part of the lives of thousands of people providing not only employment, but a culture and a way of life. Eastern Fine Paper became nationally renowned for its paper quality in large part because of the experience and loyalty of its employees.
A 1930 Brewer Development Commission report stated that more than 400 of its employees had been with the company for more than 10 years and many more with lengths of service from 25 to 40 years. Some had worked at the mill for over fifty years.
The community surrounding the paper mill in South Brewer was in many ways an autonomous one. There were five grocery store, two public schools, a Catholic school, three gas stations, a drug store and a department store. There was a Catholic church and a Congregational church.
The population was a melting pot of Canadian Catholics, originally from the Province of Quebec, and Protestants, often from the Northeastern section of the United States. It was a working-class community that lived, worked, worshipped and played together, with the paper mill as the unifying factor.
For generations, this community made due with the opportunities available and developed a work ethic that remained ingrained all of their lives.
If you grew up in South Brewer during this time, you often had little social contact with the people in North Brewer until junior high school. At that time, most students would attend the only high school in Brewer or, if Catholic, could attend a parochial high school in Bangor.
Upon graduation, most young men (and many young women) worked at the mill. It was an easy career decision for most. There was a good salary and opportunity for these graduates. Work was available and there was a strong belief in the permanence of the industry.
Working at Eastern Fine Paper was a lifelong career for many people. The union was the voice of the employee. Originally, United Paper Workers and later United Steel Workers negotiated salary and conditions. Employees were compensated for the type of job performed, the length of time on the job and the number of hours worked.
The closing of Eastern Fine Paper Company in 2004 was a major economic blow to the city of Brewer. The community surrounding the South Brewer mill was interdependent and the impact on ancillary businesses was significant.
Today, a new company, Cianbro, occupies the land once owned by the paper mill. Cianbro builds metal building modules in Brewer that are placed on barges to be transported down the Penobscot River, then shipped to seaports wherever they are needed, all over the world.
It is the kind of business that demonstrates the same kind of visionary creativity that spawned the paper industry in Brewer and helped support the city for decades.
The plume of steam that defined the skyline of Brewer for so many years is extinguished, but the quality and character of its employees and the community that supported them is alive and well.
Fred Ayer, who brought paper-making to Brewer more than a century ago, certainly would have been proud.
(Thank you to Manley Debeck for his contribution in preparing this article. Mr. Debeck, a former city councilor and mayor, grew up in South Brewer and worked for 18 years at Eastern Fine paper Mill.)
Clewley Museum Holiday Open House
The Clewley Museum was elaborately decorated for the holiday season one cold Saturday afternoon last December and the public was invited to “be part of Christmas in the early 1900’s”. There was a promise to “experience how our forefathers celebrated the holidays” including holiday treats and music.
Historical society members had created decorative wreaths, specialty foods and colorful holiday cookies for sale. The event turned into a wonderful Christmas gathering with many members of the historical society enjoying the warmth and nostalgia of the richly decorated rooms.
We send a special thank you to Joanne Black, Barney Thompson and Susan Xirinachs for wreaths and other holiday décor that were sold to help pay for the event. Several members baked goodies including Phyllis Earley’s famous fudge and Ellen Hayes fruitcake (passed down from husband Bill’s family recipe). T.C. Hanna and her sister Pam Harris prepared several varieties of cookies while Jean Lyford made apple squares and Charlotte Thompson served a tasty holiday punch.
Ron and Helga Kittredge, Barney and Charlotte Thompson, along with T.C. Hanna decorated. Clayton Rogers provided holiday music on the 1800s pump organ. Lola Bullion and Alan King made special treats and donations. Jen Swayze, a friend of the Historical Society, made lovely baskets full of treats there were quickly sold. The occasion was like being part of a family at the turn of the century and a reminder of how good friends make a warm home.
Archeological relics donated to the Brewer Historical Society
In January of this year, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission turned over seven cartons of archeological relics to the Brewer Historical Society. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission is under the Maine Department of transportation and is responsible for the preservation of Maine’s historical heritage.
The relics were part of a test excavation project to determine if there were any major historical sites in the path of the I-395 extension before it was built. All Federal and State projects require an evaluation of potential historical impact before the project can be started.
William Burgess, an archeologist with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, offered there artifacts because of storage limitations in the Augusta offices. David and T. C. Hanna went to Augusta and picked them up.
The cartons contained items from several test sites throughout the Brewer area that might have been possible routes for the I-395 project. Most of the catalogued items were small fragments of iron, pottery, and stoneware taken from old abandoned cellars and a blacksmith shop. There were some pre-historic items found near the creeks that empty into the Penobscot River.
All artifacts have been accessed and archived and anyone interested in seeing them, please contact David Hanna.
Winter Blues for Brewer Historical Society
This winter while so very mild for the most part, caused Brewer Historical Society some problems in the regularly scheduled meetings. January and February membership meetings were cancelled due to storms that just happen to fall on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. I can’t remember this happening in the last few years. It is always a breath of fresh air to look forward to and seeing all my friends during the long winter months at these membership meetings! The Board has been meeting. It is helpful in keeping us on track for all of our projects. NOTE: JANUARY AND FEBRUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS WILL NO LONGER BE HELD.
Thanks to Bob Daigle for again this winter keeping the path open to the museum and Resource Center. While we don’t have many visitors to the museum this time of year the resource center is open every Monday morning. With Lois Simpson’s help lots of work has been completed this winter already. Thanks to Lee Matthews, the museum is checked on a regular basis for any heating issues that may arise.
Easy recipe for winter
Pork Chop Special
4-6 pork chops
½ cup cooked rice
2 (10 ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
Brown pork chops. Place cooked rice in bottom of greased baking dish and lay pork chops over rice. Pour soup over pork chops, cover and bake 375 degree for 40 minutes
IT IS TIME TO RENEW YOUR ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP IN THE BREWER HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
ANNUAL DUES ARE $20 FOR INDIVIDUALS, $30 FOR FAMILIES, AND $200 FOR A LIFETIME. CORPORATE ANNUAL DUES ARE $100
Thank you for your continued support of the Brewer Historical Society……
As we continue our annual membership renewal program, it is a good time to review the accomplishments of the Brewer Historical Society during the last year. The historical society has continued to partner with both the community and the school system in helping to promote and preserve Brewer’s historical heritage.
>>>>> The Chamberlain Freedom Park received numerous visitors in recognition of Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Regiment. Because Chamberlain Freedom Park is a recognized “Underground Railroad” site, the park is part of the annual “Juneteenth” celebration ending slavery. The Brewer High School Air Force Junior ROTC played an important role in maintaining the park as part of its commitment to civic involvement and Sam Gardner built new rail fence, replacing the crumbling original as his Eagle Scout project. Thank you to Sam and his family.
>>>>>The Clewley Museum received vinyl to its fascia and soffits and a new graveled parking lot as part of the continuation of the upgrading of the house. Bill Grant graciously donated a new Historical Society/Museum sign and corporate space was sold to support the organization. The Clewley Museum is part of the Brewer Register of Historic Places and was involved in many community events as well as being open for visitors during the summer months.
>>>>>Associated with the historical society and the museum is the Resource Center which archives materials and shares that material with the community. The Resource Center was supported by local businesses in the acquisition of equipment to in order to digitize the historical society’s collection of photographs. That information has been shared with the community. During the year, the Center provided historical photographs for local businesses and organizations, aided in the research of authors and researchers, and responded to requests from throughout the United States. Clayton Rogers provided his collection of slides from 1981-2007. Lois Simpson made a wonderful contribution in accessing them to the computer.
>>>>>The historical society continued to maintain the historical display case at the Brewer Community School. In addition, the organization became more involved with the High School. The historical society provided photographs for the Sports Hall of Fame and participated in a photography project with the Arts Department. It continued to provide an annual scholarship to a Brewer High School senior, emphasizing community involvement and an appreciation of Brewer history
>>>>>For the first time the historical society partnered with Pejepscot Historical Society as part of their “Chamberlain Days”. A bus trip from Brunswick was highlighted by visits to the Chamberlain houses.
With the support of our members and the community, this will be an outstanding year. It is important to know that the Brewer is a volunteer non-profit (501-c-3) organization that is dependent on community support. Membership needs to be renewed by April.
Annual Membership Meeting
The annual membership meeting of the Brewer Historical Society took place on April 13th. President Charlotte Thompson opened the meeting with the results of the nominating committee’s recommendations for the next 2 years. These nominations were unanimously agreed by the members.
Vice President……….…Frank Gallant
Recording Secretary…..Gary Lowe
Corresponding Secretary…..T.C. Hanna
City Liaison………………Matthew Vachon
(David Hanna is accessions and archives clerk)
Treasurer Earl Seymour reported on the financial status of the organization. Because of the excellent support of members and the community, the Brewer Historical Society is very stable and will be able to meet its obligations along with funds to complete 2016 projects.
Bill Hayes elucidated some of these projects which includes the completion of all siding on the museum, repairing the roof of the Resource Center and making necessary stabilization needs at Chamberlain-Freedom Park. There are also plans to provide more of a “living history” aspect to the museum with interactive sounds and sights.
Charlotte and Barney Thompson developed a calendar of events for the year which included a “park clean-up day” in May, a garden club cooperative event including a “café” with food and beverages to compliment the garden club sale in June, an Independence Day event in July, a museum sale in August, our annual “Brewer Days” spaghetti supper in September and a holiday open house in November or early December. In addition the June membership meeting will be a “Friendship of the Society” meeting in which everyone is encouraged to bring a friend and learn about the historical society.
Reports from the committees are available. Please contact Gary Lowe at 852-0005.