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Recollections of a Long Life 1829 - 1915
Chapter VIII


IN the meantime the opportunities for lumbering broadened. The Middle West was in the full swing of development. Farms were multiplying and cities and towns were adding to their population by leaps and bounds. On the one side was the expanding market; on the other the pine forests. The need of the moment was for practical lumbermen who knew how to meet the problems presented by logging, manufacturing and transportation, the connecting links between the supply and demand.

The greatest difficulty arose from the lack of men capable of taking charge of and directing these operations. In most instances those who had established mills knew little or nothing of lumbering itself, and it was not long before many found themselves involved in complications from which they could not unaided extricate themselves. At the same time the West supplied few men who had been schooled in the forest. To obtain them it was necessary to go back to the older communities in Maine and New Brunswick, and the lumbermen from this territory in increasing numbers migrated to the forests of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, where afterward many of them attained positions of independence in the rapidly growing settlements.

With Mr. Sinclair behind me and opportunity ahead, my advancement toward a position of of independence was fairly rapid and and it was not long before I began to reap the benefits of my arduous training. In the winters of 1846, 1847, and 1848 I had been occupied chiefly with hauling logs out of the woods to the mills at Flat Rock, driving teams of six oxen with a goad stick in the Yankee fashion. On November11, 1848, when I was nineteen years old, I moved a step upward in the scale, taking charge of logging operations for Sinclair and Wells.

With my crew and horses I went up the Escanaba River ten miles and established my first camp. The winter was severe. The snow was from four to four and one-half feet deep, and we existed as in a state of siege with the white barrier drawn close about us, isolated from the outer world except for the supply road to the mill at the mouth of the river. Under such conditions, I discovered, heavy responsibilities rested upon the camp "boss." Recalcitrants had to be punished summarily, which required a strong arm and a heavy fist, as they could not be turned out upon a snowbound wilderness. Primitive methods of maintaining discipline, however, worked no harm. Many of the men who were subjected to them not only became excellent workmen but also had the good grace to admit afterward that the effects were most salutary and opened their eyes to their own shortcomings.

With my men at this first camp I had very little trouble. Two-thirds of them were Germans who worked willingly and well and were not given to dissension. During this year, also, the first of the Scandinavians,— Norwegians and Swedes,—who were to settle large areas in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota arrived. Among the Germans I was fortunate in having one, a recent immigrant, "Barney" Nicholas by name, who took naturally to the driving of oxen. Under my tutelage he soon learned to take two or three trees to a load, after I had hauled them from the stump to the main road, and within a month could make the trip to the rollway without assistance. I have never seen him from that day to this but have been told that in later years he lived somewhere between Wrest Bend and Fond du Lac and had accumulated a small fortune, which he undoubtedly deserved.

In the winter of 1830-1851 I arrived at the point of independence and entered into contracts with Sinclair and Wells to put in logs at a fixed price per thousand feet. This, as I have said, was no mean labor but to me it brought very satisfactory results. I was able to lay by some additions to my small capital and was so well satisfied with the progress I had made that I continued logging under the same conditions for three years, purchasing more teams and equipment and hiring more men.

At the same time other opportunities were held out to me from almost every lumbering establishment in the northern Green Bay region, where mill owners unaccustomed to the wilderness were floundering in the maze of problems it presented. One of these was a Mr. Billings, who had constructed a mill at Ford River, near Escanaba. This property represented a considerable outlay from the point of view of that time. It consisted, in addition to the mill, of a village store, lumbering outfit, twelve yoke of cattle and six pairs of horses. There were a million feet of very good logs in the pond, a million feet of lumber at the mill, sixty men at work in the woods, and supplies sufficient for the winter. In the autumn of 1850 Mr. Billings volunteered to give me a deed to half these possessions on condition that I go to Ford River and manage the property while he made a visit to his old home in Massachusetts. To insure my having full control of operations he agreed to remain away for two years, leaving me in full charge unless, in the meantime, I asked him to return. It was a very tempting offer and I was inclined to accept it, but I was very much attached to Mr. Sinclair, to whom I had every reason to be grateful, and so firmly convinced of the verity of the axiom that "a rolling stone gathers no moss" that I made up my mind to continue with my contract work, and I did.

I entered into a contract with Sinclair and Wells to do logging approximately fifty miles farther up the river than we had lumbered before, and established two camps in the very heart of the wilderness near the head waters of the Escanaba. These became the outposts between the lumbering region of Green Bay and the Lake Superior copper region, which was then in the early stages of development. I remained here for five months, during which time we had no vegetables or fresh meat, subsisting entirely on salt pork and beans except for the luxury that was afforded the camps once or twice by the slaughter of an ox. Despite the monotony of our fare and the severe conditions, the health of the men was excellent and they were none the worse for the experience. [In the earlier days in New Brunswick the tack of vegetables sometimes resulted in outbreaks of scurvy or "black-leg" and in Maine codfish and potatoes boiled together were packed in barrels and supplied to the camps to replace the salt pork. In Wisconsin and Michigan, however, we escaped the disease, although at one time, while logging on the Menominee, I suspected that we were threatened with it.] In the spring when I brought down the drive I weighed more than ever before.

We reached the mill with the logs about the middle of May, 1852, and there I found Mr. Billings, who again made me the offer of a partnership if I would take charge of his business. Perhaps I lacked the courage, perhaps the good sense, to take it. Doubtless I was much influenced in my decision by the fact that prospects in other directions were brightening and I had begun to enjoy the first measure of success. From the operations of the vessel, "Cleopatra," in the summer time, I had made a profit, and the logging contracts had turned out very well. Taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a bit of leisure, for the first time in seven years, I placed a captain in charge of the vessel, as I have said, and went back East.

The rapidity with which the country was developing was strikingly reflected in the changes that had taken place in those seven years. Since my first arrival in Muwaukee the railroad had been constructed from Chicago to Monroe, Michigan, whence one journeyed by steamer to Dunkirk, New York, the terminus of the Erie Railroad from New York City. I went on to Boston by rail and from Boston to Calais, Maine, by boat.

On this trip I was accompanied by two men, who had gone from Maine to work for me in the Michigan woods and were returning to their homes also for a visit. They wore the regulation dress of the period, short double-breasted jackets and caps, and I was rather more splendidly attired in a frock coat, but for some reason our appearance doubtless suggested that we were not of the eastern environment and people with whom we came in contact jumped to the conclusion that we were returning from California, which was in everybody's mind because of the discovery of gold not long before. "You men must have struck it rich out there," observed a. baggage man who found one of our trunks somewhat. heavy. "Oh!" said McShane, one of my companions, loftily, "we can't complain." One of the innovations of the day was the daguerreotype, which was then just coming into vogue in the East and was, as yet, unknown in the West. The picture which I had taken in Boston on the occasion of this visit I still have in my possession. For four months I wandered care-free among the scenes of my early childhood in New Brunswick and in Maine, at the end of which I returned to Wisconsin with a number of men who were to work with me in the woods at Escanaba.

In logging operations we had penetrated so far into the wilderness that in 1851 and 1852 our supply road came within thirty miles of Marquette and was connected with the settlement by trail. For the first time, in 1851, the mail, which had hitherto been carried on toboggans or packed on the backs of carriers, was brought to my camps by teams from Green Green Bay and taken thence to Ashland, Ontonagon and the vicinity on toboggans drawn by dogs. When the forest was locked in the grip of winter and the trails made impassable except on show shoes, the only outlet southward from the Lake Superior region was through my camps and over the supply road to Escanaba.

Copper mining was just beginning and there were small settlements at Eagle River and Eagle Harbor to which there was much traffic. In accordance with the rule of hospitality observed in these faraway corners the travelers were welcomed to the mess table and given shelter at the camps without cost, and speeded on their way when they resumed their journey. On one occasion there were thirty-two dogs and forty-one men remaining over night on their way down the supply road to Escanaba or over the frozen trail for the north.

From this point of vantage I saw much of the development of the northern peninsula of Michigan, the gradual withdrawal of the curtain of the wilderness to reveal deposits of copper and iron which have added the cast of romance to the history of this remarkable region. How little one may scrutinize the future is reflected in the negotiations which resulted in the inclusion of this territory in the State of Michigan. In adjusting differences which had arisen between this state and Ohio over their dividing line, Michigan was induced to yield its claim over the southeastern portion of its territory, and by way of compensation was given the upper peninsula. A storm of protest was aroused over the transaction, and statesmen declared that the region was worthless. In the wake of the trapper and Indian trader came the lumbermen. Floating or mass copper pointed the way to deposits of that metal, and the discovery of iron followed. The worthless region had scarcely been surveyed before it began to add millions to the wealth of the country. And I, for one, am of the belief that its hidden resources are far from being fully disclosed. Where there is one iron mine now there may be hundreds in time.

In 1848, two years after I arrived at Flat Rock for the first time, the only iron mine known west of Pennsylvania was the Jackson mine at Negaunee. Its meager output, an excellent quality of ore, was hauled twelve miles to Marquette, where small furnaces had been established by E. K. Collins, who was interested in transatlantic shipping, and smelted into blooms. Subsequently a plank road was built from Negaunee to Marquette, an undertaking in which I narrowly escaped taking part, and eventually the railroads were built. Other iron mines were discovered at Ishpeming, Champion and elsewhere, and more on the headwaters of the Menominee River, and the output of the region has kept pace with the tremendous development in the iron and steel industry.

In the winter of 1851-52, while lumbering on the upper Escanaba, we used sand to retard the progress of the sleighs down a small hill on one of the branch roads. In the sand was slate ore. To the discovery I gave little thought at the time; but it remained in my mind, and during the war I told Mr. Smith, the discoverer of many iron deposits in the upper peninsula, about it and asked him to make an examination of the prospect. This he did not do until 1868, when he found on our supply road a mile from where I had come upon the slate a good quality of ore near the surface. On this site is the Princeton mine, formerly called the Smith mine. On the lands where I discovered the first indications, a good body of ore was discovered two hundred and sixty feet from the surface with the diamond drill. Here the Stephenson and other mines have since been established.

The isolated outpost where we camped in the early fifties has had, therefore, a rather singular history. Of this unusual destiny, however, we had no inkling at the time. We did our work as we found it, living according to the simple routine of the logging camps and driving only at the one purpose, the production of lumber, in which respect it differed little from many other camps which had played a less important part in the development of the upper peninsula.

In this environment we were without many of the advantages - and disadvantages - of a more accessible and settled community. There was no place except for those who were engaged in the actual business at hand. Doctors were few, lawyers were fewer, and preachers were rare in the entire region, and, strange as it may seem from the present point of view, we did very well without them.

One of the few physicians on upper peninsula was Dr. Clark, a man about thirty-five years of age and a graduate of Harvard University, who was stationed at Eagle River, In lieu of fees he was paid seven dollars a month by each man in the community, which made in the aggregate a considerable income according to the standards of the time. Although there was no great need of his services, his presence seemed to create a demand for medical attention, and to give the impression that he was serving a definite purpose he made pills of bread, which he rolled into pellets of ordinary size and flavored with a trace of aloes to produce a bitter taste.

As an illustration of the efficacy of this sham remedy he cited the case of an Irishman who came to his office one day complaining of illness. Dr. Clark went through the usual diagnosis, felt his pulse and looked at his tongue, but could discover no symptoms of any kind, "Now, Mike," he said gravely after this operation, "I think I can bring you around all right if you will follow my instructions carefully. Take one of these now," he added, producing the bread pellets, "and another at four o'clock this afternoon. If you are no better in day or two, come in again."

The psychological effects of this treatment were sufficient to bring about the desired result. The next day the doctor in making his rounds saw the Irishman at work and asked him how he felt. "Oh, I'm all right now, Doctor!" said the patient. "The pills cured me." In justification of this practice Doctor Clark said that the men demanded something for the money they paid him, and it was much easier to give it to them than to attempt to convince them that they were not ailing. I have since observed that this is generally true, and I am disposed to regard as still undecided the question whether disease does not follow in the wake of doctors rather than doctors in the wake of disease.

Dr. Clark came to the camp over the trail on a toboggan drawn by a half-breed with the assistance of three dogs,—one of the many who came and went between the frozen North and the Settled country below. From some of them I purchased snowshoes, which they abandoned at the camp when they took the supply road for the mouth of the river.

The winter of 1851 and 1855 was unusually severe. At Marquette there was seven feet of snow, at Escanaba five and one-half feet, and over the Lake Superior settlements the shadow of famine hovered ominously close before the opening of navigation. At Marquette especially there was a scarcity of provisions and the people found it difficult to maintain themselves, the last boat of the previous season having failed to make its appointed trip. Because of the lack of supplies thirty-five horses were sent to our camp. Three were abandoned on the way when the feed began to give out; the remaining thirty-two we purchased for eight dollars each, with the exception of three or four for which we paid thirty-two dollars. Nor were the animals the only occupants of Marquette to suffer. The Rev. William A. Benson, the first Methodist minister, whose larder was exhausted, made his way to the camp also and I gave him a supply of pork to tide him over the winter until the opening of navigation enabled boats to come to the rescue of the isolated village.

Except for such untoward accidents as this, the unusual severity of the winter brought no great hardship. Travel continued through the camps unchecked and oftentimes our quarters were crowded with men who adapted themselves cheerfully to the harsh conditions of their environment. One night in midwinter two men, one a half-breed, the other a Frenchman, instead of remaining under shelter went to the outskirts of the camp and with three pairs of heavy blankets made a bed on the snow, giving as a reason for this odd choice that the camp was too warm and that as they were accustomed to sleeping out-of-doors it would be unwise for them to break the rule by yielding to the blandishment of shelter and a fire for a single night. The men who carried the mails likewise preferred to sleep out in the open in the frosty air.

The greatest discomfort of winter travel was due to the fact that it was impossible to do any cooking on the way. Fires could not be built on the snow, and it was difficult to find a log or bit of brush jutting through the thick covering to serve as foundation on which a few embers could be laid sufficiently long to boil even the water necessary for tea. Conditions, therefore, forced us to subsist on cold fare. For all of these apparent hardships the voyagers suffered little with rheumatism or any other of the ailments supposed to result from exposure of this kind.

In April, 1832, I went with one of my men from my camps to Marquette to make a survey for a road from Negaunee to the Escanaba River which Mr. Sinclair contemplated building. The trail was well beaten down with frequent travel, but in the untracked forest through which my route lay the snow was still five feet deep and we were equipped with snowshoes. On April 9 I left Negaunee with a Mr. Duncan, of Chicago, one of the first men to become interested in copper mining at Isle Royal, to trace the roach southward. Duncan was a man of great energy and was connected with many business ventures. At the time he had under consideration a plan to construct a plank road to provide an outlet. for the ore from the Jackson mine, which at this time was hauled to Marquette where small furnaces had been established. At the age of twenty-one he had sailed a ship out of Boston and had later founded the town of Massillon, Ohio. His son-in-law, Herman B. Ely, was one of the members of the firm of Ely and Daishla, wholesale grocers, of Buffalo and Chicago, then generally known throughout the West.

Mr. Duncan came with me as far as Goose Lake, about five miles southeast of Negaunee in the heart of the wilderness, where we parted after drinking tea together. I continued on way to the Escanaba, tracing a road as I went, and emerged near my first camp, in the vicinity of which several iron mines have been developed, among them the Stephenson and Princeton mines, leased and operated by the Cleveland-Cliffs Company. When we arrived at the river the snow had melted to a depth of three and one-half feet.

During the following summer I had under consideration two proposals which appealed to me: one made by Mr. Duncan to enter into partnership with him in the construction of the plank road from Negaunee to Marquette, the other to take charge, as a partner, of the property of Messrs. Wright and Holbrook at Sturgeon River, now. Nahina, on Big Bay de Noc. I went through to Sturgeon River on July 4, 1853, to meet Mr. Wright, who intended to come from Chicago by way of Washington Harbor. He was taken ill in Chicago, however, and compelled to abandon the trip. After waiting for him for two or three days I returned to Escanaba and found there awaiting me Mr. Duncan, who had come in on one of the vessels of the N. Ludington Company which had succeeded the Sinclair and Wells Company.

Carrying packs and accompanied by one of my men, we followed the supply road to a point where the Princeton mine was developed later, and thence over the trail to Marquette, arriving at our destination the third day. The journey was far more difficult than the one I had made some time before when the snow was on the ground. Mr. Duncan had injured his leg three months before while boarding a vessel at the "Soo," and walked with difficulty, and carried a supply of towels which he wet and bound about his shin to alleviate the pain. Besides, he was sixty-eight years of age. Our progress, therefore, was slow, and to make matters worse the mosquitos swarmed about us in clouds.

On third day, when we were a little east of Swansea, Mr. Duncan became faint and I decided to make tea to refresh and revive him. In this plight, however, we were without water. The only available supply was that which lay in the little bogs, which were numerous in this Part of the country, but it was thick and stagnant and yellow. I strained two quarts of it through the corner of my blanket, the residue being a pint of tadpoles of various size and with it, foul-smelling and unpalatable as it was, brewed the tea. It had the desired effect. Mr. Duncan after a brief rest revived, and we continued our journey none the worse for our unsavory brew.

We made a survey of the route for the plank road and came to an agreement that I was to have a half interest in the enterprise and to take full charge of the work at a large salary. We signed a contract to this effect on .July 13, 1853, with the proviso, however, that it was to become effective only in the event that I could make an arrangement with my partner, David Langley, for the sale of my interest in our logging equipment. I suspected that Mr. Sinclair, who visited me to remain with the company in one capacity or another, would find a way to prevent my leaving if he could. This suspicion was well founded. Upon my return to Escanaba I found that he had purchased Langley's interest in the logging outfit and was unwilling to make an arrangement by which I could be released. I wrote to Mr. Duncan at Cleveland, explaining the situation and expressing regret at the untoward outcome of our planning.


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