The records of the Alden Oakum Mill as preserved in this collection are almost entirely account books there are only two or three letters and a few loose items. The books can be divided into categories as follows: Oakum Factory records which detail the operation of the factory--income, debts, stock on hand time records which list employees' names and the amount of time worked on a weekly basis as well as the number of bales produced per day by the entire crew cash books which list the cash taken in and expended each day day books which detail the day to day income and expenses of what appears to be a combination of Alden's businesses (oakum, bakery, carding, rigging, anchor repairs, groceries, etc.) and customers' account books which keep running tallies of balances held by many purchasers of oakum and by some suppliers of goods and services as well these also contain somes records of employees' time worked. In each category there is a fairly long and complete run of records, with the exception of the Oakum Factory records which have a gap from about 1872 to 1885.
There are some other records as well, and it is not at all clear who kept these in some cases the handwriting matches that of the oakum records and in other instances it does not. The majority of these additional records relate to Horatio Alden's first carding mill in Thomaston and date from about 1824-1828. These include a few records from a general store which may have been in St. Albans, ME. The remainder are for Alden's second carding mill operation in Camden which was managed by his son Cyrus G. Alden until the latter's death in 1873 who managed the mill after that is unknown. All together there is a good run of records from about 1866 to 1889. The accounts for the Camden mill are scattered throughout the oakum record books, and their locations have been noted in the Container List.
Finally, scattered through the oakum record books are some family accounts, primarily for household expenses. These include Henry L. Alden's estate, 1911, and tallies of woodcock and partridge shot by a family member over several years these often list the locations of the shootings as well. In all cases the locations of these extra accounts have been noted in the Container List. The collection represents more of the family business empire than might be thought from the title.
All records are in good condition and are remarkably legible. Four volumes are over sized and are stored separately in Boxes 13 and 14.
Horatio Alden was born in Union, ME, in 1800, the son of Ebenezer and Patience (Gilmore) Alden, who came to Union from Duxbury, MA, in 1791. About 1824 Horatio moved to Thomaston, ME and opened a cloth-dressing and wool-carding mill. He also apparently manufactured the first machine-made oakum in the country about this same time. He later built a woolen mill in Warren, ME, with a Mr. Allen. In 1842 he exchanged his Warren property for the "Hodgman privileges" on the Megunticook River in Camden, ME.
The Megunticook River rises from a nearby lake of the same name and drops about 200 feet on its short run to the harbor. Along the way there were about eleven mill sites in the middle of the nineteenth century, at least five of which were controlled by Horatio Alden. The farthest upstream was his block factory, Horatio Alden & Co., which featured a special machine invented in 1854 by neighboring mill owner D. Knowlton to produce deadeyes from lignum vitae. In 1859 the mill was averaging $20,000 per year. At one time this factory employed forty people.
At the next site down river, Alden operated his oakum factory. Oakum is a substance used for caulking the seams of wooden vessels, wooden tanks, water pipes, and the decks of some steel and iron vessels. It is sometimes composed of old hemp ropes which are untwisted, pulled into loose fibers and then treated with pine tar. The highest grade oakum, however, is made of new hemp fibers from Russia, Italy, or India rather than from old ones. The finished product is marketed in bales or coiled in rope form.
The original oakum factory buildings were destroyed by fire in 1845. Knowlton built the replacement machinery, which included wet and dry breakers and a finisher capable of picking about 200 lbs. of oakum per day and of producing about 2,400 bales per year. This operation may have been known as H. Alden & Co. After Horatio's death in 1872 his son Henry L. Alden (1843-1911) operated the mill until about 1907, when it was apparently closed.
Two sites farther down stream was the bakery of Horton & Alden, which produced an average of three barrels per day of ships' bread, ginger bread, and crackers. The "Camden Bread," as it was called, was delivered all over the area by carriage.
Alden's last mill site was actually below the dam at the edge of the harbor and was a very desirable spot because vessels could lay alongside. This mill was the only one on the river built of brick and was operated at least in part by Alden's son Cyrus G. Alden as a woolen factory. There were 300 spindles in the factory in 1859 capable of producing 36,500 yards per year of flannels and other woolen yard goods, as well as 15,650 lbs. of yarn. The mill also did custom carding.
Alden may also have been involved in saw and grist mills at various times along the same river. In 1862 he purchased another site below the oakum factory and erected a building which eventually became the Knox Woolen Mill and with Albert Johnson manufactured the first paper makers' endless felts in the country. Four years later he helped finance the Camden Anchor Works, started by his sons Horatio E. and William G. Alden. For a while this was the biggest anchor manufacturer in the country, and it employed many people. It was sold in 1901 and combined with Knox engines in Rockland, ME.
It is no wonder that Horatio Alden was called the "Father of Camden's Manufacturing Industries." He had great executive ability and was very successful, apparently amassing quite a fortune. His house was at 46 Main St., Camden.
Alden was a Democrat and was elected the first Judge of Probate in newly organized Knox County. He served from 1861-1865. He was also involved in other political activities.
Alden had two wives, Sarah and Polly G. Bachelder/ Bachelor, both the daughters of Nathan Bachelder/ Bachelor. There is conflicting evidence about which he married first, but she died in 1835 and he married her sister that same year. Their children were
John M. (1825-1858) m. 1845 Sabra R. Ulmer moved to California
?Salina m. Asa Andrews
Cyrus G. (ca. 1828-1873) m. Adelaide A. Ogier operated woolen mill in
Camden died of consumption in Key West, FL
Caroline/ Carolyn A. (1829-1859) [Arravesta C.?]
Nathaniel A. (1830/2-1859)
Horatio E. (1834-1877) Camden Anchor Works
Benjamin H. B. (1838-?)
William G. (1840-?) Camden Anchor Works
Henry L. (1841-1842)
Henry L. (1843-?) takes over oakum mill
Sarah B. (1845-?) m. 1865 Benjamin C. Adams
Charles F. L. (1849-1850)
Horatio Alden died in Camden on April 19, 1872. His wife Polly [?] died in 1883 at the age of 75.