What’s happening in the next two weeks? Selectmen meet Tuesday, February 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at the Town Office/Post Office complex.

Weld Winter Wildcats are meeting at the Skoolhouse Variety on Wednesday February 28 at 6:30 p.m. — all are welcome.

Thursday is the first day of the third month of 2018 — can you believe it! So, don’t forget to flip your calendar because the “Community Lunch” for anyone 60 and over at the Skoolhouse Variety is Thursday ,March 1, at noon with free dessert. Come join us—there’s never a quiet moment—our mouths are seldom all full at the same time!

Friday, March 2, is the annual election of Municipal Officers in the multi-purpose room at the Town Office/Post Office complex from 4-8 p.m., if you haven’t already voted absentee for Selectman, Planning Board and Road Commissioner.

The Annual Town Meeting Warrants are ready and can be picked up at the General Store, the Skoolhouse Variety and at the Town Office—there are only going to be 100 copies made up so if you’re going to the meeting get yours now! The meeting is Saturday, March 3, at 10 a.m. at the Town Hall and the Masons are having a traditional baked bean supper at noon which also includes hot dogs (and ham), cole slaw and pie for dessert. It will be served upstairs.

Monday, March 5, the Tumbledown Tackers meet in the multi-purpose room at the Town Office/Post Office complex at noon. If you’re a quilter and haven’t joined them, they’d love to have you and the group is willing to help you if you’re just beginning this enjoyable ancient craft!

Tuesday, March 6, at 3 p.m. the Weld Free Public Library, 25 Church St., invites you to “think spring” as they will be hosting Robin Jordan of Robin’s Flower Pot. Her talk ,”Gardening in Western Maine,” will present an overview of the business, what’s happening at the nursery in March, tips on transplanting to the garden when the time comes, what’s new or trending in plants, raised beds, container and fairy gardens and the most asked questions from customers—come join us!

Tuesday, March 6, the Weld Fire Department has their monthly training at 6:30 p.m. followed by their joint meeting with Carthage at 7 p.m. at the Weld Fire Station this month.

The Weld Congregational Church Ladies Aide will meet March 7 at the Parsonage at 7 p.m. for their monthly meeting followed by the group continuing to work on the summer sale items.

Now back to the conclusion of the log drives on Webb Lake and to the mills—

By mid-summer, the water in the Lake had gone down enough to make the dam a pleasant passageway rather than a barrier. The dam at the foot of Webb Lake was not maintained much after drives stopped in the early 1930’s and by the late 1930’s, most of it was washed out leaving only the stone base to testify to its presence.

The pick pole was often equipped with a steel spike at the end. The pick pole was the river driver’s most important piece of equipment. It could be used to propel a bateau, to push logs along the river, to pick stray logs off the banks or for balance while the man jumped from log to log during the drive. The pick pole was used to move logs along the waterways, but in skilled hands it could rustle up some dinner by spearing fish.

A bateau was a flat bottomed skiff that saw a great deal of work during the spring drive. A bateau might carry supplies, men and even stray logs during the course of the day. And at night, the boat could be overturned and provide a rough tent of sorts for the weary driver.

Moving logs from the mountains to the mills was a difficult job at best. Sometimes the water flowed too fast and high, at other times the water was so shallow that the men literally pushed the wood down the river. In the Gates and Harlow drive in 1902, initially the high water left four foot sticks stranded on the bank, so men followed the drive to ensure that all cut wood was in the water and mill bound. Important to remember is that these expeditions took place in late April and early May (—a century ago it was still winter weather) and the water must have been extremely cold as men worked the river. A drive could have been spent in the same clothes, which were always wet!

While the men lived in cabins or other permanent buildings when the cutting was going on, a river driver’s home was along the river. The men slept either in tents or under overturned bateaus.

Mel Holland was the time keeper for the Gates and Harlow Company and each day he would drive out from Dixfield to check on the progress of the drive. Mr. Holland would also bring out one or both lunches that the men would eat each day. Breakfast was served before sun-up, lunches along the stream at 9 a.m. and noon, and an evening meal after the day’s work was done. The meals consisted primarily of baked beans, but could also include ham, fish or whatever staples the cook might have on hand. Once the cook served breakfast in the morning, he headed down the river. He had to be a good judge of the driving skills of the team because if the day’s drive went past the cook’s tent, or fell short, the tired men would have to walk to the evenings meal site. 

Though most wood found its way to the mills by way of water, some had to be taken over land. Hardwoods tended to sink in the water so a Holt tractor was used to haul birch and maple to Dixfield. The usefulness of the Holt was short lived as gasoline powered trucks soon took over the roads and mountains. Some of the timber felled on Tumbledown left Weld by steam train. This “log engine” could burn both wood and coal and made its trips from the base of the mountain to Byron on temporary track. Like river driving, hauling by train had its obstacles. Runaway trains were not uncommon on the steep grades and a washed out bridge could result in costly delays.

Steam trains, like tractors, were used only briefly and by the 1930’s the whole concept of logging in Weld had changed. Men and women no longer spent the winters at the camps but rather commuted from their homes to the worksite. The chainsaw, skidder and diesel truck replaced the crosscut saw, ox teams and rushing spring streams. The pictures of logging and river driving in Weld are witness to a time when the success of an operation was largely dependent on the strength of a man rather than a machine!

Remember in just two weeks, March 11, we set our clocks ahead one hour!

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