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John Martin: Expert Observer

Scrapbook 1: 1885-1899, Katahdin Iron Works, Silver Lake Hotel


"A Little Daisy," Katahdin Iron Works, 1890

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society and Maine State Museum

In October 1885, when he was 62 years old, John Martin left his home in Bangor for long stretches to work as an accountant at the Katahdin Charcoal Iron Co. near Brownville.

Continuing his writing tradition that he began with his journal in 1864, his final scrapbook chronologically (which he labeled as Scrapbook 1) reflects back on his life and recounts contemporary experiences.

Ever the acute observer, recorder, and illustrator, Martin described and illustrated that iron works that first opened in Maine in the 1840s -- and that closed in 1890.

His text, some hand-written and some newspaper clippings that he or others wrote, provides details about the iron-making process, the business end of iron making, and the Silver Lake Hotel, which served both tourist interests and workers at the Iron Works.

Even though the name of the company changed over the years as business waxed and waned, the area remained known as "Katahdin Iron Works." The large furnace was fueled by wood, cut nearby and turned into charcoal. Throughout the history of iron making at the site, problems with the high sulfur content ore, transportation, and other issues persisted.

By 1890, the charcoal iron process was passé.

Martin, of course, did not limit his comments to the industry for which he worked. Passionate about dancing, he organized and participated in dances at the Hotel and in nearby communities.

He also revisted topics he wrote about in his journal and other scrapbooks: his family history, his childhood, and his various jobs.

Poignantly, he also recorded the deaths of two of his daughters, Annie Martin Snow and Mabelle Martin.

To make the scrapbook more easily accessible, it is broken into four sections, accessible by the links below, or the links at left, where a slightly more detailed account of the contents of each section can be found.

Part 1, to page 21  
Part 1, to page 21Katahdin Iron Works, Silver Lake Hotel, steamship excursions, newspaper clippings
Part 2, pages 22-71  
Part 2, pages 22-71Dancing, family history, Hampden, first street railway
Part 3, pages 72-120  
Part 3, pages 72-120Annie Martin Snow death, dance school, Katahdin Charcoal Iron finances and closing, Martin fruit trees
Part 4, pages 121-end  
Part 4, pages 121-endFamily history in Ellsworth, Bangor area; butchering, work for Rufus Prince, Mabelle Martin's death