- Logging in Pittsburg NH - in 1896

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This account of logging in Pittsburg, NH was published in the magazine "Granite Monthly" in February, 1896. The title was "A Winter In A Logging Camp" by Reverand Orrin Robbins Hunt.

The camp of which I write is one of the Connecticut River Lumber Company's, located in the most northerly part of this state, in the town of Pittsburg. The company was chartered under the laws of the state of Connecticut in 1879, and then had 250,000 acres, more or less, of lumber land.

The Hon. Asa Smith, of Hartford, Conn., was the first president, and a pioneer in the lumber interests of this part of the state. After four years of service he resigned, and was succeeded by George Van Dyke of Lancaster, who is now the president.

Having camped for ten successive seasons, during the months of August and September, on the western shore of the Second lake, I had made the acquaintance of nearly all the leading men of the company, and, finding them to be good men, and true, I pulled the latch-string of Samuel Watts, the business manager and treasurer of the company, for winter quarters, in one of their logging camps.

My request was cheerfully granted, and, after spending the night with Mr. Watts, he took me into the woods, where he had driven me on a buckboard, ten years previous, when he was a hostler for the company.


Ready for the Woods.

Arriving at the camp, on the eastern shore of the lake, I was introdu¢ed to the "boss," Clarence Robey, and to the cook and "cookee." "Boys," said Watts, "I have brought this fellow in to live with you this winter and keep you straight. Feed him well, and let him do as he pleases, and you will have no trouble." At once the cookee offered me the use of his bunk to sleep in, while he, kind soul, persisted in wrapping himself in his blanket and lying on the floor.

The first healthy omen in the study of the lumber works, is the construction of the dams and camps. At the First and Second lakes, and on the East inlet, two miles above the Second lake, are located these dams. The one on the inlet is thirteen miles from civilization, and among the many obstacles in constructing it was a quicksand. This necessitated the use of a pile-driver, and, notwithstanding the fact that it was fifty six miles to the nearest railway station, a team of good horses was sent down to North Stratford, and in five days was back to the lake again, bringing the necessary machine.

Another difficulty then confronted the workmen, -- viz., the crossing of the lake. To do this, two rafts of logs were built large enough to carry the piledriver and another to carry the horses and the provisions for the horses and crew. For the propelling power of these rafts they had eight sturdy Frenchmen in a bateau. With Mr. Van Dyke steering, they reached the opposite side of the lake in about two hours, a distance of one and a half miles.


Building the Dam

The time spent in building the dams varies according to the location. The accompanying picture is a view of the one at the foot of the Second lake, and, while taken in an incomplete state, shows something of the workmanlike manner in which the dam is built. The second picture gives a view of the workmen, the tent they slept in, and a hovel for their horses.

The Second lake is about three miles long and two wide, and by means of this dam can be raised thirteen feet, thus covering a very much larger area than at its natural height.

Crossing the lake to the east shore, and going up about three miles, we come to one of the winter camps. They are usually located beside agood spring or stream of water and built log-cabin style, one-story high, with two rooms. One, 20 X 30, is for the workmen and the other, 18 X 20, is for the cook and for a dining-room.

Formerly the camps were covered with splits, the first covering being laid the fiat side up, and the second one the fiat side down, covering the joints. The floors were formerly made of small trees hewn on the top side, but now both the floor and the roof of the camps are of boards, and the roof has two thicknesses of tarred paper.


The Men and Where They Live

These camps are very warm and comfortable, and under the supervision of a good cook are kept clean and orderly. The lights are put out and the men are all in bed at 9 o'clock in the evening. Formerly the beds were made of fir boughs and straw, covered by a long, heavy spread, held in place by means of rings and pins at each end, and with a spread over the men, secured at each end the same as the under one. At the present time the men have berths, and furnish their own blankets. All this goes to show that there are improvements made even in lumber camps.

These pictures give a view of each room in the camp. The first one shows the bunks where the men sleep, the stove over which they dry their clothing, and the room where they sit and smoke. As it happened, there are four nationalities represented in this group, -- American, Italian, Irish, and French.


The little fellow in the corner is the cook's woodchopper, who said, "I no want my picter tooken;" but, he is in it, just the same, as are all the others, because of "La Grippe." The other picture represents the cook and the dining-room. By the way, let me introduce you to our cook, Archie Pomelo, and his general assistant, Ed. Clever.


The Cook and Cookee

The cook, you will know by his long apron, but to know Clever you must camp with him. He rises at 4 o'clock in the morning, builds the fires, and at 4:30 calls the cook, which, by the way, he does loud enough to arouse the entire crew.


The Cook and the Dining-room.

At 5 o'clock the cook has his biscuits made, and the breakfast is ready. It consists of baked beans, hot biscuits, sweetbread, doughnuts, dried apple sauce, molasses, and tea. The other meals are varied each day, although baked beans are always on the table for those who wish for them, and they are preferred by many.

Sunday is a day of general repairing and visiting, and in all the camps the Sunday dinner is pea soup,good enough for a king. The supplies are brought from the store at the First Lake daily by mule teams, as seen in the picture which shows them on the lake at the fork of the road.


The Parting of the Ways

Shoppie is going up to Leighton's camp, two miles up the main inlet, and "Tony" is going up to our's. The tote team is always welcomed by every man in the camp, for it usually brings some bit of information from the outside world as well as the camp supplies. The following view shows that the work of the company is done by able-bodied men and large horses; in fact, everything they have to do with must have the power to do what is required; hence, a lazy man, or a poor horse or mule, will find no place with the company.


Able-bodied Men and Large Horses

The man in the next picture with a snowball in his hand is the blacksmith, who has by no means an easy task. I have known him to come into camp with a lot of shoes all prepared, and shoe all night, and then, next morning, go to soxne other camp, and after a little sleep, repeat the operation until he had made the rounds of the entire camps. This night work was, of course, done to save time.


In this camp, where it was my privilege to stop, we had teamsters, road men, landing men, choppers, swampers, and yarders. The choppers fell the trees, the swampers clear the way to them, and the yarders drag the logs to the yard where the teamsters load. The two-horse team, as seen in the picture, represents a team at the yard loading for the landing.


Loading for the Landing

Most of the teams are composed of four horses, and make three trips daily from the yard to the landing at the lake, where the logs are drawn out upon the ice and unloaded. The men on the load beside the driver in the next picture are landing-men, whose duty calls thexn to assist the driver to unload, put the company's mark on every log (which; by the way, is a four x, xX× ), and keep count of the same to compare with the number of logs returned by the sealer, who, by the way, stands with book in hand at the rear of the load, as seen in the picture. Each teamster cares for his horses and assists in loading and unloading.


The road men are the first over the road in the morning, that they may have the hill road well covered with hay, which is used instead of a bridle, and the last over it at night to gather up the hay and put it in little piles beside the road, lest it be covered with snow and be of no use.

In the spring, just before the ice breaks up, there is a boom thrown around the logs on the lake for the purpose of forcing them down to the dam at the foot of the lake. This boom is made by attaching the ends of the logs by means of short chains with sharp, pointed hooks which are driven into the logs; or, in some instances, by means of a large wooden pin through the end of two logs, thus forming a swivel joint where the logs unite. The picture herewith is of the dam on Second lake, and is a good representation of the way the logs are driven through the gate-way into the lake and river below. I have witnessed this work, with watch in hand, and they have averaged one per second going through the gateway, and unless there is some obstruction down along the river the work is continued at that rate.


Driving Through the Logs

There are men stationed within sight of each other all along the bank of the river, from the Second lake down to the First, and, should any of the men fail to clear the obstruction, the fact is signalled to the next man above, who repeats the same until the message reaches the dam and the gates are closed. By the time the crew have arrived at the jam, the logs already through the gate-way have arrived, and are piled up like a keg of board nails dumped on a floor.

The first thing is to find the key log, and either cut it or else bore a hole in it and by means of a dynamite cartridge, blow up the log and loosen the entire jam.

The crew of men standing in the front of the picture below are riverdrivers, and have their cant-dogs and other implements of warfare.


As a whole, logging is hard work, and the men, cut off from any society save that of each other, present a rough exterior; nevertheless, they are large hearted and have their recreation and pleasure. I have sat in the "deacon's seat" with them, and listened with great interest to some of their daring adventures as choppers or river drivers.

The most of this crew were from Canada, consequently I thought it would be a grand opportunity for me to learn French. One day while alone in camp with the. cook and cookee, I asked the meaning of "sarcaree mojee." I heard these words more than any others which I could remember.

Surprised at my inquiry, the cook said, "Oh, that is bad, you no want to know." "Ah!" said Clever; "you no dare tell hinm." "Well, then," said the cook, "why don't you ?" Whereupon Clevet gave me the English of it.

That evening, Clevet told the men, and there was a great hurrah at my expense when the fact was known that the minister was learning to swear. From that day until this, they have been very solicitous for my spiritual welfare, and when we meet, do not fail to ask how I am getting on in the study of French.

There was no service which they could render me which they did not hasten to perform, and much of my contentment among them was due to this fact They were a little shy of me at first, but soon that feeling wore away, and nearly every evening they would ask some favor or seek my advice. I was glad indeed to be counted a useful member of the crew, by administering to the needs of both man and beast.

The remedies which I took with me were "homeopathic," consequently, instead of mild treatment, they preferred something, as they said, which had more taste to it, and therefore chose a French "hotcrop," -- a dose composed as follows: Black pepper, Johnson's Anodyne liniment, one tablespoonful each, and a pint of boiling water, well sweetened with molasses, taken as hot as they could drink it.

For a cut or bruise, a fresh "chaw of terbaccer," or a slice of salt pork, directly over the wound; while for a sprain, beef brine was of great value. In many instances four tablespoonsful of kerosene were taken.

For toothache, when the "chaw of terbaccer" did not give relief, they would "snake it out," as they said.

As there is usually a clown in every circus, so we had one in camp, familiarly known as old John. One evening he was very busy, and at the same time remarkably quiet about it, so much so that I asked if he was sick. "No! by Gor!" replied John, "but my tooth, he ache bad."

"Well," said I, "snake him out." "All right, I do that." So, placing his five-stranded cord, made of shoe-thread, about the tooth by means of two half-hitches, he went and got two of the largest horse-shoes he could find and a stick of wood which he attached to the other end of the cord.

"For heaven's sake," said I, "what are you going to do ?"

"Oh, I drop de weight, and snake him out quick!"

"Don't you do dat, John," said the cook, "you break you neck if you do." Whereupon old John stood upon one of the deacon seats, and, pressing his head hard against the roof of the camp, said, "Dare, now, Minister, count t'ree, and away he go."

Slowly and loudly I counted, "One, two, three!" when down came the wood and horse-shoes and old John with them, all sprawling.

"By Gor, I fetch him!" said old John, as he picked up the various parts, and betook himself to his bunk for the night.

"By Gor" was old John's byword. I thought I would break him in the use of it, although he said, "No harm to swear unless you got mad in your heart."

One afternoon I trimmed all their lanterns and had them bright and shining when they came in for them at evening. They were all thankful for the little act, and especially old John, who referred to it as we sat about the fire in the evening. I told him I was glad he appreciated a clean lantern, and told him if he would not swear any more while I was in camp, I would clean his lanteru every day.

"Give me your han' on dat, an' I no swear any more, by Gor!"

A WINTER MIDNIGHT. by F. B. Lawrence.

Black night reigns over hill and vale.
The wind moans out its chilling wail
Athwart the eaves, around the hedge,
And yonder at the mountain ledge.

The crystals, beautiful and white,
O'ershadowed by sepulchral night,
Are falling from yon ebon skies
That veil their Author's paradise.

Against the pane the flakes are hurled;
Adown the road in clouds they're whirled,
'Till, wearied his stentorian breast,
Old Boreas sits him down t' rest.

All's still ! Sleep's lullaby we hear
As silence broods o'er night so drear. 
Then known is nothing furthermore-
The mind has left time's dreary shore.

In dreams, soon real, returns the sleet
Upon the angry wind and fleet,
Loud beating on the roofs and doors
And sifting 'round the sills and floors.

The chimney howls its ghostly moans;
The weathercock sharp creaks and groans;
The straining timbers neath the test
Of Eurus' rampage, know no rest !

Begone,-ye winds, to distant caves !
The orb of night his great torch waves !
The mist clouds from the vault dispelIs !
His glory pours o'er snow-clad fels !

There by the humble cottage pane
At midnight, stands the lowly swain
Entranced, with such a heavenly sight
As winter shows on some midnight !

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Copyright 1999 by Ed Sanders.