The log receiving side of the saw mill had as much of a colorful part to play as the raft side. The illustration of the Grand Rapids Lumber Company saw mill at Grand Rapids was typical. The logs came to the pond and were hauled up the slide to the second and sawing floor.
Many mills installed what they called their "hot pond". The simply meant that they run a steam jet or a line of hot water into the pond to keep it free of ice all winter, which greatly facilitated the better handling of the logs. The early mills and especially those that owned timber lands from which their logs could be floated down to the mills, used the river to bring in their stock of logs in the spring. Later, the mills, whose timberlands were along the railroads, shipped whole train loads of logs to their mills. Lumber camps were established in the timber and men worked out of these locations.
The buildings were generally built of logs cut on the spot to form a clearing. Sleeping bunks were built onto the sides of the sleeping shanty, generally two bunks high. All were heated with wood stoves with the stove pipe running up through the ceiling and about the roof, often a source of fires. Eating houses combined the cook's quarters and dining room for men and many times it was the "community house" for men in which to congregate. The tables, for the dining room, were of plain boards, many feet long and about six feet wide. The benches furnished the seats and they were one board wide and ten to sixteen feet long.
The foreman of the camp was the supreme head. Crews often numbered into the hundreds and under different organization than the smaller ones. Men hired out in the fall and stayed in camp all winter, coming out either during the log drive in the spring or by rail. They seldom ran summer camps. Roads, because of rains, would be bottomless and flies and mosquitoes would eat men and horses and oxen alive. Men in the logging camps were called "lumber jacks" and often reminded one of the Canadian "voyageurs". Many of the early camp followers really did come from Canada.
The hours were from twelve to fifteen a day. They were called in time for breakfast at six o'clock, a lunch was sent out to them at nine and another at three and supper when they got into camp anywhere from nine to eleven.
In the early camp days the main bill of fare was salt pork, navy beans, and flour. Molasses was added and later dried fruit especially prunes. "Flapjacks" were a luxury and a special inducement offered the men. Coffee and tea and sugar finally found their way as the competition between camps grew stronger. Their camps that were in active operation in the early ninety's and later served meals that would rival any good hotel. Pie, cake, doughnuts appeared on the breakfast bill and fresh meats served in many forms three times daily. Many managers stated that it was cheaper and more satisfactory to fill up their men with sweets than meats.. Liquor was never allowed in the camps though occasionally a little came in especially with new arrivals but that did not last long. The average pay was fifteen dollars a month and board.
Logs were cut from twelve to twenty-four feet in length. The longest ones were for special orders and many were greatly in excess of this were intended for bridge purposes. Trees were chopped down first in most camps. After being felled, men with cross-cut saws cut them to standard lengths. The logs were all marked with two brands. One was the end mark made with a maul, on the face of the head were raised letters or emblems, and the other was cut with an ax on the side of the log. Logs were banked at the river edge and often on the ice to await the breaking up in the spring. When the log drive began, either a boom company crew took charge of the drive or the owners sent their crews. The picture shows the usual batteau that the men used in their log drives. The logging companies were crowding their crews and greater logging operations in the wood were demanded.
The illustration page 129 shows a load of logs which were being hauled, to a mill outside of Grand Rapids some fifteen miles to Vesper. This load contained 16,520 feet on a scale of one inch board measure. They made these loads possible by making an ice track for the sleds to run in. These tracks were cut out with a plane-like tool set in the runner and this cut a trough, then it would be followed by a tank and water poured into the track.
The mill is shown in the illustration also. These logs were hauled to the mill pond and rolled in and logs taken from the pond up a log slide to the carriage floor and there sawed. This lumber was then loaded onto small cars and pushed out into the yards and piled for seasoning.
The lumber that "went down the river" went into the rafts fresh from the saw mill. On the way down the river, the drive would encounter booms across the river in different series and in the center of these would be a "sorting works". This would be a set of gates and as the logs came down to this gate the drivers would pike pole them into the different gates according to their log marks. Some booms would carry their individual owners logs direct to their several mills, while logs intended for farther down the river would be run into the main gate out into the main channel to encounter similar sorting works farther down. This sorting was done by the boom companies chartered for that purpose.
Relative to log marks. The State of Wisconsin was divided into four inspection districts.
First - East of the 4th Meridian and North of line between township 30 and 31.
Second - West of the 4th Meridian and North of the line between township 30 and 31.
Third - West of the 4th Meridian and South of township 30 and 31.
Fourth - East of the 4th Meridian and South of the township line between 30 and 31.
The law provided for inspectors for each district. Number One was located at Rhinelander, district number two at Ladysmith, number three located at Eau Claire and number four at Stevens Point. The statutes provided that a person could have recorded a diagram and complete written description of the log mark in the office of the inspector for the district within which he wished to use it. Using marks not recorded and using any mark which was recorded by any other person within the same district was prohibited. Destruction of or effacing such marked called for severe penalty.
By another section - all persons floating logs on the Wisconsin River or its tributaries were required to place recorded marks upon each district through which the logs were floated, and notice of the marks given to the booming companies. There was a penalty for having in possession logs belonging to others whose marks were recorded.
On the Wisconsin River, at Rhinelander, the Pelican Boom Company was formed in 1822. Through the courtesy of this boom company these old records were obtained. The following are some of the marks of various lumber companies whose logs passed through the boom company's sorting works.
Brown Brothers Lumber Company used various marks, some of which were "S22" - "BB", an emblem formed by an open diamond enclosing "JO", equilateral triangle enclosing the figure "6", a square enclosing a figure "8" capital letter "Y" with a downward hook to the upper right hand branch of the letter, "HZL" but the "Z" was made as if pulled out featuring a tall "S", capital "A" with an eight spoke wheel within a rim.
Scott Lumber Company, end mark was a triangle enclosing the letter "S" and a side mark would be "VXV" another was an open triangle and side mark "N" with "K" formed on the right hand side of the upright part of the "N".
Gilkey and Anson used a side mark of "L" enclosing the plus sign "I" and end mark of "O", also a sidemark combination of "YK" and end mark "O".
Menasha Wooden Ware Company us an end mark appropriately one of the outline of a pail enclosing the capital letter "A", also "GOAT", also "333", also "INK" also "HSV" "LII", "MAY" and other marks meant for special mills also into whose booms they wished their logs guided.
John Farrish, Grand Rapids, used an open five point star enclosed within a circle and a further smaller circle with the star and within that the letters "XF".
John Edwards and Company of Port Edwards, used the "JE" the "E" joined on the base of the "J". The side or water mark was deep cuts like the outside lines of "H" enclosing an "X" called and "X" girdle. This was the second oldest mill plant on the Wisconsin River. First built in 1836 and sold to John Edwards Sr. in 1841. There were many escapades in these camps and many good stories originated in them.
One of the most grotesque was where the winter camp became buried in snow so deep that no one could get away from the camp for several weeks during which time one of the lumber jacks died. The deep snow and intense cold prevented taking the body out. Saturday night was carousal night and restraint was lifted. For three successive weeks they brought their dead frozen companion in and held a wake in his honor. When midnight came, they returned him to his berth in the outside shed. There was nothing disrespectful in this, they felt their companion should, even if he couldn't participate with them in the "Irish" wake celebration.
Gene Shepard invented the "hodag" for the entertainment of some tenderfeet who had never heard a screech owl and were "nearly scared to death". Gene told them that is was a terrible animal and was called by him on the spur of the moment a "hodag". Gene made a preposterous horned animal, small bear in size, and planted it and by skillful handling let them discover it in the woods. Many and resourceful were the pranks played that would be entertaining if collected. So have passed one of the most history making epochs of any state.
Return to Lumber Rafting