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The Lumber Industry in Minnesota
An IntroductionThe Lumber Industry in MinnesotaWho Am I?Why am I in Bemidji?
Lead a discussion with students about Paul Bunyan and find out what they know about him and why this statue is in BemidjiThis discussion should bring out that Paul Bunyan was a legendary character from lumberjack lore that lumberjacks told tales about in their bunkhouses.If time permits some Bunyan stories can be told. Visit http://www.visitbemidji.com/bemidji/paultales.html for some stories connected to Bemidji.Along with other communities in Canada, New England and upper Midwest, Bemidji claims Bunyan as its own. www.visitbemidji.com claims that Paul Bunyan, the mythical king of lumberjacks, lives on in Bemidji!Bemidji currently uses its connection to Bunyan as part of its efforts to attract tourists. That it does so suggests that Bemidji (and by extension Minnesota in general) has a close connection to the lumbering industry.This statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe his Blue Ox has been standing was erected in Bemidji in 1937.
2Why White Pine is KINGMN A HISTORY OF THE LAND MAPS
Harvesting timber did not start in Minnesota, but rather, it was an important economic activity that begins early in our colonial history. Tall, straight and sturdy timber was coveted for masts of sailing ships among a variety of other uses. If time permits, a class discussion of early uses of timber might be valuable.The harvesting of timber moved generally from East to west, but not in a uniform fashion. Because the transportation of logs depended on rivers, the industry leapfrogged over some inaccessible stands of timber to harvest stands closer to navigable rivers. Of all the different species of trees, lumbermen were most interested in the white pine.It is light an floated well a must for an industry based on river transportationIt is a softwood and easy to cut, yet it is strong and durableIt resists decayIt is relatively odorlessIt grows tall in the Saint Croix River Valley it commonly was found in heights exceeding 100 feet and even up to 200 feet with diameters reaching three feet.
Northeastern Minnesota contained vast stands of white pine mixed in with other species. Lumbermen initially ignored all other species of tree when the white pine was available.Utilize the link to view interactive maps from the web resource associated with the Minnesota: A History of the Land series. http://www.historyoftheland.org/maps/interactivemap221.htm Use the maps to show students the Coniferous Forest biome both from a continental perspective and a regional perspective.These maps also allow you to show the major river systems in the state. This feature can be used to explain how the lumber industry advanced. Note that the Mississippi and the St Croix rivers reach into the north eastern pine stands.
PHOTO CREDIT: Load of White Pine logs hauled at a camp operated by B.O. McGee on the Platt River, east of Little Falls. Minnesota Historical SocietyPhotograph Collection 1883-1884 Location no. HD5.31 p8 Negative no. 17569 3
Turning Trees into Boards
FALLWINTERSPRINGWhy Cut Down Trees When Its Cold?
During Minnesotas golden era of lumbering technology had impacted the pace of the harvest, camps and sawmills grew in size and complexity, but the lumber cycle was still driven by the seasons.
STUDENT DISCUSSION: Why cut down trees in the winter?Colder weather allows logs to be moved more easily to river banksWinter provided for a workforce of lumberjacks who, in many cases, farmed in the spring and summer.Trees are easier to cut in the winter as the sap is pulled down to the rootsInsects are not an issueLogs can be harvest and staged during the winter to be transported by rivers to sawmilling town during the high waters of the spring thaw (NOTE: even after narrow gauge rail reaches the cut, most logs are transported to sawmills by river drives into the 20th-century).
Photo Credit: Lumberjacks of Jim Lane's logging camp. Minnesota Historical SocietyPhotograph Collection 1887 Location no. Runk 19 Negative no. Runk19
Lumberjack Quiz!What is this and how might it help making logging easier in the winter?Rut CutterSTUDENT DISCUSSION: What is this and how might it help making logging easier in the winter?This question will help students better understand the benefits to harvesting trees during the winter.This is a Rut Cutter that creates ruts in logging roads. The ruts are cut in the fall connecting the cut area to the log staging area along a river (or narrow gauge spur).As temperatures fall in the winter, these ruts will be filled with water to create ice ruts that will make transporting logs much easier.
Photo Credit: Kurt Kortenhof, 2004.
Lumberjack Quiz!What is this and how might it help making logging easier in the winter?Water WagonSTUDENT DISCUSSION: What is this and how might it help making logging easier in the winter?This question will help students better understand the benefits to harvesting trees during the winter.As students guess at what this might be point them to the furnace door and located on the front of the sled and the chimney on top. Also draw their attention to the barrel hanging on the side.This is a water wagon that creates ruts in logging roads. The ruts are cut in the fall connecting the cut area to the log staging area along a river (or narrow gauge spur).The water barrel is used to fill the holding tank, the wood stove keeps the water from freezing.There is a valve in the back of the sled that, when opened, allows the water to drain into the ruts cut into the road.As temperatures fall in the winter, these ruts will be filled with water to create ice ruts that will make transporting logs much easier.
Photo Credit: Kurt Kortenhof, 2004.
7The Spring Log Drive
As water levels rise in the states rivers in the spring, logs piled near the banks are driven down the rivers to mill towns.The men who guided the logs had one of the most dangerous jobs in the industry.Photo Credit: Logs and wanigans on the St. Croix River. Minnesota Historical SocietyPhotograph Collection ca. 1895 Location no. HD5.41 p5 Negative no. 4579 Photo Credit: Log drivers at the spillway. Minnesota Historical SocietyPhotograph Collection ca. 1890 Location no. HD5.41 r36 Negative no. 16063Photo Credit: Log drive on the St. Croix River. Minnesota Historical SocietyPhotographer: Sweet Photograph Collection ca. 1890 Location no. HD5.41 p7 Negative no. 171Photo Credit: Logs in the Mississippi River near Fort Snelling Minnesota Historical SocietyPhotographer: Edward Albert Fairbrother (1864-1941) Photograph Collection 6/13/1903 Location no. Collection I.355.263 Negative no. 882408Lumberjack Quiz!
What is this and how might it help on a log drive?
Each company stamped their logs with their registered marks.STUDENT DISCUSSION: What is this and how might it help on a log drive?This is a company camp stamp. Each log would be stamped on its end by striking it with a heavy mallet stamp. When the logs were collected at the millpond at the end of the drive they would be sorted into booms according to the stamps registered to the individual camps.After a log was cut and stacked, a stamper would whack it on the ends with a special iron mallet. The mallet had a pattern that left a mark on the log; each sawmill owned different markssort of like the brands used by ranchers. As the logs floated down the Mississippi to the mills in Minneapolis, other people read the marks and sorted them into "booms" that fed the different mills. SOURCE: http://discovery.mnhs.org/ConnectingMN/resources/lumbering/L20side.htm Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26660810@N05/4651275140/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Minnesota Forestry Association. (I think that we will need permission to use this image).Photo Credit: "TNT" log stamp and stamped log. Minnesota Historical Society Museum Collections. Available online as of November 21, 2011 at: http://discovery.mnhs.org/ConnectingMN/resources/lumbering/L20side.htm 9Lumberjack Quiz!
What is this and how might it help on a log drive?WaniganSTUDENT DISCUSSION: What is this and how might it help on a log drive?As students discuss this point them to the chimney visible from what looks like a stove.This is called a wanigan and it travels with the log-drive down stream. This one was used as a floating kitchen.Notice the plank running from the wanigan to the shore. Log drivers would walk the plank into the kitchen, fill their plates, walk back to shore on a plank on the other side of the wanigan, and eat lunch on shore.Other wanigans were used as bunkhouses during the log drives.Photo Credit: A wanigan; a floating kitchen used on the log drive. Minnesota Historical Society.Photograph Collection ca. 1900 Location no. HD5.41 r19 Negative no. 22253
10Daylight in the Swamp!
With a typical call of Daylight in the swamp lumberjacks would start their day around 4 AM.A quick (and quiet) breakfast often comprised of pancakes, pork and beans was eaten in the cook shack before daybreakLumberjacks typically worked from cant see to cant see Midday lunch would be served where the lumberjacks were working. The cooks would bring the food to the men. It had to be eaten quickly before it frozeAfter dark, lumberjacks would eat supper in the cook shack before returning to the bunkhouse. Stories, cards, songs after dinner. Most are in bed before 9 PMSundays are the only day off. There is no running water in the camps and men often sleep two to a bunk.Having students look at the Logging camp section of the Connecting Minnesota: Forest, Fields and the Falls web site will help them get a better understanding of what life may have been like for lumberjacks. See: http://discovery.mnhs.org/ConnectingMN/
Photo Credit: Logging camp on Stoney Brook near Cloquet, operated by C. N.