Friday, May 27, 2011

History of Howland Mills, Howland, Maine, Howland Falls Paper Co., Advance Paper & Bag Co., Atlas Plywood Corp., and Pine Tree Tanning Co

In 1889 a mill was erected at the junction of the Penobscot and Piscatquis Rivers in Howland and was known as the Howland Falls Paper Company.  The complex was destroyed by fire just four years later and during the same year (1893) a brick factory and sulfite mill were built.

The State Senate and House of Representatives approved an ACT on March 10, 1893, which authorized and empowered the Howland Falls Pulp Company to erect and maintain booms and piers in the Piscataquis River and Seboeis Stream.

In January 1897 the company filed for bankruptcy.  The business was re-instated that same year and ran for approximately eighteen months under John C. Gerald.

The fall of 1897 showed reorganization under the name of Howland Pulp Company.  The firm operated until 1904.  It was sold in March of that year to a man by the name of Babbett, who formed the Howland Pulp and Paper Company.  The mill ran until 1916 and was sold to E.P. Lindsey, who then formed the Howland Pulp and Paper Corporation.

W.S. McCloskey began his career as an office boy at the age of 12 at the paper mill.  He worked various positions and began in the wet room when he had turned 16.  From there he worked up to the head of the department.  When the first paper machine was installed in 1903 he began as oiler and cleaner, advancing to head machine tender with 12 years of experience.  In 1920 he was made superintendent of the Howland mill and held that position until his untimely death at age 48.

The wage scale for a machine tender at that time was 95 cents per hour and back tender 73 cents per hour.  All other wages from the beater room, Kraft Mill, incinerator room, digester, diffuser, evaporating, Sulphite Mill, cooks, helpers, acid plant, wet room, wood room, power and steam plants, tramway operators, river men, mill yard, truck drivers all paid on the average of about 61 cents an hour.  The repair crew that consisted of masons, mason helpers, carpenters, machinists, blacksmiths, painters, pipers, and numerous others all averaged between 69 cents to 92 cents per hour.  At this time Joseph Hedin was the general manager.

On January 1, 1921, the paper corporation merged with the Advance Bag and Paper Company of Middleton, Ohio and took the name of Advance Bag and Paper Company, Inc.  The new firm brought plenty of prosperity to the town which helped commercial business to florish.  The Paper Company operated for a period of 18 years.  It sadly closed it's doors for good on March 18, 1939.  They moved most of its equipment to Hodge, Lousiana.

In order to get industrial life blood flowing again in Howland and Enfield a Board of Trade was organized.  President, Merle Weymouth, Vice Presidendt Gerald Kelley,  Secretary, Ralph Leavitt and Treasurer Edward Buck.  Directors were William Nodin, Edmond Nadeau, Earl Dekin, Ben Carpenter, Charles McKay and John Graham.

All of the above men and many others worked long hours and traveled many miles to talk with excutives of the Atlas Plywood to convince them to locate to Howland and take over where the Advance Bag and Paper Company left off.  Eventually the Atlas and Northern Kraft people were convinced.  They were handed a petition signed by over 400 people in the area dedicating themselves to all types of work.  The excutives were also assured of plenty of lumber, with a 40 to 50 mile radius of Howland that would last for at least 30 years.  The Northern Kraft said they could produce 75 tons of pulp every 24 hours.

In 1940 just prior to World War 11 the Atlas Plywood Company purchased the buildings owned by the Advance Bag and Paper Company.  In the same year the plywood company and the Gilman Paper Co., (Northern Kraft) moved into the building occupied by Atlas Plywood.

Business prospered, the town grew.  The Main Street was a busy area.  It had five grocery stores, two restaurants, bakery, barbershop, post office, hardware store, clothing store, watch repair shop and gift shop.  Main Street also had a Rexal Drug Store where prescriptions could be filled, a pool hall, legion hall,  several apartments in the old Bank Block, a town hall and a library. A movie theater was established at the town hall.  Saturday matinees were 18 cents and 35 cents for Saturday and Wednesday evenings.

The Plywood mill manufactured plywood crates for shipping such goods as refrigerators, shoes, military equipment and many other things.  This firm was one that survived on government contracts during World War 11.

The St. Regis Company of Tacoma Washington, which had been manufacturing Kraft paper by shipping wood across the continent and loading it aboard freighters bound for Norway, looked at the question of the Advance Bag and Paper Company as a means of keeping the operations solely in the United States.  The purchase of the plant was negotiated in 1950 in the city of Bangor at the Bangor House.

St. Regis became Howland's largest employer.  The cost of renovating and keeping up with the times exhausted all of the working capital the company had over a few short years.  By December 1952 St. Regis shifted its Kraft paper operations to other locations in the northeast.  The Howland plant closed laying off two hundred workers.

Atlas Plywood remained on the adjoining building site until October 1955, when the high cost of raw materials forced it to closed. 

The departure of the towns two major industries devasted the town once again.  A group of area residents formed the Howland-Enfield Development Corporation for the purpose to attract new industry to the area.

The committee was successful in 1957 to selling the Howland plant to Pine Tree Tanning Company for $32,064.17.  It eventually became on of the town's largest employers.  Pine Tree Tanning stayed until the fall of 1972 and then closed it's doors permanently.

The building still remains empty today. 

Acknowledgements:  Woodrow Faloon, Harold Robinson, Ruth Anderson, Richard Glueck, Russel Smart, Gary Sage, Bangor Daily News.

Revised by Richard Buck 2009

History of Howland Mills, Howland Maine, Howland Falls Paper Co., Advance Bag and Paper Co., Northern Kraft, St Regis Paper Co., Atlas Plywood Co., Pine Tree Tanning Co