LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF
CAPT. STEPHEN B. HANKS,
MORE DETAILS OF RAFTING
ON THE UPPER RIVER
JULY 30 1896
The raft of which Surveyor Bruce had
charge had some trouble in Sawyer Bend. An immense sycamore
tree had fallen into the river and left a big limb pointing
upstream. He ran afoul of this and ripped his raft in several
pieces with many loose logs. These lodged along and below the
city and I was left to pick up and get them back to the mill
at the upper end of the city. I had a couple of helpers out of
the crew and hired additional men and a tug and went to work.
The water was swift and the tug could handle only a few logs
at a time in the small booms in which they were held. It took
about two weeks before I felt that all had been done on the
job that could be done.
On the return trip to the upper river
we met the second fleet of rafts that were commenced
immediately after we started with the first fleet, and I was
the one of the rafts as second pilot and once more was en
route down the river.
We made the run without incident until
we came to the lower rapids. Here we found the water so low
that a raft could not be floated over the lower rapids. We
ran them all down to Emily’s chain, some three or four miles
below Nashville, and there cut them to pieces; that is the
logs were cut loose and started over singly to float and roll
over. Medium and small logs would generally float without
much help but the big logs were not so easy and would often
have to be set to rolling and many of them would roll nearly
the entire distance but a great many had to be helped along a
great part of the way, aloof which took arduous work. We
would cut loose in the morning what could be handled during
the day and ---of a ---were located at different places to
handle them, assisting then along, picking them up at the
lower end and rafting them again. It was in the month of
August, the weather was very fine, no wind and very little to
hinder us so we got along very expeditiously and the job did
not last as long as it looked as though it might at the start,
but for all that we were glad enough when we were through.
The big Wangan, which we had built a couple of years before,
was along with this fleet and was utilized in carrying the
poles down to where the logs were re-rafted.
It might be interesting to know how
steamboating was done at the rapids in low water at this
time. Boats were running above the rapids and some of them
were light enough to go over the rapids. In any event the
freight was all taken off the boats at each end of the rapids
and placed in flat boats called lighters which were floated
down over the rapids and on the up trip were pulled over along
the west ban by horses as is done on canals. In our
operations we had to keep our logs away from this bank and
this contiguous channel and we also used these lighters to get
our Wangan, bateaux and tools back up over the rapids, and
often ourselves as well.
When the rafts were once more ready to
go the crews were divided and several men and myself were sent
back up river. It was now September, as near as I can recall,
as I remember that peaches were ripe and we were getting an
abundance from the farms along the shore. We went by
steamboat to Galena and there transferred to the steamer Rock
river which landed us at the foot of Lake St. Croix with our
supplies and camp equipage where we got a company boat, or
bateau and worked our own passage the remainder of the trip to
the mill. The company had been cleaning up the scattered logs
during the summer and had done a little swing but it had been
badly crippled by the spring freshet and there had been no
general rebuilding during the summer. However I think they
had cut lumber enough for one raft, which was sent out.
During my connection with this company,
commencing in the fall of 1841, it had enlarged its power by
building a dam at the top of the falls and added a lath
machine, shingle mill, and a money saw. For a year or two
there was a scarcity of water, but this year we had plenty, as
already stated, and the damage done nearly wrecked the
I had contracted chills and fever
during the summer so I lay by for a time as I had little
ambition for work so it was sometime in November before I
again became actively engaged, meanwhile I lived at the
Company boarding house.
Sometime in November, snow having come,
some crews of men and teams were made up for the winter
logging. Mark Moore was boss of the camp where I was going.
Jonathan McKusick, Smith Ellison and one Sawyer each
had a team and supplies. Some men came up from Marine mills
and some had already gone into the woods. We left the St.
Croix Falls Mill some time in November and went up the west
bank of the river and we had good road up to this time there
was no road between the mill and sunrise. The first night out
we made camp at a wild meadow where a bit of hay had been cut
during the summer for our use the coming winter. Here we
found a stray bull that had taken up his winter quarters
there. He was supposed to have come from St. Paul and as the
wolves would get him when it became cold we concluded to kill
him, which we did and the meat divided among the party.
One member of the party had a leg of
whiskey and in the morning he could not find it. Some of the
party were already showing the effect of the liquor and it was
not long before the keg was located and the balance of the
liquor returned to the owner. Various excuses were found
during the day for a drink for example, one man had a narrower
sled than the others and he would get ahead and cut a narrow
track then when the owner of the whisky would stick and call
for help, he would be told to first tap his keg, so it did not
last long. Later another keg showed up which went in the same
way and created a good deal of fun. None of it for me,
however, as I tasted none of the stuff.
The second night was spent at Sunrise.
Sawyer dropped off at Pokegema and McKusick went farther up.
Our camp for the winter was about twenty miles north of where
we were the previous winters and was on Fish Lake. It had
been built by men who had preceded us and we were ready to
begin logging as soon as the tools were put in shape.
The winter passed away very quietly and
the cut was the largest I had assisted in making and we
averaged over one hundred logs a day for the entire winter.
The bank of the lake was very high and we could dump a long
time at one landing. One new article of diet we had this
winter in great quantities was cranberries which we could get
by scraping away the snow and raking them up among the vines
on the frozen ground. They took lots of sugar, but his we got
from the Indians, maple sugar of course. I met with one
slight accident but it did not lay me up long. Was struck in
the mouth by a hand spike and had a gash cut in my lower lip.
There was a mound of prehistoric
origin on the ground we cut above and a full grown pine tree
grew on the top, which we cut with the rest of the trees. One
Sunday we opened the mound in the center and found some bones
and broken crockery of the usual Indian patterns that crumpled
to pieces on exposure to the air. Toward spring the wolves
became ravenously hungry and occasionally would chase a deer
right up among our cattle. One night they chased one up to
our water hole, probably where it had been accustomed to come
for a drink, and we could hear the snarling and fighting among
them as they killed and devoured it. Next day when we looked
for the remains there was absolutely nothing left, not even
scraps of hide or hair and they had even licked up the blood
until there was hardly a stain left.
We had quite a time getting our logs
started for the drive. Many were in huge piles on the slope
of the bank of the lake and it was a perilous undertaking to
find the Key log that held the pile. Sometimes when found it
would be necessary to put a rope on it and pull it away with a
block and tackle. Even then many times we had to fly for life
as the big piles would slide into the water and spread out
like oil, and it took quick work to get out of their way.
My last work before going down to the
mill that spring was helping build a dam at the outlet of
Cross Lake in place of the one that went out the year before
in the big freshet. While there we made a scout for a route
for a road around the south end of the lake, which proved
fruitless as we got into an impassable tamarack swamp through
which a road was impracticable and we had a very exhausting
tramp and camped out one very cold night with little or not
Almost the middle of March, now 1845, I
went down to Still water which had now become a town or
village with a name; heretofore known as Mrs. Carley’s. The
previous fall I had made arrangement with John McKusick to run
rafts for him to St. Louis and was to commence when he was
ready for me. When I got there the ice was still solid in the
lake and I went back to the mill and worked building piers to
hold booms for logs until about the middle of April.
McKusick had bought a raft that had
been taken to the foot of Lake St. Croix the fall before and
this was to be the first run on the new contract, which was a
verbal one, was that I should do all the running he had to do
and was to continue as long as mutually agreeable. It lasted
about ten year during which time the business increased
enormously and we employed hundreds of men.