RANGELEY – The Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum recently inducted William “Bunk” Spiller of Rangeley and Elijah White, Jr., of Carthage and Windham into the Loggers’ Hall of Fame.
Mr. Spiller and Mr. White join a distinguished list of local woodsmen that includes Cary Keep, Stan Bartash, Raymond Vallee, Edwin Lowell, Lewis Abbott, Clem Field, Bud Field, and Robert Wilbur.
Born in 1930, Mr. Spiller started work in the woods when he was eight. “Back when we were kids, you helped with the firewood, lugging it,” he said. Then, he joined his father, Harold, and his Uncle Arnold hauling wood, and when Kennebec Pulp and Paper came to Rangeley around 1946, he drove a truck for road-building crews. When Bill Ferguson set up his sawmill on Greenvale Cove, Mr. Spiller helped cut, haul, and saw the logs. He remembers cutting pine trees nearly three feet in diameter with just a crosscut.
“You didn’t think nothing of it,” he said of the work in 55 below zero temperatures. “Just a day in your life, that’s all.” From 1948 to 1953, Mr. Spiller served on a destroyer in the U.S. Navy, and many of his leaves saw him back in Rangeley, working in Ferguson’s sawmill.
After the Navy, Mr. Spiller worked for Ferguson, Alton Steward, and D.C. Morton. In 1965, he began his 24-year-tenure at the Navy Survival School in Redington as maintenance supervisor. When he retired in 1987, he worked once more for D.C. Morton, grading hundreds of miles of road, especially in Parmachenee.
“Not too many places I don’t know,” Spiller noted. He especially liked grading roads and being “way back in no man’s land. All by yourself. Nobody else around.”
When asked him what makes a good heavy equipment operator in the woods, he replied, “You keep your equipment up. You watched it. You didn’t set there and sleep. You had to be right on the ball looking for anything that could happen.”
When he was three, Elijah White, Jr., lived in a tar paper logging camp with his family in Andover Surplus. “I used to spend all day with my father. I’d follow my uncle and him in the woods everywhere they went. Learning the trade.”
He deepened his woods knowledge peeling fir when he was 8 or 9 for cutter Randall Knox, earning 10 cents a tree. “I’d come out of the woods, I’d be black from head from head to toe,” Mr. White said laughing and added, “but the black flies and mosquitos didn’t bother you at all.” At 13, he worked in Carroll Noyes’ Carthage sawmill, and he had a logging job, as well. For his 15th and 16th summers, he worked on road construction for Frank Rossi, cutting the wood down by hand. And during the school year, he worked in the Carthage birch mill for C.H. Ranger, from 4 until 9 or 10 at night. Weekends, he hauled planer boards to the Farmington mill.
In February of 1953, at 17, Mr. White entered the Air Force and learned to be a mechanic. On leave, he’d come home and work in the sawmill. When discharged in 1957, he used his mustering out pay to buy a Homelite 520, a gear-driven saw that weighed 32 pounds, loaded. He worked for a time in the Oxford Paper Mill in Rumford and then with his father and uncle in the woods. When his brother Wayne came home from the Army, they formed E&W White and hauled and cut wood. Around 1976 in Canton, he and his father cut the biggest pine tree that was ever hauled into Starbird Lumber Company in Strong. Of the two logs in the tree, the butt log scaled 1,400 board feet and the other log, 1,200.
Mr. White works today with his son Lance as a crane operator on a job for L.L. Bean in Freeport. And his family is glad that he is healthy enough to work. They call him the ‘Logger with Nine Lives” because he has survived several accidents while working in the woods, including a broken back and a broken neck. His quick thinking and that of his fellow loggers helped save his life.
When asked why he stays with woods work, Mr. White replied, “It’s the freedom. You can go to work at five in the morning; you can go to work at nine. You have a certain amount of work to do, but it’s the freedom of being your own man.”
Begun in 1985, the Museum’s Logger’s Hall of Fame honors people who have worked in the woods for a significant part of their lives and who have made valuable contributions to lumbering in the western Maine mountains. “It’s one of the most important things we do,” said Museum President Emeritus and retired logger Rodney Richard, Sr.
Congratulations go to: Mr. Spiller, his brother and sisters, his four children, and six grandchildren, and Mr. Elijah White, Jr., his partner Ms. Susan Cousens, his 10 children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. The public is invited to view the Logger’s Hall of Fame plaque at the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum, 221 Stratton Road, open Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., through Labor Day, or by appointment (864-5551). FMI: www.rlrlm.org
This was written by Peggy Yocom, curator of the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum.