Stearns High, Dr. Bryant, and the Great Depression

The new school, the George W. Stearns High School, opened in the fall of 1923, with 743 students. In 1926, the town voted to equip this new school with a gymnasium, at a cost of another $50,000. This building is now in private hands, serving as an apartment building for assisted living residents.

Millinocket’s first surgical hospital was built in 1920, after Dr. Bryant sought to bring the medical experience he had acquired during the World War I to benefit the civilian population of Millinocket. Housed within his private residence, it was equipped with eight beds and an operating room. Before then, serious accident victims were sent to Old Town by baggage car.

The 1930s, of course, brought the Great Depression. However, the people of Millinocket suffered far less than those in other parts of the country. Being essentially a one industry town, people knew one another and helped on another out. 

As jobs became scarce due to shutdowns, workers with seniority would voluntarily give up their right to work so that others could have part-time employment. The spirit of cooperation that existed in Millinocket kept the percentage of seriously unemployed down, as compared to other parts of Maine.

The federal government also helped by forming the Civilian Conservation Corps, initiated by President Roosevelt to take unemployed people off the streets during the depression. Several hundred volunteers with the CCC were housed near where the Airport Cabins now are, and another camp was established at Baxter Park. The road leading from Bates Street already led as far as Millinocket Lake, but the CCC extended it to Baxter Park, and provided much of the labor in building the airport, which was completed by 1939.

© Michelle Anderson 2005-2014