Honoring the Lumberjacks

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Evening Telegram, Superior Wisconsin February 4 1935

Three Hardy Lumberjacks who claimed they knew Paul Bunyan intimately. Posing with three of his possessions are Edward Nelson with the axe, Frank Starke with the pipe, and John Holt with the cant hook.
Superior Evening Telegram, February 4, 1935

Gathered to meet Paul Bunyan Photo courtesy Carol Wachsmuth

Gathered to meet Paul Bunyan
Photo: Carol Wachsmuth

Paul Bunyan - Evening Telegram Superior Wisconsin February 4 1935

Paul Bunyan

Honoring the Lumberjacks of Yesteryear

From Bayfield County Press and Superior Evening Telegram newspaper excerpts

Prepared by Robert J. Nelson

Dinner out” to be served Sunday noon– Bayfield businessman will be host to lumber camp workers of past days in the Bayfield territory read the Bayfield County Press headlines on this date [1]. The beginnings of a wonderful local lumberjack feed tradition which lead to the founding of an exclusive club for local lumberjacks, the Mystic Knights of the Blue Ox, is hereafter entertained.

“A vivid reminder of typical lumber camp life when the logging industry was at its height in this section is being planned by the Bayfield business men for next Sunday afternoon, January 15, 1933.

Further said the Press, “At one o’clock, “dinner out”, will be served in regulation lumberjack style at the Sebastian A. Feldmeir woodlot six miles north of Bayfield on Highway 13”. Close to 100 Ashland men who in the past years were connected with logging activities, and a number of men from Washburn, Mellen and Superior are expected to join with their brothers of the lumber camp days in reliving some of the so familiar activities of those kinds. Gus Weber and Herman Sense, Sr. of the city conceived the idea of the lumber camp party some time ago”.

The event consisted of a “feed” cooked in the utensils provided by the defunct R.J. Nelson and Schroeder Lumber Camps, oxen team driving, “handling of the ribbons” demonstration and the driving of a grub sleigh, proved hugely popular.

So popular the festival began that it was offered as an annual event and on January 31, 1935 the Press reported, “with anticipation of reasonably good weather next Sunday, February 3, the committee in charge of the lumberjack picnic is preparing to accommodate several hundred guests expected to attend from out of the city. Chairman Gus Weber has prepared the finest possible lumberjack menu complete and all details from beans, raisin pie, to tea. The work in preparation for this event started early this week. S. A. Feldmeir, who is in charge of the grounds started Monday to provide open roads and clearing. A program to suit the location has been definitely mapped out. Men prominent in Pioneer lumbering activities will be on hand to tell lumbering history and swap Paul Bunyan yarns with the crowd. Music will be furnished with popular lumberjack tunes, accompanied with a chorus of authentic lumber day songs. Logging day sports will be provided for the participation of all who wish, and to the amusement of others present.

Interesting footnotes to this excerpt is that the article said, “Many Button Sold– membership buttons for the Mystic Knights of the Blue Ox,  Camp Number One,  Bayfield have been arousing keen interest with the result that several hundred have already been disposed of. Besides local sales, letters have been received from any outsiders asking for membership privileges. The $.50 button membership fee goes into the Memorial fund. Anyone who wishes may obtain a button with the regular fee.

And added to the spectacle was Wrestling Bout to Feature Paul Bunyan Program: “there will be an added feature at the Paul Bunyan picnic here Sunday with four wrestling bouts to be staged in the outdoor arena at Feldmeir’s wood lot. The committee has made special arrangements to secure real talent for the event by getting some of the best-known grapplers in northern parts of the state. The bouts will be staged in old-fashioned style with hobnail shoes and the reminder of the real lumberjack attire that will give the atmosphere the good old days.

The headliner on the card will be the match between Pat McIntosh, state middleweight champion from Ashland and “Roughhouse” Ross, of St. Paul, who has wrestled on the West Coast and in the Hawaiian islands. The other bout will be between Gus Emerson of Minneapolis and Glenn Meyers of Ashland. Emerson is a product of the University of Iowa wrestling team and has been on many big cards in the Twin Cities.

In a second article entitled Woods of Bayfield, Mystic life of Paul Bunyan by John Conner for the Superior Evening Telegram on February 4, 1935, a review is posted. Conner Stated in the subtitle, Bayfield Proves to the World That Legendary Paul Bunyan Used to Live There. The Sun Salutes Paul Bunyan With an Eclipse As 500 Mystic Knights of the Blue Ox Honor Him At Bayfield and Ghost of Lumberjack Deity Appears for Fleeting Moment at Mid-winter Party to Clean 40 Acres of Snow for Party”.  Finally he writes, “Informality Reigns at Huge Outdoor Picnic” and goes on to say, “Nearly 500 men in rough clothing gathered in Bayfield’s Bunyania Sunday afternoon to pay tribute to the redoubtable hero of lumbermen’s fantastic fireside fables, and the same number went home Sunday night members of Camp No. 1, Mystic Knights of the Blue Ox”.

[1] Bayfield County Press, February 12, 1933

This history brief was written by Robert J. Nelson. Generously sharing our local history through his research and writing.