Saco River Mills

This is one of the earliest views of the mills at Steep Falls, probably taken in 1900. A rebuilt dam is visible on the left & the wooden building in the center is what remains of Tobias Lord's double saw mill which had long ceased operation by this time.

The large building in back is the new excelsior mill built by The Boston Excelsior Company.

An 1892 newspaper article noted that the J. H. & T. Lord firm is desirous of selling the water power & land at Steep Falls.

The Lewiston Journal reported in December 1895, that the entire water power & it's appurtenances are for sale.

"The former business of the mills here on both banks of the Saco, together with the many shook shops in the village, was supplying the West India trade with molasses hogsheads and sugar barrels. There is now no demand as the products of the West India cane mills arrive in bags. The shook shops are idle and the lumber mills have gradually changed to other forms of industry. The largest mill, that of Tobias Lord, is closed and the health of Tobias Lord is failing."

The entire property was sold by the Lord heirs to The Boston Excelsior Company in July 1897, who subsequently hired Dunn Brothers of Portland to built a "steam mill" in 1900. The building was 60 feet by 100 feet, the machinery to be run by a 10 horsepower engine.

The manufacture of excelsior proved to be a short-lived industry in Steep Falls as the property was soon sold to the White Mountain Paper Company who by January 1903 had already started working on a coffer dam preparatory to building a pulp mill. Boston Excelsior Company had ceased producing excelsior by February 1903.

Another view of the mill taken between 1900 & 1905 using a glass plate negative. This view illustrates the extent of the manufacturing industry that once thrived at Steep Falls. On the left is an old mill built on the ledge on the river bank in Limington. The earliest mill on this side of the river was built in 1831 by Jabez Hobson, soon after the original Steep Falls double saw mill.

On the right is Tobias Lord's abandoned saw mill & the new excelsior mill.

In the center of the picture is the iron highway bridge with the dam below. This bridge was built in 1891 and was destroyed by the the great flood of 1936.

The above photo postcard was mailed April 2, 1906 and the sender reported that "The space between the old mill and the water is where the new mill will be."

A news clipping dated October 1905 notes that "Work on the the foundation of the new pulp mill is progressing very fast under the management of the contractors, Ward Brothers."

In this view the temporary coffer dam is seen above and below the main dam. The saw mill has been removed and the ledge below the excelsior mill has been blasted out in preparation for the new pulp mill. It appears that the main mill building is being remodeled as all the windows and siding have been removed.

Here is a postcard view mailed on July 9, 1907. This photograph, taken from Main Street, shows the recently completed pulp mill, (the low building on the right), alongside the the newly refurbished main building which contained the pressing machines.

The pulp mill was two stories high & was built over a man made channel of the river. It's primary purpose was to house the grinding machines. The excess space was used to store wood waiting to be ground.

The railroad spur leads to the loading platform with a separate spur to the left for extra freight cars.

Notice the several large piles of logs waiting to be processed.

The Androscoggin Pulp Mill was Steep Falls' largest employer with 80 men on the payroll at peak employment. Payday was on Thursdays and the mill cashier, Charles Henderson, would meet the morning train at Steep Falls Station with an old suitcase to pick up the payroll from the train's mail clerk.

The men worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week and were paid 17 1/2 cents per hour.

In this winter view, taken between 1910 & 1915, 50 men (& boys) are posed for a group photograph. Notice the 2 men in the front row, left are displaying pulp hooks on their shoulders. Identities

They are on the side of the mill facing away from the river and are standing on and in front of the railroad loading platform. The men on the ground are standing on railroad tracks located at the end of the spur built to move the finished pulp by rail to their associated mill in South Windham where paper was produced.

Today, (2004), there are faint remnants of this spur still visible... several railroad ties are still in place and a stone railroad bridge crosses the Steep Falls Brook.

Mill Area Map 1871

Portland Press Herald, Thursday, November 21, 1935

Pulp Mill Fire

Steep Falls Plant
Androscoggin Pulp Company
Ground Wood Mill

The Androscoggin Pulp Mill Ruins, Winter 2001

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