This post is the story of W. S Libbey: The Man and His Mill by THE LIBBEY GRANDCHILDREN
As taken from a multi-page copy sent to me by Mary Libbey Conley.
W. Scott Libbey - Born in Avon, Maine, 1851,
he moved to Lewiston in 1873, working for the Western Union for
$65 per month. He became Lewiston's foremost industrialist in
the post Civil War period.
The first generation of Libbeys to come to Lewiston apparently never threw anything away - either letters or opportunities. In seeking information about the first Winfield Scott Libbey, a century of accumulated diaries, photographs and clippings came to light. These documents trace his career as the city's most dynamic industrialist during Lewiston's post-Civil War period of economic expansion., a classic case of the poor country boy who came to town and made good.
He was born in Avon, Maine in 1851, the second son of Asa and Joanna Powers Libbey. Although the boy's family soon moved to West Waterville, where he spent his youth, his birthplace on the side of Mt. Blue seems to have held almost a mystic meaning to Scott Libbey throughout his life. In his later years, he spoke of it often, returned there when he could and chose his summer home on a hill at Wayne partly because it commanded such a superb view of Mt. Blue. It almost appeared that there was a symbolic connection between the steady upward climb of his life and the upward slope of this bright mountain. Appropriately, a lovely stained glass window depicting Mt. Blue marks his last resting place at Lewiston's Riverside Cemetery.
Indian Raids - His father, Asa, a fifth-generation Maine man, was a descendant of one John Libby who settled on the Maine coast near Black Point about 1630. The earliest Libbys (Libbeys) must have been tough stock as they survived an Indian raid in which their home and farm were destroyed. After the Indian wars, they returned to Black Point where they rebuilt and prospered. Along with political and milling interests, they continued to work the Maine soil until Asa's generation.
Asa, though he farmed his own land outside of Waterville, had attended college, studied medicine and taught school. His correspondence in Greek with his future wife is among the Libbey papers. He was an intensely political man, frequently denouncing in his letters President Grant and the corrupt "Grantites." His decided political views are revealed in his choice of a name for his second son. General Winfield Scott's skill in negotiating a favorable settlement between the United States and Canada in 1842, after their boundary dispute, had made him a hero to the Maine people of Asa's generation; thus many boys throughout the state found themselves being christened Winfield Scott in his honor. However, Asa always referred to his son as "Scott" and the Winfield was reduced to the mere initial "W".
Scott's father was also a deeply religious man and his letters contain frequent quotations from scriptures. His firm advice was to "Read the Bible and attend a meeting." But down-to-earth comments about the state of his crops, the weather and the farm animals were the most frequently recurring theme. For example: "I stuck my foot under Butch Bates' old lop-horned cow's hoof last night and she dragged me across the barn floor into the horse stall. I fell a little lame today." he wrote that at age 75.
Farming Boyhood - Young Scott spent his boyhood on his parents' farm where the repair of machinery gave him his earliest mechanical training. Here, too, he developed his passion for the out-of-doors, skating, shooting, football and, above all else, baseball. Years later, Justice Spears, a school friend, in recalling that Scott had played a truly inspired shortstop, remarked that the "habit he formed of getting there had followed him all his life."
At 19, the young man entered Coburn Classical Institute of Waterville, where, under the inspired guidance of "Papa" Hanson, he excelled equally in studies and sports. His lasting fondness for the school led him, in middle life, to become a trustee and to donate an athletic field, which was named for him.
While in Waterville he studied law briefly at the office of G. T. Stevens. He also taught himself telegraphy by closely observing the telegraph operator at the train depot. This exciting new means of rapid communication obviously appealed to a lively mind already open to fresh ideas. Four months later he was sent to Auburn as a telegrapher with the Western Union Telegraph Company. The next few years saw him in their Newburyport office, then in West Waterville, but his goal was Lewiston which he had already sized up as a place with a considerable future.
Taking a Wife - Moving to Lewiston in 1873 he worked for the Western Union for $65 per month, living comfortably enough in local boarding houses. But his promotion to manager in 1877 convinced him that he was sufficiently well-established to consider getting married. His letters to Annie E. Shaw, agent of Lisbon's Farnsworth Mill, leave no doubt in the reader's mind that he was bowled over by the charms of this young lady. Romance in those days seems to have had a more practical foundation than it has now because one gets the impression that his choice of a wife received as much careful planning and wise exertion as did any of his strictly business ventures.
Annie was then a schoolteacher in Auburn, as strong-minded a person as her husband-to-be. Soon after meeting her he initiated a correspondence which, however sincere, could hardly be called sprightly. His letter to her in 1876 began as follows: "It is with many misgivings that I allow myself to pen this little note yet my fears that it might not be acceptable to you are mitigated by the knowledge that it is not prompted in the slightest by questionable motives." How could a girl resist?
Even after they became engaged, the letters were as labored as ever...perhaps more so when he tried for a lighter touch. a month later he felt so much at ease that he could write: "Although I have the reputation of being unusually sedated, yet really I'm not. I'm real jolly when my companions are such that I can feel free to unmask myself. I'm not a minister but a rogue."Somehow his letters must have convinced Annie - as his prospects apparently impressed her father - and they were married May 23, 1877.
Difficult Years - They lived in cramped quarters for three years because Scott had invested most of his savings in a Lincoln Street tenement house, which he maintained himself, as a money-saving measure. Only in 1880 did he feel ready to start building their fine house, well outside the city, at the corner of Sabattus and Nicholas Street, Lewiston.
Their first son, Truman, died only a month after his birth in a diphtheria epidemic and this was a bitter blow to the young couple. They both suffered from an incredible variety of ailments in that period before immunizations and antibiotics, - when one epidemic after the other swept through the community. When two more sons and two daughters completed their family, Annie's journals. which she kept for 53 years, describe one medical crisis after another. their eventual survival sounds like something of a miracle.
Scott, meanwhile, still managed the telegraph office, even achieving brief fame for taking 6,000 words of a presidential address without a break, but his restless ambitions were leading him into other ventures at the same time. In his position as a telegrapher, he was always the first man in Lewiston to know what was going on in the nation and the world. His contemporaries must have credited him with almost uncanny foresight, which he always applied to his business ventures.
Greeting Papa - The Sabattus Street Home
Three years after his marriage to Annie Shaw, Scott Libbey began
construction of the family home at the corner of Sabattus and Nichols Streets,
Lewiston. This photograph was taken in 1901... 11 years after the home was
built...shows the Libbey children, Gertrude, Harold, and Alla, running down
Sabattus Street in front of the house to welcome Papa. The house still
remains at the site, but things have changed a great deal from this scene of
gravel street, horse and buggy and the gas light on the corner.
Varied Ventures - Back in Lewiston, he developed several new interests including a small business supplying sawmills and bobbin manufacturers with timber, much of which he had to seek out in the woods himself. This brought much worry but valuable experience and sufficient profit to finish Annie's dream house. For several more years, money remained scarce and the young couple stretched their income by renting out their upper rooms and growing vegetables to eat and sell.
With advice from his father-in-law, Scott next turned his attention to textile manufacturing. He first bought a small cotton mill in North Auburn and with the receipts from this proceeded to restore a moribund woolen mill in the town of Vassalboro to a successful operation. Every Saturday night, after closing the Western Union office, he traveled by train to Vassalboro, worked there all day Sunday, then taking the two-hour return trip, was back in time for work on Monday morning.
Such toil is foreign to our contemporary modern marriages wouldn't have survived it but Annie, in her own realm, was as dauntless a worker as her husband. When she wasn't boiling mountains of wash or baking a batch of 13 squash pies on an unpredictable wood stove, she found time to make all her family's clothing - including a pair of trousers for her husband, for which he paid her 25 cents.
Hunting Party at the Farm in Wayne - With the continuing success of the
Lewiston textile business, Scott Libbey was able to purchase a farm in
Wayne, a favorite hunting retreat. This group of bird hunters includes
four friends from the Lewiston-Auburn area, listed only as, l to r;
Stern, Cobb, Day, and Hunnewell, with Scott Libbey at the right
Family Outing to Libbey's Birthplace - Scott Libbey made frequent trips to
the beloved site of his birth at Mount Blue, the 3,000-foot peak which is
now the focal point on Mount Blue State Park at Weld, 15 miles northwest
of Farmington. Here, the family stands at the remains of the house where
Libbey was born on August 27, 1851. From left are: Alla, the second-born
daughter; Scott Libbey holding Scott Jr. on his shoulder; his wife, Annie;
Gertrude, their first daughter; and O.M. Goding, a guide, Harold, the older
son also was along on the expedition....behind the camera.
Financing the Mill - Having proved his ability to run a mill at Vassalboro, Libbey next undertook the management of a loss-making mill at East Dover, Maine. Working capital was always a problem for him in those early days, but help in buying the lease at East Dover came from two sources. The Deering-Milliken firm of textile agents in New York was always seeking new sources of woven goods to sell and was willing to advance money, at interest, to a proven operator in exchange for the right to handle the cream of his output.
Another, and in this case, local source of capital was his friend Harry Dingley, the son of Congressman Nelson Dingley, whose family had amassed a fortune in the publishing business. Harry had an office in the "Journal" Building at 14 Lisbon Street, the same building occupied by the Western Union office. Since the "Journal" depended on the telegraph for all but local news, this was a convenient arrangement for both concerns. Thrown together in the same premises, Scott and Harry soon recognized in each other the qualities which produce successful men and entering a longstanding friendship and partnership which was only dissolved after Scott's death.
Separation - By this time, Libbey's full-time presence was required at the East Dover mill, but he was never one to burn his bridges. He kept his job at the Western Union office through the unusual expedient of employing a substitute to do the work in his absence. Meanwhile, separated from his family except for summers and occasional weekends, his frequent letters, though more practical than sentimental, revealed the intensity of his devotion to his children.
Annie's replies, along with news of the "awful cunning" children were full of trenchant details about rents, troublesome tenants and the like. By stretching his health and his capabilities to their fullest extent he turned the East Dover Woolen Mill into a profitable venture and gladly returned home after three years' absence.
At last, in 1888, all the young couple's sacrifices must have seemed worthwhile, for in that year Libbey took his greatest step forward by purchasing the Cumberland Woolen Mill in Lewiston, again with the financial backing of Harry Dingley. Now, finally, he felt free to resign his job as a telegrapher and to devote himself full-time to mill management.
Twin Cities Travelers in Mexico - W. Scott Libbey was a man on the go. He
traveled often to check out new ideas and business prospects, and his varied
interests sometimes resulted in unlikely tangents such as setting up a
successful bakery in Mexico City which he ran for some years from Lewiston.
Scott Libbey, on the right, and Harry Dingley, left, are shown here on one of
their trips to Mexico.
The Dam Builders - Almost daily trips to the construction site of the
Libbey-Dingley Dam provided a close father-son bond for W. Scott Libbey
and young Scott, shown here ready to leave the front of the mill for the trip
upriver. The two Scott Libbeys were active participants in the construction
throughout the three-year work period.
A small incident at this time gives insight into the character of this farm boy turned industrialist. Soon after buying the huge Lincoln Mill, empty except for obsolete machinery, there was a bumper crop of potatoes in Aroostook County....such a glut, in fact, that the farmers could not sell their surplus potato starch. Libbey bought several carloads of the starch, stored it in the empty mill and, of course, sold it at a good profit when the market returned to normal. These profits helped to finance the new machinery with which he now fitted out the mill.
It had long been Libbey's ambition to own this mill, not merely because its acquisition meant increased manufacturing capacity, but also because it opened for him still another door. For years, his reading and travels had focused on the possibilities of water power. In fact, it was in connection with his search for water-power in the village of Wayne that he found the farm which he eventually bought there. With the purchase of the Lincoln Mill came water-power rights, roughly one thousand horsepower, to which he had first priority ahead of the Union Water Power Company.
New Horizons - The way now lay open to him to expand in the direction where his deepest interest lay, towards the production of electricity, long foreseen by him as the shaper of the modern era.
Proof of his early interest in electricity and of his inventiveness can still be seen in the water-power governor preserved in his old office at the Libbey Mill. (This office, incidentally, is maintained in its turn-of-the-century splendor, extravagantly decorated by Harry Cochrane, the most gifted designer of his time.)
At this point, Libbey purchased the American Light and Power Company and the Lewiston and Auburn Electric Light Company, both of which he consolidated under the latter name.
Work on the Dam at Deer Rips - Construction of the Libbey-Dingley Dam
on the Androscoggin River, two miles above the mill was the culmination
of Scott Libbey's intense interest in the field of hydroelectric power
generation. For three years, crews of laborers, many from Italy, worked
on the project. This view shows early progress in July 1902 from the
Lewiston side of the river. Power from the dam was to be used by the mills
with the surplus capacity to be used by the Twin Cities in their
rapidly-moving conversion from gas to electric lights and from horse-drawn
trolleys to electric cars.
Built to Last - The W. S. Libbey Co. Mill - For more than 130 years, this
structure has been a familiar sight from North Bridge across the Androscoggin
River. The tower at the front of the building is still a prominent landmark.
The mill was built in 1845 and operated for some years by the Franklin
Company as the Lincoln Mill manufacturer of cotton goods. W. Scott
Libbey and Harry Dingley purchased the mill in the early 1890s and its
multistory design continues to offer certain advantages to the present
W. S. Libbey Co.
From 1902 to 1904 large crews of workers, most of them straight from Italy labored on the huge construction project which was designed to supply power to the mills and also to produce surplus power to sell to in a region now rapidly converting from gas to electric light and from horse-drawn trolleys to electric cars. Pictures taken during the summers of 1902 and 1903 show a jubilant Scott, Sr. with small Scott, Jr., driving their horse and buggy almost daily to the dam site where both often took an active part in the operations.
After the dam's completion in 1904 Libbey was appointed to Governor Cobb's council where he saved the state thousands of dollars by his astute purchase of the Pinelands Centre at Pownal. during those years, he often drove to Augusta with his daughter Alla in his fascinating new "toy", the automobile. Despite dusty or muddy roads and many mechanical failures, he persisted in buying one automobile after another, including Lewiston's first Rambler. Arthur Staples wrote a witty piece in the "Journal" describing an unforgettable drive with him, charging across open country in his 1907 Stanley Steamer. This car somehow has survived to the present day.
Libbey Forum, Bates College - In 1909 Scott Libbey gave Bates College the
Libbey Forum at the corner of College Street and Mountain Avenue,
Lewiston. Before starting this project, Mr. Libbey, with his family, traveled
throughout Europe making a study of buildings. The graceful building,
seen here, shows a Japanese influence. (Staff photo by George Wardwell,
Chief Photographer Sun-Journal.)
He was an inveterate traveler. One trip to Central America involved him in the fruit-growing business. But surely the most unusual result of his travels was the setting up of a successful bakery in Mexico City. He ran this cracker factory from Lewiston for some years and on one of his business trips to Mexico he brought back a Mexican nursemaid. She taught Spanish to young Scott and must have seemed an exotic novelty in the Lewiston of that time.
"Magnolia" - Seen on a bridge spanning Little Androscoggin with inspection
party. This picture od the interurban car "Magnolia" was taken prior to the
opening of the road in 1914. (From Maine Historical Society files.)
First Run of Interurban Service - This picture was taken on Middle Street,
Lewiston, on July 2, 1914, just before the first run over the road with the
official party and passengers. The Interurban, "Arbutus", named as were
all the cars for flowers, opened a parlor car trolley service between
Portland and Lewiston. Each car was richly and comfortably furnished.
The only car which has survived the service that ceased in 1933 is the
"Narcissus" on exhibit at the Seashore Trolley Museum. (From
Maine Historical Society files.)
With the same care and precision he had devoted to all his affairs, Libbey conceived of the Interurban as the fastest, quietest, most luxurious transportation yet available. The cedar ties were immense and the roadbed so carefully constructed that parts of it are still visible between Portland and Gray.
Each richly furnished car was given the name of a flower. Mayflowers were Libbey's favorites, hence the "Arbutus". The line ceased to operate in 1933 and only one car has survived, the "Narcissus", which can still be seen at the Kennebunk Trolley Museum.
In May of 1914, Scott Libbey paid the price for years of overwork when he was struck down by a stroke at his beloved summer home at Wayne. Less than two months after his death, the Interurban's first car, filled with family and dignitaries, ran from Lewiston to Portland. It was right on time, but just a little too late for Scott Libbey.
The layout of the Mill in the Early 1900's - This plan drawn in December of
1901 for fire protection purposes provides a wealth of information about
the mill's operation at the time. Water power was used for machinery and
detailed plans of the rope and pulley drive system are still preserved at the
mill. There were about 75 employees at the mill during this period, with
the note that 15 men were on hand by day available for fire duty.
Lewiston...Auburn Electric Light Company, which had been acquired
by Libbey, occupied the north half of the sub-basement of No. 2 Mill.
Incandescent lights and a few arc lamps were used for illumination.
This story, as told by the Grandchildren of W. S. Libbey, is provided in this post in honor of Mr. Libbey.
W. Scott Libbey, the builder of the Portland-Lewiston Interurban
Photo from Maine's Fast Electric Railroad - Portland-Lewiston
Interurban by O. R. Cummings - September 1, 1967.
Click on: "Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride," to learn about the young reader historical fiction chapter book due for release this fall. Proceeds will benefit the Narcissus Project :)
Please Consider a Donation to the Narcissus Project
Please Consider a Donation to the Narcissus Project
to help us tell the incredible story of the Narcissus through the interpretation portion of the Narcissus Project.
Inside the Donald G. Curry Town House Restoration Shop, the Narcissus is in the midst of major work as we strive to complete its restoration. With our estimate to have the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Narcissus in the fall of 2021, we are now planning the interpretation portion of the Narcissus Project. Donations to the Narcissus Project may be used in the future to help tell the incredible 100-plus-year-old story of the Narcissus. Your donation to the Narcissus is helping to make the dream of the project's success, a reality.
The 2015 publication of, The Illustrated Atlas
of Maine's Street & Electric Railways
1863-1946, was published by the Library
at Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennebunkport.
Copies are available for purchase from the
Seashore Trolley Museum, - Museum of Mass Transit, is celebrating its 80th Birthday year in 2019!
Special Events are scheduled - Public operations start on May 4, 2019.
Click Here for the 2019 Events & Special Activities for the 80th Anniversary Season, with hot links
Click Here for 2019 Special Events
Click Here for 80th Anniversary Year - Seashore Trolley Museum 1939-2019 post
Click Here for The Birth of Seashore Trolley Museum Blog Post
Click Here for STM's Ten National Register of Historic Places Electric Railway Vehicles post
Click Here for 1901 Tower C Boston Elevated Railway to STM in 1975
Click Here for No. 38 - 1906 Manchester & Nashua Street Railway - Acquired March 21, 1940
Click Here for No. 60 - 1895 Manchester Street Railway - Acquired April 11, 1941
Click Here for No. 4387 - 1918 Eastern Mass. Street Railway - Acquired August 29, 1946
Click Here for No. 100 - 1906 Atlantic Shore Line Railway - Acquired 1949
Click Here for No. 108 - 1904 Portsmouth, Dover & York Street Railway - Acquired 1949
Click Here for No. 14 Narcissus 1912 Portland-Lewiston Interurban - Acquired 1969
See below for Donation options -
It starts with YOU
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Make a Donation TODAY
Please Help the Narcissus.
Donation Options to Help the Narcissus Project:
The New England Electric Railway Historical Society (NEERHS)
The NEERHS is registered with the IRS (EIN# 01-0244457) and was incorporated in Maine in 1941.
Check or Money Order ***** should be made payable to:
New England Electric Railway Historical Society (NEERHS)
In the memo please write: Narcissus Fund 816-A
Mail to: Seashore Trolley Museum
P. O. Box A
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
Credit Card ***** donations can be a one-time donation or you
may choose to have a specific amount charged to your card
automatically on a monthly basis. Please contact the Museum bookkeeper, Connie, via email at finance@NEERHS.org or by phone, 207-967-2712 ext. 5.
Online Donations - may be made by using a Credit Card:
Click Here to make an online donation through the Museum's website - When at the Donation page: Fill in donor info, etc., when at "To which fund are you donating? Scroll down to "Other" and type in: 816-A Narcissus, then continue on filling in the required information.
Click Here for PayPal - to make an online donation: you can use email: finance@NEERHS.org and in the message box write:
For Narcissus fund 816-A
Donation of Securities ***** We also accept donations of
securities. You can contact the Museum bookkeeper, Connie, via email at finance@NEERHS.org or by phone, 207-967-2712 ext. 5,
for brokerage account information for accepting donated securities.
BONUS ***** If you work for a company/corporation that will
"match" an employee's donation to an approved 501c3 non-profit
educational organization, please be sure to complete the necessary paperwork with your employer so that your donation is matched :)
Questions? ***** Please contact Narcissus project manager:
Phil Morse, email@example.com or call 207-985-9723 - cell.
Thank You :)
Thank You for our Current Funding Partners
* The Conley Family - In Memory of Scott Libbey 2018/2017/2016/2015
* The W. S. Libbey Family - Awalt, Conley, Graf, Holman, Libbey, McAvoy, McLaughlin, Meldrum, O'Halloran, Salto, - 2018/2017
* The Hughes Family 2017/2016/2010
* New Gloucester Historical Society and Member Donations
* Gray Historical Society and Member Donations
* IBM - Matching Employee/Retiree Donations
* Fidelity Charitable Grant - Matching Employee Donations
* Richard E. Erwin Grant - 2017/2016
The Narcissus, with interior back-lit, stained glass windows are majestic.
Make a donation today to help restore the interior of this Maine gem.
Help Theodore Roosevelt's Maine Ride get back on track! Once restored,
you will be able to ride in luxury on this National Register Treasure at
Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Please Consider Making a Donation to the project of the National Register of Historic Places member, Narcissus. We are currently raising funds to tell the incredible story of this Maine gem.
Various News stories during the summer of 2015 about the
Narcissus and its connection to Theodore Roosevelt. TR
was a passenger on the Narcissus on August 18, 1914.
Patricia Pierce Erikson photo
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