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July 9, 1921


  Our trip had been a long one and the work hard and exhausting.  So I took my time in the city to rest up and satisfy my boyish curiosity with the various amusements and sight seeings.  I put up at the William Tell hotel, attended theatre a number of times, which was new to me, took in Carondelet and Shaw’s garden.  It was my first experience in the city although there is very little comparison between the St. Louis of that day and the one of the present and very little escaped me.  The levee was a busy place and a most interesting sight to me.  All transportation at that time was by water and the levee was covered by what looked like mountains of freight and steamboats lay as closely as they could be packed.  Many of the boats were really magnificent as the lower river packets were lavishly ornamented and furnished to attract the attention of the best people and induce them to travel.  The city of that day was a French town and would look queer to the present generation.

  Having seen the city to my satisfaction I took passage on the Potosi, a new boat making her first trip for Albany.  I had been paid off in what was known as “Shawneetown” money.  It went all right in St. Louis but I learned to my sorrow that the farther north I got the less it was worth and on some of it I realized only forty cents on the dollar.  Those were the days of “wild cat” money of which doubtless few of our readers can remember.  First class passage to St. Paul was ten dollars and I paid seven dollars to Albany, which place I reached sometime in August, but I cannot say on what date.

  I was very tired from my year’s experience and decided to settle down in Albany and get something to do.  E. H. Newitt and his mother were living alone and I made my home with them during the winter, that of 1842-3.  Several of us induced Wm. Ewing to open a select school and I endeavored to make up somewhat for the lack of education in my early boyhood.  I did not take on any regular employment during the winter, which was very pleasantly passed, but by doing odd jobs, working Saturdays and the like, I more than paid my way and kept myself in clothes.  With the first warm days of spring I began to get restless and I had an unsatisfied longing for something not to be found in Albany so when the season of navigation opened my boyish ambition came fully to life and I was ready for a vigorous campaign.

  I took passage on the Steamer Pavilion for Galena and there changed to the Rock River which was going direct to St. Paul t go into the packet trade in the Harris line.  Reaching St. Paul I was a long way from St. Croix Falls, so I set out on foot across the country.  At Carley’s now Stillwater, I found some of the men from the mill with a boat and that saved further walking.  Reached the mill about the first of May, I think, and was soon at my old job with Ryan, dropping cribs of lumber down through the Dalles.

  This work continued until the middle or later part of June when once more we had two rafts ready for down river and again I shipped as a raft hand with Sandy McPhail.

  The incidents on this trip were much the same as those of the year before, but we were learning and many things went smother and we made better progress.  I take credit for the one very great improvement and that is in the manner of stopping the raft.  Under my instructions checking, or snubbing, work practically as have been on rafts ever since, were built on these rafts and instead of taking the entire line ashore we took only the end, which was made fast to a tree and we did the work of stopping the raft on board.  I got the idea from the landing of steamboats. 

  On arrival at lower rapids, water was found too low to for our rafts so they were laid up at Nashville and the most of us sent back to the mill, a few being retained pending consideration of the proposition to lighten by re rafting the lumber, a hard and expensive task.  I do not know when the journey was continued.

  The return trip was made on the Cecelia, Captain Throckmorton, one of the old boats running on the upper river when I first knew it.  She landed us at the site of Stillwater and I found a Mackinaw boat there belonging to the mill, in which our journey was finished.

  The second pair of rafts not being ready some twenty of us were sent up to the mouth of Snake river to assist in getting logs to the mill.  The water in the St. Croix was low, many of the logs were on the banks of the river, left there by the high water, and others were on dry bars and in pockets.  All had to be rolled into the water where many of them would float a short distance and stick, although some of the smaller logs would be good enough to keep on going.  It was midsummer and hot and the mosquitoes swarmed around us by the million and the nets we worked would not keep them out.  We were wet nearly all the time and when we reached the mill with the drive, something like a million feet, we were all worn out and ready for anything new.  The mill was started as soon as the first logs reached it and Ryan and I took our old job of shooting the cribs through the Dalles. 

  About the middle of October the two rafts were completed and although it was late in the season, it was thought best to pull out and go as far we could.  To facilitate the passage through the lakes Capt. Page, one of the bosses at the mill had a scheme which we put into effect.  We took a second line and anchor and a team of horses.  The rafts were coupled end to end and a platform built over each space between the cribs. 

When the anchor had been dropped the horses were hitched to the end of the line and started to the after end of the raft.  The other anchor was laid while the horse4s were on the return trip.

  This proved quite a success as we could proceed against a little head wind and it was much easier on the men.  They were not obliged to do the pulling as before, but they were not idle by any means.  Those long lines were very heavy and the men had to drag them back and ease them along and of course they were wet and the air and water cold.  Boards with a notch cut in them were used as much as possible for handling the lines to avoid grasping them with the hands.

  We had frequent detentions form wind and bad weather.  When we reached Baily Wells place in Lake Pepin we were detained two days and a night during which time Well’s entertained us royally feeding us on trout, venison and beer meat.  It was my first taste of the latter and I did not exactly like it.  It resembled pork with a rank oil taste that seemed to be all through it instead of in the fat layers as In pork.  When we got away from the Well’s we made the balance of the trip to Read’s Landing in about twenty-four hours.  Here we lay for a couple of days on account of bad weather and awaiting the arrival of a boat that would take Capt. Page and the horses back to the mill.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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