Roadside History: Boom PiersAugust 19. 2017 3:00AM
New Hampshire historical marker number: 159.
Date established: 1989 in Berlin.
Location: On the east side of Main Street (Route 16) near the intersection with 10th Street. The marker is by a pullout area next to the Androscoggin River.
What the sign says: "The small man-made 'islands' in the river were used to secure a chain of boom logs which divided the Androscoggin River during the colorful and dramatic annual log drives, when the Brown Paper Co. and the International Paper Co. shared the river to float their logs from the forests far upriver to the mills at Berlin. The logs were stamped on the ends with a marking hammer to identify their ownership, and they were sorted at a 'sorting gap' further upriver. The log drives ended in 1963. The old piers continue to serve as a reminder of North Country heritage."
The back story: The area was first granted in 1771 by Colonial Gov. John Wentworth as Maynesborough after Sir William Mayne, but the grantees did not take up their claims, which disappeared with the Revolution. In 1802, Mayne's descendants sent men to explore the area and mark lots for settlers. Still no one came. Maynesborough was finally settled in 1823-1824, with farming as the first industry. In 1829, the town was reincorporated as Berlin.
Situated in a heavily forested region, Berlin developed into a center for logging and wood industries, with falls on the Androscoggin River providing water power for sawmills. By 1885, Berlin was home to several pulp and paper mills and became known as "The City That Trees Built."
Today, the annual River-Fire festival puts the focus back on the boom piers once used to separate and guide trees sent down the river to the mills. The highlight of the festival begins at dusk when the boom piers are stacked with skids and set ablaze, and the river lights up with fires.
The festival is at Service Credit Union Heritage Park, which features a replica of an 1890s logging camp. This year, RiverFire is on Oct. 14.
Sources: Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce, Wikipedia.