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Mason County Memories

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Lumbering Days part 3 History Column Dave Petersen We will continue to look at some of the recollections of lumbermen who submitted their stories during the Centennial celebration in 1855. One of those was William (Bill) Hamilton who went to work in the woods when he was 15 years of age. He related a story in which one winter he worked for Stearns Salt and Lumber at the Kalkaska Camp in 1909. "There was plenty of food to eat at this camp but some of the fellows thought they might miss out on dessert so started on pie first. The cooks didn't mind if they ate nothing but pie for their dinner." Bill came to Mason County with his parents and siblings in 1886, when they came to the Pere Marquette River the bridge was constructed of " floating logs chained together at each end and fastened to spiles on both banks." They had to cross this bridge on the way to the forty acres that the family bought in Riverton Township. He really started his work in lumber by helping his father clear the family homestead, at age 11 he was cutting trees down with his brother and peeling tanbark to be hauled to Ludington and sold. When the family made the 9 mile trip to Ludington they had to leave at 2 AM and did not return home until 10 PM that night. Gilbert Cobb, another local lumberman started at age 15 in the Butters logging camp, he talked about how they bought provisions. " Where the F&M Packing House is, there was a company store called Gary, Ward, and Baker. You could get company coupons and trade that way. Food then wasn't put up in tin cans. Sugar salt, flour all came in large bulk quantities and were purchased by the amount of pounds they wanted." Del Chinnery was another whose family came early to Mason County and settled in Amber township near the Pere Marquette River. We quote his article as follows. " Del would not say he was outstanding in his performance on the log drives. But he could do pretty well at Birling logs. (The art of logrolling) Everything depended on perfect balance. He could sit down on a log cross-legged and then stand erect repeatedly. He would plunge his Peavy into one end of the log and walk to the farther end looking back at it over his shoulder. He used to paddle across the river and back on two cedar logs with one foot on each and use his peavey for a paddle." The Peavey is a variation of the Cant Hook that has a spike in the end of the handle rather then a stubby end as on the Cant Hook. The spike made it easier to gain the leverage need to roll or float the log to another location. "Mr Chinnery told the story of an Irishman who on his first day in camp was told to go get a cant hook. He was gone all day and when he came back he had a mooley ox with him. Whatcha got that thing for his foreman yelled. I sent you for a cant hook. Well, the Irishman answered This is the only thing I could find that couldn't hook. Stephen Darke began working in the pine at age 14, in the year 1886 for 40 cents a day, we quote from his letter. " One summer they sent four of us, my brother Will, George Bosquet, John Savanack and myself to Ludington to load cars. The logs came down the Butters road and across the lake to the loader which was at the south end of Maison street. The logs were pulled to the deck by an endless chain. When the car was loaded the top log was no higher then the deck. Stearns Mill was at Stearns Siding and these logs were sent east to the mill." In closing his letter Mr. Darke included the verse to an old lumberjacks song that paid tribute to the boys who worked in the woods. "They're a merry set of fellows, So merry and fine, Who've left their homes and dear ones To work among the pine The Doctor and the Lawyer, Likewise mechanic too, For it takes all sorts o tradesmen To form a lumbering crew" 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. Photo captions Pic 1 A crew stops to pose for the camera in the midst of moving a load of logs on a cold winters day. Pic 2 These long straight pine logs were (according to one of the local lumberjacks) called Bill Sticks. Although they look more like they might have been one of Paul Bunyans toothpicks. Pic 3 A nice clear view of peeling bark off from a large pine log. Pic 4 This crew is posing with the tools of their trade, notice the length on the two man saw. That extra length was needed in order to cut down trees with a 5 foot diameter (or more) base.

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