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 August 6, 1921



   I was now a contractor for running lumber and logs from St. Croix to St. Louis, Sandy McPhail had a contract for running from Marine Mills and we two were the only contractors for a number of years probably eight or ten.  As I now remember the rates were $100 per 1000 ft. for lumber 25c per 1000 for lath and shingles and –per 1000 feet for logs.


  I soon had the Prescott raft ready to go and we made the trip successfully, delivering the raft to Robert Holmes at St. Louis.  I continued to deliver lumber to them for six or seven years.


  On returning to Stillwater I went to work in the mill while lumber for another raft was being cut and rafted.  There was a lot of dimension stuff in this next raft and it was essential that it be delivered that season and it was delivered although we got a late start.


  On the return from this tip I stopped at Albany and bought two large powerful horses one from Adam Huffman and one from Charles Slocumb, two men week known to all the older people in and about Albany. One was a clear grey and the other was a dapple grey.  Had a harness made for them by a man named Sankston.  I started up the river with the horses on the Senator one of the Smith Harris boats.  We went into Galena and took on a lot of miscellaneous freight including a large quantity of supplies for the military post at Fort Snelling that had been bought by the purchasing agent Mr. Franklin Steel.  There were a number of men from Albany going with me, among them my brother William, John and Dave Wray and Dave Sharp.  I do not recall the names of the ten or twelve others.


  We left Galena about the 7th or 8th of November and there was snow on the ground and the weather continued cold and got colder as we went north.  On arrival at where is now Fountain City, we laid up on account of ice.  Soon after starting out in the morning a deer was seen swimming the river; the boat headed for him and he was shot from the pilot house by the pilot, Peter Hall, just as he was climbing up on the loose ice on the bank.


  We found ice two inches thick soon after entering Lake Pepin.  The freight on the barge we had in tow was transferred to the boat, as the barge was not strong enough o stand bucking the ice, and we went at it.  We did not go far, however, until it was seen that we could not get through so we made for the west shore and landed at a little place known as Florence, about opposite Maiden Rock, on November 12th.  Here the freight was put on shore, nicely piled up and covered with tarpaulins loaned by the captain of the boat, in fact a hose was built over the freight, and two men left to guard it.  Then my team was hitched to a sled and with other teams, one of horses and several of oxen and a wagon, with blankets, bedding and supplies we started through the snow, without any road, to make our destination.  The going was very rough and slow and I think we camped out one night before we reached Red Wing; any way we spent one night with the Indian agent there.


  It was known that there was a barge at Point Douglass, as the foot of Lake St. Croix and as the river was free from ice above Hastings, we decided to send some men up to get the barge. These were chosen by drawing cuts and I remember dreading being selected as one to go and fortunately was not.  We borrowed a skiff and the men started early in the morning and got back late the same night.  The next morning early, teams, sleighs, wagons and all else we had were loaded on the barge and every man with a pole we drove that barge at good speed and to Point Douglas that same day before night.  We spent the night at the hotel and the next day made the trip to Stillwater, thirty miles through the snow, a hard day’s jaunt. 


I had made no definite plans for the winter and had taken the team up with the expectation of selling it at a profit.  John McKusick bought it at a very satisfactory price.  The men had gone up with the expecting to get work and were glad to go with me as they were new at the business and I knew the ropes.


  McKusick now wanted me to go into the woods and run a camp for him taking the men who came with me as a crew.  We began preparations at once, built two long sleds made on yokes, had chains made and put together the necessary outfit and supplies and set out as soon as we were ready.  McKusick went doing with us as the timber to be cut and the site for the camp, had not been selected.  After leaving sunrise McKusick and I left the party to go on foot, to another camp being run by Jonathan McKusick, a brother with instructions to the men to stay together and with the teams.  It was snowing most of the day but we made the camp about nine o’clock at night after a hard tramp of nearly sixty miles and I was wearied to exhaustion.  We presumed the men would do as told, but some of them thought they were as good travelers as we were so set out to follow us.  Not long after our arrival Dave Sharf fell into the camp completely worn out.  Two others, Len Cady and John Wray did not reach camp that night but spent the night in a log shanty they found without bed or blankets.  It was two or three days before the teams arrived.


  Next morning after our arrival at camp McKusick and I set out to locate a camp site and find timber for cutting.  After a couple of days cruising we decided to cut a tract on Mud Creek although it made us a longer haul than we liked, Mud Creek not being large enough for a driving stream, as we had to haul to Snake river.


  We got busy at once constructing camp.  The snow had to be cleaned off the ground, logs cut and fitted, moss for caulking secured from the swamp, old hay found for covering, boughs cut for beds and a hundred other things to be done so that we got a very late start at cutting; in fact the first log was but on Christmas day.


  We had a total of fifteen men, including cook and teamsters, in camp.  Supplies were brought to us and we had no hindrances during the winter, although the snow was very deep toward spring.  Our haul averaged about one half mile to Snake river and when we broke camp about the first of March, 1846, we had a good strong million feet of logs to our credit.


  I was detailed for the drive this year but went at once to the mill where I assisted in fitting up the booms, piers, etc.  We got a fresh fall of snow and the dazzling effect after a winter of subdued light in the woods was too much for my eyes and I became snow blind and was helpless and laid up for a time.  A sister of John McKusick’s wife, at the boarding house, proved a friend in need and gave me all the care and attention that my own sister could have given and proved a kind and sympathetic nurse.


  The mill had been in operation al winter sawing the logs that had been picked up around the banks of the lake and cleaning up generally.  The output had to be rafted on the ice, so when the ice went out it was not long before a raft was ready to go.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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