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Katahdin Iron Works Records

Identifier: SpC MS 0270

Scope and Contents

The collection contains records of the Katahdin Iron Works, its successor the Piscataquis Iron Works, and records of Prentiss and Carlisle generated while managing the timberland owned by the Iron Works.

The collection is divided into three series: I. Records of Katahdin Iron Works; II. Records of Piscataquis Iron Works; and III. Records of Prentiss and Carlisle. Series I and II are further subdivided into various sub-series. The collection had been re-foldered by library staff at an earlier time; folder headings assigned then have been retained for the most part.

Series I, the records of the Katahdin Iron Works, contains four sub-series: administrative, financial, purchasing and production records of the company. The administrative sub-series, the largest part of this series, is arranged alphabetically by folder heading. It consists primarily of incoming correspondence, 1846-1867. A detailed inventory of this correspondence, listing writer, recipient and date of each letter, had been prepared by library staff for an earlier finding aid; that list is given in this finding aid for the convenience of the researcher. This sub-series also contains stockholder information, legal documents, property inventories, and reports on the ore at the site.

The second sub-series, financial records, contains records of the company treasurer; listings of assets and liabilities; financial statements with summaries of expenses, 1846-1864; promissory notes; and orders issued by the company. The purchasing records which make up the third sub-series include invoices and receipts, 1847-1866, for items bought by the Iron Works for its operations, money paid for labor, etc.; bills for board; and bills for labor on a dam. Production records, the fourth sub-series, include documents outlining sales of iron, blast furnace records, receipts and iron tickets for iron sold, 1852-1860, and hauling accounts, 1846-1862, which document pay received by individuals for iron hauled for the company.

The second series, records of the Piscataquis Iron Works, consists of two sub-series: administrative records and financial records. The administrative records contain documents for stockholder meetings and information about company shares, correspondence, legal documents, and inventories of the Silver Lake Hotel. The financial records include cancelled checks, a journal and a ledger, and ledgers listing notes and bills payable and receivable.

The third series, records of Prentiss and Carlisle, documents that company's work in managing the land and its lumber for the Allied Chemical Company. Arranged alphabetically by folder heading, the records include correspondence, 1927-1975; information about maintaining the gate to the land and controlling access by campers and others using the area; and material on the lumbering operations on the land. This series also contains tax records, reports of mining engineers, and a series of photographs of the site and its structures from 1925 to 1974.


  • Creation: 1846-1975
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1846-1970


Restrictions on Access

Kept at Fogler Library's offsite storage facility. One week's notice required for retrieval.

Use Restrictions

Information on literary rights available in the Library.

Historical Note

The collection contains records of the Katahdin Iron Works, an iron producing company located near Brownville Junction, Maine. It also includes records of Piscataquis Iron Works, a successor to Katahdin, and records generated by Prentiss and Carlisle Company of Bangor while managing the timberland on the Iron Works property.

The Katahdin Iron Works was incorporated in 1846 by David Pingree of Salem, Massachusetts, and Samuel E. Coues, Charles H. Ladd, John L. Hayes, and Alexander H. Ladd, all of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The site had been known as an ore deposit since the early 1800s, with Moses Greenleaf credited with first discovering iron ore there. In 1836 the Pleasant River Iron and Steel Company was incorporated to use the ore deposit. There was little result from this effort until 1841, when Samuel Smith of Newmarket, New Hampshire, and his son, Edward, of Bangor, along with Dominious Parker and Simon Greene, formed the Maine Iron Company. The Smiths also purchased most of the land in the township and began construction of a road, sawmill, brick kilns, a charcoal blast furnace, and other buildings on the site. A ready supply of wood furnished the charcoal for the furnace. However, the Smiths never began production and in 1845 sold the furnace and other buildings to David Pingree and his associates.

Pingree as the principal stockholder and president ran the company until his death. Hayes acted as agent, with Jefferson Lake and Royal Quimby succeeding him as agents. The remote location, transportation difficulties and changing technology made operation of the company difficult. The blast furnace ran only between 1846 and 1856, when operation of the iron works became uneconomical and it was shut down. From 1857 until Pingree died in 1863, the iron works was unoccupied. After Pingree's death, the executors of his estate sold the iron works to Edward G. Tileston and Company, bankers and steamship agents in Boston and New York. Plans to re-open it were later abandoned and a controlling interest in the company was obtained in 1868 by Thomas Egery of Bangor and E.P. Cutler, a Boston iron broker. Egery, Cutler, and Frederick F. French incorporated the Piscataquis Iron Works in 1868.

In 1876 Owen W. Davis and four others incorporated as the Katahdin Iron Company, leased the land from Piscataquis and took over operation of the company. The facilities were modernized and the capacity of the blast furnace increased. Woodcutters were employed year round to cut the wood needed to produce charcoal for the furnace. At its height the village grew to include homes for 200 workers. The 1880s also saw the beginning of a summer tourist business with a boarding house originally constructed for workers becoming the Silver Lake Hotel. Tourists arrived at the iron works to enjoy its remote location, the hunting and fishing it offered, and the mineral springs in the area.

A fire destroyed much of the plant in 1883, but it was rebuilt in 1885 when the Katahdin Charcoal Iron Company was organized in Bangor with enough capital to re-build the works. However the 1880s were also a time when charcoal furnaces were becoming obsolete, being replaced by anthracite and coke furnaces, and large deposits of ore were being developed more successfully in other parts of the country. By 1890, the management of the Katahdin Charcoal Iron Company, faced with competition from the steel plants in Pennsylvania as well as rising costs and falling prices, was forced to give up the business. The tourist business at the hotel was maintained, reaching its peak during the 1890s and continuing until the hotel burned in 1913.

In 1927 the demand for sulphur, found in the ore at the site, caused the General Chemical Division of Allied Chemical Company of New York to lease the ore deposit for a reserve supply. General Chemical purchased the ore body and the land in 1952 although the sulphur business was never developed. The timberland management firm of Prentiss and Carlisle of Bangor served as the company's agent in managing the land, which was used primarily for lumbering.

General Chemical later donated the land containing the blast furnace and remaining charcoal kiln to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Recreation which has operated it as an historic site since 1965.


6.5 cubic feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials



Records of the Katahdin Iron Works, an iron producing company located near Brownville Junction, Maine. It also includes records of Piscataquis Iron Works, a successor to Katahdin, and records generated by Prentiss and Carlisle Company of Bangor while managing the timberland on the Iron Works property.

Conservation Note

The collection has been re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes. Documents have been surface cleaned as needed and metal fasteners removed. Photographs have been housed in polypropylene sleeves and remain with the relevant documents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of George D. Carlisle in 1965, with subsequent gifts in 1968, 1971, 1985, 1995, 1999, and 2001.

Guide to the Katahdin Iron Works Records
Box And Folder List Available
June 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for uncoded script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Repository

5729 Raymond H. Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono ME 04469-5729 United States