March 23, 2018
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Family Ties: Milo Junction-Derby history recalls railroad settlement

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist

My husband is all about the railroad, while I like to read the reminiscences about the families, the school, the clubs. So we’re taking turns reading “History and Stories of Milo Junction/Derby, Maine,” the new book by Bill Sawtell and Ruth Cyr.

Deeds of 1868 show that the Bangor & Piscataquis R.R. Co. paid William Livermore $160 for his parcel, and Daniel and Edward Ricker $115 for their parcel of land.

Speaking of the Rickers, one of the most touching items in the book is a copy of part of a handwritten letter by Jerome Jordon of Sebec, whose son Silas had started a family in Missouri, but died before his daughter Olive was born.

Jerome urged daughter-in-law Annie Deverell Jordon to come to Sebec “& bring your baby and claim your rights. That is what Silas would urge you to do if he was living. I am satisfide of that. His mother and I are alone, no one with us but a hired man. We need your help and you need ours. … There shall be a way provided for you to come I will warent that. We cannot help what has taken place, or place things as they were once, but must put up with all of these griefs and sorrows & everything that we cannot prevent.” Jerome closed the letter, “Except this from your Father, Jerome Jordon.”

Jordon had a nephew he thought Annie might marry, but things worked out otherwise, according to an account by family historian Myrna Angove Ricker. Annie married Edward Ricker in 1882 and went on to start the Ricker Dairy Farm. Edward and Annie had five more children.

Articles from the Piscataquis Observer add a lot to this story of railroads and people. In February 1901, “The trains running into Piscataquis County seldom have a harder time to get here than they have had during the past week. From Monday night of last week until Tuesday morning of this week the wind blew almost constantly, drifting the snow onto the tracks in a solid mass, so solid that a snow-plow could make no impression on it and it had to be shoveled through.”

That’s what I call hard-packed snow. Another severe winter was experienced in 1913-1914.

The Bangor Daily Commercial in 1905 described Milo Junction as having “the second largest car shops and repair works in New England being built by the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad Co.”

The company settlement of Derby included not only machine shops and houses, but also a hotel. Further, the BAR was to control all business on the 80 acres it owned.

Measles were prevalent in the schools in June 1912, and typhoid fever among workers in 1913. Beginning in 1917, train service was reduced to conserve fuel for the Great War. The Derby workers were part of the nationwide railroad strike in 1922, with 31 families evicted by the BAR from company housing. Some families were forced to live in tents.

Reminiscences include those by or about the Ricker family, Charles R. Larouche, John Charles and Leotine (St. Pierre) Larouche, Charles Grinnell, Vernon and Edith Perry, George and Mary Stephens family, Althea Hamlin, Jerry Comeau, Lois Griffin Kinney, Ella Ricker Thomas, Helen Collins Mackenzie, Don Hackett, Sonny Burton, Robert Trickey Jr., Robert and Mollie Lovejoy,  William “Herby” Dunham, William Lewis and Anne (Parlin) Paul, Vaughn Ladd, Elmer Cunningham, Kenneth Gray, Agnes Pickard, Iris Buzzell, Charlie Russell, Eloise Harthorn, Lisa Cyr Buchanan, David S. Cook, Dick Bell, Valerie Ekholm, Leon Cole and Big John Wilinski.

This book also includes a wonderful collection of photographs, both of people and pertaining to the railroad.

To order “History and Stories of Milo Junction/Derby, Maine” by mail, send a check for $30.86, sales tax and mailing included, to Bill Sawtell, P.O. Box 272, Brownville ME 04414.


The next meeting of Moosehead Roots will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 9, at the Center for Moosehead History, formerly the Community House, in Greenville. The gathering will feature the research of some of the group’s members who will share their research experiences, resources and interesting family histories.

Highlights will include information about DNA tracing by Patty Bradford, early research of Massachusetts families by Georgine Butman, and Amanda Graham sharing ideas for a searchable Greenville Cemetery information project. Refreshments will be served. All levels of researchers are welcome. For information, contact Betty Ryder at 695-2287 or


The Finnish Heritage House is open for the season at 172 River Road, Route 131, South Thomaston, just over a mile south of the Route 1 intersection at Montpelier, the General Henry Knox Museum. The Finnish Heritage House is open 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays through mid-December.

Visit the Scandinavian center for conversation, free coffee and a taste of “nisua,” the famous Finnish coffee bread. Tour the historic exhibits and view the items for sale in the “Tori,” the store, including freshly baked pastries, gifts, souvenirs and books.

The Finnish Heritage House is adjacent to the historic Finnish Congregational Church, which is among the last of the old mission stations originally established in this country by Finnish immigrants. This structure was renovated fully in 2007 and contains a downstairs fellowship hall shared by all three local Finnish-American groups, including the Finn-Am Society of Mid-Coast Maine. A portion of the Saturday sales will go toward equipping the fellowship hall with modern audio-visual equipment for teaching and entertainment.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or email

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