Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
Was there a POW camp near Millinocket during WWII? This question has arisen several times at the museum. John McLeod’s book “The Northern, the Way I Remember” mentions a camp at Seboomook. The internet revealed a bit more information. It appears that the war had caused a labor shortage for the Maine potato growers and for the paper mills. Maine Congresswoman Margaret Chase Smith and Senator Owen Brewster lobbied for the government to send German POW’s to Maine to ease the shortage. At the time, potato growers and paper mills were Maine’s largest employers and many young men left their jobs to enlist or to leave Maine for higher paying defense industry jobs out of state. Also, the paper mills needed to produce paper needed by the War Department, artillery shell container paper, dynamite shell paper, map paper, card stock and many other wartime paper products. As a result, in 1944, approximately 4000 German soldiers arrived at four POW camps at Houlton, Princeton, Seboomook and Spencer Lake.
Great Northern housed 250 of these prisoners at their Seboomook Farm. McLeod states they were from Rommel’s Afrika Korps. They were sent to the woods to cut pulp, but they weren’t very successful. The McLeod book says “their production wasn’t half that of an ordinary cord cutter.” At one point, they refused to work because it was too cold, but the captain in charge said they could choose to work or they wouldn’t get anything to eat. The prisoners said breakfast first, then work. After some more stern words from the captain, the men decided to go to work, after which they were fed.
One online source explains that the camp was surrounded by a double barb-wire fence and had four guard towers with a guard on duty twenty-four hours a day. Each tower had strong spotlights and 30 caliber machine guns. The horse barn was converted to living quarters with toilet and laundry facilities in the basement. The potato house became the mess hall for prisoners. A kitchen was on the lower level with the dining area upstairs. The blacksmith shop’s first floor became the infirmary with doctor’s quarters upstairs. Other buildings were constructed to house U. S. troops and guards. Officers lived outside the compound in the farmhouse. Rooms at the nearby Seboomook Hotel also housed some U. S. troops and their wives in rented rooms during summer months. The Seboomook Farm served as a prison facility until 1946 when the men were repatriated to Germany.
In the Museum Store!
*** Preowned yearbooks – $10.00 each.
*** Matted photos, various prices – GNP mill, Little Italy, river drives, Mt. Katahdin.
*** 2020 Calendars, a few left – Beyond the Mill ($10)
*** DVD’s from both Little Italy Part 1 and Part 2 are available at the museum ($15 each) or mail order ($15 each).
***Books available: “Within Katahdin’s Realm, Log Drives and Sporting Camps” (Bill Geller) $30.00; “Logging Towboats & Boom Jumpers” (Moody) $18.00; “Tanglefoot,” (Edwards) $15.00; “Millinocket” (D. Duplisea) $20.00; “A Little Taste of History” cookbooks – $15.00; both Laverty books; “No Time for Moss (McKeen) $15.00.
*** All items may be mailed – add $5 SH each item.
***Museum open Thurs., Fri., Sat. Noon – 3PM, weather permitting.
*** For information, groups or appointments, contact Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or firstname.lastname@example.org or the Millinocket Historical Society, P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.