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Of all the industries that have existed in the state of Maine, the most prevalent is lumbering. The industry began in the early 17th century on Monhegan Island, about 12 miles from the coast of modern day Lincoln County. From there the industry in Maine flourished, as the abundant white pines were highly sought after for ship masts.

These so-called King’s Pines would be marked by British lumbermen with a broad arrow to signify their status. The sight of these broad arrows marking the trees near their homes could be a source of resentment for Mainers amongst the increasing tension surrounding British rule in the American colonies. Later on, finding surviving trees marked with the broad arrow became a difficult and alluring challenge, convincing many to venture into the forest in search of these increasingly rare specimens.

Maine is home to four species of pine tree: white pine, red pine, Norway pine and Jack pine. Jack pine is quite rare in Maine and only grows in certain areas, leading some people such as my father to seek it out.

As the centuries wore on, saw mills became increasingly ubiquitous in Maine with nearly every region of the state having at least a few by the mid-19th century. The three most prominent centers of the logging industry at that time were in the larger areas of Bangor, Waterville and Bath, the first of which was the world’s largest lumber port at the time.

Lumberjacks in Maine lived a hard life in the early 19th century, typically staying in roughly constructed cabins and all sharing one bed and blanket. These conditions improved as time went on, as did the industry’s technology. The peavy (or peavey), invented in 1858  by Joseph Peavey of Old Town, was a pike with a hook just above the tip, which was used to separate and sort the logs which were transported along the river.

Today the logging industry exists in different forms, cutting trees no longer with axes and bow saws, but with chainsaws and giant machinery. These technological developments do not spell doom for the Maine forest, however, as now practices such as selective cutting, as opposed to clear cutting, are increasingly used, which is far healthier and less invasive to the ecosystem. Today about 90% of Maine is forested. If you wish to learn more about the Maine logging industry, I highly recommend visiting the Lumberman’s Museum in Patten, which has many full size replicas of lumbermen’s cabins and sawmills.

Thank you to Maine Encyclopedia and the Maine Highlands for providing the information for this column.

Notice

On Monday, July 18, the Kingdom Schoolhouse Museum in Center Montville, which is maintained by the Montville Historical Society, will be open to the public from 6 to 7:30 p.m. They look forward to welcoming visitors for exploration of the society’s holdings that reflect the history of Montville and its people.