LIVERMORE FALLS – “The paper mill workers have made Jay the community that it is today.” A resolution signed by the Jay Select Board acknowledges the impact of over 130 years of the paper industry in the Jay area, and honors those who worked at the paper mills and dedicated their lives to the community.
A brief ceremony was held at Maine’s Paper and Heritage Museum in Livermore Falls on Friday, May 19 to present the 2023 Town of Jay Spirit of America to the paper mill workers as a collective.
The award reads, in part, “These paper mill workers were not only employees that dedicated their lives to the industry and the success of our mills, but they were also community members. Their civic mindedness led them to hold municipal roles on the Select Board, Planning Board, and numerous other committees. They volunteered their time to many local groups including the Fire Department, Veterans organizations, Area Youth Sports, Special Olympics, United Way, Spruce Mountain Ski Slope, the Food Pantry and various other entities that support our community.”
The paper industry has been an integral part of the Jay area for more than a century, and Jay was the birthplace of one of the world’s largest paper companies. MPHM President Greg Bizier, who worked at the Otis Mill for 31 years, shared that the International Paper Company was started in the heart of Maine’s western mountains by Hugh Chisholm, who started by selling newspapers alongside Thomas Edison before starting in paper manufacturing.
During the brief ceremony, Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere read the declaration that accompanies the award. “As we face the permanent shutdown of the great Androscoggin Mill, we want to pause and say thank you to all of these men and women who have dedicated their lives to the paper industry and to our community. Their sacrifices and incredible work ethic have not gone unnoticed. They have helped write the story of the Town of Jay and are part of our history.”
Selectperson Lee Ann Dalessandro originally recommended that the Spirit of America Award be presented to the mill workers as a collective. Dalessandro shared that when she moved to Jay thirty years ago, she was surprised to see how the community came together for events and how they supported each other. It was something she had never seen before.
Employees of the mills were invited to attend the ceremony, along with Jay town officials and members of the community. Over thirty people attended.
Richard Therrien of Livermore shared that he worked at both the Otis Mill and the Androscoggin Mill, in almost every department at the mills over a 43-year-long career.
Sherry Judd, one of the founders of Maine’s Paper and Heritage Museum, worked in both mills as well. After retiring from the mill she traveled the country in a caboose, teaching kids in industrial towns not to jump trains. She collected a wide variety of artifacts while traveling, and brought them back to Maine to recognize and celebrate this important part of local history.
A new display in the museum documents the last days of operation of the Androscoggin Mill. A sample of the last roll of paper produced at the mill includes signatures of employees. Photos show the last shifts at work. The Spirit of America Award for the mill workers will be added to this display.
The closing of the Androscoggin Mill in Jay marks an end of an era for the Town of Jay, and for the surrounding communities.