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Mason County Memories

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Lumbering Days recalled History Column Dave Petersen Last week we began a series on the lumbering tales from the Mason County Centennial in 1955, we began with the life and times of Patrick Murphy and we will continue with is stories of working in the lumbering camps in the late 1890's until 1908 when he married Kate McDonald and left the lumbering life behind. We quote here from the February 23rd edition of the Ludington Daily News. "Mr Murphy's next job was lining, which mean loading logs on the cars. Taking the line which was a wire with a swamp hook on the end he would he would hand it to the top loader who would secure it so the horses or oxen could pull the load without losing their logs on the rough roads. This job paid 22.00 per month. "After working for some time as a liner, Mr. Murphy's work was changed as he wanted to learn all phases of lumbering. He was given oxen to drive in the cross haul. This meant rolling logs onto the cars with the cross haul team pulling them. For this he was paid 24.00 per month. "When Mr. Murphy went back to work the next winter he was put n a stump puller. This was on the new South Branch. By means of Pullys and wire cables, all stumps big and little could be pulled with one team. As fast as they pulled stumps , a crew came behind to lay ties and rails for a railroad line to Walkertown. (Walkerville) "After he finished his work with Butters, he worked for Pete Bushaw, here he used a new Steam Skidder which was used on swampy grounds. The Skidder sat on high ground and wire cables were fastened to big drums by which logs were pulled from the swamp. One man had to stand in the swamp to fasten the cables. Jammers also were used here to load the sleighs. This machinery was an improvement over the old machinery. "Logs were hauled in sleighs and dumped in the river at south branch, close to Tracey Rapids. The river was frozen over so the logs were tiered all the way across, with 20 to 30 tiers across, 18 to 20 high. In the spring when the ice went out men would break the rollaway- by pulling out a log a whole tier might come down to float away down the river. Sometimes they would get stopped , pile up and the rivermen ( a crew by themselves) would come with caulked boots and peaveys and break the jam." To put this all into perspective the 22.00 per month adjusted for inflation would be a net income of $476.08a month in 2007. This included all the beans and potatoes you could eat and a free bunk with maybe a dozen other men in a small crude cabin in the wilderness. No TV, phones, cars, or even roads for the most part. You worked 10 hours a day in the harshest of conditions and yet a person could save enough to buy land, build a house or a farm up, get married and raise a family on what they earned. You can't do that on 476.08 in today's workplace. In some ways one has to wonder who was or is worse off. 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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