Living History Days this weekend

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Fall days at the Maine Forest and Logging Museum mean wood smoke, fresh cider, beanhole beans and wagon rides. The smith’s hammer ringing at a forge under a chestnut tree. Living like it was 1790 on the green.

On Saturday and Sunday, October 7-8, the museum; located off the Government Road in Bradley, is holding its largest event, Living History Days, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Leonard’s Mills area hosts re-enactors and demonstrators portraying life in an early logging settlement – canvas tents and cooking over the fire. Spinning and weaving in the sawyer’s house, smithing, woodworking and more activities throughout the grounds. Help with the cider pressing, then have a cup with a hot biscuit and some beans when the pots come out of the ground.

On Saturday, Ken Henderson, a local potter who makes period-appropriate redware, will be demonstrating wheel-turning pieces of clay into functional, and beautiful, vessels. On Sunday afternoon, “From Away Downeast”, a chantey group from the Pembroke area, will be performing historic songs of Maine lumberjacks and river drivers. Join in the singing from 1-3 p.m. Catch a ride on the wagon to tour the grounds in style! The water-powered sawmill has been renovated, thanks to a Davis foundation grant and lots of volunteer hours. Check out the gears! Limited demonstration is planned, due to low water levels.

The 20th Maine Company B re-enactors will be encamped in the field before the covered bridge, sharing a part of what life was like in the 1800s – many Maine men left a life working in the woods to fight for the Union. Life was hard. Some things hadn’t changed much since the 1790s, though. Compare clothes and cooking gear on either side of the bridge.

The really big change to see is the mechanized world – study the sawpit and water-powered sawmill in the Leonard’s Mill area, and then check out the 1900s Millyard. Production of boards by hand, sash saw and then rotary sawmill. Production in Maine sped up! The rotary sawmill and shingle mill will both be operating; you can see the museum’s own shingles on many buildings, including inside the Visitor’s Center.

The Visitor’s Center by the parking lot is nearing completion. Pine walls inside have been pickled, shingles and clapboards installed, the Grady Machine shop is in order. The belt-driven machines will be demonstrated – the kind used to make repair parts for machines like our Lombard! They have been used for that purpose once again. Lots to see in the building, including Peter Grant of Odd Duck Foundry casting metal, some serious two-man chainsaws and models of logging equipment. The Visitor’s Center houses three Lombards at the moment!

The machine that really changed the nature of working in the Maine woods was the Lombard loghauler. The museum’s steam-operated machine was made in Waterville. Alvin Lombard patented his invention of the continuous lag tread in 1900, taking a steam locomotive, putting some skis on front and massive lag treads on back so you could drive into the woods on a road of ice. Towing up to 300 tons of wood on average, the machines were run 24/7 while the cold weather held the ice in good condition. It fulfilled its purpose: to save some horses. The machine would do the work of 50-60 horses.

In addition to the museum’s restored machine, which will run in the middle of each day once the steam is up, we have a steam machine on loan from the Crooker family that looks like it just drove out of the woods! Take a look at the house built over the driver – factory models didn’t come with protection from cinders or nasty weather. The Breton family loaned the museum a 1932 gas Lombard for its summer event, and it is still here. Lombard was making his loghaulers with gasoline power by 1910, although steam machines were available for several more years. It is a rare opportunity to see a steam Lombard, a gas Lombard and a tiny steam Lombard model running.

Chris Rueby completed the 1/10th scale working steam Lombard some visitors may have seen at the museum’s May event. He has been posting updates from New York and it will be exciting to see it running. The machinists skill in miniature is fascinating. Chris will be operate the model in the Visitor’s Center on the cement floor- ust pretend it is ice!

Admission for Living History Days is adults $10, $5 children and half price for members. Contact Sherry Davis at 974-6278 for more info or go towww.maineforestandloggingmuseum.org. You should also contact Davis if you can join as a volunteer for the event; period clothing is not required! Help with parking or another job for a shift and then enjoy the event for the other half of the day. It take many hands to share the museum and all it has to offer with visitors.