The descent down the elevator shaft went smoothly and without incident. Some 140 feet below the earth's surface, the elevator doors opened and our guide led the four of us onto the path that we would follow on our tour through the visitor portion of the caverns.
Located in the scenic Schoharie Valley of New York State, Howe Caverns is 40 miles from Albany. From Milan, New Hampshire, it is about a sic-hour drive, providing that you don't stop along the way. My wife and I did stop along the way to feed both ourselves and our car. We left Milan close to 8:30 Saturday morning a week ago and arrived at the Howe Caverns motel, where we stayed for the night, around 3:30 in the afternoon.
It had been a good many years since we last visited the Caverns. Many a change had taken place. In addition to the several types of Caverns tour now available, visitors can now take on the challenges of the Adventure Park portion of the complex. If you are into zip lines, rope courses, and rock walls, the six-hour drive to the Caverns complex will surely be well worth your time.
We decided to make a return visit to Howe Caverns in part because of my growing interest in the art of photography. I wanted to take on the challenge of shooting photos down in the depths of a cave. In addition, Howe Caverns had just recently added a photography tour to their list of different tour opportunities, and I had eagerly signed up for one.
My eye sight, however, is no longer what it once was, and I quickly realized that at certain places along the cavern's pathway, I had a rather difficult time seeing where I was walking. The presence of the other four people down there with me on this day helped, of course, but even so, I frequently found it necessary to move quite slowly and carefully. And there are 140 steps in the caverns of which the visitor should be aware. Even with the services of a guide, I realized that going down into the caverns a second time was not going to be a wise idea. As it turned out, I managed to get some very good pictures during the regular 90-minute tour, however, and it is a couple of those that accompany this article.
Photography enthusiasts may want to know that I shoot a Nikon d7000, and I used a Tokina 11-16, 2.8 mm, wide-angle lens. Not being able to see the readouts on my camera in the low light of the caverns, I soon set the camera to automatic and let it make the necessary decisions about the proper f stops and film speeds to use in the taking of the photographs. My camera and the lens I used on it are both good in low light situations. I used only the camera's pop-up flash to get the results shown in the accompanying pictures. Some slight enhancement was done in some of the pictures using the I-Photo and Aperture programs on my computer.
As far as is known, the first person daring enough to enter the caverns' original entrance, some one and a half miles from the entrance now used, was a newcomer to the valley named Lester Howe. The year was 1842. Howe had noticed that, when the days were very hot, his cows gathered near a particular stand of bushes. Curious, Howe decided to find out why. Approaching his herd, he noticed that the flow of air there was much cooler than elsewhere. Howe made his way through the dense growth of bushes and discovered the entrance to a cave. His spirit of adventure demanded an exploration, and, always taking the necessary precautions, over the next several weeks, he inched his way deeper and deeper into the blackness of the cave.
The discovery of the cave had received a fair amount of national publicity. Lester Howe was no fool. He knew a business opportunity when he saw one. Before the year 1843 was out, Howe was already leading curious visitors to the cave on an eight-hour tour done mostly on hands, knees, and belly, lighted only by oil lamps that Howe provided.
The modern day tour, which includes a short boat ride, opened in 1929. The many activities now available to the visitor are a testament to the wise management strategy used by its modern day owners. If you are into visiting caverns, Howe Caverns should be on your list. A narrow cavern and not as spectacular as some of the larger well-known ones, Lester Howe's discovery in 1842 is still a visitor's time well-spent.
Last Updated on Monday, 26 May 2014 20:09
Once upon a Berlin Time
Hello fellow Berlinites. Occasionally, I substitute teach at the Middle School here in Berlin and get together with the social studies teachers to do a history on this city, which the kids really enjoy. Recently, I did one on logging using the old safety film put out by the Brown Company called "King Spruce".
The students were amazed at what it took to deliver the logs to the mills in Berlin via the Androscoggin River using lumberjacks, river drivers and tugboats. Some of pulpwood came from as far as 100 miles away and had to cross several lakes before reaching Umbagog Lake and the Androscoggin River.
While playing in the newspapers of 67 years ago, I came across some Brown Bulletin articles on logging that never made it to their historical magazines. I would like to share some of these stories and some of the local names of these old loggers.
Sometimes it took a couple of years to get the wood to the mills in Berlin, but once it reached Umbagog Lake and then the Androscoggin River, things went a lot quicker.
I have mentioned in early logging stories that the last log drive took place in 1964. This means that from this year on (50 years ago), people would not see the thousands of cords of pulpwood making their trip to Berlin. It was certainly a great sight seeing these logs and the way they were separated by the Boom Piers or held back by link connected booms.
The Steamer Diamond was the last of the tugboats that towed wood. It pulled logs from Hedge Hog Landing (end of Rapid River) to Moll's Rock for release into the Androscoggin River. The first Capt. on this boat in 1947 was Odian Turner and the second captains were Dan Murray and Dean Potter. The first engineer was Allyre Gagne and the second engineer was George Laflamme. Joseph Rochefort and Arthur Chailler were firemen, while Stephen Doucette was the cook.
There were several boats like this that operated on the other upper lakes doing the same job. The Steamer Frost towed on Mooselookmeguntic from Indian Rock to Upper Dam. Steamer Rowell towed on Richardson Lake from Upper Dam to Middle Dam. The Steamer Alligator towed on Pond in the River to Rapid River. All of these boats had crews the same as the Steamer Diamond.
By the 1950s the last of the boats that were called the Brown Company Navy operated on Aziscohos Lake, it was called the Nibroc. The wood on this lake was brought to the end of the lake and sluiced through the dam down the Magalloway River and into the Androscoggin River.
By the fall of 1947, more than 6 million logs were floating down the river into Berlin and they were being counted. Up the river, a few thousand feet above the Berlin Mills Bridge (Walking Bridge), was the Pine Island Boom. It was the site of the last handling of the pulpwood sticks before they would move down to the huge storage piles and the barker plants.
There were two important jobs going on at Pine Island Boom, two jobs that people could not see because the area was hidden from the road by trees along the river bank.
In the center of the river was a pier like arrangement looking something like the pier at a summer camp for boys. It was open at both ends and had a series of openings along each side. The logs coming down river flowed between two parallel lengths of logs and boards and beneath crosswalks. Men armed with a long pick poles stood by and kept their eyes out for logs from which the bark had been peeled by the action of the water and other logs.
These so-called river peeled sticks were pulled out through one of the openings to float down one channel to the wood pile at the east end of the bridge. The other wood floated through the sorting gap down to the Barker Plant just north of the Onco plant. As the wood floated through the gap it was counted log by log.
Three counters, armed with hand tallies, little machines which added one each time one punched them, were posted at the lower end of the area. These men kept a very accurate count of the logs that went through.
Why was there counting? It was to keep a check on the logs coming down river.
Far up river, when the pulpwood was cut and piled in readiness for the spring drive, counts were made of sample cords of wood. From these samples, Woods Department officials got an average of the number of sticks in each cord of wood.
Thus, knowing just about how much wood was put into the rivers and lakes and knowing how much came into Berlin, they had enough information as to losses. Officials reported that about the only loss was due to sinkage. Any wood that got caught along the banks or that drifted away was picked up by crews that followed down the waterways behind the drive.
Sinkage brought up the question, were there any particular types of wood that sank quicker than others? James Laffin, who was the chief scaler for the Brown Company Woods Department, said that he didn't notice any type of wood that sank easier than others, there were all kinds.
He explained that while some of the wood that sank was partly rotted, other sticks were perfectly sound. The number of knots did not make any difference either. Any wood that was recovered after sinking was trucked down to the mill.
Laffin said that drying this wood out did not help. If it was put in the river again, it always would sink before it got too far, no matter how much it was dried.
There was also an important storage area up river in Milan. The Milan sorting gap as it was called held up to 30,000 cords of wood according to Laffin. He called it a really safe place during flood time.
The piers had been built at Milan so that there was little danger of the pulpwood sticks getting away during high water.
Because of this, the logs were stored their and then floated down river to the mills as needed. From Milan the wood moved down to the Potter Boom, then the Sanborn Boom and finally Pine Island.
Incidentally, Potter and Sanborn Booms were so named because they were near the old homestead of families by that name.
Finally, it took from nine to eighteen hours for the logs to move from Milan to Berlin, depending on wind and stream conditions.
All of the wood that came downriver from Northern New Hampshire and Western Maine during 1947 totaled about 90,000 cords. That didn't count the hundreds of cords of wood brought in by trucks and trains.
It took a lot of wood to operate the large paper company that existed in Berlin back then.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 23:27
It seems that people in New Hampshire may not be taking the old adage "A Fed Bear Is a Dead Bear" seriously enough these days. Recent events across the state involving the feeding of bears show a trend that has serious consequences for both communities and bears.
In 2006, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department established a rule (FIS 310.01) that prohibits a person from feeding bears, either intentionally or inadvertently, given that doing so causes nuisance situations, results in property damage and can become a human safety concern. Not directly mentioned in the rule language, but of equal importance, is the fact that feeding bears habituates bears to humans and essentially eliminates, or severely alters, the natural behavior and foraging patterns of bears.
Since 2006, Fish and Game has addressed a number of intentional bear feeding sites around the state, at some of which people had been feeding bears for over 20 years. Collectively, staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — Wildlife Services, Fish and Game Wildlife Biologists and Conservation Officers have worked hard to identify intentional feeding sites and try to help people who are feeding to understand the serious consequences of this practice. Some have been cooperative, others, less so. People who are feeding bears are initially asked to stop via a formal warning. If they fail to stop, they are then in violation of FIS 310.01 and may be issued a summons. In many instances, a formal warning, coupled with education, has been effective. This year, however, this sensible approach doesn't seem to be working as well.
During the first week of May, Fish and Game discovered four historical feeding sites in New Hampshire where intentional bear feeding has resumed, despite previous formal warnings being issued. One site in particular, located on West Side Road in North Conway, has been particularly challenging for bear managers. In the area known as Birch Hill, bears highly habituated to human food have been breaking into motor vehicles, garages, sheds, and killing livestock. Fish and Game has been forced to destroy two bears at this location in one week that were destroying property and posing a human safety concern. The scat of these animals has been full of both black oil sunflower seed and cracked corn, suggesting purposeful feeding. This prompted Fish and Game to investigate an historical feed site located within a half mile of the location where the bulk of the conflicts were occurring. The resident had been previously warned to cease feeding, but had resumed the activity in spring of 2014.
The decision to kill these animals was not an easy one and not taken lightly. However, there were few other options for these bears, for a variety of reasons. The less developed northern part of the state, where bears are typically released when translocated, is still covered in snow, offering no natural food.
The behavior of these animals and the fact that the conflicts were becoming more severe with time forced a response. Both bears were large adult males, which tend to have strong fidelity to their home range and therefore would likely have returned very quickly if moved. In my opinion, these bears had essentially been "ruined" by intentional feeding and human habituation. They had lost the ability to be wild bears that avoid human-occupied areas.
Intentional backyard feeding is not the only problem. A number of locations around the state experience bear/human conflicts each and every year. Most are areas with open or plastic-topped dumpsters (not bear proof), unsecured household garbage, bird feeders or unprotected poultry and livestock. Despite working with these residents year after year, things never seem to change. Why is that? Why are bears so devalued by some members of the public that they refuse to change their own behavior? Why is there an expectation by some members of the public that Fish and Game should remove or kill the bear, so that people are not inconvenienced by the need to change their behavior?
Without support and assistance from the public, Fish and Game lacks the ability to significantly change human behavior and reduce bear/human conflicts. We can't force restaurant owners to use locking, steel-top dumpsters. We can't make people put electric fence around their chickens. We can't force people to stop feeding birds during spring and summer. We can't mandate the appropriate storage of garbage and other food attractants by homeowners so that they are inaccessible to wildlife. All of these are examples of relatively simple, effective, commonsense solutions. We can't convince people not to selfishly feed bears, despite the detriment to the animal, if we are not informed of the location. We can't challenge people's constitutional right to shoot bears that cause property damage, despite the refusal of the landowner to even attempt to mitigate the conflicts. I find this very discouraging, because we are so fortunate to have this magnificent wild animal in our state.
Isn't it worth changing your own behavior just a little, so they can live here, too?
We have been trying to get this message out for many years. Most residents and visitors of New Hampshire are familiar with Fish and Game's educational campaign "Something's Bruin in New Hampshire – Learn to Live with Bears." This campaign began in the mid-1990s and was designed to educate the public on bear behavior and provide proactive steps that the public could follow to avoid conflicts with bears. Essentially, it was hoped that if the public better understood bears, perhaps human tolerance towards bears would increase. One common message from this campaign is the slogan "A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear" — a straightforward way of saying that allowing bears to become habituated to human environments and dependent on human-related foods has severe, and often fatal negative effects on the animal.
This education campaign has helped the public better understand the behavior of bears and has reduced conflicts. However, the recent incidents in which I've had to dispatch bears because of stubborn human behavior is making me lose faith. Is the public even listening anymore? Is our society that self-centered and callous towards the wildlife of our state?
The next time you are reviewing a friend's photos of a sow with cute cubs lying next to a pile of feed in their back yard, think about the consequences for the bear, and her cubs, who are learning behaviors that may result in their future death. When you see a dumpster with muddy paw prints on the side and garbage strewn through the woods, think long and hard about that image. Is that how you picture New Hampshire's majestic black bear? The next time you hear about Fish and Game biologist climbing to the top of a tree to remove cubs because the sow was shot at an unsecured chicken pen, ask yourself if that was a reasonable resolution to a conflict.
If you find these questions provoking, please lend your support and assistance. Follow the Something's Bruin guidelines at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/Somethings_Bruin.htm. Talk to your friends and neighbors and encourage them to be proactive in preventing conflicts with bears. Get active within your community and work for change. Change may be hard but it is not impossible. It's our own human behavior that creates these conflicts, and therefore it is our own behavior that needs to be modified.
Andrew Timmins works for N.H. Fish and Game as a Bear Biologist. He can be reached by calling 271-3211 or e-mail
. To subscribe newsletters published by N.H. Fish and Game please visit http://www.mailermailer.com/u/
Last Updated on Monday, 19 May 2014 17:59
Once upon a Berlin Time
Hello fellow Berlinites. As I do my research, I always find some interesting stories and facts about Berlin's rich history. While I was dabbling in 1914, I found a very interesting article about the development of real estate from this city's beginning up to the date mentioned.
Because Berlin had achieved distinction as a "Paper City" and based its reputation both at home and abroad on this one manufacture, a greater business developed. This business involved immense volumes of capital requiring the services of expert and experienced people.
Berlin and its nearby territory had never been highly productive as agricultural lands. Being heavily timbered, the lumber industry held a leading place, until the manufacture of pulp and paper from wood developed a new field of enterprise in this North Country.
In Berlin's early days a few families banded together and moved into this northern wilderness and their first priority was to cut and burn the timber on sufficient land to make a farm. Timber that today would have been worth many fortunes was thus destroyed. The value of real estate had yet to be dreamed of.
When timber began to grow scarce around larger cities, it started to have a value and many speculators came into the field, buying when an especially attractive bargain was offered. They secured their options when they could and sold as soon as a profit could be made.
In 1852, the Grand Trunk Railroad reached the quiet, little village of Berlin and the possibility of using the waterpower of the Androscoggin River appeared. About the same time, Hezekiah Winslow built a sawmill that developed into the present (1914) Berlin Mills. Even in the 1850's real property was not recognized as the foundation of wealth. There were only a few houses at Berlin Mills village and only three or four between this place and today's (2014) Green Square.
What came next was the establishment of the Forest Fibre Company and then the White Mountain Pulp Company (late 1870's). Both of these businesses started Berlin on the way of becoming a city. Then, the Glen Mills (1885) and the Burgess Mill (1892) gave a fresh impetus to the city's growth.
The rapid increase of population suggested to several optimistic gentlemen the probable future of Berlin as a city of homes, as well as a city of industry and thereupon they set about securing lands immediately surrounding the newly built mills and putting them on the market in the form of building lots.
The early field of real estate agents was Daley and Goss, securing an almost continuous holding from Berlin Mills to Cascade, including the site of today's paper mill in Cascade. They also had holdings in Berlin Heights, which were occupied by some of the finest residences in this city. This firm also had holdings in what was then called the Jericho District with its stair like streets (the Avenues) and magnificent views.
The firm of Pike, Perkins and Macy did much in the way of laying out the additions to this city with some regard to symmetry. To their skill and ability as engineers, this city owes much of its present approach to regularity.
The development of the "East Side" was largely due to a man named A. B. Forbush, who was president of the Berlin Savings Bank and Trust company. Before the construction of the Boston and Maine railroad and the Burgess Mill (1892-1893) in Berlin, the East Side was not considered as a possible territory for urban development. Over the years there was a marked change and in 1914 Ward 4 (East Side) was the most rapidly growing section of this city.
Since the days when dealing in real estate was largely exploratory, the industry of real estate brokerage grew up and became a well conducted business.
Among the local agencies that devoted their energies to real estate 100 years ago was the firm of Woodward and Gerrish, who carried on his business in connection with insurance, the two lines having a more or less close relation.
Another person in real estate back then was Luther S. Buber, a contractor and builder, who was in a position to supply his clients with realty and the buildings necessary for occupation along with use of the same.
Next was a man named Louis Fleury, who acted as a broker in city property, farm and timberlands. Goss and James were also engaged in a general brokerage business with Mr. Goss being in active law practice and Mr. James in real estate.
Two other gentlemen that were in the practice of real estate in early 1900 were Mr.O.H.Toothaker and Mr. C.R. Davis. Both of these men were former proprietors and editors of the Berlin Reporter.
Mr. John Sheridan, president of the Guarantee Bank, had been and still was a dealer in realty back in 1914, devoting himself mainly to timberlands, of which he was an extensive holder in New Hampshire, Maine and Canada. Sheridan foresaw early the future of Berlin and was the owner of much valuable property in various parts of this city. The Sheridan Building is named after him.
Mr. T. M. Twohey was one of the younger men who engaged in the handling of realty 100 years ago. His energy and perseverance back then had all ready indicated that he was qualified to take a leading position in this field of endeavor. Another young prospect back in 1914 was a man named Fred Jacobs.
A sketch of the real estate interests of Berlin would be by no means complete without mention of the Berlin Building and Loan Association and the Peoples Building and Loan Association. They were two well incorporated institutions. Their object was to assist and encourage citizens to become owners of property and have a home of their own.
The first association mentioned was established in 1890 with W. H. Gerrish president, W.D Bryant vice president and E.F. Osgood treasurer. The latter association was incorporated in 1891 with H.E.Miles president and A.H. Eastman vice president and treasurer.
Of course, the largest holders of real property were the mills in this city. These concerns were not dependent on local brokers, they had their own skilled personnel to inspect and purchase any desirable property.
By 1914, the business of brokerage in urban holdings both sales and rentals, had grown to proportions not thought of a few years before. It was then one of the leading industries of the city of Berlin and possibly the most extensive outside of the paper and lumber operations.
We now (2014) have several realty firms who operate transacting land and buildings in this city and I am sure it still is a lucrative business.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:45
My first full month on the job as your new Executive Councilor has been a very busy one. On March 26th I was sworn in to office in the Executive Council Chambers in Concord and then immediately participated in the Governor and Executive Council meeting that was scheduled that day. On March 29th I attended a dinner in honor of our supporters at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. In the month of April, I attended two Executive Council meetings in Concord at which the Council voted on over 200 contracts and approximately fifty confirmations and nominations for various State Boards and Commissions.
Several citizens at the beginning of the Council meetings were recognized for their achievements and volunteer work within the State of New Hampshire. Additionally, various grammar and high school students throughout the state were recognized for their athletic and academic achievement.
I have fielded dozens and dozens of constituent requests that include food stamps, license plate renewals, economic development support letters for grants, revenue questions and unemployment benefits to name a few. All of my requests are always kept confidential and I try to give constituents the best answer I can and if I don't have an immediate answer I will reach out to the responsible commissioner to work through the problem.
Much of my work is actually done in Executive Council District 1 which includes 108 towns and cities. I have tried to honor all requests to attend events and occasions that required my attendance. On March 26, my first official event was to attend the State of the University Address by President Sara Jayne Steen at Plymouth State University and gather an understanding of the University's direction for the future. On March 28th, I took a tour with State Senator Jeanie Forrester and the Department of Resource and Economic Development at the Wallace Building Products Corp. in Danbury to discuss the expansion of their business. On April 24, I attended and spoke to the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce as their guest speaker and found a very active business and academic community in Plymouth.
On April 16, I was asked to be a judge for the Tillotson North Country Foundation's Enterprise Scholarship Competition for three teams of Colebrook Academy high school students. It was fantastic and all the students did a superior job in their presentations to the point all received scholarship monies. On the same day, I spoke to the North Woodstock Rotary Club at breakfast about my new position and thoughts on the Executive Council and repeated that performance at the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce later that morning. At noon I travelled to the base of Loon Mountain to see a future development of a resort hotel near Jean's Playhouse. April 16 was a very busy day.
On April 21, I had the pleasure of visiting and touring the North Country Charter School in Littleton overseen by Lise Lavoie. This is one of the original charter schools established in NH and supported by ten other school districts in the North Country. The staff and students were great and I look forward to my return. On the same day, I took a tour of the washed out culvert on
River Street in East Conway and the state is working on a Declaration in order to receive FEMA funding.
On April 2, I attended a NH Employment Security Job Fair with Commissioner Copadis at the Belknap Mall in Belmont. Close to forty businesses were represented there and I enjoyed speaking with the various job recruiters.
On April 18, I had pleasure to visit Franklin High School on its first Annual Military Day to visit Hill students who are being recruited to join the service. Earlier in the month, I spoke to Teen Pact Leadership Schools in Concord, an impressive group of home school students under the direction of Margaret Dryre. On April 15, I was the guest speaker for the New Hampshire Center for Non-profits in Concord. They represent numerous non-profits across the state and provide great services to citizens on a daily basis. On April 10, I attended the Granite United Way annual dinner in Berlin, honoring the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton. This organization provides great services in the Northern part of the State.
On April 5, I ran in the Ammonoosuc Annual 5 miler in Bethlehem in support of Oral Health, an important issue in the State of New Hampshire. Later in the day, I attended the 50th Anniversary Ceremony of the start of the Vietnam War at the White Mountain Regional High School in Whitefield, NH. This was a very important event to recognize the service of our Vietnam Veterans and their personal sacrifice to our country.
On April 17, I attended the Legal Services Forum Breakfast in Concord. This organization provides free legal services for citizens in need and supports the victims of domestic violence. Later in the day, I was able to facilitate a meeting with Littleton Economic Development Group with the Department of Transportation of Commissioner in Concord to review a Tiger Grant proposal for $8.2 million.
On April 29, I attended a Prescription Drug Conference at the Common Man Restaurant in Claremont with 70 other citizens to address the prescription drug problem in the State. It was an eye opening experience with a lot of great stakeholders in attendance from the non-profit world, law enforcement and state agencies.
On April14, I took a tour of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and Emergency Services in Concord with Directors Chris Plummer and Bruce Cheney. We are fortunate in New Hampshire to have a first rate facility to prepare our State for all types of emergencies. On April 8, I took a tour of the Division of Motor Vehicles with Director Richard Bailey in Concord to see many of the new initiatives in support of customer service.
I also attended a Dinner in Bartlett on April 26 and Senator Forrester's Spaghetti Dinner in North Haverhill on April 30. I also attended a Troop 198 Eagle Scout Award Ceremony honoring Jordan Dansereau in Wakefield.
Executive Councilor District 1
(Representing all the towns and cities in the counties of Coos and Grafton, the unincorporated place of Hale's Location, the towns of Albany, Alton, Andover, Bartlett, Brookfield, Center Harbor, Chatham, Conway, Cornish, Croydon, Danbury, Eaton, Effingham, Freedom, Gilford, Grantham, Hart's Location, Hill, Jackson, Madison, Meredith, Middleton, Milton, Moultonborough, New Durham, New Hampton, New London, Newport, Ossipee, Plainfield, Sanbornton, Sandwich, Springfield, Sunapee, Tamworth, Tilton, Tuftonboro, Wakefield, Wilmot, and Wolfeboro, and the cities of Claremont and Laconia)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 14:41