Gervais Nolin – Skowhegan, Maine
by Alexander M. Koch
Gervais Protais Nolin was born 15 February 1830 in Québec, the son of Francois Nolin (born in Saint-Charles, Québec on 7 Dec 1789) and Marguerite Chabot (born in Saint-Charles in April 1791). The Nolin family originated in North America with Gervais’ great-great-great grandfather, Jacques Nolin (1643-1728) who came from Perot, France. Jacques settled in Saint-Pierre, Québec, and the family stayed in that area (Saint-Charles and Saint-Pierre are very nearby one another) until Gervais’ father, Francois, moved to Skowhegan, Maine, when Gervais was still a boy.
Gervais Nolin attended area schools. His father was a blacksmith, and he entered into the trade of edge tool manufacture after his schooling was completed. He moved to North Wayne, Maine and took employment in 1848 with what was at that time known as the North Wayne Scythe Company. Following that he was employed “as a foreman or mechanical superintendant for the Dunn Edge Tool Company” for fourteen years in what was then known as West Waterville, Maine (Oakland).
According to the Biographical Review encompassing Somerset County, published in 1898, it was in 1878 that Gervais Nolin entered into a partnership with one of his brothers, Mitchell (born Michel Nolin, 18 Sep 1834). The Maine Register or State Year-Book and Legislative Manual from April 1, 1887, to April 1, 1888 lists G&M Nolin as a Scythe manufacturer on Mill Street in Skowhegan. The Review states that they made “scythes, hay knives, and grass hooks.” However, hay knives made by Nolin have not been attested by this author.
Gervais and Mitchell ended their partnership in 1895, and the following year (1886) Gervais went into partnership with his son Frank under the business name of Nolin Manufacturing Company. In January of 1886, Mitchel Nolin built a stable in Skowhegan (Skowhegan History House records).
Both scythes and grass hooks have been attested by this author, and photographs are forthcoming. Markings on grass hooks include, but are not limited to, “G&M Nolin” & “G Nolin.” Numerous of these tools are also marked “Skowhegan.” A couple include the patent date marking “PAT FEB 23, 86.” This last being patent number US336819A.
The above image is from Nolin’s 1886 Patent Application.
Of particular note is a small (Blade length approx. 7″) grass hook marked “G&M Nolin” & “Skowhegan” with a stag antler handle and a lesser curve to the blade than most grass hooks. Obviously a specialty item, no others like it have been reported, and its intended use is unknown – though we may speculate.
A scythe blade marked “Nolin Mfg Co” & “Skowhegan, ME” has been reported by Benjamin Bouchard of Frankfort, Maine, and a description of that blade is forthcoming.
The author has a wooden shipping crate made for scythes marked “Nolin Mfg Co., Skowhegan, ME.”
Photographs of the author’s collection are forthcoming.
Nolin also holds a patent for improvements in scythe manufacture (No. 598387) dated 1 February 1898. The Lewiston Saturday Journal, an area paper, February 1, 1898 edition, makes mention of the granting of this patent.
Image from patent no. 598387
Additional patent information, genealogical information, and more, is coming soon.
Anyone with additional information, photographs of tools, tools themselves, or books or other papers with reference to Nolin, his employment at the North Wayne Scythe Company, Dunn Edge Tool Company, or anything else related to this Maine toolmaker is asked to please contact the author.