History of the Deering Lumber, Inc.
Spring’s Island, in the city of Biddeford, divides the Saco River in two main channels: north & south, and creates several falls locations for water power. Records indicate there has been lumbering on the Saco River as early as 1650-60. It is probable that there were a variety of mills close to or on Spring’s Island throughout the 18th century. Thus, the lumber industry has been active on or near this site for over 400 years.
Two veterans of the Revolutionary War: Captains Moses Bradbury and Seth Spring purchased land on this island about 1794. One or both was involved in building or remodeling a water driven sawmill near the site of the present Central Maine Power Bradbury Dam (directly to the rear of the building now housing Sullivan Tire).
Moses Bradbury built the first house on the island in 1795. This fine federal residence stood to the north of what is now Route 1, and overlooked the Bradbury Mill. Its site is the approximate center of the Deering customer parking lot immediately west of our store.
Seth Spring, seeking to develop his property, first constructed a bridge to the Biddeford mainland, then another to Saco at approximately the same present day bridge locations. He built in 1798, the large three story federal building (now used as the Deering Lumber offices), which became known as Spring’s Tavern. It was popular stopping point for travelers on the Kings Highway (now Elm Street/Route 1). It was here that Spring entertained General Lafayette on his 1825 tour into Maine.
In the second half of the 19th century, the building was renovated and converted to apartments.
Three generations of the Deering Family have been involved with this company since its founding in 1866. Joseph G. Deering, born September 17, 1816, in Waterboro, Maine, lived in Saco and established a successful grocery business. In 1866, he became involved in building a sawmill near Bradbury Dam connecting Spring’s Island to Gooch’s Island. One of the early products was a pine box shook for the West Indies Sugar Trade.
In 1869, Deering purchased the Spring’s Tavern (“Mansion House” in the deed) and adjacent land. It became the office for J.G. Deering & Son in the late 1890’s. He maintained an active business life until his death. The company became incorporated as J.G. Deering & Son in 1903.
His son, Frank C. Deering, born January 28, 1866, in Saco, decided he would not be a storekeeper. He entered the lumber business, and sometimes with his father, sometimes independently, they operated three sawmills on Spring’s Island. Deering Lumber stored and dried the pine lumber, produced on the island, at an open lot now known as the Saco Valley Shopping Center. Frank died August 12, 1939.
Frank Deering’s son, Joseph G., was born September 13, 1894, in Saco. After graduating from Yale in 1917, he returned in the early 1920’s to join the business and began a long, successful career in business and community affairs. The business prospered and included the annual river log drive; one of the finest sawmills in New England; and finished lumber of all grades & sizes to Maine customers as well as to wholesalers throughout the Northeast. Additional building materials were added to serve local contractors: doors, windows, roofing, hardware, etc.
The close succession of three major events: the 1938 hurricane, World War II, and the Forest Fires of 1947, forced the discontinuance of sawmilling on Spring’s Island. The last Saco River log drive to the Biddeford sawmill took place in 1943. The last log was sawn on the island in 1948. Lumber planing and moulder work was phased out in the 1950’s.
Joseph G. Deering (grandson) sold the company to Thomas M. Armstrong in 1958, and the name changed to Deering Lumber, Inc. in 1960. His son, C.D. Armstrong began working at the company in 1984, and purchased the building supply business in 1987.
Through the years of lumber retailing on the island, and to this very day, the pine lumber sold at our yard has come primarily from Saco River Valley. Since 1960, our line of building materials has broadened and changed. The construction business has rapidly evolved with a wide variety of new products and building systems. Wood Structures, a well-established local manufacturer got its start in Building #5 in the 1970’s. Additional real estate on Spring’s Island, adjacent to the original lumber yard, has been purchased over the years. We now occupy 15 different buildings on approximately four acres. Some of these buildings have been modernized and rehabilitated, others have been maintained largely as they were 100 years ago. Our current store, built in 1980, provides our customers with a full assortment of materials needed by building contractors.
In 1991 Deering purchased a location in Kennebunk to improve its service and convenience for local building contractors. In 1995 the company expanded the Biddeford store and its offering of builder’s hardware and associated products. In 1997 the company expanded its paint products offering to provide a full service paint shop within its stores. In 1998 the company added a contractor tool and equipment rental department to its Biddeford location. In 2006 Andersen Window warranty repair services were added. In 2008 contractor tool repairs broadened the services the Deering offers to the professional building contractor.
In 2012 Deering purchased former LaValley Lumber locations in Sanford and Springvale Maine. The company is proud to carry on the traditions of quality products and services the LaValley family worked hard to establish.
Today the 3 Deering Lumber locations offer a full array of products and services selected to serve quality conscious residential building contractors from all over Southern Maine. The company has gained the buying power of major national co-operatives while enjoying the advantages of being locally owned and operated.
We are proud of the history and traditions of the Deering name and the lumber business, as it has functioned successfully for over 150 years. We are committed to continue that tradition for many years to come.