A Canadian Who Owns a City

HERALD MAGAZINE May 1 1906

A Canadian Who Owns a City

HERALD MAGAZINE May 1 1906

A Canadian Who Owns a City

HERALD MAGAZINE

Hugh J. Chisholm, the man who practically owns the great paper-making city of Rumford Falls, Maine, is a Canadian by birth, a native of i1« iagara-on-the-Lake. His career has been meteoric. From a humble origin, he has leaped up to a foremost place in the industiial world of the United States.

THE owner of a waterfall 10 feet higher than Niagara, the owner of a booming city of 7,000 inhabitants, the owner of a plant that manufactures all the postal cards for the United States Government, the owner of a railroad, the absolute ruler of what to all intents and purposes is a small kingdom—this is the remarkable position to-day of Hugh J. Chisholm. And all this is not in the heart of Africa, as it might at first be supposed, but in the heart of the staid old istate of Maine. And, what is more marvellous still, this man, starting from nothing, has done all this himself within a period of 20 years.

It sounds almost like an “Arabian Nights” tale. Twenty years ago the Androscoggin River tore its turbulent path out of the heavy timber and made that tremendous leap at what is now Rumford Falls, Me., with no one but the rabbits and bears to watch the waste of 500,000 horsepower. Then Hugh J. Chisholm came along. He watched the wild leap of those waters, and did some thinking. The result of that thinking shows today in the city that has sprung up almost by magic.

And it is an unusual city. It has all the flavor of a western boom town about it. It is like a section of New York transferred to the edge of the woods. Although you can walk around the condensed city in fifteen minutes, you will see modern hotels, classic bank buildings, electric lights, new stores, great mills and all the

confusion and excitement of a hustling city.

Talk with any of the inhabitants and you would imagine yourself west of the Rockies.

“Rumford Falls. Going to be the greatest city in the east. Yes, sir, everything humming. Can’t get a foot of land in it. Grow? It’s going to grow until it runs over half the county.

And yet out of your hotel window you can see the pine forests covering the rugged hills, and you can see a river jammed full with a million logs.

The mills are running night and day all the year around. Everything in the town ; is high— wages, food, rents—all based on New York prices. Space is scanty, and, inasmuch as the city is on what is practically an island, there will never,be more of it. Consequently, rents are way up. A small store and basement costs $2,000 a year in rent, and people are fighting to get the places. Not a foot of land can be bought for any price. It is all owned by Hugh J. Chisholm. The rent goes to him, an,d he can make it what he pleases.

The city, as, has been said, is on an island in a river. The Androscoggin fíows on one,side of it, just after its 180-foot piling over terriffic rocks and chasms, while on the other runs a canal. The whole island, on which stands the entire t business section isn’t more than a quarter of a mile long by half as broad. One main street, Congress street, splits the is-

land down the middle ; one street runs on each side of the island; and across it run two parallel streets. The city proper contains just six blocks, ail in a solid mass, all sitting complacently there with water on every side, like Venice on an up-to-date industrial basis.

Outside , the island there are suburbs, to be sure, where the people eat and sleep; but they are invisible from the city. Hills and woods hide them ; people reach them by bridges; they do not enter to any extent into one’s impressions of the place. No, Rumford Falls itself is just that curious jammed together island full of tall city blocks, with all “modern improvements,” hemmed in by rushing water and wild woods. It makes one think of those medieval garrison towns on inaccessible islands; if its bridges were destroyed it would be a hard place to capture by assault.

The streets and buildings show as much real city as Boston or New 'York—shops, office buildings, elevators, electric lights, hot and cold water—everything! Electric cars there are none. What’s the use? You can walk around the whole business section in ten minutes, or even less.

The city itself is not so interesting as the contrasts which it offers. You can stand under a great bronze entrance, between classic Greek pillars, and look right into the virgin hills; from your luxurious bathroom at the hotel you gaze directly out into a canal full of logs, whereon lumbermen risk their lives, or, on the other side of the canal, see gigantic piles of spruce logs waiting for the mills below to devour them. Turning your eyes up-stream, you behold the ceaseless spectacle of the great falls', ten feet higher than Niagara, whence is developed a horsepower ex-

ceeding 400,000, day and night, the year around. In the other direction you see the monster mills of the International Paper Co., ceaselessly grinding up the forests to make news paper and affronting heaven with their gigantic chimneys.

Everywhere you look you find odd contrasts, strange sights, curious people. On the streets you hear French, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Lord knows, what ! Even the signs in the postoffice are printed in five languages !

Twenty years ago you would have found nothing at Rumford but the falls themselves—just that superb great gush of waters swirling down over the precipices through a country given over to the towering pine and the illnatured blackberry. Only a farm or two intruded on this primitive wilderness; the farmers tickled the rocky soil with crude ploughs and tried to wring a living out of old Dame Nature, when, had they known it, a golden flood was simply waiting to be drawn upon—the inexhaustible treasure of the Androscoggin water power.

Time passed, and presently a certain man happened to visit the region. A good many have heard his name— Hugh J. Chisholm, the real founder of the town of Rumford. When lie saw that big river falling over those big rocks he discerned the possibilities. The results of his discernment are spread out on the island and ail about it, in the mills, workshops and homes of 7,000 people, and in the $7,000,000 or $8,000,000 Mr. Chisholm is calculated to be worth.

It paid him to think, and to see more than any one else had seen —to let imagination dictate and to follow where it led. The visible expression of his thought is what we know to-

day as Rumford Falls, the “Paper City” of New England.

Year by year the great mills grew; year by year the people came to work in them. With the accumulation of wealth there arose luxurious shops, theatres, hotels; to-day every refinement of civilization clusters about that magnificent waterfall, drawn thither as to a magnet.

The city grew fast ; it is still growing. Every shop and place tells the same story: “Oh, we’re hardly set-

tled yet; just moved in last month!” or, “Our new building will be ready in a week!” Nothing is old, nothing venerable. Romance of the oldfashioned kind shrinks from such crudity; the newer romance, that of wealth and achievement, hails Rumford Falls as a shining example of what American brains, skill, money and water—water power can do.

To-day Rumford Falls is the home of 7,000 people and some of the largest industries in the country. Its finest residence section, Strathglass Park, contains one row of 50 houses, none costing under $5,000.

The International Paper Co. has one of its largest mills here, and controls a dozen subsidiary companies whose annual output of pulp products is just a trifle short of the miraculous. One of the paper machines here, a Fourdrinier, turns out paper 162 inches wide—probably the largest in the world. The Continental Paper Bag Co., controlled by the International, is capitalized at $5,000,000, and supplies bags of all sizes for every use. At the Oxford Paper Co’s mills the United States postal card contract is. held until 1909. This contract alone is worth $750,000 a year, the most valuable known to the book paper trade, might give the city

cause for boastfulness, were it so inclined.

Excellent railway service, with Pullman sleepers, connects the city with Portland and with the Rangeley Lake region. Inquire a bit and you will find that the omnipresent Hugh J. Chisholm is president of this railway, just as he is of the various paper mills; he owns the city, its lands, communications, industries, everything. Everywhere his energy, skill and foresight are visible—the whole region exists and prospers through the splendid strength and wisdom of this master mind.

¡Once Chisholm sold newspapers on trains; now he owns more land and power than many a European prince.

‘ ‘ How did he get up in the world ? ’ ’ was asked a friend at Rumford.

“Jumped up, I guess!” was the answer.

“Jumped up?”

“Yes; and he took Rumford Falls up with him; that jumped up, too, from a berry pasture to the liveliest, busiest and most prosperous little burg in Maine.”

The secret lies primarily ip the astonishing water power developed by the Androscoggin at this point, and secondarily in Mr. Chisholm’s tireless development of this power. Here we have 180 feet drop in the space of less than a mile, furnishing a minimum of 426,000 horsepower at all seasons, guaranteed by an immense storage system of four dams and 123 square miles of lakes among the forest regions of the river’s headquarters. There is nothing in the country to touch it except Niagara, whose volume is greater, though the absolute height of Niagara Falls is less.

The power available at Rumford exceeds that of the three largest manufacturing towns in New Eng-

land. Because of the large storage reservoirs, anchor-ice and back-water are entirely obviated, and a steady, constant supply is assured the year round. The Winter of 1894-5 was one of extremely low water, yet the Rumford mills ran all Winter, night and day, up to their full capacity, with ample water supply. The following Spring the other extreme had to be met—unprecedented freshets caused the river to rise to a point untouched for 40 years. Yet so perfect were the means of controlling this water that no mill was required to shut down, and no back-water interfered with the turbines. The great dams, granite walls, bridges, re-

vetments and piers stood unharmed by the terrific flood, which thundered town, laden with log-jams and huge floes of ice. Rumford has taken her precautions, and fears no fury, no caprice of the foaming Androscoggin.

As long as the river flows, tossing and fuming between its granite banks; as long as the spruce stands on Maine’s hills, as long as there is paper to be made and the hand of man to guide the whirling engines that produce it, so long will Rumford Falls, once a berry pasture, now “the most hustling burg on the map,” continue to grow, thrive and prosper exceedingly.