Hello fellow Berlinites. During April of 1903, a place called Cascade Park (behind Mary’s Pizza today) was getting ready to open up for its first summer traffic. A baseball field was created and put into first class condition.
In order to do this and have the field be a suitable size, the course of the brook (Tinker Brook) which skirted left field, was being moved nearer to the bank. One would pay a hefty fine today if they changed the course of a brook or a river. A tennis court was also laid out near of the casino for those who loved this sport.
The entire park was fenced with a board barrier 8 feet in height. There was no question that if this park could be kept free of people who wanted to destroy property, it would be a popular resort for both Berlin and Gorham during the summer months.
Cascade Park did serve the people of Berlin and Gorham well for a number of years. The trolley would stop to pick up and let people off near there all summer. Many events were held there up until Labor Day and the casino was a big hit.
During May of 1903, organized labor began to assert its power in this city. A huge strike closed the mills of two of Berlin’s largest and most import corporations. It was believed by the general business interests of the city to be the most deplorable happening in the industrial history of this city. That was the strike inaugurated by the pulp makers and saw mill men of the Berlin Mills company (Brown Company) that went into effect on Tuesday, May 12. This strike put more than 1,500 men out of employment.
This strike was very unfavorable to most involved and about two thirds of the men were not sympathetic with this job action. It was believed by most that the workmen of the Berlin Mills Company were as well or better paid than those of any other similar corporations, but the union wanted more concessions.
Meantime, the streets of downtown were full of the idle workers who were orderly and well behaved. It was feared though that they could become unruly as time went on. Downtown businesses were very worried also.
After 10 long days of striking, the men finally went back to work. Never in the history of the city had there been more sincere, heartfelt rejoicing by all classes of citizens after the announcement on Friday, May 22, 1903, that the differences between the operatives of the Berlin Mills Company and the Burgess Sulphite Fiber Company were settled.
One evidence of the wisdom of both strikers and operatives in arriving at an understanding was shown on Monday, May 25, when the gates were opened to admit the men. At that time, hundreds of strangers were present. These strangers had heard of the strike and came to town to take the strikers places, should the opportunity arise. I am sure that there must have been some problems with this.
The newspaper headline in the paper of May 20, 1903, was a proposition to the city by the famous Irish priest of Berlin Father Mackey. He said if the city of Berlin would build, furnish and equip with water and heating apparatus, a school building sufficiently large enough to accommodate 250 pupils on a plot of land to be furnished by him and when completed, lease said building to him for a period of 99 years at a nominal rental of one dollar a year, he would agree for himself and his successors, to bear all expenses of every nature or description. This included furnishing teachers, water, light and heating, keeping in repair, along with maintaining and running said school during this period.
He further agreed that all pupils attending said school, would be provided with with the most modern facilities for obtaining and acquiring a full and complete knowledge of the courses of study prescribed therein, which shall include all studies taught in the most approved modern schools, to pupils or like ages and conditions.
Father Mackey founded the Irish church (St Kieran’s) here in Berlin. He also owned all of the land around the church, which became known as Irish Acres. The school was built by the end of the year.
During the spring of 1903, several forest fires put this town in imminent danger and this city was practically surrounded by flames. Not until the beginning of June 1903 had Berlin been threatened in any serious fashion, though many small fires readily extinguished had been started.
Smaller towns in this county, including Colebrook, Stewartstown and other places had been so seriously threatened that practically the entire male population had been called out to check the flames and regardless of the timber destroyed, save the villages themselves.
Not until Saturday, May 30, 1903, was Berlin brought to the realization of the emotion that her sister towns had been undergoing. On this certain afternoon, a fire started on the side of Black Mountain on the land of the International Paper Company and before any measure could be adopted to check it, the fire had gained such a headway that all efforts in that direction were unavailing and were abandoned.
Fanned by a high wind, the sparks flew in every direction and volumes of smoke mounted in the sky for at least 48 hours. Hardly had the fury of this blaze spent itself, when the smoke began to roll out from the back of Black Mountain, to the west and fanned by the night winds, spread up the side of the mountain with amazing rapidity.
By Tuesday morning, yellow smoke laced sick over the city and from Mount Hayes to Cates Hill, the sun was only seen “as through a dark glass.” By Wednesday noon, the city was virtually surrounded by fire and heavy smoke. Objects on Berlin’s principal streets were indistinguishable at a distance. Showers of sparks and cinders also filled the air making chances of local fire is very high.
The city of Berlin was lucky to to escape this without having serious building fires. Black Mountain is the rise that can be seen from the Berlin-Gorham Road coming towards Berlin and is just beyond the head of Mount Forest. The mountains in this area are: Black Mountain, Mount Forist and Jericho Mountain.
I will continue with a history of Berlin in 1903 in my next writing.