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Chamberlain Farm and Dam and Telos Canal Records, 1835-1928, 1968

Identifier: MSS 916

Scope and Content Note

The Chamberlain Farm and Dam and Telos Canal records document the everyday business that was carried out in managing the logging-related operations of the Chamberlain Farm, the Telos Farm, and the Telos Canal in Maine. The majority of the items were bound together, presumably by the creators of the materials. These items have been kept together, with the folder title reflecting how the bundles were originally labeled. This collection has been divided into three series.

Series I. Financial Records contains bills, receipts, vouchers, and accounts of Chamberlain Farm and Telos Canal and Telos Farm. This series has been divided into two subseries. Subseries A. Chamberlain Farm contains financial records for Chamberlain Farm and some for Chamberlain Dam. Subseries B. Telos Farm contains some financial records for Telos Farm and the Telos Canal Company. Some of the accounts involve Chamberlain Farm, its owners, and or its agents.

Series II. Inventories contains inventories from both Chamberlain Farm and Telos Farm. The inventories are quite detailed, listing everything from the number of nails to the number and age of hogs on the farm.

Series III. Other contains materials such as correspondence, memoranda, maps, and plans. Of particular interest in this series is a copy of an article "The Telos Canal", describing the history of the building of the Canal and the Telos War that preceded it. There is also a list of the names of stockholders in the Telos Canal Company in 1891, and some photographs.


  • Creation: 1835-1928, 1968


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Historical Sketch

In 1846, faced with the problem of getting supplies to remote locations for their lumber workers, E. S. Coe (1814-1899) and his business partner, David Pingree (1795-1863) built Chamberlain Farm, halfway up the eastern shore of Chamberlain Lake, Maine (Bureau of Parks and Lands). Chamberlain Farm provided hay, oats, and other produce for the livestock, vegetables for the workers, and also served as a centrally located depot for all kinds of equipment and goods. This was not the first farm which Coe and Pingree had built for this purpose, but it was the largest and most remote (Bennett 76). Consisting of 600 acres, with several large buildings, Chamberlain Farm was located between Chamberlain Dam, Telos Dam, and Telos Canal, making it a convenient location (Bennett 77). In 1970, Chamberlain Farm was placed in the restricted zone of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (Bennett 337).

The idea or need for the Chamberlain Dam and Telos Canal began in the 1830s, when lumber barons in Maine sought a way to reverse the water flow of the Allagash River so that they would not have to transport their lumber through British controlled ports in Canada via the St. John River. To reverse the flow of the river from north to south, the levels of multiple lakes had to be raised in order to move logs from the area around Chamberlain and Telos Lakes into Webster Lake, a headwater of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, and thus a direct route into Bangor where the logs could be sold. In order to accomplish this, a dam was constructed to raise the water level of Chamberlain Lake and another one was built in Telos Lake in 1841 (Bureau of Parks and Lands). The Chamberlain Dam, now called Lock Dam, was built on the northeast shore of Chamberlain Lake, while the Telos Dam was built on the south end of Telos Lake (LaRoche). At the same time, a canal 10 to 15 feet wide and one to six feet deep stretched 500 feet long from Telos Lake to Webster Lakeā€”this became known as the Telos Canal or Telos Cut (Bureau of Parks and Lands). The Chamberlain Dam worked by raising the water level of Chamberlain Lake by 11 feet, which would then run down into Telos Lake (Bennett 70). Meanwhile, Telos Dam worked by holding back the lake's water until enough force could be created, where upon release it could drive the logs through Telos Canal and into Webster Lake.

In reality, everything did not work as smoothly, as each dam was owned by private individuals, each with his own needs and interests (Bureau of Parks and Lands). Chamberlain Dam was owned by David Pingree, while Telos Canal was owned by Rufus Dwinel, who charged Pingree and others a toll to send logs through the Canal, enforcing his toll through the use of armed men. This became known as the "Telos War". Eventually the Maine Legislature's Committee on Interior Waters stepped in and forced Dwinel to set a reasonable toll or risk his canal being opened to the public (Bennett 76). At the same time, the legislature incorporated Dwinel's operation as the Telos Company or Telos Canal Company (Wood 122). By 1891, E. S. Coe and David Pingree's heirs, and James N. Chandler, an agent for Pingree and Coe, were stockholders in the Telos Canal Company. Dwinel also owned a farm near the Telos Canal; it is possible the farm is what was referred to as Telos Farm within this collection. The hay, grain, and produce produced on the farm were used for the logging operations (Maine Board of Agriculture 844).

In the 1850s, E. S. Coe redesigned Chamberlain Dam to include a series of locks that were used to float groups of logs from Eagle Lake to Chamberlain Lake; however, this process was slow and thus abandoned in the early 1900s in favor of a steam-powered tramway. Eventually Bangor Hydro-Electric Company gained control of Lock (Chamberlain) and Telos Dams, and managed them for down-stream power generation. In 1962, wooden timbers were added to the dams to provide added protection from ice movement and waves. In 2000, the Bangor Hydro-Electric Company donated the dams to the state of Maine. Lock Dam was repaired in 2009, and is considered to be a culturally important historical site in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (LaRoche).


10.5 linear feet (16 boxes; 1 flat file)

Language of Materials



The Chamberlain Farm and Dam and Telos Canal records document the everyday business that was carried out in managing the logging-related operations of the Chamberlain Farm, the Telos Farm, and the Telos Canal in Maine.

Series List

SERIES I. Financial Records

  • A. Chamberlain Farm
  • B. Telos Farm
SERIES II. Inventories


Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This material was donated by Pingree family heirs. An article about the history of the Telos Canal was donated by Stephen Wheatland on April 30, 1965. Three photographs were a gift of Stephen Wheatland on May 19, 1977.



Bennett, Dean B. The Wilderness from Chamberlain Farm: A Story of Hope for the American Wild. Washington: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2001.

Bureau of Parks and Lands. "Allagash History." Accesses November 27, 2015.

LaRoche, Matthew. "The Dam that Pine Built." Bangor Daily News, February 1, 2012. Accessed December 1, 2015.

Maine Board of Agriculture. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Maine Board of Agriculture. Vol. 6. Augusta: Stevens and Sayward, Printers to the State, 1861.

Wood, Richard G. A History of Lumbering in Maine: 1820-1861. University of Maine Press: Maine, 1971.

Related Collections

Allagash Dam Company Records, 1851-1901. MSS 913

David Pingree (1795-1863) Papers, 1810-1939. MSS 901

East Branch Dam Company Records, 1845-1919. MSS 915

E. S. Coe Papers. MSS 924

Pingree Family Scrapbook Collection, 1849-1972. MSS 927

Trout Brook Farm Records, 1857-1864. MSS 935

Processing Information

Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, December 2015.

Processed by: Hilary Streifer; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description
The processing of this collection was funded by gifts from the Pingree heirs.

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA