An 1842 portrait by itinerant artist and daguerreotypist E. E. Finch is the only known image of a man who had a prominent early role in shaping The Forks region. The two portraits of Moses W. Burnham and his wife, were sold as a pair at auction in 2005. They are included in this work by permission. Burnham (1809-1875) kept a hotel by the bridge at The Forks for twenty-five years, and eventually owned much of the land in the villages of The Forks and West Forks. Yet very little has been written about him—until now.
Burnham arrived at The Forks during the timber speculation boom in Maine as one of the incorporators of the Moosehead Lake Steam Navigation Company, the group that launched the first steamboat at Moosehead in the spring of 1836. He took over an existing hotel at The Forks bridge, formerly operated by Edward G. Sturgis, of the Vassalboro Sturgis family. He left abruptly in 1861 under suspicion of murdering one of his employees.
The Forks of the Kennebec covers the early history of settlement and timber speculation along the East Branch of the Kennebec River in Maine. Inspired by an 1837 letter written by Moses W. Burnham, the author's research reveals new details about individuals and associations of lumbermen in the Upper Kennebec. Using the author's transcriptions of original manuscripts, including excerpts from the papers of Col. John Black, the book describes construction of the Canada Road, the first ferry and bridge at The Forks, early hotels, settlers, and timber speculators.
Col. David Webster of Fryeburg, who bought most of the tracts in the northern tiers of Bingham's Kennebec Purchase, is profiled, as are some of his business associates, many of whom were Portland area merchants and mill owners. Joseph Southwick, Samuel E. Crocker, John Bradley, Dr. John Merrill, Mason Greenwood, and Jacob Gilman Remick were all instrumental in the establishing the lumber industry in the Moosehead area.
The book ends with the story of Moses Burnham's long residency at The Forks, and his scandalous retreat under the suspicion of murder. He was part of the economic surge that spurred creation of the Kennebec Boom Company, the Moosehead Dam Company, and the Kennebec Log Driving Company - shaping the timber industry in the Upper Kennebec for more than a century.