Island Logging

Rocky Island - Eli LaPointe Logging Camp Cook Shack and Bunkhouse ca 1940s

The Former Rocky Island-Eli LaPointe Logging Camp Cook Shack & Bunkhouse, ca 1940’s here used in the commercial fish camp operation of Louie Olson.
Photo Robert J. Nelson Collection

Apostle Islands Logging

After the John Schroeder Lumber Company, the Wachsmuth Lumber Company of Bayfield was the largest lumber company logging in the islands during the time period of 1902 to 1924. During the 1902 and 1903 winter season Wachsmuth operated a camp on Basswood Island. In the summer of 1903 Wachsmuth logged cedar on Otter and Michigan Island’s. In 1904 Wachsmuth was again logging on Basswood Island and from 1904 to the spring of 1906 he relocated his operation to Manitou Island.

On Basswood Island, Elisha Brigham continued logging operations he started in the 1890s. Early in 1902, Brigham used a team and sleigh to haul his wood across the ice from the island to Bayfield. Brigham lost his entire Basswood Island logging outfit in April of 1902 when fire destroyed buildings on the former Colonel Rudd farm where he stored his outfit. Nevertheless, he continued on and in 1903 he was harvesting timber on Stockton Island. The years 1907 and 1909 found Brigham and his son Earl logging the North West corner- Trout Point area. In December of 1908, Brigham sold his timber rights, banked logs, and his logging and rafting outfit to J. B. Matthews and Company of Ashland. After this, Brigham devoted himself to his Basswood Island farm.

Frank Shaw on Sand Island starting in the mid-1880’s, himself a commercial fisherman and farmer, cut cedar and firewood.  Louie Moe’s long-term Sand Island logging operation was unusually large for a commercial fisherman and farmer. Moe began logging in 1897 and continued intermittently into the 1920s. Most of Moe’s logging took place on the West side of Sand Island, where he acquired land and timber rights, and cut hemlock, cedar, tamarack and hardwoods.

During the late 1920s, Eli LaPointe logged Manitou, and Otter and Rocky Island’s. Eli LaPointe was logging Manitou Island when he partnered with J. H. Deniston to purchase the timber rights from Frenzel Land Company to Rice’s (Rocky) Island. The Rocky camp employed 25 men to cut railroad ties and hardwood veneer. The outfit was equipped with a tractor and portable sawmill, and camp buildings included an office, a blacksmith shop, barn, and cook shack. LaPointe’s operation ended in 1931.

In 1936 the Lullabye Furniture Company of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, purchased Outer Island — the entire island outside of the light house reservation– with 8000 acres of standing timber. Lullabye purchased the Outer Island timber for veneer manufacturing at its Butternut, Wisconsin plant. Harvesting of timber began in the spring of 1942 when wartime demand created a favorable market; one of their products was plywood for the fuselage on bombers. Lullaby planned to cut 5 million board feet of select timber during its first season. When they established their logging camp they dragged buildings from the former Schroeder camp to the island’s eastern shore. Subsequently, the camp was moved farther north.

By the 1950s Lullabye’s Outer Island logging operation was in full swing and fully mechanized. Lullaby had become one of the largest manufacturers of children’s furniture in the United States. During the late 1950s the company extended its Apostle Islands logging to Otter Island. Here they purchased most of the island and sold it to Northern Hardwood Veneers, which cut about 2 million board feet of yellow birch, hemlock and cedar in 1957 and 1958. The camp was located on the southeastern sand spit.

Smaller companies and independent operators logged in number of the Apostle Islands in the decades following World War II. Logs from York, South twin, Cat, Madeline, Sand and North Twin islands in addition to Otter and Outer Islands were hauled to the mill on the LCM Outer Island, formerly named the Pluswood, and then owned by Captain Ed Erickson.

James and his father “Shine” Miller hauled logs for from the islands on the scow Finn McCool in the 1940s and early 1950s. Robert and William Harrison bought much of Bass Island for timber harvest about 1950 and built a dock.

On Sand Island, a 1000 acre tract that was formerly the West Bay club was owned successively by Chequamegon logging, Penokee Veneer Lumber Company and Budvick Timber. John Atwood on South Twin Island harvested veneer logs in this timeframe. Budvick Timber, owned by Bud Peter’s of Mellen, Wisconsin took part in the final two logging operations in the Apostle Islands; in 1973 Peter’s cut timber on his Sand Island property and in 1974 he was the contractor for Alden “Skippy” Allen on York Island.  Excerpts from People and Places, a Human History of the Apostle Islands, Prepared under contract to Midwest Regional Office, National Park Service- USDI, By Jane C. Busch, Ph.D., Omaha, 2008

The old Puffer Belly on Outer Island Photo Garner Hadland

The old Puffer Belly on Outer Island.
Photo: Garner Hadland

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