Poof Tardiff: 1903

Hello fellow Berlinites. In the spring of 1903, the East Side was still in its infancy, but it certainly needed fire protection, which this section did not seem to have yet. On Sunday, May 18, 1903, the fire department was called out to a blaze in the house of Roscoe Mason on Burgess Street. The firefighters responded promptly, but were handicapped in being far away from water service, as the nearest hydrant was at the corner of Main and Mason streets.

By coupling the hoses of two companies, one line was finally stretched to the burning house, only saving the next-door residence. A steamer from the International Paper Company was placed near the Mason Street Bridge and took water from the river to assist in the work, but had a defect in the hose which broke in numerous places and could not be of any assistance. A line was also connected to the Burgess Mill, but not until the worst of the fire was over. It must have certainly been a struggle in these days to fight huge structural fires, not saying that it isn’t a tough job today (2017).

Sometime before the year 1903, it was reported that the power at Pontook Falls, located 15 miles north of Berlin on the Androscoggin River in Dummer, was going to be developed.

The newspaper of July 16, 1903 stated that the power was in deed going to be industrialized during the next year. As a result, 8,000 hp would then be available to this city for manufacturing and other purposes. All of the surveys had been made, rights-of-way bounded and general arrangements preliminary to an undertaking of such magnitude were almost completed by the end of July 1903.

This company would become known as the Pontook Power Company. It would build a canal one mile long, repair the dam that was in place, and erect a large powerhouse at an estimated cost of just over $300,000. The power that would finally be developed, would be second only to that of the Berlin Mills Company at the Cascades. This company would be composed only of men who were already interested in the concerns at Berlin. This power would be transmitted the 15 miles in the form of electricity, with a substation erected. All of this work was to become completed by early spring of 1904.

According to the report of the United States geological survey, the Androscoggin River was the largest worked stream in New England. A list of all the water powers along this river were registered, with the last one being in Brunswick, Maine.

Add to this latter amount of 18,000 hp that was just being developed at Cascade and the 8,000 hp that would come out of Pontook, we were providing all the power needed to keep the industries in Berlin operational.

By September of 1903, a contract was awarded to Snodgrass and Stewart to build the Carnegie Library here in Berlin on Upper Main Street. On Monday, Sept.28, 1903, bids were again opened and the contract was given to the aforementioned contractor. The amount of the contract was $14,000 and did not include the cost of the hardware, electric lights, books stacks, etc., which would use up the remaining $1,000 of $15,000 donated by Andrew Carnegie.

During the middle of August 1903, a huge timber deal took place in the neighboring town of Shelburne. One of the largest individual transfers of timberland in the North Country in 1903 was that of W. K. Aspen of New York, to High Sheriff Fred N. Wheeler of Berlin. Mr. Aston had a summer home in this town and secured several thousand acres of the undivided land in the late 1890s, and it was from this tract that the transfer was made. Sheriff Wheeler was not connected with any other parties. He made this deal single-handedly and for his own future speculation.

Instituted in early 1903, the Berlin District Nurse was an organization that meant much to this growing city and the great plan of Mrs. Orton B. Brown was proving to be an outstanding success story.

It wasn’t long after an institution known as the Instructor District Nursing Association was conceived and put into operation in some of the largest cities of this country. Its results had been so far beyond what was expected; the stress and suffering of a certain class had not only been relieved, but in a measure prevented to such an extent that this system had attracted attention and approval the world over. It was this system that Mrs. Brown, with assistance, inaugurated in the “Paper City.”

By August of 1903, this work was fully underway and Esther A. Uhlshoeffer, formally the night superintendent of the state sanitarium in Rutland, Mass., had been engaged as a nurse here. Miss Uhlshoeffer had lots of experience, and although she had been in Berlin for only a short time, the verdict was that she was the right one in the right place.

The principal reason that the district nurse was such a success was because the support and encouragement given on both sides. The doctors agreed with it from the beginning and were very enthusiastic. The clergy, all the professionals and businessmen and the heads of Berlin’s corporations, saw great good in this program and did everything they could to encourage it.

The health picture in Berlin prior to 1903, was pretty dark and discouraging. In 1902 and 1903 this city spent $4,099 for the care of smallpox cases and later, typhoid became rampant. In 1903, there were 22 stillborn infants and out of 325 born, 79 died the first year. We only had practical nurses back then, and this is when the visiting nurse program got going to lend a helping hand.

Once an employee secured a life insurance policy, they had the privileges of the visiting nurse and their supervisor, who was now Miss Uhlshoeffer. If one was ill or injured and resided in the nursing district, they could have the service of the visiting nurse.

The nurse would come over to the house, make one comfortable and carry out the doctors instructions, along with rendering bedside care. The nurse did not stay in the patient’s home, but would come as often as necessary. They would stay from 15 minutes to an hour. This was a great program for Berlin and saved many lives, all because of this city’s women.

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

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, joining them many fans of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the previously posted weekly mystery pictures.

Ulshoeffer Esther 1Esther Ulshoeffer

Pontook DamPontook Dam

High Sheriff Fred WheelerHigh Sheriff Fred Wheeler

Early East SideEarly East Side