Posted by Akeley, MN, resident ELODEE JOHNSON 11/15/2008
"We know that lumbering in Minnesota reached its peak in about 1905. The federal census was seven times more than at the close of the Civil War, (1865).
Yet in Minnesota, flour and milling were still half of the invested industrial capital. Railroads had been built in nearly every direction from the Twin Cities.
People headed north to the camps--Irish, Swedes-Norwegians, and Russians, to name a few. Were these men well educated? What they were looking for is work, hard as it may be, to support their families.
Many of us have gone to these old lumber camps and tried to imagine what it must have been like to live under the circumstances theses gents did. Yet, Old Trunks wonders if most of them never took a bath or blew their noses in a handkerchief. She is wondering if they spit on the floor and then, before bed, hung their socks near the stove and walked barefoot threw the spit and crawled into bed.
My adopted grandmother lived with her folks near Akeley. Was her father or her uncle one of the men that went into the woods? Did either of them blow their stake on whiskey and get crazy drunk and lie outside the saloon, then get up in the morning and go back to work?
Could these folks read ENGLISH? Could they read at all? What did such a mix of people talk about at meal time? Maybe meal time, which was hearty food, was only the sound of flatware against the plate. Maybe it had a no talking rule to keep from fighting.
Let's imagine that Martinus Goldberg Johnson, was indeed, a sawer, dropping 80-110 trees a day depending on the size of the tree. We know Minnesota winters are dreadfully cold, what was it like in the woods at zero to thirty below?
Can you imagine the strongest, biggest man you have ever known, sawing down trees by hand from sun up to sun down?
The guys worked three to a gang. Two people did the sawing and the other, called an under cutter, notched the trees and cut off the branches.
We know from our trips to logging camps that beyond the gangs of three, there were people who worked as black smiths and certainly one who only did filing saws, fixing wedges, etc.
Oh and for those who wished to wash clothes, they did it outside in a barrel and a scrub board and hung them on a line to freeze dry.
Wages, you ask? Six months work, $30 each month if you stayed until April 1, otherwise $26.
Wanna do it? What would you do if you didn't like where you were logging? What do you do now if you don't like your job?"