About the Author 
Elizabeth Egerton Wilder’s debut novel, The Spruce Gum Box, began with her fascination in Maine’s Aroostook River and it’s early pioneers, and evolved over several years through research and daydreaming. While she mused, characters and story lines began to flourish and take on lives of their own. As she puts it, “I knew how the story would start and how it would end, but had no idea what would happen in between.”  Throughout the process, the author drew upon stories and people from her childhood, research on her husband's family in northern Maine along with her varied background in a number of artistic endeavors. She has a BA in Art and Education and has worked as a teacher, designer, colorist, small business owner, photographer and watercolor artist. She  is also a published poet and believes that bits and pieces of it all, combined with raising her family and her innate appreciation of nature, were all the ingredients needed to fulfill her lifelong goal of writing a book. At seventy-two years young, she achieved her goal and is now working on a sequel.

Native of New England, Elizabeth (Betty) now lives in Eastern PA with Cal, her husband of over 51 years, and her cat Smokey.

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THE SPRUCE GUM BOX by Elizabeth E. Wilder

Epilogue Excerpt
While Isaac Wilder was working on the construction of Fort Fairfield in 1838, he must have sensed that the strife between Britain and the United States was going to be settled in favor of the state of Maine.  The story that passed through the family claimed he “hacked his way up the Aroostook Valley and built a saw mill on Salmon Brook.”   On the Internet, I found an early list of settlers in Township N 13 3d Range at the Maine State Archives.  It noted those willing to purchase their land “whenever the state required.”  In 1839 Isaac made claim to 10 acres he had improved at Salmon Brook and requested 320 more acres.  Although there were other settlers on the Aroostook River, he became the first official resident of the new village where he built his mill. Slowly other families began to migrate to the area, and in 1843 Isaac convinced his brother Robert to move his family to Salmon Brook from the town of Perry on the coast of Maine.  Two of his sons that migrated with him were Benjamin and Robert Waterman.  The latter was my husband’s great-grandfather.

My husband is a proud Maine native with generations of Wilders that first settled in Massachusetts in 1637 and then migrated to northern Maine in the 1700’s.  Maine did not separate from Massachusetts until 1820 when it was admitted to the Union as part of the Missouri Compromise.  After my husband retired we finally had the time to travel to Aroostook County in northern Maine to look into his father’s family roots as potato farmers.  We had heard that in the town of Washburn, there was a Wilder Farmstead Museum .  Visiting the area triggered my interest in the Aroostook Valley and its history.

The museum is found in the homestead built by Benjamin, Robert’s brother.  The volunteer curator was generous with his tour of the home and contents once owned by the Wilders and other original settlers. He gave us a booklet about the history of the home and village.  In it was a single sentence about the settlers that were there prior to the “pioneers.”  They were all Canadians who lived along the Aroostook River. I asked about those Canadians but could not find anyone who knew anything about them, thus setting my imagination in motion.
This prompted me to research the history of the border dispute and stories of  logging companies from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that harvested timber then drove the logs to the St John River as there were no sawmills at that time on the Aroostook. I also learned about Canadian farmers who discovered how fertile the land was along the river.  From there, I read about assistant cooks (cookees) in the logging camps and how some Indian men would work as cooks to pick up money during the winter months.  Prior to my research, I had never heard of the Aroostook War—also called the Lumbermen’s War or the Pork and Beans War by some. Over the next several years, online search engines became my daily friends, helping me uncover pieces of the puzzle while continually creating even more questions to investigate.
I particularly enjoyed learning more about the old logging camps as my father was the foreman of an independent lumber company in the 1950’s.  At times he would take me into the lots with him when he chose and marked the trees for the next harvest.  He would explain to me how he chose the trees in a way that would allow for the growth and health of the rest. As a result, I gained a great respect for the forest or as I called them–the woods.
The story of Ben developed as I read more about the Aroostook Valley, and was colored by my own love of the forest and all the creatures that dwell within.

In 1845, the early settlers and the Canadians organized the area where Isaac built his mill and named it Salmon Brook Plantation.  In my mind’s eye, I can see one of the signatures as “Benjamin Wingate Smythe.”

I first learned of spruce gum boxes while visiting the Patten Lumberman’s Museum in Maine. I had chewed spruce gum as a child but it always came nicely processed in small cardboard boxes.   The craft of carving the boxes or as some call, “spruce gum books,” fascinated me.  The boxes ran the gamut from quite plain with names and/or dates carved on them, to beautiful pieces of folk art. The lumbermen carved them to fill their off-hours on Sunday at the lumber camps, and then they stuffed the boxes with spruce gum they had collected.  In the spring, they would take them home as gifts. Today, the largest collection of spruce gum boxes is on display at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.