A Short Biography of
Jacob A. Thurston
The Bethel Journals
From the Bethel News, 1904, E.C. Bowler, Editor
One of the most successful of Bethel's business men, and one who has encountered more of the adversities of life than usually falls to the lot of man, and has recovered there from solely through his own energy and indomitable will, is Jacob A. Thurston, general trader, lumberman, and manufacturer of spool stock, dowels, and staves. Mr. Thurston is a descendant of sturdy New England stock; he was born in Eaton, N. H., Nov. 15, 1843, moving with his parents while yet in his in-fancy, to Errol, N. H., where he remained until twenty-two years of age; when not attending school, he labored on the farm in the woods, assisting materially in supporting a family of ten children, of which he was the eldest; yet he saved an honest penny now and then, and in 1875, had accumulated enough to engage, in a small way, in lumbering for himself, by the purchase of timber lands bordering the Androscoggin.
His operations were confined to the logging of spruce, which business he extended as fast as opportunity permitted. ~In 1881, he partially relinquished timbering and entered business as a general trader at Newry, succeeding Calvin Bisbee. Subsequently he purchased the spool stock and dowel manufacturing plant of John Wyman, rebuilt it and with a 40 h. p. engine still continues its operation. A few years later he acquired a similar plant on Sunday River in Riley Plantation. This mill was later destroyed by fire and never rebuilt.
In 1893, Mr. Thurston began operations as a manufacturer of spool stock, dowels, staves in connection with a general wood-working plant, at Swan's Corner. This was destroyed by fire in May 1903, involving a loss of $6,000 upon which there was no insurance. Nothing daunted however, he rebuilt the plant and placed it in operation with a 50 h. p. engine and boiler in the following July. These two plants in conjunction with a similar plant operated by water power at Frye (north of Rumford Falls), furnished employment for from 40 to 60 hands and manufactured upwards of 2000 cords of birch and hard wood in a season.
In 1891, Mr. Thurston purchased the farm in Mayville, where he now lives (1904), but still remained a resident and general trader of Newry until 1897, when he erected a store and storehouse opposite his residence in Mayville. He moved his family there that year. In May, 1900, his entire set of farm buildings was destroyed by fire involving a loss of $ 10,000 with but $3,000 insurance. The buildings destroyed were soon replaced by more modern ones, but he had barely recovered from this loss when, as previously stated, his mill at Swan's Corner was destroyed. This was followed in September by the burning of the mill boarding house at Swan's Corner. Added to all this Mr. Thurston at one time in association with others, encountered a heavy loss by business reverses, but has pluckily continued and at present not only successfully operates the plants alluded to, but operates one of the best and most completely stocked general stores to be found in the county.
Mr. Thurston was for many years first selectman in Errol, N.H., and was for ten or a dozen years, town clerk and treasurer of Newry; was also postmaster of that town fifteen years. He was married to Miss Flora Dinsmore of Colebrook, Jan 1, 1879, and they have three children; the eldest, Maud, graduated from Gould's Academy in 1900, and is at present a student in Bates College; Ruby, who is at home, and Paul, a student in the Academy.
Home purchased by J.A. Thurston in 1893. This was the home destroyed by a fire in 1900.
Photo credit: The Bethel Historical Society
Photograph of the J.A. Thurston store in 1904 which stood across the Bethel to Rumford Road (Route 26) from the house and barn pictured above. The man standing by the tree may be Thurston but was not identified in the newspaper. Photograph copied from the 1904 Bethel News.
J.A. Thurston family home built after 1900 to replace the buildings lost by fire.
Photograph credit: Thurston family.