Poof Tardiff: A Town of Today V

Hello fellow Berlinites. I remember when I first started writing my stories for this newspaper in August of 1999. A lot of water has flowed down the Androscoggin River through Berlin since then and I have researched many years of Berlin's history, along with Gorham and Milan, after this first story. It is with pride that this week's story that you are about to read is number 900. That is a lot of searching and writing, but it is what I enjoy and I will keep doing it, as long as my readers enjoy this city's rich history and my heart keeps telling me to share it with the the citizens of this great Northern New Hampshire municipality. Thank you for following my stories about the history of this area and as usual, I hope that you relish this one.

As I continue with the Berlin Mills Sawmill, which started out as Berlin's first major industry, the refuse from the saws passed through sluices to the basement. It was here where it was sorted according to the purposes for which it was used.

There were no “waste products” at this mill, as everything was used. One part went to the newly built pulp mills and another part went to the lath machines. The rest of this waste which had no other use, was cut up for fuel and used in the boiler plant or at the pulp and paper mills. This company bought no fuel whatsoever for use anywhere about its mills. They were energy dependent back in 1896.

In the yards of the sawmill, were several miles of track on which three locomotives owned by the Berlin Mills Company were kept very busy. A spur track had been built from the Grand Trunk to this mill in 1854 especially for the use of locomotives. They also used about 60 horses about the mills to move cars along the tracks.

The product of their lumber mill was sold in the American market and went also in considerable quantities to South America and England. Along with this, they also made about 2,000 cords of birch annually into spool stock that was sold in Scotland.

Every day, they sent out a train of some times 30 cars loaded with lumber, which was run as a special train to Portland and it was known as the “Berlin Train”.

By 1896, the Berlin Mills company included the huge lumber mill, two pulp mills and a two machine paper mill, which were run to great advantage in connection with their lumber business. They also had a gristmill, a machine shop and a large store in which they did an annual business of about a quarter of million dollars.

This company was not only known as a corporation engaged in manufacturing and selling lumber along with pulp and paper. They were not just in the town of Berlin, they were a part of it and very a essential part. The Berlin Mills Village, that portion of the town lying above the “Narrows” ( a passage that used to exist where Cambridge Street now comes into Main Street), owes its existence entirely to the Berlin Mills Company.

The company, or individuals that comprised it, made possible the building of the Congregational Church and always assisted liberally in its support. Also, when there was no public library in town, they maintained a circulating library and when this village established a free library, the company turned over their valuable collection to this town. They also maintained a free reading room, billiard room etc., for their employees and in countless ways this company contributed to a great extent, towards raising the standard of living in this town by 1896.

The officers of this company during the mid-1890s were W. W. Brown, president; James W. Parker, vice president, Thomas Edwards treasurer and H. J. Brown, assistant treasurer and general superintendent of the mills.

We certainly had more industry in Berlin before it became a city in 1897 than we do today (2016) unfortunately. Another company, of which I have previously written was the Forest Fiber Company, whose first mill was built in 1877 and second mill was built in 1880. They would have stood in the vicinity of today's new courthouse on Upper Main Street.

Henry H. Furbish was the originator of this company and always had a prominent part in the direction of its affairs. He became associated in partnership with J. A. Bacon, a paper manufacturer who owned mills and Lawrence, Massachusetts.

These two men continued in partnership until 1893, when a corporation was formed under the name of the Berlin Falls Fiber Company. For many years Mr. Furbish resided in Berlin and was the active manager of his mills. His son W. H. Furbish was the superintendent by 1896. Henry Furbish has always been considered the “Father of Berlin” for all that he did.

This company manufactured pulp by a chemical process known as the “soda process”. The principal ingredients used were soda ash and lime from which a liquor was made and used to cook a wood called poplar, until the acids and resinous substances were freed from the wood, leaving pure cellulose.

This was boiled into sheets and shipped out to be used in paper making. The product of this mill went mainly to such grades of paper that were used in magazines and fairly good book paper, for which purposes ground pulp, from its lack of fiber could not be used. They used eight cords of poplar a day, but I do not know how the wood got to this mill, either the river or another form of transportation.

Another industry that was already four years old by 1896, was the Burgess Sulphite Fiber Company. This new business enterprise was situated on the east side of the Androscoggin River, directly across from the Berlin Falls Fiber Company. It was this mill that had a big effect on the start of Berlin's East Side.

This huge complex manufactured pulp by a chemical process somewhat resembling the soda process in its general features, though differing greatly in detail. In its early days, this mill had many accidents, being known as the most dangerous of mills at which to work.

Here, spruce was used instead of poplar and the raw materials from which liquor was made were lime and sulfur. The lime, of which about five carloads were used weekly, was brought in from the West and the sulpher was imported from Japan and Sicily.

During this year, the lack of snow hindered lumber operations in Coos County. So, the wood used was brought in from various places, with the mill receiving about 40 carloads a day from Canada. Of course during a good winter, the spring drive brought this wood directly to the mill via the river.

This mill was producing 75 to 80 tons of pulp daily and additions would be built in 1896 to increase the output to 100 tons. In this year the Burgess was the largest mill of its kind in America and when the additions were completed, it became the largest mill of its kind in the world.

I will continue with the Burgess Mill and more when I continue with the days before Berlin became a city.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily Sun. Questions or comments email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, join the many fans of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the weekly mystery pictures that have been posted.

James T. ParkerJames T. Parker

Early Burgess MillEarly Burgess Mill

Brown WW 2W.W. Brown

Brown H.JH.J. Brown