SOLON & BEYOND: Clarence Jones and the river drives

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

Now I will continue with the article in last week’s column called, Memories of a Lost Art. I tried to get a picture of the life-sized carving of a river driver done by Rodney Richards, of Rangeley. The carving was placed in a bateau which sits in front of the Dead River Historical Society Museum, in Stratton, and it was named “Clarence Jones” in honor of his many years as a river driver, and boatman on many drives.

Clarence told a story he had heard about long logs being driven down through Spencer Gut many years ago. In that part of the river cliffs go straight up 40 or 50 feet high for a mile or so and when a jam would form in there a dynamite man would be lowered by a rope and when the charge was placed he would signal to be hauled up fast. It seems that one man got a bumpy ride down one day and the guys at the top thought he had given the pre-arranged signals on the rope to be hauled up, and so he got two rides down with the same charge of dynamite.

Another quote from Salt states, “The drive was a fascinating example of man’s ingenuity, guts and daring.”

When I asked Clarence if the men saw much wildlife on the drive he told about one day when they were driving the south branch at Screwaugor Falls and they had their bateau in a little eddy, a deer ran down into the river probably being chased by a bobcat or coyotes. It jumped into the river and started to swim across but saw the men on the other side so it turned and came back and washed right into the little eddy beside their bateau. Clarence said they could have reached out and touched it before it swam back to shore.

River driving was outlawed after 1976 by the state legislature. Those who voted to outlaw river driving came to the conclusion the logs were polluting the rivers. And so came the end of an era.

My thanks again to Clarence for sharing a bit of history about the lost art of river driving.

Clarence always looked forward to the River Drive each spring. As I remember the whole episode, there was quite a bit of controversy over the whole thing, (I could be wrong.)

Griswold’s Dining Room is open again, but they are still doing curbside and take-out. Kitchen hours Sunday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Monday – Wednesday 5 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Thursday – Friday 5 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Saturday 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. The store is open Sunday d7 a.m. – 8 p.m., Monday – Friday 5 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Saturday 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The New Portland Library will be open the regular hours, if nothing changes with state mandates, starting June 1. There are some restrictions so please check the front door for instructions.

With that said they have quite a few new items to read and watch. All overdue items are now back to the library in the drop box; no charges apply.

The Library Club winners for June are Jean Antonucci and Alan and Kay Michka – congratulations and thank you for your support of the library.

They are hoping inter-library loans will soon commence. Please keep checking their Facebook page and the front door of the library for updates. Also, do check their Facebook page for lots of websites for learning and fun activities and sites. (Please note there are two Facebook pages for the library; please check both at New Portland Community Library.)

The summer hours at the library are Tuesday 9a.m. – noon, Wednesday 4 – 6 p.m., Thursday 1 – 3 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. – noon. You can reach them by calling 628-6561 or e-mail at

And now for Percy’s memoir: “When Words Fail,” There is a time for silence, A time for us to withdraw, From the good we’re pursuing, That we may accomplish more. There is a time to repair, To a favorite quiet nook. There is a time to desist, From words that so often fail, And turn to good example which more surely will prevail. (words by Sr. Mary Gemma Brunke).


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