Houghton Road ProjectRoad through the Wilderness Oquossoc to Houghton. Source: Maine Emergency Relief Administration Work Program Activities. 1934 © All Rights Reserved
“A dirt road through eighteen miles of wilderness between [the neighborhood of Houghton, in Byron, Maine] and Oquossoc had been visualized by business men of the section for many years, and the need and feasibility of the road had been presented to the Highway Commission as early as 1930 and their favorable reaction received.
With the start of the CWA program in November, 1933, the municipal officers of Rumford, Mexico, Roxbury and Byron presented to the CWA Administrator the idea of building this road as a joint CWA project of these towns. The project received the approval of the administrator primarily because it presented an opportunity to use a large amount of unskilled labor at a season of the year when worth-while projects of this type were difficult to obtain. This same joint board of municipal officers secured from the Highway Commission the use of such equipment as was needed and could be spared by them. In October, 1933, the State Highway Commission had begun a survey of this proposed highway which extends from the State aid highway at Houghton to the junction of the Wilson Mills-Oquossoc highway of state route 16, a distance of 18.3 miles through virgin forest.
Work began November 24, 1933, with 50 men from the Rumford relief rolls. On account of the necessity of housing these men, camps were constructed on the highway of sufficient size to accommodate 75 men at a cost of $3,000, which was borne by the CWA. As the unemployment conditions in these towns became sore acute during the winter months, the number of men authorized was increased until a total of 141 men were employed in the month of March 1934. In order to accomodate this number of men, other camps were rented at Bemis, an intermediate point on the highway and Oquossoc which is at the northern terminus of the road and the surplus men who could not be housed at any of the three camps were transported to and from their homes by bus.
The work during this period consisted of clearing of the right-of-way, removing the merchantable timber and burning the brush, building of temporary bridges and drilling boulders and ledge.
In December, one grading shovel was supplied by the Highway Commission which was used for rough grading, removing stumps and ditching. On April 1, 1934, 2 additional shovels and 6 trucks were added to the project and basing and actual road construction were begun; this being the time of the transition from CWA to FERA. Work continued until April 28, 1934, 14 miles of right-of-way were cleared and brush burned, rough grading was completed over 3 1/2 miles, surface drilling on 4 miles and temporary culverts and gravel base on three-quarters of a mile of road with the employment of 63,077 man hours from April 28 to September 6. Two watchmen were kept at the camp to protect the equipment and material.
On September 6, 1934, work was resumed under an allocation of 43 men from the same towns of Rumford, Mexico, Roxbury and Byron and at various times the allocation has been increased to 60 men.
At the end of the project period ending June 27, 1935, the following work has been completed: rough grading has been completed for 8 1/5 miles to the engineer’s grade, 75 log culverts and 4 log bridges have been installed. Gravel base has been applied for 3 miles.
All of this work has been done on the location of the State Highway from Houghton to Oquossoc, a continuation of State Highway 17.
The total man hours worked to June 27, 1935, is 128,479. The greatest number of men working any one week was 147. The average number of man hours worked per work on this project totals 1,511.
Since the instigation of this project, complete cooperation of the municipal officers of the towns participating in this project has been received. The various civic organizations, particularly the Rumford Chamber of Commerce, have lent their support in many ways. The project is especially adapted to conditions in this locality on account of the number of unattached employables centering in this section, who can be furnished living quarters and employment on the same project.”
Maine Emergency Relief Administration Work Program Activities April 1, 1934 - July 1, 1936.
Project originally submitted by Andrew Laverdiere on November 23, 2018.