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Posted: 5/24/2023 9:53:18 PM EDT
Exit 133 of the Maine Turnpike, just a handful of miles past Waterville, puts you on US Route 201, which is the only road in the state leading to Québec City. Heading north you’ll first reach the town of Skowhegan, with Bingham, The Forks/West Forks, and Jackman being other settlements on the approximately 85 mile drive to the border from Skowhegan.

If you’re paying attention, about halfway between West Forks and Jackman you’ll see a sign on the left reading “POW Camp Memorial 12 Miles” where a dirt road (Spencer Rd or Hardscrabble Rd, depending on your navigation app or device) meets 201. If you happen to be driving south on 201 through Jackman there’s a sign tree similar to the one seen in M*A*S*H outside Bishop’s Store, with one sign reading “POW Camp 25 Miles.”

The POW Camp mentioned on both signs is the Spencer Lake compound, where WW2 German POWs were put to work cutting down trees for pulpwood. The following excerpt is from the Downeast Magazine article “The German POWs Who Tried To Flee Maine For Argentina.”


“The Spencer Lake compound opened on a warm summer night in 1944 amid considerable public outcry. At 3 a.m. on July 10, a rowdy crowd in the town of Bingham met the passenger train carrying 250 POWs. The shades on the Pullman cars were drawn, so the prisoners couldn’t study the countryside, and armed guards stood at the end of each car. Roland Tozier was one of the locals watching as the prisoners filed out and boarded military trucks for the 50-mile ride to Spencer Lake.

‘Seeing those frightened, young German boys headed to the Spencer POW camp softened me,’ he said in an interview in the late 1960s. ‘I thought of my own two sons fighting in Europe and wondered if some German father was staring at my sons being carted off to a POW camp in Germany. I left the train station with a heavy heart.’”

For most of the year Spencer Rd is accessible by almost any vehicle. Being a main logging road it’s very packed down and doesn’t get very muddy. In winter it may or may not be plowed for its full length, depending on whether there’s any wood being cut and hauled out. There are mile markers every mile and the POW Camp Memorial is just past mile 12.

I went out to the site on a warm, rainy, very atypical Christmas a couple years ago. There’s literally almost nothing left of the camp, after the last of the POWs were repatriated I guess nobody was thinking about posterity when the camp was demolished. 16 years ago the 8th grade class at Forest Hills School in Jackman erected a memorial.

This looks to be the heating system for one of the barracks, and it’s all that’s left of the camp.

You may find rusty metal objects scattered around the area if you look but there’s really no way to tell if they’re from the camp. I’m assuming all the POWs had their uniforms taken away and were issued work clothing that made them easily identifiable so the odds of going out there with a metal detector and finding buttons or medals are slim to none. But you never know!

A book titled “Prisoners, Pulpwood, and Potatoes: The Story of German POWs in Maine, 1944-1946” by William R. Randall goes into more detail about the Spencer Lake camp and the 3 others in the state. It’s not the most well-written book, with grammatical errors that even I noticed, but it’s a pretty interesting look at a very obscure part of history. It isn’t available on Google shopping, most likely due to being self-published by the author and sold in area stores. I have a copy I can send to anyone who’s interested in reading it.

If you ever find yourself at the Spencer Lake site, heading 5 miles farther down Spencer Rd will bring you to the trail up Number 5 Mountain. It’s an easy 2.6 mile hike up with amazing views of the area at the summit. No dogs are allowed.


Williams Mountain is also pretty easy, the views are fairly limited since the summit is completely wooded but there’s something very interesting on it.


Greenville, ME is about a 75 mile drive from the Spencer Lake site, and if you take a left at the center of town heading toward Lily Bay you’ll see a sign for the site of a B52 that crashed on Elephant Mountain in January 1963. I haven’t been to this site yet.


These are just some of the things to do in the area. Bring insect repellent!
Link Posted: 5/24/2023 9:56:54 PM EDT
Thats cool. Thanks.
Link Posted: 6/1/2023 7:43:02 PM EDT
Very neat! I enjoy reading about and visiting former POW camps.

My grandma grew up between Ann Arbor and Jackson, Michigan and would wave to the German POWs on their way to pick cattail fluff for life jackets. A lot of those POWs stayed in the area post-WW2 as there was a large Kraut population that had been there for 150+ years, my family included.
Link Posted: 6/2/2023 4:16:53 PM EDT
I have been to the POW site quite a few times.

That brick furnace is a bread oven.  The POW's complained about the bread they were being fed at the camp so they were allowed to build their own oven to bake bread more similar to what they ate back home in Germany.

If you look to the east and north of the oven (towards the road) you will see the remnants of old log cabin structures.  I believe some of these are the bunk houses.  Just moss lleft in rectangular patterns that grew on the logs before they completely rotted.  The existing Spencer Rd that you drive on today did not exist when the camp was in existence and was built over part of where the camp was located.  Old Spencer Rd is further to the south.

Walking west from the oven over the camp you will hit Hardscrabble Rd.  You can see old phone lines grown into the big pines about 10-12 feet up.  With where they are located I would assume these are associated with the camp.  But phone line in the North Maine Woods isn't that uncommon.  In the 1920's to 1960's there would be phone lines run from logging camp to logging camp and warden camps, etc.  Run along trails in the trees mostly.
Link Posted: 6/2/2023 4:39:39 PM EDT
At the Jackman Historical Society there is a lot of information on the camp.  In the 1980's the high school seniors did a project where they interviewed former POWs who were at the camp.  The transcripts are there and can be read.

One interview that comes to mind is a man who lived just north of the border in Canada.  The gist of his story was he was Polish (I believe), and he ended up being conscripted to fight for the Germans.  When the war was ending it was no secret that the Soviets were taking repatriated Poles and sending them to Siberia.  Whoever was in charge of the POW camp allowed this man to remain at the camp as long as possible in an attempt for him to be granted permission to remain in Canada or the U. S.. Fortunately for his sake he was able to go to Canada and lived the rest of his life less than 50 miles north of the camp.

I also read somewhere that part of the reason more German POWs didn't attempt to escape was partially the remoteness and partially movies they had watched in the 1930's.  The Germans believed and were led to believe that the woods surrounding the camp were still full of hostile Indians and wolves.

I'm not trying to hijack the thread.  There is just a lot of fascinating history in those woods.
Link Posted: 6/2/2023 5:00:04 PM EDT
Great thread OP  
Link Posted: 6/4/2023 6:35:03 PM EDT
there were several POW camps in Oklahoma. a big one was in my hometown. the POW's worked on the farms and really integrated into our life here. some came back after the war and married here. when I was young, my grandmother told me that the POW's looked a heckuva lot better going home than what they did when they arrived.

solid farm work, nutrition and no stress, really healed them.

they built small pebble and stone castles that were replica's of castles in Germany as tokens of thanks on how they were treated.

Link Posted: 6/19/2023 10:08:47 PM EDT
I’ll have to get back out there and explore sometime when it’s not pouring. I’d read about the bread oven before but didn’t imagine it would be that freaking big LOL.

Somewhere I remember reading that one of the punishments for POWs who made trouble while working was to march back to camp shirtless. Between black flies, mosquitoes, and deer flies, I bet there weren’t many men who had to do it twice.
Link Posted: 7/2/2023 10:05:53 PM EDT
The B-52 crash site at Elephant Mountain is very easy to access. Get yourself over there when you can!
Link Posted: 7/24/2023 3:02:53 PM EDT
My neighbor growing up knew a German man that had been a POW (I beleive he had been Afrika Corps) somewhere in the West, and had become 100% enamored with everything Old West. When the war ended he went back to Germany. He married in Germany and then applied to emigrate to the US and did so becoming a naturalized citizen. He moved at some point to Huntsville, Alabama (where I grew up) and wanted to purchase a home. Went to a bank to apply for a loan and was asked why he wasn't applying for a G.I. Loan () odd German accents being a dime a dozen in Huntsville, he replied "I was in the wrong Damn Army."

That man collected Old West stuff like no tomorrow, the older looking the better.
Link Posted: 7/27/2023 9:06:04 AM EDT
The Gettysburg and Pine Grove Furnace Prisoner of War Camps
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