At the outset of “Still Mill: Poems, Stories & Songs of Making Paper in Bucksport, Maine, 1930-2014,” the town’s poet laureate, Patricia Ranzoni, puts readers, be they townspeople or from away, on solid ground. As noted in the introduction:

“Once, for the better part of a century, at the mouth of the Penobscot River watershed halfway up the coast of Maine – called Down East – there was a small town about which it was said that chances were high that a day didn’t pass in the life of an American reader when he or she didn’t touch a piece of paper turned out there. It was accurately and pridefully boasted that every day more than 1,000 people employed from the area produced more than 1,000 tons of the finest lightweight coated publication papers available on the worldwide market. (From an undated St. Regis publication, probably 2007, the mill’s 75th anniversary). And it took just about everything we had to give, four generations of our families alongside uncountable others, from the forest to the ocean routes and railroads of Maine and beyond.”

But on Dec. 4, 2014, the Bucksport Enterprise carried a grim headline: “Rest in peace papermaking? Bucksport entering post-papermaking era/Mill machines go idle today.” Though Maine’s paper industry had been troubled for decades, still, it was a cold, sudden end after more than 80 years. The laborers and their families now had to scramble for new ways to make a living.

Ranzoni has gathered recollections from townsfolks who were connected with the mill and has synthesized them into a powerful book that documents the vitality of the place of work within the community. Some former mill workers express themselves in prose, some in poetry. Some are eloquent, others blunt; yet each woman and man makes a memorable point. There is all manner of expression, and all is from the heart. If a reader finds a contribution too sentimental, dig out the facts and weigh it against the very honest feelings that summoned it.

Soon after Verso bought the plant, the papermaking machinery was sold for scrap, ending any thought of revival or competition. As contributing essayist Garret McAllian put it:

“The mill was a much friendlier place in my earlier years there. Bosses deserved and received respect and they reciprocated that respect. Near the end, the supervisors became inhuman, unfeeling, malicious, corporate zombies. Gov. LePage got it right when he called Verso management ‘bottom feeders’ and who would know better than him.”

McAllian went on from being an electrician to heading his own electrical business in town. Bucksport’s Greg Wilson, a farmer and mill worker, found a job a month later at the Maine Maritime Academy and writes that he would not care to return to a mill job.

Ardeana Hamlin, a writer of note, worked as an engineer for Champion-International from 1993 to 2003, when it was taken over in a hostile bid by International Paper, and gives an inside and global overview into the rise and decline of papermaking as it applies to Bucksport and Maine. She now works for the Bangor Daily News.

As a 26-year worker at the Bucksport Mill phrased it: “Alas, we’ll all be okay.”

Looking at these years, historians will find a treasure of documentation about Americans, Mainers in a specific community and how they dealt with a crisis. They were not bombed, burned out or occupied by forces, but their culture came to an abrupt halt on the labor front.

For the most part Down Easters are and always have been realists. Young workers can be retrained, many mid-way workers seem to have found their own way, and those about to retire can agree with contributor David Brainerd: “With my Social Security I have won the game of life in the USA as far as I can tell. I’ll probably continue to do odd jobs.”

Indeed, Mainers like Brainerd have labored to earn that security as did the working community of Bucksport. Kudos to editor Ranzoni for packaging these documents so artfully.

William David Barry is a local historian who has authored or co-authored seven books, including “Deering: A Social and Architectural History.” He lives in Portland with his wife, Debra, and their cat, Nadine.