My Family Forestry Heritage

To realize the fullness of the lives of others would be to live their lives again, but much may be recovered from which we can acquaint ourselves with the conditions and peculiarities of their existence.                  - W.D. Spencer, The Maine Spencers. Concord, NH: The Rumford Press, 1898, 10-11.


What I am today has been greatly influenced by my family heritage. My middle name is SPENCER.   This is one of my family names given to me by my parents to commemorate the lives of the Spencers and to remind me of the hardworking ingenuity that has helped make me who I am today.

My great, great, great, great grandfather was Almond Reuben Spencer.  Almond was born on April 16, 1839 in Veazie, Maine. The 1870 Census lists him as a “log driver.”  Almond was a river driver, undoubtedly, on the Penobscot River and its tributaries. Log driving was a means of moving logs from forests upstream down river to sawmills and pulp mills by utilizing the natural force and power of the river.  The log driver would ensure that logs moved freely by guiding the logs as needed. The tools of the trade included peaveys, pickpoles and occasionally even dynamite to break up log jams and keep the logs flowing to the mills.

log truck

As I studied forestry at the University of Maine at Orono, I often gazed out upon the Penobscot and Stillwater Rivers and pictured my ancestor, Almond Spencer, running the logs downstream. Almond and the river drivers were men of strength, skill and fortitude who helped build the State of Maine and passed on to future generations their ethics of dedication and hard work.

Almond’s son, Wilmer Francis Spencer, was born on April 17, 1865 in Veazie, Maine.  In the latter years of his life, he was a dam keeper at North Twin Dam, Maine.  He and his son-in-law, Wesley (John) Rankin Lyle, operated the sleuthways at the dam. Wilmer lived, and eventually died (in 1951), in the dam keeper’s house (owned by the Great Northern Paper Company) at the North Twin Dam.

Kit & Chub

My grandmother’s (father’s mother) father was James Leroy ("Roy")Tracy (born 1907 in South Lincoln, Maine). He grew up and lived on the Tracy family farm on the Dodlin Road in Enfield, Maine. Roy Tracy farmed during the spring and summer months and then when the snow began to fly he headed to the lumber camps of northern Maine. Roy died in 1992 and his occupation as listed on his death certificate was “timberjack.”  


He owned draft horses long before it was considered practical, efficient and environmentally sound.  His use of such horses was out of necessity.  The draft horses would haul the logs out of the woods to the landing area. These horses were used for both farming and logging. 

The attached photo shows one of my great grandfather’s (James Leroy Tracy) draft horses. Sitting atop of the horse is my father and one of my uncles.

As I work today in the forestry industry, I am indebted to my ancestors who felled the trees, hauled the logs to the landings and rivers of northern Maine, and drove the logs down the rivers to the saw and pulp mills. I live their lives again and realize that the fullness of their lives is lived out in me.

Quality Forest Management © Jason S. Lyle 2015