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Mason County Memories

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david k petersen

Goodenough early Ludington History Column Dave Petersen Earlier this year I was able to secure a copy of a book written by Luman Goodenough finished in 1946 originally for his children about his family and his life growing up in a little lumber town called Ludington. It's not a book that you see very often but it contains many first hand accounts of life and living during the early years of our areas development. We quote from the pages of "Lumber Lath and Shingles" as written by Luman Gooednough. "Lumber was the reason for the existence of the town. The mills scattered along the banks of the little lake were the means. A lake area two miles in length by half or three quarters of a mile in width afforded ample shore space for all the timber industries the adjacent forests could support or the river float in logs and bolts. "At the peak of production there were a dozen saw and shingle mills around the border of the lake with their extensive yards, where the wood products were piled for seasoning by wind and sun before shipment to the markets. There were many docks and yards of kindred industries, which, with the mills, occupied practically the entire water front. "The sawmills in those days were framed of strong heavy timbers, enclosed vertically with pine boards, roofed with shingles and surmounted above the ridge with barrels of water for fire protection, each painted alternately red and blue for pleasing effect. The steam driven machinery for sawing the logs and edging and trimming the boards was located on a level platform of heavy planks covering the whole area of the mill, ten or twelve feet or more above the ground. "Here were installed the rapidly rotating circular saws, the larger one below, the smaller one above, in perfect coordination and alignment. A large log was sawed through by the two saws evenly and without a line to show where they made contact. Adjacent and parallel to the saws was a flat carriage, eight or ten feet wide and twelve or fourteen feet long, which ran on flanged wheels forward and back over two parallel rails, the outer edge of the carriage passing close to the saws, On the carriage was the machinery that held the log to be sawed in place and provided the means for setting it closer to the saws each time a board was severed. Usually there were two men on the carriage to control the log, the more important one being the setter. By means of a lever, geared to a device, he advanced the log to its proper place on the carriage so that contact with the saws cut the board to the thickness desired. His helper, with a cant-hook, assisted in rolling logs on the carriage and adjusting them to clamps that held the logs in place for the sawing process. While the mill was in charge of a foreman, the head sawyer was the most important man in its operation. He stood directly in front of the saws facing the carriage, with the log in full view. It was his duty to see that each log was so manipulated that the most saleable lumber was obtained, "Slabs" were not saleable and judgment was needed to keep them thin. This was accomplished by directing the setter on the carriage to advance the log toward the saws to remove as little from the outside as possible. It often required two or more operations until a uniformly plain surface suitable for boards was obtained. The head sawyer, by a lever controlling the motive power, started and stopped the carriage at will. As each log came in contact with the saws, the outer surface or slab was cut and dropped on the rotating rollers to be carried away. Back went the carriage, the log set further toward the saws for another operation, and f another board would drop from the log. At a signal from the sawyer the carriage men would turn the log with the smooth side down, and other slabs and boards would be taken off. Again it would be turned to expose the rough bark to the saws, and soon until the timber was squared. It was either left a square timber or sawed uniformly into boards." If you have any stories or photos you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com, mail should be sent in care of the Ludington Daily News PO box 340 Ludington Mi 49431.

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