Tag Archives: Penobscot River

Part 1 of 5: Henry Buxton says…BROOKS FAMILY OF ORRINGTON NOTABLE CLAN

Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 

Henry Buxton says…BROOKS FAMILY OF ORRINGTON NOTABLE CLAN

George Brooks Built First Grist Mill in the Town

SON HELPED MAKE HISTORY IN WEST

H.N. Brooks of Brewer Upholds Tradition of Craftsmanship

A strong, dominating strain of expert craftsmanship and artisanry which prevailed among forebears in Bradford, England, centuries ago, and persisted down through the generations until it found expression in America in the genius of shipbuilding, railroad construction and pottery making, are conspicuous in the background of the Brooks family of Orrington.

Seldom may one family boast of such varied and distinctive achievement as this family whose ancestors were among the first settlers of that beautiful Maine village on the west bank of the Penobscot river a few miles south of Bangor.

One of these Orrington Brookses built himself a covered wagon from Penobscot spruce, journeyed westward with his family, settled in Cincinnati and built the first brig and the first steamboat to run on the Ohio River.

Still another of these gifted Orrington Brookses constructed the first railroad to connect the Ohio river with the Great Lakes, during the Civil War served as quartermaster general of the western Union army under Secretary of War Stanton, and at Louisville, Ky., accumulated millions of dollars worth of supplies which enabled General Sherman to make his epochal march from Atlanta to the sea and break the backbone of the rebellion.

And not less distinctive than these Brookses who helped to make history for the United States is Harrison Nash Brooks of the Brooks brickyard, Brewer, who inherits in a large measure the artistry and craftsmanship which has run like a golden thread for centuries in the Brooks family fabric.
Mr. Brooks is a potter of exceptional genius as well as an expert manufacturer of brick, and his excavations in clay deposits in the Penobscot River region have furnished valuable contributions to the anthropological and historical lore of the Maine district.  His house in Brewer is a veritable museum of relics, which have to do not only with the early history of his family in Maine, but with the stirring events of the Revolution and War of 1812.

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Orrington Waterways

Edited work by Lois-Ann Holmes, formerly of South Orrington, April 2011.

Clark Falls on Johnson Mill Road, Orrington, Maine

The Clark Falls location is documented back to 1839, when a member of the Freeman family built a flour mill at this site. This mill did not prove successful.

In 1850, Vinal Cooper took over this mill site and operated what was probably the first paper mill in the area. The mill made paper from rags, not wood pulp. Rag paper is superior but cannot be produced in large quantities. The mill was still operating in 1860.

Sometime after that date, the paper mill burned. Vinal Cooper replaced the mill with a shingle mill which the Johnson Brothers took over after 1880 and converted to sawing barrel headers. They also added a gristmill and cider mill to the operation.

The 1900s arrived with automobiles and electricity; there was a decline of industry in town. As of the 1920s, there seems to be no findable record of this mill. There also seems to be no record of the destruction of the buildings which must have been on this site.

The site has plenty of remnants of the old mill with some concrete footings, stone foundation remnants, etc.

For a video of Clark Falls, see the OHS Facebook page.

Walin’tuk Creek from Swetts Pond to the Penobscot River, Orrington, Maine

Another waterway connected to Clark Falls spills into the Penboscot River at the boat landing in South Orrington.  It is Walin’tuk Creek.  Located in a historic area of Orrington, the name of this creek is now Mill Creek. If one looks upstream, visible are the footings where an old mill used to rest.

If you were to follow that stream back from the Penobscot to its origin, you would be at Swetts Pond by the dam.  From Swetts Pond the stream meanders down along Dow Road, crosses under the road, crosses below the dead end of Stump Lane, coming down along Clarks Falls Road, going under Johnson Mill Road, over the Clark Falls, meandering some more along Johnson Mill Road, and crossing under Rt. 15 by the railroad tracks near Quarry Road on its way to the Penobscot.  In fact, were the concrete and earthen Swetts Pond Dam to breech, this is the flood plain it would affect as has happened twice due to beaver.

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“Earl on the River” – S. Orrington shipwright models 19th century vessels

by Harry Gratwick

Originally Posted: March 1st, 2005 in The Working Waterfront.

This article has been republished with the permission of The Island Institute

He calls himself “Earl on the River” and when you hear his story, you’ll know why. Earl Morrill is a 58-year-old resident of South Orrington who specializes in building scale models of 19th-century Maine sailing vessels. I first met him in the summer of 2003 while I was doing research for an article on the history of the Penobscot River. I soon discovered, however, that in addition to being a superb builder of historic model ships, Morrill was a veritable storehouse of information about the Penobscot. But that’s another story.

The second of six children, Earl Morrill grew up in South Orrington, eight miles south of Bangor. He was born and raised in a house that was built by his great-great grandfather in 1867. From an early age, he remembers hanging around an old trapper named Joe Hurd who, according to Earl, “knew everyone and had lots of stories to tell about the days of sailing ships on the river.” Morrill credits Hurd with teaching him how to row and “get up and down the river no matter what the tide, by using the eddies.” He also remembers sailing on the river when he was 14 in a flat-bottomed rowboat. “She had a plank keel under her, one mast, a square yardarm, a tough sheet and a tiller on the stern.”

“I guess it was Old Joe,” says Morrill, “who was the beginning of my maritime studies and my desires to build models of Maine sailing vessels.”

Earl’s great-great-grandfather, Joseph H. Atwood, was another influence. Atwood was captain of a three-masted schooner, the CHARLES S. HAZZARD, built in Essex, Massachusetts. In the 1850s and 1860s, the HAZZARD hauled lumber from Bangor down the Penobscot to Boston and New York three times a year. On return voyages she would bring back a load of produce. Winters she was “iced into the cove” behind the house Atwood built on Mill Creek and where Morrill still lives. As recently as 1955, Earl remembers there were still a few hulks lying on the shore. “Even today,” he says, “there is an old two-master washing out of the cove by Ryders Point, just north of here. She has yielded two half-pennies and an 1836 dime. The ship was named the PLANTER and was used for hauling split wood up and down the river to feed the lime kilns in Rockport.”

“All this history, and my great-great gramp being part of it, just got me started researching,” Earl remembers. “The more I found out, the more I wanted to build an historic model from the keel up.” Earl was in his 20s when he began a model of Atwood’s ship, the HAZZARD. “I had done the research,” he recalls. “However, I soon realized that I was way over my head trying to build a model boat.” He stopped for three months and gave himself a crash course in shipbuilding, which included studying everything he could find on the subject in the Bangor library. When Earl finally finished the HAZZARD, he admits, “She was a little crude, but eventually I sold her to the owner of The Harris Co. in Portland.” The owner, Austin Harris, has since retired, but when I spoke with him recently he assured me the CHARLES S. HAZZARD is prominently displayed in his parlor in Yarmouth.

Morrill’s second model-building effort was the four-masted schooner JAMES E. COBURN. He remembers finding a picture of her while she was being built on Mill Creek in 1919. “Historic model building took a long time in those days,” he recalls. Mostly this was because of the time it took for research and the fact that everything came by regular mail. Even now, before he begins a project, Morrill does months of research on a ship. His model of the COBURN can be seen today in the Orrington Historical Society. He continued to improve his skills when he next built a model of the S.S. ROOSEVELT, the ship Admiral Robert E. Peary took to the North Pole in 1908. Earl’s great-great uncle, Maynard Wardwell, was Peary’s chief engineer on that expedition. The ROOSEVELT was built in 1905 on Verona Island just south of Bucksport. Appropriately, Earl’s model of the ship has been on display in the Buck Library in Bucksport for the last 10 years.

“By the third ship, you are hooked,” he says. “You know you can do a better job on the next vessel and you drive yourself to a higher level of accuracy.” Earl now waits for orders before starting to work on a ship.

Today he posts pictures of his models on his website, www.geocities.com/mainecoastersriggers. [This article was published in 2005, and this link is no longer valid.] He builds his ships to scale 1/4″=1′, plank on frame. “I can scratch-build a schooner from the keel up in about 7-9 months,” he says. Morrill works only on Maine sailing ships and insists they must be documentable and original (the first model to be built). A number of years ago, the owner of a local newspaper saw the S.S. ROOSEVELT on display in Bucksport and asked Morrill to build him a vessel. After some negotiating, he agreed to build a historic model of the brig TELOS, out of Bangor, for $9,000. In this case, his client even agreed to do the research.

Morrill is particularly proud of the model he made of the SPITFIRE, a fast clipper ship built in 1853. At one point, she held the record of 106 days for the fastest trip from New York to San Francisco. The SPITFIRE is currently on display in the Searsport Marine Museum. His research included examining 19th century maps of the Penobscot River area in an effort to locate a slipway large enough to accommodate a 200-foot vessel. His challenge was that in the 19th century, there were 40 towns on the Penobscot with slipways for constructing ships and he had to find a specific site. After careful study he found both the slipway and house of the builder, Isaac Dunham, in present-day Winterport. Earl finished the SPITFIRE in 2000 and it was sold at the Maritime Museum’s annual fund-raiser for $20,000.

Historic model shipbuilding has always been much more than just a hobby for Morrill, and yet he has had to earn a living. After graduating from Brewer High School (class of ’64) he joined the Navy and served for six years as a damage control man on a nuclear submarine off Vietnam. Following his discharge he lived in Portland, first as an engineer on a coastal tanker, the W.M. MCLOON. Later he worked at The Harris Co. making fishing gear. For the last 15 years Earl’s “day job” has been at U.S. Blades, a knife and saw shop in nearby Hampden. And yet wherever he is, Morrill admits he “always has a model ship building project going on.”

Morrill works up to 30 hours evenings and weekends on his “second” job, rarely taking a vacation. To date, he estimates, he has built almost 20 historic sailing ships from scratch. Included are eight or nine schooners, one barkentine, two brigs, three clippers, two frigates and a packet ship. In addition, he figures he has restored “close to” another 30 ships. Morrill plans to retire from his job at U.S. Blades in the not-too-distant future and yet, unlike many retirees, he has more than enough to keep himself busy for the rest of his life. Over the years he has developed a database of more than 4,000 vessels, including 2,800 built on the Penobscot River from 1780 to 1940. “I am self-taught on the computer,” he says. “I had to learn to be able to do quicker research on maritime history.” Morrill has always had a number of students to whom he sends lessons, compiled from his old model-building records, once a week. “We are all set up with the same graphic software so I can send drawings, pictures and ship plans,” he says. Most of his students live in the United States, though he says a student from Australia built a “really nice Maine schooner a couple of years ago — some guys get it and some give it up. You gotta love it or leave it alone.”

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