Paul Bunyan’s peavey missing hook

Posted Jan. 23, 2009, at 8:16 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:07 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — There is something wrong with Paul Bunyan.

It’s his peavey.

Bunyan, who has stood for nearly 50 years on Main Street greeting all who visit the Queen City, has his double-bit ax slung over his right shoulder and holds his log-rolling peavey in his left hand.

Sometime in the last couple of years, the swing hook of his historic logging tool — the part that made it work so well — broke off or was broken off.

The hook was found by police behind a Parker Street home in September, after it had been missing for about 2½ years, Dennis Crane, maintenance supervisor for Bangor Parks and Recreation Department, said Friday.

“My hope is to get it back up in April,” he said. “We were trying to [fabricate] one by taking some measurements off a picture, but then it turned up. It’s amazing they [police officers] realized what it was.”

The hook for Bunyan’s peavey is nearly 4 feet long and the log-moving tool’s long history links him to this region.

“Paul Bunyan was a character that was tied to the whole logging industry” and different versions of him can be found elsewhere in the United States, Rodney G. Buswell, owner of Peavey Manufacturing Co. in Eddington, recently said. “The northeastern version has the peavey.”

The nearly 30-foot peavey is the perfect tool to represent this old lumberport’s history because the tool revolutionized the lumber industry back in the mid-1800s and still is used today, he said.

“What else do you know of that was being made 150 years ago and is still being made and used like it was 150 years ago,” Buswell said. “It’s kind of a unique tool. People still buy thousands of them today. The most automated sawmills in the country still use this tool.”

Since Bunyan’s boot prints can be found all over the country, his legend is steeped in mystery, but there is no question that the peavey was created right here.

Stillwater resident and inventor Joseph Peavey was watching river drivers break up a logjam on the river in the spring of 1857, and after watching them labor with inefficient wooden prys, he decided he could create a tool that would make their work easier.

He attached a hook onto the end of a pick and the peavey was born.

“The hook greatly increased the amount of leverage that could be exerted against jammed logs,” the Peavey Manufacturing Co.’s Web site states. “It was an instant success with the river drivers.”

The peavey is “credited with one of the major changes in the wood industry because it did work so well,” Buswell said.

J. Normand Martin, the Bangor artist who is responsible for Bunyan’s design, said he’s amazed the statue has held up as long as it has.

“It’s been restored little by little over the years,” he said. “But it could probably use another touch up.”

The city is planning to give Bunyan a paint job this year after fixing his peavey, which is made of wood covered with fiberglass, Crane said.

Bangor was known as the lumber capital of the world back in the 1800s, and the day the city incorporated — Feb. 12, 1834 — coincidentally also is Paul Bunyan’s birthday. According to those dates, Bunyan was age 23 when the peavey was invented.

“It’s probably logical that Paul Bunyan used them,” Buswell said.

Debbie Buswell, part owner of Peavey Manufacturing Co., said she can’t help but look toward Bunyan every time she travels through the Queen City, adding she has a secret desire.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to put a Peavey [company] sticker on it,” she said.

nricker@bangordailynews.net

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