From 1926 through 1938 Edouard "King" Lacroix's
Madawaska Company operated out of its headquarters at Churchill
Depot, a small village situated around the Heron Lake Dam
(later Churchill Dam) at the northern end of Churchill Lake.
To establish the new base of operations, Lacroix built a road
from Lac Frontiere, forty-five miles west on the U.S.-Canadian
border. Seeking a way for this road to span the St. John River,
Lacroix learned that Canadian authorities were replacing with
a bridge over the Chaudierre River with a larger structure,
so he bought the old bridge and moved it overland to the St.
John. This bridge came to be known as "Ninemile Bridge"
and though the structure is now gone, the area around it and
part of the old road still bears the same name.
In addition to the road, Lacroix built a dam
at the outlet of Heron Lake in order to raise the water level
of Heron, Churchill, and Eagle Lakes as well as Round Pond
so that he could float logs south to near the
Tramway where they could be carried to Umbazooksus Lake
by rail cars. This rail system was known as the Eagle
Lake and West Branch Railroad and it allowed Lacroix to
send pulp from as far north as the new dam down through Penobscot
waters to the Great Northern Mill in Millinocket where it
was used in paper making.
Among the structures at Churchill Depot was
a large storehouse where goods brought to the depot could
be stored before being sent out to the lumber camps. By building
it close to the lake, Lacroix's employees could load the supplies
into boats for easy transportation. Another key structure
was the large garage built to house and maintain as many as
fourteen Lombard Log Haulers with all of the tools and equipment
to do so.
By the early 1930s, approximately twenty families
lived permanently at the depot, including those of the superintendent,
paymaster, master mechanic, truck drivers, Lombard operators,
boat operators, scalers, camp superintendents, and many more.
At the height of its operation, thousands of people were processed
through the depot annually. This meant that additional structures
were needed for a school, houses, offices, a power house,
gas tanks and others.
The most significant remaining structure at
the depot is a large boarding house that was capable of handling
many people at one time, some of whom were transients going
to or from lumbering camps, and others who were more or less
permanent residents employed by LaCroix to keep his huge lumbering
This large structure, standing on the shores
of the Allagash River adjacent to Churchill Dam, has been
identified as a potential site for a small museum/exhibit
area about the Allagash's pre-history and history. For many
years, the boarding house has been in a state of disrepair,
requiring substantial structural and cosmetic work. A volunteer
project, organized in 1996 by the Allagash Alliance, led to
the replacement of foundation piers and sills. Work planned
for the future includes replacement of exterior siding and
windows, repainting, roof replacement, and interior refurbishment.
Aerial photos taken in 1966 at the time the
state acquired the site, indicate that sixteen structures
and the 1964 dam were still in place. The appraisal report
done in 1968, however, lists only seven structures including
the storehouse, boarding house, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop,
equipment shed, and two portable camps. It also identified
a scaler's shack and three buildings of "no contributory
value." Of these existing structures only the storehouse
was considered viable. By 2002, only the storehouse and boarding
house had survived deterioration, vandalism, and collapse
or removal. Since acquiring the site, the Bureau of Parks
and Lands has built a Park Manager's residence (1984), a ranger
cabin and maintenance building (1997) at the site along with
campsites, a canoe landing, and a privy. The Heron Lake Dam
was reconstructed in 1967 and then replaced with a new dam,
called Churchill Dam, in 1999.
In September 1982 an arsonist burned the Waterway Supervisor's
headquarters that had previously been a prominent International
Paper Company executive retreat lodge on Umsaskis Lake. Subsequently.
a new supervisor's residence/headquarters was constructed
at Churchill Depot. This central location was chosen because
it was logistically superior to Umsaskis Lake for managing
the entire Waterway, consistent with the focus and history
of activity in this area, more secure due to the presence
of a ranger, and capable of being screened from the view of
Waterway users and visitors, thereby allowing the former site
on the Umsaskis shoreline to revert to a more natural condition.
The privately-owned road approaching the dam on the west side
of the river was relocated away from the boarding house and
straightened in 1993. At that time the former road was discontinued
and two vault privies were installed adjacent to the campsite
on the west shore. The Bureau of Parks and Lands is
working on a mitigation plan that will include plantings,
grading, a new parking area out of sight of the watercourse,
and a gravel path.
Vigue, Alice, "Churchill Lake Depot, Madawaska Company.
Unpublished MS, May, 1986. (BPL)
Giguere, Joseph, "Memoirs of Joseph Giguere: Resident
of Churchill Depot and Tramway, 1926-46." Unpublished
MS, n.d. (BPL)
Hutchins, Leonard W., "Edouard 'King' Lacroix: Paul Bunyan
of the North Woods." (BPL)
"Buildings and Their Occupants or Usage." Site Plan,
"Initial Site Development for Supervisor's Residence."
Kleinschmidt, 1984 (4 drawings) (BPL)
"Churchill Dam Rebuild: Maintenance Building Plan and
Details." Kleinschmidt, 1997 (BPL)
"Churchill Dam Rebuild: Ranger Station Relocation Details."
Kleinschmidt, 1997 (BPL)
"Boarding House Rehabilitation." DOC/BPL, 1993 (BPL)