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Mission and History

Mission and History

Mill with moving wheel

Water is what makes the mill wheel go round! This picture demonstrates what happens when too much water is in the mill pond. The water level in the pond is regulated by an overflow, shown here to be open.

The mission of the Maine Forest and Logging Museum is to preserve, celebrate and educate people about the sustainable forest culture of Maine.  The MFLM is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1960, and is unique within the State in its focus on forest resources in a cultural context.

We have many events that focus on the forest and our goal is to embrace all the the forest is and has been! We believe that everyone has a way that they can actively engage with the forest, and to support that, we have regular programming to help people find ‘their place in the woods’.

Our larger events often combine an interactive Living History format with an operating “up-and-down” sawmill, and a variety of other interpretative sites that include an authentic blacksmith shop, bateaux, trappers’ line camp, covered bridge, and a settlers’ log cabin. With school tours and public programs at Leonard’s Mills, the Museum provides to residents of the state and visitors an educational and enjoyable experience through living history. The buildings, collections, research, and – most importantly – the educational and public programs of the Museum are the accomplishments of hundreds of volunteers from throughout the State (drawing from the entire Maine Highlands region, and from points as far as Fryeburg, Millinocket, and Houlton).

In the mid 1950’s a group of enthusiastic volunteers, mostly associated with forestry, proposed the establishment of a museum to preserve and portray the history of the logging and lumbering industries in Maine. As an “outdoor museum”, this proposal would create a unique and innovative way to educate people of all ages about Maine’s forest heritage.  Eastern Maine had been built on logging and lumbering, and there was nothing to portray that part of our history other than a statue of Paul Bunyon in Bangor.  During the next decade, volunteers collected artifacts, documents, tools, and stories to preserve which seemed doomed to be forgotten by generations removed from that logging and lumbering way of life.  The next obvious conundrum arose in the form of a need for space. Where would these artifacts be housed? How would the be made available to the public?

A unique plan was crafted to present a “living history site” to share authentic artifacts and portrayals of craftsmen, housing, and food that were part of a woodcutters life on the Maine frontier. A search for the appropriate spot for such an site eventually located “Leonard’s Mills”, as archaeologists had found evidence of five sawmills on Blackman Stream. During the late 1960’s, a total of 204 acres of the Penobscot Experimental Forest were deeded as a donation to MFLM by the following companies: Scott Paper Co., Great Northern Paper Co., International Paper Co., St. Regis Paper Co., Diamond International Corp., Boise Cascade Paper Group, Dead River Co., Prentiss & Carlisle Co., J.W. Sewall Co., J.M. Huber Corp., Seven Islands Land Co., J.D. Irving Ltd. Shortly thereafter, other lands were donated by Pierce Webber and Edmund Nolette. More recently, Beverly Spencer donated additional acreage.  In total MFLM now owns more than 450 acres.

In November 1960 fifteen supporters of the idea of a “Forestry and Logging Museum” petitioned the State of Maine for incorporation. Those Officers and Directors included:

Dwight DemerittHead of the School of Forestry at U Maine 1934-1946
William HepburnForest Mgr. Diamond Match Timber Unit at Oakland, ME
Fred HoltMaine Forest Service, Augusta
A. D. NuttingHead of the School of Forestry at U Maine 1958 – 1971, Formerly Forest Commissioner State of ME
Earl Spaulding – Dead River Co.
Philip CoolidgeForestry Consultant – Bangor, ME
Louis FreedmanPenobscot Chemical Fibre Timberlands Manager
William HiltonGreat Northern Paper Timberlands Manager – Bangor Office
Austin WilkinsForest Commissioner State of Maine
John MainesGreat Northern Paper Timberlands Manager – Bangor Office
Joel MarshMaine Forest Service Augusta
Ernest RandOxford Paper Co.
Edwin GiddingsPenobscot Chemical Fibre Timberlands Mgr.
F. E. PearsonSt Croix Paper Woodlands Mgr. Woodland, ME
Omar SawyerHollingsworth & Whitney Timberlands Mgr. Waterville, ME

The site of Leonard’s Mills in 1968 consisted of forestland, the remnants of a stone dam, and Blackman Stream. Visionaries created a few diagrams of this living history site, all focusing on a water-powered sawmill with a community of re-enactors harvesting timber, running the mill, making various wood products, living in camps, and period dwellings, as Maine’s early settlers would have done.

History isn’t limited to one period, and Maine’s forest heritage continues into the present. Later development at Leonard’s Mills has preserved equipment, machinery, tools, photos, and documents into the 1900’s. A collection of chainsaws, a clapboard mill, Lombard Log-hauler, shingle mill, and rotary sawmill have all begun to come alive to portray life in the 1900’s, as it related to lumbering and wood products.

Maine Forest and Logging Museum, Inc.

Timeline of Development

Incorporated Nov. 21, 1960:

  • Presidents: Dwight Demerritt, 1960 – 61; A.D. Nutting, 1962 – 69
  • Early volunteers from forest industry and UMaine searching for site upon which to build a museum to preserve forest industry artifacts, documents; sites in Orono, Stillwater, Bangor considered
  • Plans evolved to design a living history museum for presenting life in a lumbering settlement with mills, homes, blacksmith shop, etc.
  • Old mill site located on Nichols (aka Blackman Stream) owned by Penobscot Experimental Forest
  • Talks to secure land from PEF began
  • Bailey Bridge spanned Blackman Stream
  • Pole barn moved from Clifton to serve as storage

1970s:

  • Presidents: John Maines, 1970 – 78; Allan Leighton, 1979 – 92
  • Plans developed for water-powered sash sawmill – models built
  • Field days held to clear land
  • Began site work for mill
  • Rebuilding of original dam

1980s:

  • Transfer of 204 acres from PEF completed
  • Saw pit built
  • Water-powered mill constructed
  • Trails cleared for hiking
  • First bateau built
  • Caretaker’s’ House with workshop built
  • Covered bridge erected
  • Trappers’ camp built
  • Blacksmith Shop moved from Hudson
  • Lombard Log-hauler purchased
  • First living history event held with bean hole beans
  • First newsletter published
  • Mill first ran though adaptations needed

1990s:

  • Presidents: David Edson, 1992 – 1999; Earle Hannigan, 1999 – 2007
  • Other structures built -Sawyer’s House, Gift Shop, hovel, amphitheater
  • Water-powered sawmill finished
  • Log cabin moved from Clifton

2000’s:

  • President: Michael Lane, 2007 – 2012
  • Mill area started for 1990’s mills: rotary sawmill, clapboard mill, shingle mill, planer
    Fishway built
  • New boiler for Lombard built following $65,000 fund raising drive
  • Smokehouse constructed by Scouts
  • Water wheel rebuilt

2010s:

  • Presidents: Anette Rodrigues 2012 – 2016, Melissa Doane 2016 – 2017, Herb Crosby 2017 – 2018
  • Shingle mill sawed cedar and pine shingles
  • Machinery Hall built
  • Storage mezzanine completed for storing tool collection
  • Crooker Lombard steam log hauler brought to museum to help with our restoration
  • Our Lombard log hauler moved into Machinery Hall, restoration completed in 2014 with help from 80 University of Maine Mechanical Engineering Technology students and many volunteers
  • 1937 Cletrac restored and runs at events
  • University of Maine Construction Engineering Technology students install new cedar shake roof on covered bridge in 2014Chet Grady Machine Shop completed in 2015
  • Over 250,000 Alewives swim up Blackman Stream fishway returning to Chemo Pond in 2015 – first Alewife Festival held
  • Alewife smokehouse built
  • Timber inventory of museum forests done by Prentiss and Carlisle – mechanized timber harvest made on Haynes lot in 2015
  • Floor repairs made in water-powered sawmill and on covered bridge
  • Museum gets $15,000 Davis Family Foundation Grant for water-powered sawmill roof and sill replacement
  • Tuesday Crew puts new roofs on pole barn, gift shop, and Alewife smokehouse
  • Circa 1920 Hackett & Witham rotary sawmill restoration nears completion, makes test run in 2016
  • 2017: Wind storm in October brings down many trees, demolishing the trapper’s cabin and the gate house. The gift shop sustained minor damage.
  • 2018: Many hours spent clearing debris from wind storm.
  • 2018: Weeks spent processing the downed trees with a portable sawmill brought to museum.
  • 2018: Trapper’s cabin reconstructed.
  • 2018: Tuesday crew constructed new privies by Visitors Center.
  • 2018: University of Maine Construction Engineering Technology students put new roof on hovel.
  • 2018: University of Maine Construction Engineering Technology students and Tuesday Crew built new privies by the caretaker’s house and the blacksmith shop.