Walter Wyman and the Bingham Area Project


Walter Scott Wyman
from a 1931 brochure about
Wyman Station
Abstracted from

Walter S. Wyman
One of Maine's Great Pioneers
by William B. Skelton

© 1949
William B. Skelton
Published by
The Newcomen Society
in North America

and still available from the Society
32 pages

Copyright Notice from the Newcomen Society reads: Permission to abstract is granted provided proper credit is allowed.

William B. Skelton delivered this address at the "1949 Maine Luncheon" of The Newcomen Society of England, held at The Augusta House in Augusta, Maine, when Mr. Skelton was the guest of honor and speaker, on September 29, 1949.

Skelton was a lifelong friend and associate of Walter Wyman. He graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, was admitted to the Maine Bar in 1893, served as mayor of Lewiston from 1903-1905, as a member of the Maine Public Utilities Commission from 1914-1919, as President of Central Maine Power Company from 1942-1947, and was Chairman of the Board of that company at the time he delivered this address.



Walter Wyman, a brief timeline...

Born in West Waterville (now Oakland) Maine, May 6, 1874
Attended Tufts College and left before his senior year
Worked for Waterville and Fairfield Railway and Electric Company after Tufts
Purchased the electric plant in Oakland in 1899 with financial backing from Harvey Eaton
Joined Central Maine Power Co. with Middle West Utilities in 1925
Died at Augusta, Maine November 15, 1942

(abstracted from pages 9-11)

There were hydro-electric plants scattered about the State of Maine in 1899 and new ones were constantly coming into operation. For the most part, they were small, isolated units. Necessarily, only communities located on a waterfall could have a plant.  Only such communities could benefit from it, and that only according to the capability of the particular power resources at the door of the community. If adequate the year-round, the service would be constant; otherwise, interrupted or curtailed as the water supply varied.  

These plants generally were unprofitable, and offered little hope of becoming otherwise...

In a sketchy way, this is what Walter Wyman saw in 1899 when he threw up his job in Waterville and enlisted in the industry. The past twenty years had shown that it was feasible to generate and distribute hydro-electricity with a degree of acceptability. It had not shown any promise of reasonable profit, or of ability to overcome the disadvantages due to the unequal distribution of the natural resources by which it could be generated. Wyman saw this and believed that these disadvantages could be overcome. He resolved to overcome them. That resolution was the secret of the rapid growth of his enterprise. He would create an electric system which would generate kilowatt hours wherever Nature furnished the fall to turn the wheels and transmit them to wherever man had the need for it, one great, interconnected system, so that the fortune of no community would depend upon the circumstance of its location...This vision drew him into the industry; it sustained his faith from the beginning...


(abstracted from pages 15-19)

The dam site where Wyman Station now stands was purchased in 1909, in anticipation of a need that only one with Wyman's imagination could have foreseen. The time for this development had not arrived in 1924, but it was rapidly being approached. It meant a $14,000,000 investment within a few years...

The Middle West Utilities Company, an Insull organization, already was serving, through a subsidiary, a wide area extending across Northern New England...Its holding company system could provide adequate capital. Mr. Wyman interviewed the president of the Middle West. July 8, 1925, the latter company agreed to make an offer to the common stockholders of Central Maine Power Company for their shares. This was done and accepted, almost unanimously...

The other outstanding benefit derived from the alliance with Middle West in the industrial field came through the ability it provided to create the Maine Seaboard Paper Company as an adjust to the electric development at Bingham. As already noted, Central Maine had acquired the Bingham privileges in 1909. After the Gulf Island 20,000 Kw plant was constructed in 1926, Wyman felt that part of the output of a Bingham plant would be needed as soon as it could be made available, but not enough to justify the cost. Efforts to get legislative authority to transport surplus power outside the State had failed, finally in September 1929.

He then proposed the erection of a paper mill on tidewater which would be a customer for that energy. The Maine Seaboard Paper Mill at Bucksport was the answer. Started in late 1929, financed by New England Industries, Inc., to more than $10 million, it was ready to take power from Bingham before the Bingham plant, Wyman Station, was able to deliver it...


(abstracted from pages 23-24)

Three months after the request for authority to export surplus energy was refused in the referendum of September, 1929, provision was made for building the paper mill at Bucksport so that Bingham Dam could be built and its product disposed of. And when it was found that the plant at Bingham and the transmission line to Bucksport could not be completed in season to meet the initial needs of the paper mill, the hull of an unfinished ship started by the Federal Government in the First World War was purchased, converted into a 20,000 Kw floating power plant, the Jacona, and anchored at Bucksport to operate the mill in the interim. It remained there until hydro-power from Bingham was available, when it was removed to the Piscataqua at Portsmouth, New Hampshire and served the New Hampshire company until it was taken by the Government in the Second World War.

Old Canada Road Historical Society