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June 18, 1921


  The farm and the mission were the only improvements in that section, which was a country of great natural beauty, at least to me.  We were in what is now Pine Country Minnesota, and apparently at the top of the country. It was a level country with numerous little lakes and a number of swamps and thickets interspersed with ridges of which was some hard wood timber and, speaking generally, pine everywhere, of the finest quality and size, many of the trees being from four to six feet in diameter.  The lakes and streams were well stocked with fish and we had game in plenty.

  We were about one hundred miles nearly due north from Stillwater.  It was now November and I had been continuously on the move since early in September, except a few days at St. Croix Falls.  The most of the crew had reached camp before us and were making our winter quarters habitable and comfortable.  We at once commenced to help them and prepare roads for loading log to the bank of the river.  Our home was log building some twenty-five by forty feet, with a big open in the middle to keep us warm and also by which to do our cooking, thee was a big hole in the roof over the fire with a box like chimney that extended a little below the roof and was finished at the top in the roof as a stick chimney.  The walls were well chinked with sawing moss, which was abundant, and it was really a warm place.  The beds were ranged along the sides of the fire place with heads to the wall and feet to the fire.  They were on the ground but raised, with an abundance of balsam fir boughs, at lest a foot, and then well covered with hay making a very comfortable bed.  Each end of the room was used for storage, the table being across one end.  A row of stationary seats known as “deacon” seats were on one side of the table and stools on the other.  Our cooking was necessarily primitive but with open air and hard work there was no lack of appetite and as we had plenty to eat there was no complaint.  Beans were the staple article of diet.  They were put in a large iron kettle called a “dutch oven” and buried at night in the ashes at the edge of the fire place and covered with hot ashes and when taken out next day for dinner made a dish eulogized by woodsman and visitor.  In the evening cards and other amusements were indulged in, and in the morning long before it was light the men were all up, had their breakfast and were on heir way to work.  Our teams, consisting of three or four yoke of oxen and some horses were sheltered in a log stable made snug and warm by using plenty of hay letter to cover the roof and sides and when the snow came the place was very warm and comfortable.  There were sixteen men at work in the woods which with the cook, boss and teamsters made some twenty all told at the camp.

  As was the case wherever I had worked all my life, I was put at different things. One of my first jobs was to make a frame in which the oxen could be put and held while being shod, for an ox is not like a horse in this respect and has to be securely held while the operation is going on.  It was my job to make the ox yokes and keep them in repair.  There is no end to the variety of work for a handy man around a camp, nor any were else, for that matter.

  There was a main road laid out to the place where the logs were landed on the bank of the river and tributary roads to intersect the main road at different points. 

The men were assigned to the different classes of work as they showed ability or do to the best advantage, the most of them being choppers.  A chopper must exercise a good deal of judgment in falling a tree.  It must fall parallel with the road and there must be room for a cross haul, that is room for one or two yoke of oxen to roll the heavy end of the log onto the bunk of the sled, the other end of the log being barked or smoothed off with an axe so that it would slide along on the ground, or snow rather, as we did no hauling until after snow came.  These logs were left full length of the tree and some time they would make four cuts that is four logs sixteen feet long, that length being the standard logs and a large majority cut that length.


  My work for the first half of the winter was a helper in loading and .. with McLane, the man assigned to that work.  Later I worked at cross sawing at the landing where the trees were cut into proper lengths for logs, with an old Englishmen whose name I have forgotten and who was not very well liked by the men generally although I got along nicely with him.  After cutting the timber near by we moved to another camp a mile or so up the Pokegema river where we finished the winters work.  We cut during the winter about three million feet of the winter’s work.  We cut some of the finest logs I have ever seen.  Our regular day’s work was barking from fifty to seventy-five logs.  Of course this could not have been done had we not been in the best of timber.  We were the first white men to put an axe into a tree in that section.

  The winter passed without special incident and quite pleasantly.  On several Sundays two or three of the men and myself had gone down to the mission to attend services.  The missionary’s name was Boutelle and he and his family were very nice people.  Occasionally I remained and ate with them.  The Indians were Chippewa and an orderly and honest set so far as we knew.  The services were in that language as was the Sunday school for the younger ones.  The mission was self sustaining and did an excellent work.  I knew Boutelle for many years.  Later he went to Stillwater and made that place his home and some of his children are still living there.

  As soon as the snow began to go we broke camp the men were tired and the teams about worn out.  All but about six men went away and the teams were taken to the Falls.  We now began to get ready to drive the logs to the mill and driving tools such as hand spikes, pike poles, camb hooks, oars, paddles etc. had to be made.  Then the boom sticks had to be formed.  These were the longest and slimmest trees we could find and ran from seventy-five to ninety feet in length and not over two feet through. Each end was squared and flattened to about ten inches or a foot and a couple of feet back from the end so that the ends would lap.  A mortice a couple of inches or so wide and eight or ten inches long was cut in each end and when the ends of two sticks were put together a piece of hard wood called a “through shot” with a head on one end and a hole for a key in the other was put through the two sticks and the key inserted and this made a secure connection.  This boom was to be used to enclose the logs while they were being driven through lakes Pokegema and Cross and at other places when necessary.

  Another necessity we made before starting out was a Wangan, on which to carry our driving supplies and outfit.  This one was about thirty-feet in length and made from two tree trunks or logs, each log making one half the boat, there being only one seam in the boat and that in the center of the hull from stem to stern where the halves come together.  Each half of the boat was dressed off on the outside like the model of a boat hull and being in two pieces there was a much better chance to cut out the inside of the boat than as though it were dug out of one single log.  The inner edges of these halves had to be very straight and true so as to make a good joint, the outside being beveled slightly to assist in the calking.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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