Poof Tardiff: 1903 II

Hello fellow Berlinites. As a result of differences of several months standing between the International Paper Company and the paper makers union of this city, the paper department of this company was shut down on Feb. 13, 1903.

Superintendent Hooper of the IP Mill was notified that the machine tenders, back tenders and others working, would not report to work on this day. This necessitated the closing of the paper department.

The strike of the IP employees which began on Feb. 13, 1903, and caused the hearts of Berlin’s businessmen to palpitate for a short time, was amicably settled within a week. The company was satisfied, the employees got what they wanted, and everybody was happy.

The following agreements were made: The day tour would work 11 hours a day and 60 hours per week, all receiving pay for the actual time worked at their rate per hour. The night shift would work 13 hours a day and receive 65 hours pay as their weekly wage. Some of the rates went up from $18 per week to $19.80 per week after the strike was settled and the daily rates went up from $3 to $3.25.

There were many more strikes that took place at this mill, eventually closing it in 1930.

In 1903, Berlin was the leading city using the great power of the Androscoggin. It had been well stated that there were riches in falling water, equal to mines of coal and gold. It was natural wealth which cost but little to develop. The sun with his great suction pump hoisted the water from the sea to the freshwater reservoirs in the hills and it began to run back to the sea again.

All man had to do was to negotiate the flow and put turbine wheels in the way. The water did the rest and became a willing worker for him. The revolution of the wheels meant power, light, heat, and now in Berlin’s case, paper. When all was at peak, we were only using 20 per cent of the power of the water coming through our fair city.

By March of 1903, Berlin voters emphatically endorsed the administration of the past year. Yes, after the smoke was cleared during the 1903 local election, the city’s affairs would remain in the hands of Mayor John B. Gilbert for another year.

For the first time in the history of this new city, the union labor element had taken a systematic and organized stand in municipal affairs with their candidate for mayor, Mr. Henry M. Moffett.

It was Mayor Gilbert’s popularity — and not only his popularity, but widespread appreciation of his earnest, honest and successful administration — that gained him many votes without regard to party affiliation that another candidate would have secured. Mr. Gilbert won the election by 313 votes, to make him this city’s CEO one more time.

In April 1903, Berlin’s chief hotel, the Berlin House on Exchange Street, changed owners. There was hardly any institution of a public nature or otherwise that added or detracted from this city back then, then it’s hotel. This was why the sale of this Berlin property became big news back in 1903. It was sold by Henry A. Marston to Mr. F. E. Farwell.

Mr. Farwell’s reputation as a hotel man was very well and favorably known throughout the North Country and with him as manager-owner the Berlin House would become even more popular as a “stop over” for the traveling public than it had ever been.

Mr. Marston sold at this time because of continuing ill health, as well as interests outside of the hotel business that demanded more of his time. Marston had been a resident of Berlin since the days of its infancy and his distinctive energy had helped in large measure to make the city as great as it was in 1903.

No project for the advancement of this place had ever been submitted to him without receiving his approval and hearty cooperation and aid. He was a man of pronounced characteristics and ideas, that once enlisted in the cause, nothing could turn him from it, or cause his interest to drop. This inherent energy and vigor in all matters was due much to the success that Mr. Marston had in life.

Henry F. Marston came to Berlin in 1868, about the time that W. W. Brown bought the Winslow Sawmill (Heritage park today). At once, he appreciated what was in store for the small village of Berlin in a matter of growth or business interest and he bought the property where the old St. Regis Academy is today, which was called the Cascade House back then.

For many years, the Cascade House was the largest and most popular hotel in this section and then, as the trend of the population and business came toward the site of the 1903 business section, Mr. Marston built under his own supervision and direction the Berlin House, which he ran for 15 years.

In 1897, after the town became a city, Mr. Marston was the first choice for mayor and he was reelected. It was not in Mr. Marston’s interest to leave Berlin, so he would build himself a residence and devote the rest of his life to his lumber and other interest.

The first drowning of the season in Berlin, took place on Tuesday afternoon April 29, 1903, on the Androscoggin River when Joseph Corriveau slipped from a log while fishing. Mr. Corriveau lived just above the Clement Block (Badger Realty today) on Main Street.

Corriveau had recently returned from driving on the lower Androscoggin near Berlin, where for weeks he had escaped every danger that threatened him. On this day, the young man went with three companions, to a place near the old Dustin farm (near the Milan line) to fish.

The water at this point is very deep and swift where the young man was standing upon a log, which lay partly in the river. His companions were some distance from him when they heard a cry for help, and rushing to where Corriveau had been, saw that he had fallen from the log and was struggling in the water, being hurled further and further out of their reach and help.

In the excitement of the moment, one of his companions, Adelard Fortier, jumped into the river to save his friend, not knowing or realizing that the water at this point was 20 feet deep. Fortier could not swim and instantly disappeared beneath the surface of the water.

It was with extreme difficulty that the two remaining men rescued Fortier. By the time they dragged him ashore, Corriveau’s cries for help had ceased and he had disappeared beneath the current.

Help was summoned, but the body was not found by the time the story was released. Corriveau was just 22 years old, and in spite of his hazardous occupation, could not swim.

That was the same story with many of the great river drivers from this area. They could not swim a stroke, yet they worked in water all day.

I will continue with the year 1903 in my next story.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for the Berlin 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 previously posted weekly mystery pictures.

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Berlin House 1903Berlin House 1903