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The Richmond Bee - Friday, February 9, 1900

Moses Runnells - A Pioneer Lumberman

While Monday's storm was at its height the writer turned up his collar and started for the home of Moses C. Runnells on Arch street, and in response to a knock at the door he was ushered into a cosy room, and his amiable companion had been watching the snow as it whirled down the adjacent valley and piled up in heaps a few rods in the distance. Without, the wind blew fiercely and the atmosphere was in striking contrast to the temperature of the room in which the writer was comfortably seated. "I have come, Mr. Runnells," said the writer, "to get a story of your experiences in the logging swamps in the days of long ago." "I suppose you first want to know when and where I was born," replied Mr. Runnells, and with this remark the way was opened for him to relate what proved an interesting account of logging in Maine a half century or more ago.

Mr. Runnells was born in Carratunk, Me., Jan. 12rh, 1819, and his father's family was one of the four families that constituted the inhabitants of the place. His father, who migrated from New Hampshire, took up a piece of land at Carratunk, and build a log house in which the subject of this sketch was born. It was here that Mr. Runnells first met the late Joseph Spaulding whose father was one of the four early settlers of that town. At that time the site of the present village was little better than a howling wilderness, and the inhabitants endured privations that few people nowadays would think of putting up with. The soil was fertile, corn and grain being raised in abundance, but eh inhabitants had no means of converting either into food stuff. The nearest mill was at Norridgewock, and to get the grist ground into flour or meal the settlers purchased of friendly Indians a birch canoe, in which they made the trip to Norridgewock, polling the craft the greater part of the distance. It took about two days to make the trip but every man retuned with supplies enough to last his family a considerable length of time, and Mr. Runnells assured the writer that the flour made a toothsome loaf.

When seventeen years of age Moses hired out with the late C.B. Foster of this place, who at that time carried on a farm at the Forks of the Kennebec, which he conducted on a more extensive scale in after years. The late Joseph Spaulding then directed the expenditure of money on the road from Moscow to the Canada line, a distance of about fifty miles, and Mr. Runnells was frequently employed along the route during the summer months. Mr. Runnells worked in all about twenty-seven winters in the logging swamps and was the first man to drive a four-horse team in the woods. Prior to this time cattle were used and it was thought that a team of eight cattle was the only team which could be used to advantage, but Mr. Runnells got consent of his employer to use a four-horse team, and he informed the writer that he could beat and eight-ox team to death, and so successful was the experiment that horses soon came into general use both on the Penobscot and the Kennebec. Mr. Runnells had a great liking for the woods and many are the good stories that he tells about logging in Northern Maine. He was in the woods eighteen winters for Foster & Spaulding and in the spring he worked on the drive. He had many narrow escapes from violent death during the years that he was engaged in lumbering, but never met with an accident worth speaking about.

Speaking about teaming with horses, Mr. Runnells says that he never drew a reing over the leaders wehile employed in the logging swamp. There was but one way for them to go and a long whip lash was all that was needed to keep them in the tote path. Mr. Runnells came to Richmond in 1854 and at once entered the employ of his old employers, Foster & Spaulding, Mr. Foster having moved here four years previous. Mr. Spaulding , the junior member of the firm, looked after the business interests of the concern on the upper Kennebec, while Mr. Foster managed affairs on this end until Mr. Spaulding moved his family to Richmond a year or two later. After coming to Richmond Mr. Runnells drove a team about the mille for a number of years and was considered one of the best teamsters that ever drew a rein. Giving up teaming for a time, Mr. Runnells engaged in the grocery business at the North end, which he carried on for about five years, and at the expiration of that time engaged as teamster with the then well-known shoe manufacturing concern of Morgan & Dore by whom he was employed sixteen years.

Mr. Runnells was always of a religious turn of mind and in 1862 he united with the Congregational church of this place. He has lived a consistent life and has for a number of years served as church deacon, a position which he still fills. He has witnessed the growth of Richmond from a comparatively small settlement to one of the largest villages in the state and Carratunk, his native town, has during his time grown from an almost uninhabited region to a village of considerable importance. Mr. Runnells last visited the place of his birth eight hears ago. He has twice married and is quietly passing is last days with his second wife at his home.

 

transcribed by Marilyn Sterling-Gondek from a photocopy in the Sterling Collection, OCRHS

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