The front page of the Lewiston Evening Journal, May 18, 1914. Announcing
the passing of W. S. Libbey, the extraordinary man that built, what would
become the Portland-Lewiston Interurban.
Winfield Scott Libbey was the driving force behind what became known as the "Finest Electric Railroad in All-New England", the Portland-Lewiston Interurban. July 2, 1914, was the date that public passenger service would begin. His passing, just a few weeks prior to the opening of his beloved interurban line, was felt by the members of the communities of the Auburn-Lewiston twin cities area in a very personal way. W. "Scott" Libbey was a well-respected man beyond the borders encircling the twin cities, and this post recites the story of this amazing man from the May 18, 1914 issue printed in the Lewiston Evening Journal.
There will be a blog post on July 2nd to commemorate the 102nd anniversary of the official public opening of what would become the Portland-Lewiston Interurban.
To read more about the life of W. S. Libbey, CLICK HERE to read the W. S. Libbey biography as published by the W. S. Libbey grandchildren.
Lewiston Evening Journal, May 18, 1914
SUDDEN DEATH OF HON. W. SCOTT LIBBEY
Prominent Lewiston Financier and Business Man Died Sunday Night in Wayne.
HON. W. Scott Libbey
Hon. W. Scott Libbey of Lewiston, prominent in manufacturing and financial circle of New England and the East, died very suddenly Sunday evening at his summer home in Wayne. He had been in poor health for a considerable period, but the immediate cause of death was apoplexy, an attack of which he suffered at almost 5 o'clock that afternoon. Mr. Libbey was in his sixty-third year.
In his death, Lewiston and Auburn lose one of their ablest and most energetic business men. He was a man who had grown up in these cities, who earned his first money here and who, by careful investments in property and business in these places, thru his own keen business sagacity and remarkable foresight and judgment increased those early earnings into a fortune of magnitude. In accomplishing this he made a reputation for himself as a businessman, which was known throughout the length and breadth of New England.
The story of his life is an interesting one. It shows what persistence will accomplish. He started a poor boy, who had to figure how to make ends meet and died a man of wealth, influence and importance, not only in his own city but in his State and an entire section of the country.
Upon completing his education, which ended with his course at the Coburn Classical Institute, Waterville, Mr. Libbey became a telegraph operator and in 1876 came to the Western Union office in Lewiston as its manager, which position he retained until 1880, resigning of his own accord to devote his entire time to other business interests. From the start of his career, he was determined to get ahead and reach a point where it could be said he had achieved success. It was seldom that he talked of these early days to his friends, but when he did it was a very interesting tale, for the frugality which he practiced in order to get a start in life was astonishing.
As said, from the first he was determined to get on in life. With that idea in view, he studied the business world and mastered its various intricacies so that when he made the venture into active affairs as a businessman he knew what he was doing.
In no better way can the thoroughness with which he went into things be shown then the story of how he mastered telegraphy. He had been actively engaged as an operator but a short time when he had, one day, while receiving a message, occasion to, as it termed in the telegraphic business, an occasion to "break;" that is, to ask the sending operator to repeat a word. The man at the other end of the wire made a disparaging remark. Mr. Libbey did not reply. To himself, he said: "If a man can get one word without having it repeated, he can get them all." From that day until the day he retired from active service on the wire no one ever knew "W.S." as his wire signature was, break because he had missed something; he always got the message and correct. He sometimes broke to correct errors which the sender had obviously made.
So skilled an operator was he that it was common practice for him to play a game of checkers with a companion in the office while receiving a message he never missed a move on the checkerboard or a letter on the wire. He was considered one of the best operators in New England.
For the greater part of the period that he managed the office in Lewiston, he received the Associated Press report for the Lewiston Journal. The report, while not so extensive in those days, as today, was handled in a much different manner. At that time the typewriter was not common. I had not been drafted into the telegraph business. Operators took all messages with either pen or pencil and receiving a 2500 or 3000-word report a day was fully as laborious as taking 14,000 to 15,000-word report of the present.
One of his earliest investments was in Lewiston real estate. He purchased a building on Lincoln Street. At that time his capital was so limited that, even tho he had bought the building he could not afford to provide the janitor service which was required. He was equal to this emergency, however. He rose early each morning and went to the structure and did the work himself, following this by visiting it again at night, after hours in the telegraph office, and doing such work as was needed.
This was followed by other investments, as his capital increased and he was able to broaden out his interests.
One of the first important deals which he made and which gave him a considerable advance in building capital, was when he ascertained that the mills of these cities were using a particular kind of hardwood. He kept alert and soon located a good sized track of lumber of that kind. He negotiated for it at a low figure. After holding it for a short time he sold the same to the mill people at a good advantage of what he paid for it. This considerably augmented his working capital and enabled him to further branch out.
Convinced that there was money to be made in the woolen business he kept a watchful eye upon that industry. All the time he was looking for an opportunity to secure a woolen mill at a reasonable figure.
In time he secured a lease of one of the small mills at Vassalboro. Realizing that he was not in a position to give up his certainty of a salary as a manager of the Western Union in Lewiston, he retained that position and continued the work. From Monday morning until Saturday night he devoted to the telegraph office. The remainder of the week he gave to his woolen mill interests in Vassalboro. soon as the business of the week in Lewiston closed, Saturday night he took the train for Vassalboro, from which point he walked three miles to his woolen mill. At the mill he worked all day Sunday, arranging plans for the coming week, walking back to the station and coming home on Sunday night.
It was a strenuous life. Many men could not have stood the strain. He had a remarkable physique, a strong constitution, was regular in his habits, used neither alcoholic drinks nor tobacco and was careful of his diet. He stood the test splendidly, made the mill pay and saw his capital and business increase.
About the time this investment reached a prominent place, Mr. Libbey entered into a partnership with Harry M. Dingley, his present business associate. Mr. Dingley was the son of former Congressman Nelson Dingley. they secured a small woolen mill in the town of Dover. It was not a paying proposition, but Mr. Libbey felt sure it could be put upon a profit producing basis; Mr. Dingley shared his opinion. Realizing that it was necessary to have personal supervision of the plant if it were to be made a paying investment, Mr. Libbey engaged another operator, paying the salary from his own pocket, to work in the telegraph office in Lewiston, and so, retaining the management, as an anchor to windward, went to Dover and took charge of the mill. The story of how the Eat Dover Woolen mill was made a good investment is one of keen management, hardships, and disappointments sufficient to make a volume. The hours which he put in and the obstacles which he overcame seem impossible, but in the end, his judgment was proven and the mill paid.
Bought Lincoln Mill
It was not until 1880, that Libbey & Dingley ventured into the mill business in Lewiston. That year they purchased the Cumberland mill. Mr. Libbey always felt very proud of this, because it was the first mill he was ever in. In speaking of this to intimate friends he frequently remarked that his thought on the occasion of that first visit was: "Will I ever have money enough to own a mill like this?" Not only did he become one of the owners of that plant, but had an interest in others and of many other varieties of industry.
Thirteen years later, in 1893, they secured the Lincoln mill, which has been operated by them in connection with the Cumberland property since that time.
This firm became interested in the electrical possibilities of the Androscoggin River, when in 1901 they purchased control of the Lewiston & Auburn Electrical Light Co., and the American Light & Power Co., and consolidated them under the name of the former company. This light and power interest was added to in 1906, by the purchase of the Mechanic Falls Electric Light Co., Soon after going into the electrical field, Mr. Libbey conceived the idea of a huge power plant at Deer rips. This was put in operation, after 81 months of labor and an expenditure of $800,000. This plant is today estimated as worth considerably over a million dollars.
About the first of Mr. Libbey's outside speculations, tho he was scheming in all directions, was the opening of the quartz mine in Dresden. He was the first to see there was money to be made in working the quartz deposits in Maine. While he was still manager of the Western Union office in Lewiston. He would work at the office until the close of business hours Saturday, then take the night train to a station about five miles from his mine, and walk the remaining distance. He would be busy at the mine until Sunday night, taking time enough to walk to the station when he would return to Lewiston by the night train, so as to be at his post on Monday morning. This in spite of the remonstrance of his physician who told him that such conduct would kill him. The doctor gave him a severe lecture one night, as he came staggering into his office, hardly able to stand, from what was then considered heart disease, but which later Mr. Libbey claimed was due to a trouble in the stomach.
One day a friend looking over Lincoln mill saw one floor covered with big casks of a stock that he knew was little used in their business. Asked what he wanted of such a quantity, Mr. Libbey said: "A manufacturer insisted on our purchasing it. The company named a price that we had no idea would be looked at, but to our surprise, the bid was accepted." Later, Mr. Libbey said they probably made $10,000 on the lot. This is a sample of luck, such as frequently fell to him, usually as the result of hard work.
When the Evening Journal was in need of a room to set up a reserve press Mr. Libbey leased a floor in Lincoln mill, and in consequence of a break down in the regular press, the Evening Journal was issued for several days from Lincoln mill. His fertility in plans for making the mill pay was surprising. For a time they made woolen cloth, and to dispose of their output they organized a big tailor shop and turned out heavy overcoats in quantity, which sold a cry low price.
His Railroad Venture
In the year 1908, Mr. Libbey and his partner became interested in the project of building an electric railroad from these cities to Portland. At first, they took a block of stock in the road, but eventually purchased all the stock, underwrote the bonds and have built the line, which will be opened within a few weeks for traffic.
This is one of the finest inter-urban lines in the country and has been the hobby of Mr. Libbey since he first became interested in it. He has taken personal charge of its construction and equipment and was making many plans for its management and opening.
On Saturday night, last, the writer met Mr. Libbey who then showed a trait of his character which, while unknown to the general public, was well understood by his friends: "I want you to say," said he, "in the Journal on Monday, that the smallest fare which will be collected on the road will be ten cents; also say that cars will stop only at designated points; that the first stop after leaving the Auburn waiting room will be at Littlefield's Tavern. I understand that certain people are selling building lots out along the line on the representation that it will be a five cent fare and that the cars will stop anywhere. This is wrong, and I want people warned."
Incidentally, he owned invested property, timberlands in the West, and factories and real estate near Garden City, Long Island. At one time he was engaged in extensive real estate dealing with the Jackson Brothers Realty Company of New York and it was on his complaint an investigation was made by the New York state authorities resulting in the indictment of Edgar R. Jackson, head of the realty company.
Mr. Libbey was a director of the Manufacturers National Bank, was a trustee of Coburn Classical Institute. He always took a deep interest in Bates College and only a few years ago donated to that college a large society building known as Libbey Forum.
Mr. Libbey never took a great part in politics. In 1906, he was a candidate doe member of the executive council of the State and was elected, serving with great credit during the administration of Gov. Cobb. He was a member of the sub-committee of that council which selected the site of the school for the feeble-minded, which was then established. It has always been claimed by those who understood the facts of that purchase that his business acumen, devoted to the interests of Maine saved the State many thousands of dollars in the purchase.
During that term, he gave to the State the same good judgment and careful attention to details, as he always gave his own business, His associates on the board regarded him as one of the ablest men among them and one of the best councilors which the State had ever had.
Hon. W. S. Libbey
W. Scott Libbey was born in Avon, Aug. 27, 1851, the son of Asa M and Joanna B. (Powers) Libbey. He was educated in the common schools of Oakland and in Coburn Classical Institute at Waterville. He came to Lewiston about 1876, and in 1877, was married to Miss Annie E. Shaw of Auburn.
Besides a wife, he is survived by four children, Mrs. Gertrude Anthony and Harold S. Libbey of Lewiston, Miss Alla Libbey of New York City, and W. Scott Libbey, jr., of Lewiston.
He is also survived by five grandchildren, Richard, Warren, and Charles Anthony and Eleanor and Channell Libbey of Lewiston.
While a man who did not go into society greatly he had a very wide circle of friends and acquaintances, while his business associates are a legion.
It had been known for a number of years that he was in poor health, but of late he had appeared stronger than for a long time, so that the news of his death Sunday night, came as a great shock to all.
Appeared Well All Day
Sunday morning, in company with his sons and his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Harold S. Libbey, and two grandchildren, he went to the summer home in Wayne in his fine touring car. He spent the day in going over the place with his sons, discussing improvements.
After dinner, at which he ate heartily, he accompanied Dr. Barker, a dentist of Wayne, about the place. At about 5 o'clock they were seated in the barn and Mr. Libbey was explaining plans for alterations on the building. About fifteen minutes before the attack came Dr. Barker noticed that his companion's talk was becoming disconnected. Next, Mr. Libbey rose, exclaimed as he did so; "Oh, my head!"
He then started to walk toward the house, staggered and fell. He called for his son Harold, who quickly came.
To the son, Mr. Libbey talked for a few minutes. He realized that it was the end and gave instructions for certain things he wished done.
Lapsing into an unconscious state he remained that way until 7:35 o'clock that evening when the end came.
Drs. Cheeney of Wayne, Badger of Winthrop and Russell of Lewiston were called and were at Mr. Libbey's side as quickly as fast autos could take them there. While they did all possible, the stricken man was beyond human aid from the first attack. The physicians diagnosed the cause of death as apoplexy, brought on by an attack of acute indigestion causing pressure upon the heart.
The funeral will be on Wednesday afternoon at 3 o'clock and will be private.
The above sketch of Mr. Libbey's business life should suggest the indomitable will and the resistless energy of the man. If he were to be required to suggest what in our opinion was the chief characteristic of Mr. Libbey's personality, we should say that it was ambition in the business world to be known as one who could overcome obstacles and carry thru achievements of an unusual nature to a successful issue.
He cared little for wealth as a means of ease or luxury. He never sought a fortune in order that he might have the pleasure of spending it, but he finds his enjoyment in seeing before him some large undertaking; meeting it boldly, fighting every obstacle in nature, in mechanics and in finance and carrying the job thru to the end. When he undertook to build the Deer Rips dam and when by the development of purchase and business propositions the property of his firm, Mr. Libbey found the greatest joy, possibly, of his life in working as a day laborer at the dam. The story of spring and summer of the first year in which work was undertaken at Deer Rips is one of such unremitting toll upon his part that probably no laborer in the city could equal, in
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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
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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
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In the memo please write: Narcissus Fund 816-A
Mail to: Seashore Trolley Museum
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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
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* 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,
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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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