By Chip Griffin

May 30, 2013

  Luther Maddocks (1845-1932), a resident of the Boothbay region for 32 years in 1901 and known for his “hustling ability” with his many enterprises, including pogy factories and sardine packing businesses, concocted the idea of building a footbridge to connect the east and west sides of Boothbay Harbor.1 Luther Maddocks resided on the East Side, where the Ocean View Condominiums are today, and he also operated factories and businesses on the East Side, where Factory Cove is today.Prior to 1901, historian Harold B. Clifford (1893-1988) related reports of old-timers remembering the prior rituals of a ferryman or small boys rowing folks between the East Side and West Side. In these former times, “small boys used to hang around the Eastern wharf for a chance to earn a nickel before the footbridge came; if the ferryman was busy and a passenger wanted across, a boy was allowed to row him over in the dory and pick up the fare.”2Luther Maddocks prepared and circulated the petition for the town meeting which approved,3 in March of 1901, article 66:

“To see what action the town will take towards building a foot bridge across the harbor starting at Pall G. Pierce’s north line and running westerly to a convenient point on the westerly bank of the harbor, to take action in regard to building and maintenance of said bridge, and to raise money for the same; to take such action as may be necessary in regard to a charter for said bridge, provided a charter is obtained from the present legislature.”

Boothbay Harbor 1901 12th Annual Report, p. 69.

Lest anyone incorrectly assume that peninsula residents a century ago were any less resistant to change than we are today, listen to the comments of Luther Maddocks twenty years after the installation of the footbridge: “To say that there was opposition to this bridge without any just cause would be putting it mildly,but the people who opposed it the most have used it the most, and it is admitted by all that we could not get along without it or something to take its place.”5 This town meeting vote, legislative charter, federal approval, and actual construction of the footbridge almost a century ago were virtually at no cost and of great benefit to every resident and visitor.

Maddocks was, in 1901, our representative in the Maine House, where he obtained the necessary charter from the legislature authorizing the bond issue of $1,500 needed to construct the footbridge. He succeeded in guiding this legislation through both houses and the governor in merely a few weeks.6

Luther Maddocks developed the specifications for building the bridge. He also developed the contract for erecting the footbridge. When no contractor would undertake to build the footbridge he offered to build it himself, and he did, in less than four months.7 In fact, he erected the footbridge in less than two weeks, but we are getting ahead of this remarkable story.

Maddocks “managed the hearing of the United States Engineers who were called to locate the bridge and draw, make specifications and contract for the bridge, and I finally had to build it.”8 He had successfully navigated around the treacherous shoals of town meeting approval, state legislative enactment, and federal regulatory consent.

Now it needed to be built. Luther Maddocks completed the footbridge construction by July of 1901.9 He actually built this footbridge in only 11 days.10 This bridge was 885 feet long and seven feet wide, with a 75 foot draw in the center. The construction included 22 piles driven into bedrock and over 32,000 feet of lumber.11 Luther Maddocks was a man who dreamed big dreams and also accomplished great feats on his adopted Boothbay peninsula.

Although this footbridge could have been a profitable enterprise for Luther Maddocks, he put service above self: “I could have had a toll bridge under the conditions of my charter with a two cent toll, and this would have afforded me a good income, but I thought it for the interest of all concerned to make i[t] a free project.”12 With our egalitarian ethos on this peninsula, this was a wise and worthy decision and sacrifice.

Ever the visionary, Luther Maddocks, two decades later, envisioned “a permanent team bridge to take its place, as the town has already voted to build it when the railroad is begun.”13 Neither the team bridge nor the railroad came to fruition, and these dreams died with Luther Maddocks 12 years later.

Harold Clifford, superintendent of schools here from 1925 to 1956, when he turned more heavily to local history, observed a typical day at the drawbridge in 1960, “It’s high tide, the drawbridge is open to permit the passage of a freight schooner, and they make a quick dash in and out of the inner harbor to note a grain and feed store, blacksmith shop, boat shop, and cooper shop” in the inner harbor.14 Clifford also reported that the town annually paid the bridge tender to handle the drawbridge portion of the footbridge.15 As a young kid in 1961 through 1963 while living a few houses down from the footbridge, where the Blue Heron Seaside Inn is today, I enjoyed watching the frequent openings of the drawbridge and boats coming into and leaving the inner harbor near high tide. Many of us today continue to paddle our kayaks and canoes under the footbridge and around this inner harbor.

Luther Maddocks described how this footbridge affected multitudes, in 1920, “Perhaps there is nothing that ever happened in our town which accommodates so many people as this bridge.”16 And this from Luther Maddocks, who championed the Opera House, conceived of and laid the pipe to Squirrel Island, dredged the harbor with government aid to bring in barges with coal at reduced freight rates, transferred power from Damariscotta Mills, brought in the light and power company, established ice works, built sardine factories, opened up the public water supply, led and divided Boothbay Harbor from Boothbay, established several fish-oil factories and the Cumberland Bone Company at what is now Factory Cove, built a new school house, and funded old town debt.17

Luther Maddocks was a mover and shaker and gave us a phenomenal memorial, our fabulous footbridge, which not only connects east and west sides but binds us all here on this peninsula. He accomplished this amazing feat in mere days, at almost no cost to the town and at significant sacrifice of his time, talent, and treasure. Through his leadership, he turned tides of public opinion while overcoming natural tides below our footbridge. May his example inspire us to replicate his legacies of dreaming daring dreams, turning turbulent tides, making meaningful monuments, and leaving lasting legacies.

1. Boothbay Register, July 1901 Supplement, p. 1.
2. Clifford, Harold B., The Boothbay Region (1960), p. 22.
3. Boothbay Register, July 1901.
4. Boothbay Harbor 1901 12th Annual Report, p. 69.
5. Maddocks, p. 56.
6. Boothbay Register, July 1901.
7. Boothbay Register, July 1901.
8. Maddocks, Luther, Looking Backwards (1920), p. 56.
9. Boothbay Register, July 1901.
10. Maddocks, Luther, p. 56.
11. Boothbay Register, July 1901.
12 Maddocks, p. 56.
13. Maddocks, p. 56.
14. Clifford, p. 22.
15. Clifford, p. 72.
16. Maddocks, p. 56.
17. Maddocks, p. 63; Greene, History of Boothbay, p. 120.