D. B. Neal, Dover Foxcroft, Maine


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
In Memoriam
Anyone know anything about D.B. Neal, in Dover Foxcroft? The Maine Builders compilation indicated he built from 1907 to 1930's.

Here is a 15 footer saved from the burn pile. 34 in. beam, about 14 inches deep. It was originally closed gunnel, has wide tapered ribs, nice tumblehome, no evidence of stem bands - the planking meets across the stem. One seat in the stern only. Three nicely shaped thwarts.

It has a brass tag on the short deck, "D.B. Neal Builder Dover Foxcroft Maine"

Reported to be 1909, but I don't see a date anywhere.

Here are some shots of the canoe:



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Hi Mike:

Yes, the thwarts are arched and they also thin at the rails. They look rather dainty, but apparently have held up well over the years. One iron bolt at the rails. The thwarts and seat are ash. The short rails on the seat are thin (1/2 in.). There are initials carved in both decks "AFM".

I did a little Googling to see what I might find about this builder and Dover Foxcroft. Turns out I found an antique canoe shop in Dover-Foxcroft that is for sale.

Anyone know whose shop this was?:


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Canoe shop -- H.A. Packard??

Fitz --

Take a look at the Journal issue # 64, June 1994, and the article "Henry Packard, One Old-Time Maine Builder: The One-Man Shop," by Dave Mussey.

The photo heading the article is a bit unclear as printed, but sure looks like it could be the shop you found.

Because I have a boat that is reputed to have been built by Packard, I would be interested in anything you know about this shop and its sale, particularly its precise location. I have been casually looking about D-F ever since I found Mussey's article a while back (though we live in Brooklyn, NY, we have a house in D-F for vacations and for retirement -- was just up for Thanksgiving). To date, I have not spotted it.

As to your D.B. Neal boat -- Dover-Foxcroft did not exist as a formal entity until 1922, when Dover, on the south side of the river, and Foxcroft, on the north side, got "married," as local histories like to say. I suppose local folk may have used the joined name before then, but I suspect that a business would not identify its location as "Dover-Foxcroft" until 1922 or after.

Packard's Shop

I agree with Greg. I think the shop that is for sale is Packard's Shop.

From the referenced article, I think D. B. Neal's first name was Dan.

From Dan Miller's website (Kennebec), apparently Kennebec built a "whitewater canoe" on a form that Dan Neal constructed. My canoe has similar dimensions, but is less beamy (although it has significant tumblehome) and probably deeper. My canoe has surprisingly wide ribs - maybe for a reason ("whitewater").

I will look at the brass plate again and see if Dover-Foxcroft is hyphenated suggesting > 1922. The canoe has many "old" features - closed gunwale (you can see where the rail cap was nailed on), probably a canvas covered stem seam (no evidence of stem band or other protection), arched thwarts for example, but it also has "younger" features brass tacks instead of copper, tapered ribs, so I don't know where it falls with respect to age. There is no sign of a serial number.

Thank you for the assistance. I will keep posting information I learn.
Kennebec's White Water model, built on Neal's form, was offered 1940 and 1941. See attached page from 1941.

According the Kennebec records, they built 57 of them, one of which turned up at assembly the last time we were at Paul Smiths, if I recall correctly.


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Thanks Dan,

I think the canoe measures very close to the Kennebec from the Neal form. Great story.

Now where do I stuff the float bags?:D

More information

I looked the canoe over some more in the daylight. The "Dover-Foxcroft" is in fact hyphenated, and I have confirmed it was closed gunwaled. It looks as thought the outwales were secured with a screw through every rib too. So maybe we are looking at a post 1922 canoe.

The curator of the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society sent me this colorful information on Daniel Neal:

"Hi, Your question regarding Dan Neal was referred to me and I'll tell you what we know about him. He was an experienced woodsman, guide and craftsman who claimed he had only 3 weeks of schooling. He was born in Burlington, Maine in 1861, the son of Johnson Neal and his wife, Sarah. [Dan kept shifting the date of his birth as he aged from either 1861 to 1863 to 1865 and 1869. He was married at least 3 times, possibly 4. He might also have been born in Lowell, Maine because he lived there as a child.] His ancestors are traceable to the 1700's in Belfast, Maine.

Dan loved tall tales and outrageous statements. He also was politically incorrect when it came to women and his quoted remarks would land him in very hot water today. For example, "Women need to get back to baking bread and raisig chickens and pigs. Today they have lost the art of cookery and as a result we have a nation of dyspeptics and nervous wrecks . . . . They [women] would rather come down with the measles than do any housework . . . A lot of women today would be better off physically if they went barefoot." NOW would lynch him today!

Dan's relations with women/wives was checkered. He had three children by two diffferent wives though there's some evidence of a fourth child and no record of the first "marriage". His last marriage was to Elizabeth Lanpher of DF, the daughter of a local blacksmith and it lasted until his death in 1938.

Dan was a great hunter and claimed he guided the young Teddy Roosevelt on a hunting trip. Dan also was a noted fisherman, a gifted craftsman making moccasins, snow shoes, and canoes locally as well as working in the local spool mill as well as being a blacksmith. During his lifetime his skills were recognized with feature length stories in the Lewiston Sunday Journal and other publications. Dan's noted canoe making abilities was honored by the Searsport Marine Museum in Maine when a canoe he made was part of an exhibit on Maine canoemakers in 2001. The signed canoe displayed by the museum sold for the cost of a model T touring car or about $298 - that was a lot of money in 1923. That canoe is now part of the collection of the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine.

Dan Neal died in 1938 and is buried in DF in the Dover Cemetery with his last wife, Elizabeth."

I confirmed that a D.B. Neal canoe was on display at the Maine Maritime Museum this past summer, but is now in storage.
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The submarine fires a shot

Take a break and you miss a shot...
back at ya


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D.B. Neal Canoe at Maine Maritime Museum

The folks up at the Maine Maritime Museum sent me a description of the canoe in their collection. Apparently, it is some sort of birchbark/canvas hybrid. It is apparently older because the brass tag indicates "Dover" instead of "Dover-Foxcroft". So apparently Greg's dating method mentioned above is accurate. The dimensions are roughly the same, so I'm guessing we are still talking about the same form. This is the information they sent me from the signs that described the canoe on display this past summer:

15' 10" length; 2' 10" beam; cane seat Bark canoe with cane seats. Built by a well known Maine guide, Daniel B. Neal, of Dover Foxcroft, Me. Builders plate in bow " D.B. Neal, Builder, Dover Maine". Generally a builder of wood-canvas canoes; this one was done as a challenge after he'd heard about a tree big enough to provide the bark. Took five years to find it in the Katahdin region. Bought by Clarence M. Day of Jackson, Michigan for the value of a Model T. Shipped back once for repairs. After Day retired, sent it back to the Neal family.

Birch Bark Canoe [upper]

Daniel B. Neal, Dover, Maine, about 1920

Length: 16 feet

Although Neal used some traditional methods in making this canoe – lashing with spruce roots, peeling bark from a single birch tree – generally the canoe is made in the modern style. It has planks instead of slats, an under-layer of canvas, and is built over a canoe-form, which makes the hull look much smoother than a traditional bark canoe. The shape of the ends is Neal’s design and does not represent a native tribal style.

Neal was a guide and blacksmith, born about 1860. He also made canvas-covered wooden canoes, toboggans, snowshoes, and moccasins. He made this canoe for Clarence M. Day of Jackson, Michigan, for the value of a model T Ford touring car. Day later gave the canoe to Neal’s grandson.

D.B. Neal's Hybrid Canoe

The good folks at the Maine Maritime Museum were very helpful and they sent me some pictures of D.B. Neal's "Hybrid" Birch Bark/Canvas Canoe. I hope to get up there and see it sometime, but for now, I will post a scan I made of their photocopied pictures.


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old canoe shop

I spent last week in Dover-Foxcroft, and talked to Patsy and Neil Mallet, who are the real estate agents handling the canoe shop Fitz stumbled on while googling (see above). They made a phone call to the current owner, who confirmed that the building had been Henry Packard's shop.

Dave Mussey wrote a topnotch article about Packard as typical of old-time one-man operations in the WCHA Journal, Issue No. 64 (June 1994), "Henry Packard, One Old-Time Maine Builder: The One-Man Shop."

I have no interest in, or connection to, this building (except that I have a boat in need of restoration that may have been built by Packard), but if anyone is interested, the listing is on the Mallet's website under both "homes" and "commercial opportunities." Its located behind the house at the intersections of Forest and Park Streets in Dover-Foxcroft.
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Looks like a Christmas card-- classically beautiful building-- very cool in red, against the white snow. Wish we could pick it up and deposit it in Denis Kallery's back yard!
Actually, Denis's house is made up of two old log buildings (a 1922 farmhouse and an 1890s cabin) which he disassembled and moved over 30 miles to their present location... if such a barn/shop was available closer to home, moving it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility!
Well, think about it... once it's disassembled and on the truck(s), the distance driven is only a small part of the picture. Denis' back yard would be a good place for such an historic building.
Dan B. Neal in Action

I moved this canoe up on the list of things to do and have been working on it lately mostly because I really like the lines and it looks like fun to paddle.

Anyway, I found a picture today of Mr. D.B. Neal paddling with his wife in a "simulated" birch bark. I think Dan built his canoes on a form (probably the same form that my canoe was built on) and added birch skins on one (at Maine Maritime Museum) - maybe more. Interestingly, there is no bow seat for his wife. There is no bow seat in my canoe either. The one at Maine Maritime includes a bow seat.

Here is the link:

http://books.google.com/books?id=wk...0CBkQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=DB Neal Canoe&f=false