Visiting a Modern Lumber Camp – 1921
Visiting a Modern Lumber Camp
Donald C. Bell
Editor- Bayfield County Press
December 30, 1921
We wonder how many of the Bayfield people, living right here in the midst of a lumber region for a great many years, ever visited a lumber camp. And those who have, we wonder how many have ever spent time in a MODERN camp.
There is as much difference between the old kind lumber camps and the modern affair as there is between the colors black and white. In the good old days, when the sturdy lumberjack was the backbone of industrial life in these north woods, and few towns existed without his support, the lumber camp comprised of a few log hovels thrown together in three or four days in any kind of heap, some facing north, others south, some east and again others west. The sleeping shacks of bygone days comprised a bunch of logs with the cracks filled up with mud, or brush, or anything else handy. No ventilation system was possible and usually one or two windows sufficed for each building. The air was foul, the food was coarse, the logging utensils crude – and yet there was an air of romance, of interest about it all.
What a contrast with the modern lumbering camp. With its buildings erected of sawed lumber hauled to the site by railroad, each building well ventilated, with plenty of windows for light, well heated, floors scrubbed and cleaned, bunks well taken care of, a business office as well appointed as any in the town or city, and each building set in a line with its mates to form a street, the modern camp is a marvel for efficiency and maintenance of morale among the modern “jack” as the camps are different.
The “pencil pushing knave” of the Press had the occasion to visit the modern camp of the Wachsmuth Lumber Company not long ago, which is situated at the old farm site usually known as the “halfway place” or “Hoyt’s Place”. As we approached the camp over the brow of the hill just after emerging from the thick timber, and “made” the long, sweeping curve down the hill, the camp came into view, a cluster of well constructed modern HOUSES. Built after a definite plan, these camp houses comprised a modern village, with streets well clean, buildings well lighted, and system apparent about the entire place. It was interesting right from the start.
Entering the office we were surprised by the neatness; the cleanliness apparent. With walls painted a light blue tint, counters and desk matching in color, floor white from scrubbing, easy chairs and benches well arranged, we felt like “scraping” our feet before stepping in. However, the welcome smile of camp boss Jack Furlott and clerk Oscar Jeffers, bade us enter. We were made to feel perfectly at home by those two veterans of the timberland – cordially were requested to stay and have dinner. Of course do to the cordiality of the invitation, (not to mention the fact that we were hungry and had a natural born inner capacity, the good wife has always found difficult to appease), we accepted the invitation with alacrity.
Anticipating we would be sent to some watering trough with towel thrown over arm to perform the usual pre-meal cleanup, we were agreeably surprised when sent to a clean, modern wash stand, with HOT WATER and soap, and a clean towel as essential features.
Having sufficient time before the great circular saw would ring out it’s call to dinner, we grasped the opportunity to inspect the camp.
Leaving the office we strolled down the west street as far as the great storehouse, and came back along the east street. We visited five sleeping houses, (which furnished quarters for 165 men), the oil house, the dining room, the harness shop, the blacksmith shop, file shop, the barns, roundhouse, and even the root house – all distinct and separate buildings, well constructed, warm, comfortable and inviting, creating contentment among the workers and a desire to “stay through the winter.”
Long hauls by horses are now a thing of the past. Timber is now hauled to the railroad, which runs through and beyond the camp where it is loaded upon the logging cars and conveyed to Bayfield at the rate of 24 cars every workday. An average of 100,000 feet of timber of various kinds is shipped out of the camp every date, and it is some of the finest timber ever cut in this region.
In our stroll through the camp we came upon such good old timber “scouts” (not to mention Furlott and Jeffers, the former the best camp boss to ever handle a crew of men in these Northwoods) and Joe Burns, the “straw” or assistant boss of the camp, George Green, the saw boss, and Pat Flynn, the section boss. These men know their business and it’s no wonder to us that the word “efficiency” seems stamped all over the camp.
Just as we had about completed our inspection the great circular saw sent up its inviting gong-like called to “eats”. Well I was hungry- but you should have seen C.W.G. wade into that feed. And Henry J. Wachsmuth, the “Big Push” as the boys call him, almost broke our own record for capacity on this occasion. But- none of us attempted to offer an excuse, the meal was simply beyond expectation, deliciously cooked, seasoned just right, and plenty of it. We had boiled beef, baked beans, fresh rolls, fresh cinnamon bread, boiled potatoes, cabbage, salad, hot donuts, pie, cake, coffee, and- STRAWBERRY PUDDING. You get that? Strawberry pudding in a lumber camp!!!
That meal- merely an everyday spread at that camp was the culinary achievement of that veteran cook Pete Larson, of Ashland, whose ability is backed by 30 years of continuous experience in feeding hungry men. He makes it a point to feed just sufficient variety of foods to properly balance every meal, foods with a certain nutrient value of one kind, foods with certain nutrient values of another. That’s the plain way of stating the practical use of scientific knowledge in food preparation. Well- that’s Pete Larson.
When we first saw Pete he was clipping out donuts at a rate of one and one half every second. And it took him nearly a half an hour to clip out enough donuts for one meal.
Seconding Larson is Henry Linquist, himself a cook of no small ability, and assisting these two are four cookees, (I guess that’s the way you spell it.) who jump around the table so fast, one is inclined to inspect the bottoms of their shoes with the suspicion of finding coil springs.
Larson and his assistants feed those entire 165 men at one sitting three times a day, seven days a week, throughout the winter. Supplies- well, yes, it does require a little. We went into the storeroom and here we saw flour piled in a long row, four sacks high. Meats of all kinds hung on the hooks in sufficient quantity to amply furnish a big stock for a well appointed meat market; potatoes, hundreds of bushels of them, not to mention other varieties of vegetables.
Furlott’s camp, as it is known, is the last camp of this kind, which will ever be operated on the Bayfield peninsula. It will be there a matter of three or four years and affords the final opportunity for you to visit a modern lumber camp. We don’t presume the lumber company, or for that Mr. Furlott desires to be hampered with an overflow of visitors and we may be assuming a lot when we advise that you take a half day off sometime and visit the place- but we do know that, no matter how inopportune maybe the time of your visit, you will find the same cordial welcome awaiting you at the hands of the “Big Push”, the “boss”, the ” Straw Boss” and the whole line from the top on down to the “road monkey” and the visit will be well worth your while.
This history brief was written by Robert J. Nelson. Generously sharing our local history through his research and writing.