Ray Daigle, center, of Berlin took a break from signing copies of his well-illustrated history, "Berlin Mills on the Androscoggin River," and chatting with book-buyers on Sunday afternoon to pose with his two adult children — Peter Daigle of Nashua and Julia Agrodnia of Berlin — in front of the Brown Company barns on Berlin's East Side. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
September 11, 2013BERLIN — Over 100 people turned out on Sunday afternoon at the historic Brown Company barns on Berlin's East Side to celebrate local researcher Raymond L. Daigle's publication of his 230-page book, "Berlin Mills on the Androscoggin River."
Born in 1948, this Baby Boomer worked in the mills from 1973 to 2006 and developed a deep interest and affection for what he calls the mills' Golden Years — from 1852 to 1935, when the Brown family lost control of the company during the depths of the Depression.
"Berlin has a rich history; it was the center of the paper manufacturing world with over 100 scientists working to increase the uses of wood cellulose," Daigle explained in a brief interview at which he discussed his four-year-long project to preserve the history of the pulp and paper company and the City in a single volume. "Berlin had the state's first electric street lights and cement sidewalks."
A widower for 15 years, both of the author's adult children were on hand for the festive occasion: Julia Agrodnia of Berlin and Peter Daigle of Nashua, who baked and frosted a delicious cake.
Walter Nadeau pointed out in the brief introduction he wrote for the new book: "From 1892 to 1935, the Brown Company grew to be one of the largest and most advanced paper mills in the world, employing over 6,000 lumberjacks working on 3.5 million acres of land and employed over 4,000 in the mills. As a result, Berlin grew from a population of 6,000 people and peaked at 22,000 in 1932."
Daigle explained that many descendents of mill workers come to the Moffett House Museum to find out more about their forebears. Very often volunteers are able to track down some of the histories of those being sought. "Now we will have a book – both in soft- and hardcover — that they can buy to provide them with the context of their ancestors' lives — this book fills a gap. I've dedicated it to William Wentworth Brown who in 1868 acquired the sawmill known as Winslow's Sawmill, built in 1852, from John B. Brown (no relation). W.W. Brown's sons joined in this enterprise and envisioned the pulp and paper mill that became known around the world. But mostly," he continued, "the book is dedicated to the workers who made the company such a success from the year 1852 to 2006, when the pulp mill shut down. It's also dedicated to those who now work for the Gorham Paper and Tissue (GPT) LLC and at La Tuque Mill in Canada, now Smurfit-Stone — the two mills that survive from the Brown family days."