Franklin Countys First News

Induction into hall of fame to be celebrated at Logging Festival

Richard A. Hale stands with his family after being inducted into the Rangeley Lake Region Logging Museum’s Logger’s Hall of Fame on July 26, 2013. Left to right is Heather Hale-Nivus, Richard Hale, Jocelyn Nivus, Corinne Nivus, Jan Hale and David Nivus. (Photo by Peggy Yocom)

Richard A. Hale stands with his family after being inducted into the Rangeley Lake Region Logging Museum’s Logger’s Hall of Fame on July 26, 2013. Left to right is Heather Hale-Nivus, Richard Hale, Jocelyn Nivus, Corinne Nivus, Jan Hale and David Nivus. (Photo by Peggy Yocom)

RANGELEY - On July 25, during the Friday Evening Program of the Logging Festival, the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum will celebrate the 30th year of the Logger’s Hall of Fame as it inducts new honorees. That will include Richard A. Hale of Bethel and Rangeley, who was inducted on July 26, 2013 during the festival's Friday evening program.Beginning in 1985, the Logger’s Hall of Fame has honored people who have worked in the woods and made valuable contributions to lumbering in the western Maine mountains.

"It’s one of the most important things we do,” said Museum President Emeritus and retired logger Rodney Richard, Sr.

Hale joins a join a distinguished list of local woodsmen that includes Lewis Abbott, Clem Field, Bud Field, Robert Wilbur, William Spiller, Elijah White, Jr., and Wendell Steward.

Born in Lisbon Falls in 1921, Hale knew at age 11 what he wanted to be: a forester and a saw mill operator. “And I ended up doing both!” he said with a laugh. Although he graduated from two university programs, his early lessons from hometown woodsmen and farmers were crucial to his career in forestry.

He was five when he first saw Rangeley and in 1931 his parents built a camp on Rangeley Lake. There, as a 10-year-old, he listened to people talk about loggers who drove logs down Long Pond, boomed them in Greenvale Cove, and hauled the booms to Rangeley’s Kempton Mill; and he saw the booms that were anchored in the Cove between his family’s camp and Samoset. When he visited the Kempton Mill, he was impressed with a sign in the boiler room of the neatly-kept mill: “If you spit on the floor to home, spit on the floor here. We want you to feel to home.”

When Hale was ten, a retired farmer moved next door to his family’s home in Lisbon Falls. “But he kept his horse,” Hale explained, “and he farmed some. He raised sweet corn. We got along fine, and he taught me how to drive a horse and to harness it. I helped him cultivate. When the corn was ripe, we’d load it into his wagon and go around town. And I went ahead of him yelling, ‘Corn! Sweet corn!’ So I learned how to drive horses.”

A few years later when Hale was in high school, a man set up a portable saw mill on the edge of Lisbon Falls, just a five-minute walk from home. “I used to go up there after school,” Hale said. “I knew the guy that was scooting logs in to the mill from the log piles in the yard with a yoke of oxen. And I helped him. I learned how to use the peavey, and I learned how to drive oxen!”

After graduating from Lisbon Falls High School in 1939, he entered the Forestry Program at the University of Maine in Orono. “I considered the Program the best in the country for my needs,” he said, “because it had an excellent faculty and a lot of hand-on, practical approaches to the profession.” For example, Hale was a student worker in the University forest. “I swung an ax and a bucksaw there to earn enough money to keep me in college, all for the munificent sum of 35 cents an hour."

When World War II began, Hale joined ROTC. At the end of his sophomore year, he was in the reserves; and in 1943, at the end of his junior year, he was called into active service. He served in the Army for three years in Infantry, Armor, and Cavalry. For nine weeks, he took classes conducted by the Navy in Washington DC. Later, he served in the Sixth Cavalry group of the Army of Occupation in post-war Germany. “Forestry was excellent background for the Infantry,” he pointed out. “You know how to get around in wild country. And, we had a guy from Brooklyn—he was great. One day, he was lecturing on using a compass, and somebody came up with a question. And he said, ‘I don’t know. I ain’t no farmer! Ask Lt. Hale.’”

After the Army, Hale returned to the University for his senior year, graduating in 1947. Then, he entered Yale University’s Master of Forestry Program. “The professors were top notch,” he explained. “They were the ones who wrote the books. What else can you ask?!” After graduation in 1948, he “got a crosscut saw, a new axe, bought a truck, and went to logging.”

In 1950, Hale also bought a small circular saw mill and ran it portable in several Androscoggin County locations. “I’d set up on lots that were marked primarily by state foresters for partial cutting and improvement cutting,” he said. “I worked exclusively on these managed stands, doing a lot of pioneering trials of equipment that I had designed. I was selling my lumber on the sticks, for drying, to a wholesaler who hauled it away,” he continued. “Primarily pine and some hemlock. Whatever was on the lot. But the problem with these marked lots was that they had too large a volume of pulpwood with no or low profit.”

When that pocket of the market disappeared, Hale shut his mill down and became a saw mill consultant, helping people such as Monson’s Moosehead Manufacturing set up mills. Soon, though, the University of Maine offered him a position in the Forest Products Lab, beginning 1966. Two years later, he began teaching courses such as “Wood Processing,” “Primary Processing,” and “Wood Drying and Preservation.” He also taught the six-week summer practice camp at Indian Township in Washington County. His career at the University spanned 24 years, and he taught many young people, several of whom became foresters in the Rangeley region, including Mark Beauregard, Frank Conlon, Pete Johnson, Michael Quinn, Trish Quinn, and Dan Simonds.

“We had a good bunch of students,” Hale said. “I tried to expose them to things that they would run into when they got out of college and into industry. That’s where most of them went. And I taught a lot of systems analysis.” As Hale explained, clear cutting is a “silvicultural system”: lumbermen cut and then plant. “Stripping” a forest, though, “is not a system”; it’s “just stripping, not replanting.”

Hale also took his forestry students on many field trips, including trips to mills such as Robbins Lumber in Searsmont. “It was the most modern, sophisticated white pine mill. You could see everything there: go through the mill, see the logs coming in, see how they were scaled, sawn, sorted, graded, dried, and planed. You could see the products that came out. Also, they were generating electric power.” Hale also made sure his students attended professional meetings such as those held by the New England Kiln Drying Association.

For 20 years, Hale served as the advisor for the University of Maine Woodsmen’s Team. The men and women he helped competed with other colleges in events such as crosscut, bucksaw, chopping horizontal, chopping vertical, log rolling, and the pack race where competitors rushed through the woods with 40-pound packs on their backs. “Some years,” he recalled, “they were the top team in their intercollegiate league.”

Hale’s dedication to forestry also includes substantial volunteer work. From about 1975, he helped with the construction of the water-powered saw mill at the Maine Forest & Logging Museum at Leonard’s Mills in Bradley. Then, he worked as a sawyer in the mill, showing visitors its operation. “I have an interest in water power that goes back six generations in my family,” Hale observed. “My great-great-great grandfather Ezekiel Hale had a fulling mill in Dracut, Massachusetts. My great-great grandfather Moses Hale had a saw mill, grist mill, carding mill, and a gunpowder mill in Lowell. There’s a Hale Brook there. Then my great grandfather was involved in grain processing there, and the mills were run by water power at the time.

“And my grandfather Richard Hale,” he continued, “was a hydraulic engineer who ran the water power system in Lawrence when all those mills ran on water power. When we traveled through Lawrence, I’d tell the students, ‘Look around here! Look at all these mills! Richard Hale could shut this whole city down at one time, and often did.’ Well,” Hale explained, “on Thursdays in the summertime, he’d establish his survey of rainfall, and then he’d send around messages to the mills, like, ‘If you want to start up Monday morning, you shut down Friday noon,’ or something like that,” Hale laughed. “Now this was when they worked six days a week. In other words, if there was not enough water to run, the city shut down. My grandfather was one of the pioneers in water power.

“And my father, Elliott, was the assistant agent at the Worumbo Mills in Lisbon Falls. He was the one who really ran it. They made the finest woolens—mohair and cashmere and more.”

Hale’s interest in mills, especially portable saw mills, continues to this day.

"It’s hard to say," he said of his interest. "It’s in your blood. Every log is a new little problem: how to convert it, how to open it up. Whether it’s a four-inch, and how long it is. If you’ve got a long log, maybe you can get a short board out of it because of the taper of the log."

Hale also volunteers for the Bethel Historical Society and is researching documents about local timber cutting in the 1800s, early dockyards, and the tantalizing tales of Maine men who built timber rafts and sailed them to England.

When asked what he would like to tell the young people of Maine, Hale said: "The forest resource of this country is what made this country great. The settlers immediately began using the forest as a resource. Essentially, it ran the country: it provided fuel for heat and for cooking, and initially for power and for trade. The Maine forest is still here and will continue to be so—an industrial resource providing many high-paying jobs of a permanent nature. It’s important that they use high-quality management techniques to maximize the many benefits of the forest. Most activities are systems that can be broken down and analyzed. The important thing is to develop skills in analyzing these systems.”

The Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum congratulates Hale and his family: his brothers Elliott, Jr. and David; his wife, Jan Dumont Hale; their daughter, Heather Hale-Nivus, her husband, David Nivus, and their daughters, Corinne and Jocelyn. The public is invited to view the Logger’s Hall of Fame plaque at the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum, 221 Stratton Road, 864-3939, when the Museum opens June 18. On July 25, during the Friday Evening Program of the Logging Festival, the Museum will celebrate the 30th year of the Logger’s Hall of Fame as it inducts new honorees. For more information, please visit www.rlrlm.org.

by Peggy Yocom
Curator, Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum

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1 Responses »

  1. Brings back memories. I was on the team at UMO in 69. Remember the canoe races and fire building. Congratulations Mr. Hale.

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