Testimony of Gustave A. Giese


photo272.JPG (86251 bytes)Gustave A. Giese was next witness. "I will tell about log driving, so that you will get a pretty good idea of what is in the course of a day's work. When the logs are cut in the woods – the trees are standing growing, and they are cut down to specific sizes, twelve, fourteen, eighteen feet, according to the agreements made with the lumber buyers. These logs are loaded on sledges. They are hauled to the banks of creeks; or it is possible, if the creek is froze over, they can drive with that load of logs directly on there. They start right on the bottom, and have skids underneath them, and unload the logs on those skids. They call them rollways. When they get to the bank of the creek, or the river, as the case might be, they clean off the bank, any underbrush or timber that grows, so they can extend the rollway that they started on the creek, out on the bank. They keep on hauling those lots to the bank, and raising the filling up the rollways. Sometimes they have rollways twenty or thirty feet in height, and eighty rods up and down the creek.photo273.JPG (842896 bytes)

In the spring of the year, before they get ready to drive, they make this wannigan, which is a raft made out of hewed timbers, made out of a whole tree. A lot of companies will take a square timber of certain length, where the lengths run from thirty-six to forty feet, and they make the wannigan, which is hewed timber. They have no saws to shape that in the woods, and they take smaller trees and also pine, and hew them down to six by six size, and lay it right on the ends of it; this being the wannigan here (indicating); laid down on the ends, one in front and one behind, and holes bored through, large wannigan sticks, and that is all fastened together. You build a little bit of a wooden shanty. A wannigan will never be any wider than twelve feet on the outside, because it has to follow the men that are driving the logs. For that reason it must be heavily made, because it has to go over boulders and knock up against them; and be narrow enough to follow down the narrow creek.

In the middle of that we have a house where the cook does the cooking. It is a shanty, especially put up, possibly seven or eight feet in width, and maybe ten feet in length. That is all there is. That is where the cook has his general headquarters; and he has a wannigan box, in which he keeps the socks and supplies for the boys who are working there. They would buy up a bunch of tobacco and soap, and so on, and they carry it right in that place. That wannigan always goes behind.

When you get the crew together, you roll your logs, when the ice is gone, roll your logs off the rollways, and keep watching that your logs don't jam, and keep right after them. They have to watch and see that the logs go down and get in the channel, and get moving before the water goes away, because the river runs north and south and the water runs away fast. When your water runs away from them, they jam up the logs. That is a log jam, that sometimes goes across the river from bank to bank. Finally the logs are in such shape that it will hold the water back, and there is a pressure of the water as it accumulates; and when they have a little head, not much higher than that table there, they just bust that jam. They call it a jam break. They go to work and tear out the key log, and they all roll slowly down and keep on going. If they don't run, they probably have to do the same thing in five or six miles, maybe two miles, or maybe ten miles down below. That is the way they do.

They run these logs through the sawmills, where they are supposed to be cut. If it is a nearby sawmill that ships the lumber, and it is made into a raft which comes down the river.

If they have sufficient water, there is no trouble then to keep rolling the logs off the rollways and letting them go down. All we have to do is to let go them go down. We have a few men on the creeks, watching on the banks, to keep the logs going, to see that they don't jam up. If the water is too high, they scatter and go into the woods. Sometimes I have had to take them and move them ten or fifteen and sometimes twenty rods. We don't take them on our shoulders. We take our peavies. You know a peavey, it is a canthook, we grab one on each side. There are four men, and each has his peavey stick, one on each side; two in front and two behind, rolling the logs, and snaking them out, as the case might be. The men attending to that part of the work, they call them suckers.

Pulling a grub The rapids at Wisconsin Rapids and any other rapids that I had to run over I shall describe. It is almost impossible to tell it section by section, or even greater sections, but in order to get over the first thing, I can start at the very beginning, where the first plank is laid down in the water in order to raft lumber or get the lumber into a raft. We have to build a crib first. The smallest unit of a raft is known as a crib. It is sixteen feet square. You use three grub planks in the bottom, which answers the purpose of runways. It takes three grub planks, two by ten inches sixteen feet long, with holes bored in each end, ten inches from the end, and one bored immediately in the middle of the plank. That gives three holes; those on the end, ten inches from the end of the plank, and one directly in the middle. You get three of those planks, and lay them at equal distances, about eight feet apart; not just eight feet apart, let us say about seven feet and six inches apart. On that you put a tie board, one by six, with holes bored similar to the ones you have in the grub plant, You make the tie boards and the grubs at the same time, by laying one on top of the other. Here you have the grub made, and you take the tie planks, and lay them alongside the bored holes, opposite each. Here are the tie boards and here is the grub here Indicating), That is two-inch stock, that is, this grub here, that goes into the end of that grub plank. You have the hole reamed on the underside so the grub will fit in there this way (indicating); so you can pull this stick clean through. You put that through from the underside, and you put the tie plank over this way (indicating). Then you take a little "witch", the "witch" comes down just like my little finger and that goes into that grub and then the tie board, and sets that "witch" directly into the grub, and you carry that pin down this way, bending it over like this (indicating) and that "witch" will never work out by the up and down action of the raft itself or the lumber itself. If we had driven it between the board and the grub, it would gradually squeeze itself, and your grub will drop; putting it in this way (indicating) it holds it tight, and it will never work out.

And now, having your three grub planks, you begin to pile your lumber crossways. It is in the water now. Then you swing around and you put your first course on, and you lay your second on there like that (indicating); you take another course, and lay it right across until you get clean through, and then you swing your raft back the way it was in the first place, and it stands up and down with the stream. Then you take one or more six-inch boards and put it on top of your lumber, two courses of boards. You set it on top of your lumber, two courses of boards. You set it right on there. Then you have a lever that works this way and keeps all the lumber together by pressing it together like this.

twsiter.jpg (691881 bytes) When that raft is built up you will have twenty-four courses in it, twenty-four courses of one-inch lumber. Before we get that far we must take care to see that these cribs are laid square; because a crib that will extend diagonally, like an ace of diamonds, would not look well. They have to be square. We have to square these cribs; so we do it in this way; there is one stick here, and another stick there, and one in the center. (indicating). We take two pieces of board, one by four, a piece twelve feet long. You set them right up the side of the crib, and see which side seems to be longer, and make a mark with an axe. We will take that this way. One is a standard board, and the other one, that laps over at the top, and we make a mark at the end of that board, and twist those two boards around and find the distance that is between the marks, and we cut that board in two. You put those two boards right on the corner piece, and they will fit like that. We press them down. That presses the corners, and your crib is square. We take them two boards and lay them aside, and try the same system every five or six courses up, to see that the crib is square.

witching.jpg (598157 bytes) When the crib is done, we "witch" it with those crib sticks. You have an instrument something like a wagon jack, which is a lever. So you all may know what it looks like (illustrates with pieces of paper). That is it. This is the fulcrum. We set that right on our raft this way. The hook, this ring, we slip that right over the grub. It is square, it is not round, and we bear down on this.

One man stand here and pulls that down. It pushes down on the "Witch" plank and the other pulls up on it. The distance from here to there is eighteen inches only, and the distance here is ten feet. You get an awful leverage on it. Every grub we figure that there is five-hundred-forty pounds pull.

I don't know why that gives such extreme power, but it does. They have to be very tight. When the crib is down, two men will manage that crib. It will contain 6,144 feet of inch lumber.

It takes two men to build a crib like that, and when it is all built it will have 6,155 feet. It takes seven cribs to make a rapids piece. Then it takes three rapids pieces to make a Wisconsin raft. In a Wisconsin raft you have in the neighborhood of 135,000 feet of lumber, taken care of by two men clean down to St. Louis, with the exception of where you go through dams.

pilot.jpg (428455 bytes) There are places where you have to uncouple. You are familiar with the system of coupling up and uncoupling. Then you are ready to go downstream. The lumber is rafted by the pilot of the fleet. He is like what you would call a colonel in the army. He controls all the crew, the bowman, as well as the tailman or the steersman. He is the pilot. He is in charge of the works, to see that the raft gets to its destination just as quick as possible, because in the interest of time it is dollars.

They must go down in the water, and when half of the cribs are done, the pilot goes down in a rowboat – we call it a skiff – to ascertain the proper current of the water. If the dam is so high he can't get close enough to put the boat down, he portages it around them, and he goes down below and places himself in line, picks himself out some point down below, and says it must be in a straight line, or come down this way, or else he will smash them up. That done, he comes back and selects possibly five men for the bow, and five men for the tailmen. They need that power there to be able to handle a raft with sufficient rapidity to handle it right. One or two men would not amount to nothing.

Before we go down, we have a sucker line that is fastened along the cribs, an inch and a half rope tied on the corner right there. We take a two-inch cable and lead it in under there, and manipulate that rope so that it works underneath the rapids piece, hitched here on the corner of the grub with a double hitch. We handle it over to this corner and manipulate it so that it comes out at this end and take that rope and hitch it here again. We do that cornerways. That is for the purpose, when the raft does go down – we take, for instance, a twenty-foot board, and set it up against the partition like that; and as you go over the dam, there is rocks in the bottom of the river, and while she is in that position, that brings the upper end up right there. For that reason we have those ropes underneath; and when it comes down it presses down, and the harder it presses down the harder it goes in place. Possibly you run fifty or sixty feet all underwater by the drop over the dam; and it stands to reason, taking 120 feet of rafts going down and striking the bottom of the river, it must run an awful long ways before it comes up. Before we go down we take off the front oar and leave it in the pin, and take the tail end of the raft, and hitch a rope to the oar stand and also hitch it to one of the grubs on the end; so that we can each go and select a placshipping oar heavy.jpg (671546 bytes)e, each man, where he likes to stand. When that boat goes down, we fasten that oar so it can't get away from us; because in time this part slightly works out.

running from boat.jpg (653652 bytes) When they get down below in deep water, those two men with the front oar let it out. They have to steer. In the meantime the men that handle the oar on the tail end of the raft will have to use it to see that the raft runs straight. The quicker they can use their oar, the safer they are, because there are rocks and boulders in the river. I have seen a lot of rafts break up.

These rafts carry a top load of shingles in bundles, and laths in bundles; and tamarack poles. I assume they used them for posts. They are eight feet long and six inches in diameter, square timber. We couldn't very well mix them in with the inch timber. The company I was working for sawed two kinds of lumber; dimension stuff on the west side of the river and the inch lumber on the east side of the river. Each kind made a particular raft. One was running inch lumber altogether, and the other two-inch lumber; but both crews at the time I was there both carried posts, laths, and shingles; put up in four by four, six by six, six by eight, ten by sixteen, put right on top. We carried that on top; and fastened it with the ropes from the cribs, so that when we got under water they would not float off.

That was run down to the mouth of Four-Mile Creek, four miles below Wisconsin Rapids, until all the lumber was down there.

spring pole.jpg (748389 bytes) Just as soon as the lumber was all rafted down, and the crews all got down, we got ready to take the rafts down and put the spring poles on.

When the last raft came down, they made a shanty for the cookery, and got the flour and ham and provisions of all kinds on it, and we would go right down.after dinner arpin.jpg (558147 bytes)

Nekoosa, or Whitney Rapids, never bothered us. If there was water over the Clinch Dam or the South Side Dam, we kept on running and get on until we got down beyond Grignon Bends. That is below Nekoosa, at Germain.

Of course, the river was so winding, you might as well call it the duplicate of an intestine of a hog. That is the way it was. We would keep on rolling around through there. That is just the first day's work, to get through Grignon Bends.

It took two days from Four-Mile Creek. After the lumber was all run over the dam, we congregated there at Four-Mile Creek. The lumber was run in there, and we coupled it and made Wisconsin rafts out of the rapids pieces. It would be two days after you left Four Mile Creek before you got down to the Dells. (see page 121)

I heard the other day a remark by one of the men as a witness. He referred to a brush fence. That created a little merriment. I want to tell you what a brush fence is. That interfered with the running of the Wisconsin rafts, with 135,000 feet of lumber. Originally it was a pile of brush that was left from cutting wood on the banks of the Wisconsin, and when the water rose it carried that out into the river. It either rolled this way or floated in laterally. It kept on floating down until one of the roots caught on to something and it stayed right there. After it stays there for five months you can't dislodge it any more. The sand keeps accumulating under it, and you might call it a beaver dam. You understand what is meant by a beaver dam.

handspiking off a sandbar arpin.jpg (469216 bytes) One of the Witnesses made a statement that the sand banks would shift in two weeks time from one place to another in the river, but I can say that a sand bank in a river will shift inside of twenty-four hours, because while we are sleeping in our houses on the Wisconsin, the Wisconsin still keeps rolling sand, sand, sand. Now, where we have run this afternoon with a piece of lumber, tomorrow a raft will come through, follow the same track, and may get stuck right there because a new sand bank was been formed right in the water.

Now, that is the moving of the rafts. I don't know that there is any use of my describing it, because it has been thoroughly discussed here in the last few days. I want to say this much; that from Wisconsin Rapids to the mouth of the Wisconsin River it took us fourteen days to run, which is about two-hundred miles distance. You run about fourteen hours a day. We used to get started at five o'clock in the morning and tie up at seven in the evening, or start in the morning at six o'clock and tie up about eight, which would give us fourteen hours run.

Now, it is common knowledge that a raft normally in the spring of the year will float at the rate of three and a half and four miles an hour. Now, the two-hundred miles from the Rapids to Prairie du Chien would give us fourteen miles a day, the run that we had, an average or one mile per hour running the raft on the river. Accordingly that should make fourteen miles a day.

on a sandbar.jpg (675046 bytes) The chances are there are many days that you don't make four miles a day. We lost consequently in the neighborhood of three miles per hour. Now what has become of these three miles per hour? That is conundrum to me. It must be something like power that is lost. That power has completely disappeared. So I suppose these three miles have completely disappeared, likely by friction. I can just make this illustration to show you absolutely how only one-quarter, I might say, of all the day's work was used up by actually running of the lumber, and three-quarters of the time was used by helping other rafts back into sufficient water where they could run down the river. There is no use of trying to explain what that man did with his raft or this man did with his raft, because you see he constantly is helping is helping the other man along.

We had more than four-hundred miles on the Mississippi, and we rafted the four-hundred miles on the Mississippi faster than the two-hundred miles on the Wisconsin, because there were no obstructions. The speed of the raft in normal operations is usually a little slower than the speed of the water.

photo244.JPG (83280 bytes) We never experienced very much trouble between Yellow Banks and the head of the Dells, because it was early in the rainy season, and we had a fair supply of water. In going through the Dells we disconnected our rafts. Where formerly two men handled a Wisconsin raft, consisting of three pieces, four men would take one piece through the Dells, run it through below Kilbourn, and gig back. That is, walking back through the Upper Dells. I suppose it is a distance, if I remember right, of about five miles. We will be all day running that lumber through the Dells, and by the time that the last raft comes through, the first raft is possibly almost right opposite Portage, which is about ten miles below.

skiff.jpg (728102 bytes) You see, while we are running through the Dells, there is a cook and the two skiff men who will help in reconnecting those rafts again, so that when the last piece comes down the majority of it has all gone on, and you will just follow it from Portage on down towards Boscobel; and in that distance of one hundred miles you will have a lot of handspiking.

From Portage down to Boscobel. The water was unusually shallow there. If we could run that strip we could get out the Wisconsin, and if we couldn't we were hopelessly stuck. We had to wait for a freshet, anywhere from one and one-half to two inches of rainfall. We had to stay right there, or we would be caught again. That was the most narrow piece we had. The hundred miles down to Muskoda, that is the worst piece, where we had to do handspiking, and we had to be in the river a great many hours a day.

I don't know that there is any use in describing that because the present generation is not going to run any more lumber. If I explained it, a lot of you wouldn't understand it unless I made a remarkable explanation of it.

I want to add this much. On the Wisconsin we tied up every evening. The first raft that tied up would try to get a solid tree, or anything else that we could tie to. The other rafts that would come along would tie up in front of him , and in that way we would have five Wisconsin rafts in a string. The next five would tie on the outside of the first five, and leave a space between of about a foot, between the two rafts. In between them two strings of rafts—the five would be about six hundred foot in length – we would throw a little log in there that was fairly nice and round, four foot long, called a "Dutchman" in between the two sets of rafts; because during the night one raft would work up and the other work, down; and this log would be rolling between them, takes the place of a finger, like, so the lumber couldn't batter itself by rubbing up and down.

yankee.jpg (659978 bytes) If you happened to run on a sand bar, here is a way we had of working our way loose or running over that sand bar, by shifting this raft around so that one end of it would get in the water. We used this system like this. In order to do what we used what we called a "Yankee" which is a log-like piece, a square piece. That runs down something like this. The "Yankee" swings that raft down into deep water. In case you put the "Yankee" down in front, it brings the raft to a sudden stop, like this and has a tendency to bring that end the other way.

spring pole.jpg (748389 bytes) The rear end into the deep water by making the front end stop. The oarsman is here and he turns the whole raft around suddenly, and the raft will run tail end ahead, until they get to good water, and then they will swing it back again, because it runs the other way faster. It works like this. They have spring poles that work like this. That is the reason it works faster, because the front of the crib has been lifted so as to allow the raft to work that way. In order to get the spring pole in we have to put a log about ten inches wide right at the inside here on the front of the crib.

Speaking of the Wisconsin raft, on the underside of the head block on the front crib – they have it in the back and the front – we have a head block, which is a piece of sawed timber, sixteen feet long, six by ten inches, with notches out in the middle of that head block; between the center grub and the corner grub there is a tamarack pole, thirty-five feet long, sharpened on the thin end a little bit; fixed directly under that head block. The spring pole is brought back to the outside of the center grub, the second grub, and a hole bored right through that, and that spring pole is lifted up over that – wait a minute, I will get it here – get it down in that shape.

Now, we have run all the way through, we are down to the mouth of the Wisconsin. We stop right now because from Bridgeport down the Mississippi there is plenty of water.

Referring to navigation, with respect to commerce running up and down at the time I was running rafts on the river. I saw a boy once in a while with a row boat probably catching some fish. As far as transporting commerce, a good pair of mules would be better. It would be better if you used pack mules there, because in that way you will be safer than running your stuff up the river. Up to Boscobel you probably might meet a little light scow, or a flat bottomed boat, but that is the biggest thing you would see.

Up on the Wisconsin River and down below, there is no commerce, because up above the bottom is too rugged, too full of stones, and down below there is that everlasting accumulation of sand that will never stop. The government naturally has got a great many resources, and they can show what they have done on the Mississippi but they can't do on the Wisconsin what they have done on the Mississippi. They got a channel down there, but it wouldn't be a paying proposition for them to put a channel in the Wisconsin River. No commerce of any kind would go up and down, unless the commerce was lumber. We had to take the lumber down the Mississippi River, and we had to take it down the Wisconsin River, because we had to sell the lumber, because it was no good where we lived, it only represented a value after we got it down the Mississippi.

No one that had any amount of lumber to run would undertake any other time than in the spring of the year, when we had most of the water on hand, while the snow was melting. That was the only time in which we would ever try to run a raft. Before you ran a raft you had to transform that lumber into a crib and raft. If you couldn't do it on the spring raises, if you can't get going in the spring, there was no use of building the cribs, it is better up there on piles than it is in the river.

I have been down to St,. Louis several times, and down to Dubuque half a dozen times, and practically a week later the Wisconsin from Portage clear down to near Bridgeport, almost down to the mouth of the Wisconsin River, was that low so that the lumber was left there and rafted in October. We are more apt to have sufficient supply of water in the way of rain in the fall, than in the middle of the summer.

We get into difficulties on the spring freshets with water getting away, not having enough water. The State of Wisconsin runs north and south and drops possibly six-hundred feet in elevation. About that. So naturally that water will run down that way. It is a big drop there, so it just naturally runs down in the natural way. As soon as it runs down, don't you see, it will dry up below, and you can't even run a row boat. I know at Merrimac at one time we had the river covered completely with rafts from one side of the river to the other. I presume the distance is not less than six or seven hundred feet in width. There was no us of trying to run any further, we just tied up side by side, in hopes that by doing that we would create some sort of a dam, like a jam of logs, but once you got a substantial amount that ran away, there was no use of doing anything.

I never saw government boats on the lower Wisconsin . Rafting ceased in the summer of 1888. The last lumber that went down the river from Wisconsin Rapids was in the month of June, and the lumber belonged to John Farrish. Jack Starr was on that. The present generation will never run any rafts out. It is the new order of things. This pine will all be used, as far as that goes, for the paper mills. There is no interest any more in the growing of hardwood timber up there. It is pine that we are interested in. We had diseases in our hardwood lumber, and we are not interested in anything else but pine. We are not interested in hardwood; if we have anything along the line of pine, we are interested in that.

Consequently, all the pine that is grown now and in future times will not be marketable, will not be sold as wood, it will be sold for paper. The farmer will not even get a chance to buy any red brush.

Even if we had the timber we would not put it on the river, because they have other ways of handling the timber which are easier and cheaper. They have the railroads, and they will never use the river again for rafting. But the pine that we have now, that will be used by the paper mills. And by the time we get any more timber, by that time we will have airplanes that can carry several thousand feet, so the river will never be used again or that.

Possibly a hundred rafts go in a season. They would leave from Grand Rapids, or they would leave from Germantown, which was right at the mouth of the Yellow River. The early years from 1882, Wausau would be the highest point upstream.

Nothing was ever taken in a raft down from Merrill. The first raft taken out of Merrill, busted, and it was scattered all over, and the owner had a heavy expense trying to save his lumber. They made a scow, loaded it up, and tried to send the scow down the river, or the lumber with the scow ahead. They gave up that idea by the time the railroad got there.

From Whitney Rapids at Nekoosa; the river is more or less filled up with boulders, clean up to Grandfather Falls. That is below – above Merrill. It was on those boulders that the scow busted up. Above Grandfather Falls it is all rocky. Nobody ever tried to raft from above Grandfather Falls. They logged it up there, drove it down in logs to Merrill or Wausau. They had their log drives there and took the rafts down from below because there is no sense in rafting lumber in rafts out of that rocky territory.

A great many lumberman worked their way back on the Mississippi, on the packets. They came as far as they could, and they walked it. A great many of them never came back until it began to snow, and naturally they had to track back over the log roads, and then they would turn around and go through the same performance again. That is the only way we had of making money in them days."

Questioned further as to lumber and rafts Mr. Giese said, "Rafts would be made of up from the approximately green timber, when the sawyer sawed the logs that came off of the banks of the river. It was the logs cut off of the stump at the same time as the other logs. Some might be driven down in the log drive, floated down to the sawmill, the other was sawed where it was in the sawmills handy, near the timber. That lumber was hauled a distance of twelve miles for an average of sixty cents a thousand.

Lumber was cut in the nearby sawmills, in a radius of twenty miles. The sawmills – that lumber was sawed in the sawmills sometimes within twenty-four hours from the time that the tree was cut off the stump. In twenty-four hours it had gone through the sawmill. That lumber was hauled by sled from those nearby sawmills, and that lumber went out that spring, each spring.

fleet below.jpg (613456 bytes) The number of men that would go all the way down on the rafts depended on the size of the rafts. We had to have at the least calculation seven or eight men. A Wisconsin raft would be four or five hundred feet long in length. Each Wisconsin raft, one hundred twenty feet long, and there would be a division in between here that would be five hundred feet long and in the neighborhood of two hundred feet wide. We had to put a man at the front and one at the tail end, and a pilot and a cook and two helpers. When your Wisconsin raft got down to Dubuque they got paid off, a dollar a day and your board.

The men on a raft were two men, the bowman and the tailman. When we went through the rapids we would disconnect the rafts. The Wisconsin rafts were made in three strings.

Two men on a whole raft, but when you ran through the dams or the rapids, then the rafts would be divided, be disconnected. You would have to divide them into three parts. They would consist of seven cribs. When we would go through the rapids there were no extra men hired, because they were taken from the other rafts. When we got to Dubuque, there we required less help. Formerly our raft would be 120 feet long, now she became possibly 620 feet, and we would only have two men to one string, no matter how long it was.

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