Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meandering through the Maine Woods

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." ~ Henry Van Dyke

The weekend before Mother's Day I had a wonderful opportunity to wander through the woods of Maine on an historical tour sponsored by the Windham, Maine Historical Society.  The day's events began at the society's museum with a lecture on the gunpowder mills that manufactured 25% of the powder (6,500 pounds per day) for the Union Army during the Civil War. We toured some of the society's museum buildings and then we ventured toward the ruins of  the Gambo Gunpowder Mills for a hike of several miles on the preserved land trust.

There is nothing that I'd rather do on a sunny, spring day (one of the first!) in Maine than be in the woods, learn about history, and let my imagination take flight. And I spent the day with my research pal, Mom! 

Maurice Whitten, the 87 year old professor and author of the book The Gunpowder Mills of Maine joined us for the tour and provided many fascinating facts from his many years of research on the topic. I told him how his research was inspiring me to perhaps write a novel with this as the setting.


Located on the Presumscot River, an outlet of Portland Harbor in Windham and Gorham, Maine, the gunpowder mills began manufacturing in 1817 and closed operations in 1907.

Now all that is left is a memory of the thriving mills where 48 employees died over the years in explosions working at their dangerous vocation.

Navigation through the area was through a system of man made canals and trails. Centuries later the area provides a beautiful location for hiking and exploring the stone foundation ruins.

One of the mills that ground the powder, called the Wheel Mill, as it once appeared. Now, all that remains.


As I trod along the ancient paths it gave me an appreciation for the hardships that these folks endured as they worked in such rural conditions, supporting their families and serving their country in their own way.  Some of them heroes who died at their job.

Lori Benton at Past Perfect blogged last week about her own excursion into the woods that gave her story inspiration as she journeyed along. She said,

"It gives me the feeling that this story exists already, somewhere in my soul.
Like a vein of ore hidden beneath common old rock . . ."

I couldn't agree with her more.

Related Links:
An Explosive Lesson on the Civil War

What inspires your creativity?


  1. This reminds me of ruined mill I explored near my Dad's home in West Virginia. You can't help sensing the history and wondering at all the stories and lives. If those stones could talk, eh? That looks like a beautiful area, and what a treat to take that tour with an elder author. :) They are treasures.

    Thanks for the link back!

  2. Beautiful pics and post, Carla. Wish we could have joined you on that trek!

  3. Hi Carla -

    Thanks for the pictures and details about your research adventure.

    Wouldn't you love to interview some authors from days of old? I wonder what they'd say about the books published now.

    Susan :)

  4. Oh, Yes, Susan! I surely would love to interview authors from days of old, as I know you would as well.

  5. There are so many amazing places like hidden treasure. I wish you all could have been there with me.

  6. Carla, You always post such interesting places and I love your pics! The ones of you are wonderful - and your research companion/assistant:) I can only imagine what it must be like to live in Maine as it's so rich in history. Kentucky is like that, too. But Washington State! It's only been a state for a little over 100 years...

    Thanks for the history and commentary!

  7. Such beautiful pictures, Carla! I love hiking through the woods...the scent of fresh air and the slivers of sunlight that peek through the trees. Yep, definitely a favorite pasttime. :)

    I never thought about the history of the places I've hiked before...the people who've walked through them before me. What a neat perspective!

  8. Wonderful photos, Carla. Oh, those poor families of the men/women who died in this trade though. Now there's a story waiting to be told.

    Anita Mae.


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