Museum a trove of forestry heritage

8 years ago

The Ashland Logging Museum offers a taste of what life has been like for the people working in Maine’s north woods over many generations.

With a replica camp, hundreds of handmade tools and artifacts, a Lombard log hauler, and more, the museum tells the stories of the local people and forestry industry going back through history, said Bernie Howes, a curator with the museum and a manager with Seven Islands Land Company.

“They wanted a way to remember the local history of logging and the way it used to be,” Howes said of the people from Ashland, Masardis, Oxbow, Garfield Plantation and other nearby communities who donated their property and time to the museum.

The late Ashland forester George Sawyer, who spearheaded the museum’s founding in 1964, also saved one of the North Maine Woods’ last King’s Arrow pines, among the large pine trees earmarked for the British Navy. Sawyer found the tree dying and hollow-hearted in the unorganized territory near Oxbow, cut it down and brought it to the museum, where it is today.

The museum includes indoor and outdoor exhibits with items donated by several generations of lumber workers and their family members, as well as recently-renovated firetower and the former Ashland town jail.

The replica double cabin shows what lumber workers lived in from the 1860s through the 1930s, Howes said. Inside is a bunk bed made of peeled fir poles that would have been covered in balsam boughs as a mattress, as well as a handmade wooden rocking chair from a foreman for Pinkham Lumber camps, and a kitchen full of well preserved cast iron cookware.

Inside the museum’s office and exhibit hall is a sizable collection of artifacts spanning the region’s forestry and other history: two-person handsaws, early-modern motorized chainsaws, snowshoes, home-made cribbage boards, birch bark sap buckets and snowshoes. Maps, photographs and writings also are on display, such as the old local poem “Tougher than a boiled owl,” a story of a hungry crew that Howes can recite from memory.

The Ashland Logging Museum is at 267 Garfield Road, and open by appointment. Howes said the museum welcomes people dropping by. The phone number of Ed Chase, longtime museum volunteer and an area tree farmer, is on the door, and Howes works across the road.

The museum also has a biennial fall festival, which will be held this year, Howes said. It’s about the only time of year that members of the public can take a view of Ashland and the Aroostook River valley from the restored Norway Bluff Fire Tower.