Photos from the book will be added later
Farmer, Lumberman, State Official
EXPERIENCES IN MINNESOTA
Well, things dragged along and nothing seemed to materialize. Finally I learned that Charles B. Watrous, my generous friend of other days, and for whom I had done so much work, especially in the matter of log driving, was back from Minnesota on a visit. I lost no time in calling on him, and found that he was still as enthusiastic about the business of lumbering as he ever was, and wanted me to go back with him to put in his log drive that spring in the Big Fork River, a tributary of the Rainy River, which forms the boundary line between the United States and Canada.
Now here was, to me, the opportunity of a lifetime. And, job or no job, I made up my mind to accept the offer of superintending a log drive in far off Minnesota. I, therefore, agreed to go soon after the first of March to perform that service for the very man that found me so early in life and helped me to get a real start on the lumbering business and in the battles of life.
On February 27, 1902. my good wife presented me with another baby girl, thus rounding out a full half dozen children—two sons and four daughters.
March 13, 1902, I kissed my little family good-bye, took the little babe in my arms and christened her Rexa Belle, then prayed for God’s blessing upon them, and departed.
Never having had an opportunity to travel much, I found many strange and interesting things on my journey. I traveled via the B.& S. to Addison, the Erie to Buffalo, the Nickel Plate to Chicago. At Chicago I visited the great Sear & Roebuck Store, the Montgomery Ward Store, the Studebaker Wagon Works, the new post office, said to be at that time the highest building in the world—thirty-two stories high; also, Lincoln Park. I took the Maple Leaf route from Chicago to St. Paul.
The majestic Mississippi was frozen over at St. Paul, and the weather was cold and blustery. I changed at that place to the Great Northern. Going through Minneapolis I recognized the Pillsbury Flour Mills; then north to Bemidji, a new lumbering town toward the northern part of the State, in Beltrami County. This was the last point reached by railroad service, and I stopped for the night. Next morning was very cold and I was advised not to go out, for it was what natives termed a regular "nor’wester."
I had heard a lot of talk about two men and a team drowning the day before in Lake Bemidji, and it took a bit of nerve from me, but I reasoned after this manner: I knew I had several lakes to cross on the ice before I reached the Watrous Camp, a hundred and fifty miles away, and was afraid that the weather might suddenly turn warm and make the ice more treacherous to walk over.
Finally I decided to walk to a place called Black Duck, twenty-five miles away. A new railroad was being built there, but no regular trains were running as yet, so I walked the railroad to Black Duck, with a howling and bitter wind blowing like a fierce hurricane all day.
That was the longest and coldest twenty-five miles I ever traveled, and I was mighty thankful when I saw the lights of that oddly named little lumber town.
There were several restaurants and saloons, but only one semblance of a hotel, and that seemed to be filled up. As I stood close to the clerk’s desk, trying to get a little information, he discovered that emblem or three-link I.O.O.F. pin on my coat, and without hesitation said, "Wait a minute. You are my brother. I must find a place for you." And he did, for he gave me the parlor bedroom.
This was not all, for as I leaned toward the desk to register, the clerk discovered that my name was Dewey; and he announced in heavy, stentorian tones that he had a guest by the name of Dewey.
Those men let out a war whoop as though some great discovery had been unearthed, or gold had been found in paying quantities. I calmly asked why all this fuss because my name happened to be Dewey, and I was informed that several of the boys greeted me there had been with Admiral Dewey at the battle of Manila Bay, and on that very day had expressed a cub bear to the Admiral at Washington. When I explained to them that the Admiral and I were fifth cousins, there was another war whoop and more cheers. Again that little pin had done its work.
Roulette wheels, the first I had ever seen, and squeaking phonographs were very much in order through the evening. I found a fine character who knew his paths, and he instructed me where and how to travel for the following three days in order to reach the camp.
There was no more railroad on which to travel, nor was there much of any road of any kind to travel, for I must take what is there called "trails" or paths made by the Indians, and later by white men, who learn to know all their neighbors for a hundred miles around. I was to follow northerly for a distance then, then turn squarely to the right, crossing a lake, coming out on the other side by a big stump; and look out for the wolves on the lake for they could see a long way and would surely tackle me if they did see me. Then, I was to follow along a ridge in a northeasterly direction to a big tree, then north, and so on for thirty-five miles through that great north woods, to a place called New Bridge, and remain there for the night. Such was the nature of the directions given by that venerable old gentleman, who, by the way, was an Odd Fellow.
Next morning was St. Patrick’s Day, and when I left Black Duck, the temperature stood at exactly twenty-one degrees below zero. The wind had gone down and it was as clear and cold and bright a morning as I ever saw. I was thoroughly rested from my experience of the day before, and stepped off the miles like a young colt. When I crossed those little lakes, for they were everywhere present, I thought of the scenes pictured in my reader of wolves chasing folks on the ice, and I did not tarry long in crossing.
I met only one man that entire day, and, just a few rods farther on, saw the tracks of a large moose that had been following him, and when the moose heard or saw me coming, had gently evaded me by side-stepping.
Next morning, March 18th, I started out, after getting more directions about paths, hay roads, lakes and wolves, and, among other things, was warned that I could only go seventeen miles that day, for if I went beyond a certain cabin, I would have to walk twenty-one miles before I would reach another habitation.
I was perfectly willing to take that advice, for the two past days of walking had given me plenty of exercise. I had evidently caught a little cold, for I was taken with a rather severe headache and felt somewhat grippy; so coming to a new settlement of Swede colonists, I stopped and rested for a little time. I told the fine, accommodating matron that I was not feeling well, and she said that if I would take her medicine she would fix me something that would make me feel better; then I could eat dinner with them, and if I would, could stay there until I felt well enough to continue my journey.
She fixed the dope, whatever it was, and I am still of the opinion it was Vodka, or something akin to it, for after I had taken it I was warmed through, and almost, began to feel improvement in my condition. Soon she insisted that I take another "dose," and then I was fully cured.
This lady soon had dinner ready, and several big boys and their father came in from where they were cutting logs; and I sat down with them to one of the finest dinners I had tasted. This was my first experience with Swede life, but I was thoroughly delighted with their hospitality. I tried to pay for my trouble, but they would not listen to anything if the kind.
That night I stayed in a sort of bunk house, or half-way house, as we would have called it back in Pennsylvania in that period. It was the last and only place to stop before crossing the big swamp before mentioned.
The hostelry was filled to capacity that night. We had a fine supper of moose meat, my first experience with that luxury, which I soon learned to enjoy; then after supper, the story telling and general all-round talk-fest.
One man, about sixty-five and somewhat gray, sat down beside me and started in something about like the following: "Well, stranger, I reckon yer from down east, maybe?" he questioned.
I replied, "I am from Pennsylvania."
"Be you from Pennsylvania?"
"Yes, sir," I replied.
"What part of Pennsylvania?" "The northern part," I assured him.
"What county do ye hail from?" he again questioned.
I answered that I was from Tioga County.
"What part of Tioga County do ye hail from?" came the next question, without hesitation.
By this time I was getting frantic and began to think he was either a genuine bore or was trying to make fun of me, so I answered him after this manner:
"Sir, I am from the Western part of Tioga County, in the Township of Gaines. I live on the waters of Elk Run. Now, Elk Run empties into Pine Creek, and Pine Creek is the largest tributary of the Susquehanna River, and the Susquehanna is the largest River we have in Pennsylvania; and it runs southerly through the entire State and empties into the Chesapeake Bay, and the Bay empties into the Atlantic Ocean."
Of course, I thought that was rather a smart speech, and I expected it would it would hold him for a time; but he was intent on pursuing his inquiry until he found out what he was determined to know, and came right back at me with this question:
"Did you ever know anyone there by the name of Watrous?" I answered I did.
Then he continued that when he was just a young man, he worked in a sawmill for a man by the name of Watrous—Charles Watrous—and it had been nearly fifty years since he left there, and had often wondered what had become of him.
Then I could see why he had been so inquisitive, and, feeling somewhat sheepish of my sarcastic and disrespectful answer, I informed him that I was on my way to Mr. Charles B. Watrous’ lumber camp on the Big Fork River, and expected to reach there next day.
He was astonished, for he had not learned that Mr. Watrous was in that State; and here he was almost in the very section where his old employer was operating an extensive lumber business.
The next morning, after a fine breakfast of moose meat and other choice tid-bits of the new country, I struck out on the last leg of my four day journey through that long, long trail.
To one who has not had a similar experience, it would be simply impossible to describe the lonesomeness that continually dogged my footsteps. Woods, woods everywhere, with pretty lakes interspersed at frequent intervals, all frozen over, for it was still very cold. I knew full well that should a big snowstorm overtake me in that vast wilderness, my trail would soon become lost, and that would mean certain death; for cabins were miles apart and there was nothing with which to form the most remote idea of the direction. However, I cherished a feeling that if the test was made imperative, I would rely upon the only woodcraft knowledge that I possessed regarding direction in the absence of the never failing sun, namely, that the tips of all evergreen trees turn toward the east, presumably to greet the morning sun.
The northern part of Minnesota was so new that the few settlers who were there did not possess any kind of a team; therefore, roads were of no use. The trails, probably Indian trails and hunters’ paths, were the only "roads" most of the way, and, in some places, very difficult to make out. I did not falter, however, and kept plugging away, with a firm determination to reach my destination. I had been warned time and again that wolves were very numerous, and that under no circumstances would it be safe to travel after nightfall.
There was one other source of dread that had followed me from the first, and that was that I would be compelled to cross the Big Fork River twice before reaching camp. Realizing that frequently a stream may be frozen nearly over and still be open in midstream where the current is swift, I was filled with great misgivings until I reached the river and, after overcoming its icy waters, stood safely on the other side.
On reaching the other side, I found a cabin and some folks about, who urged me to stay with them for the night and go on the next day; for it was still six miles to go and was getting well toward night. Why I did not accept their hospitality I have never been able to figure out.
These people assured me there was no way in which I could get lost, for there was a road leading to the camp and it had been traveled somewhat. Still, I must cross that river again, and knew full well it would be dark long before I could possibly reach camp.
Again I was warned of the wolves that were making much disturbance nightly around there.
I looked over my pistol, gritted my teeth and started on the last lap of my journey. I had gone about a mile when I met a man running toward me. I asked him why the great hurry and he assured me that he must reach the place I had just left, before dark, because of the fear of wolves that were sure to be on the rampage as soon as night approached.
Again I cannot understand why I did not turn and go back with him. But I remember another maxim that had stood me in great stead all my life: " Never turn back." And I struck out with a quickened pace and hurried on.
Presently, I came across an old lumber camp that had been used some years before, and a clearing of perhaps two acres of ground, now growing up to small trees and brush, thus forming, to my mind, the most perfect habitat for a band of wolves that could well be imagined.
There was, of course no use in trying to turn back now, and I imagined I could almost see those vicious animals sticking their heads out from every conceivable hiding place. For the first time I was overcome with uncontrollable fear. It seemed to me that if there were any wolves in Minnesota woods they would surely be located in that deserted, old, low-roofed log camp of ancient vintage, with all the natural setting simply overshadowed by the fact that it was now getting dark.
Those six miles probably had never been surveyed, and it certainly seemed to me that they had stretched out until they were more like ten than six; and to add still more to my discomfort, I recalled that it was about a mile and a half from this old camp to the Watrous camp, which was my destination.
My past life loomed up as never before, for I could not quite understand why I should have been lured to such a spot to be devoured by wolves. I pressed on—for there was no other place to press or purpose for which to press but to get across that river and to the camp on the other side. I was somewhat tired from the long day’s travel, but my feet never served me better; and soon I stood on the east bank of the Big Fork River, where I could see the welcome lights from the camp.
The stars were shining brightly, and it appeared safe to tackle the river, and I proceeded at once to cross. I prided myself that I was about to report a safe and sound trip of fifteen hundred miles without allowing a single mishap to my person, when, to my utter dismay, the ice gave way under my feet and I dropped into the water!
Now, dear reader, I have read of such harrowing situations as this on many occasions, and with a feeling of pleasure have prayed for the visitation of dire disaster to happen to a writer who would so unfeelingly lead a pilgrim into a place of that kind and then change the chapter and leave one to ponder over the ultimate result. I will not be so cruel. I will tell you how it all came about. The particular place where I was precipitated into that great river was where the teams were brought each day to water, and their heavy feet had broken the ice at that particular spot; and the water I fell into was about six inches deep!
I kept on going without paying any notice, whatever, to the small discomfort, for I was now on the safe side, in the full flood of the camp lights, and in a moment more received a warm and hearty welcome from those men who had been my friends and neighbors back in old Pennsylvania.
Mr. Charles Watrous had gone on down to the mill a few days before, and his son William was in charge of the camp. After an evening of reminiscing and story-telling, we retired for the night.
We had hardly turned out the lights when the woods were filled with the most unmerciful noise I had ever heard. When I inquired what sort of celebration that was, I was informed and learned for the first time that the noise came from a big pack of wolves. I wanted to get up and go outside where I could get a grandstand view of these serenaders, but I was informed that no natives would ever think of going abroad when a howling pack of wolves was at close range. Then for the first time it dawned upon me how foolhardy I had been to risk myself over a strange path in a community where wolves were known to rove.
The next morning I tried my hand at hunting rabbits. With a perfectly good shotgun I started out, and soon spied a big, white rabbit that seemed pleased to meet me on such a fine morning! He came up in front of me at a distance of perhaps twelve feet, then sat down and waited for me to make the next gesture. I pointed the gun at the rabbit’s head, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The gun roared like a cannon; and, of course, I was perfectly satisfied that Mr. Rabbit would lie right down and await my coming. When the smoke cleared away there was a great, black spot on the snow, right where the rabbit had so recently sat, but the rabbit had disappeared, leaving no visible record of the direction in which he had departed.
I looked for several rods around as carefully as possible, and was never able to solve the mystery of the disappearance of that evasive rabbit. I was so thoroughly disgusted with the experience that I traveled back to camp and waited for the men to come in from their work at dinner time.
I donned work clothes and went out in the afternoon to cut and skid logs in the big woods of Minnesota. There, for the first time in my life, I cut cedar trees and spruce trees for saw logs. The timber was much smaller than I was used to cutting in Pennsylvania, and took about twenty logs for a thousand feet, while back home it took from five to eight logs, usually, for a thousand feet.
The tools used there were also very different from those I was accustomed to using. "Cant hooks" were used to roll logs, while we use pike levers; there tongs were used to draw the log, while here we use grabs; here we use spike skids to elevate logs on a skidway, while there smooth skids were used, and a team with a long rope over the top of the skidway, with what is called a crosshaul, was used to elevate logs in piles. In Pennsylvania the regulation bobsled for log hauling was about four feet wide, and the bolster eight feet long, while there the sleds were eight feet wide and the bolster sixteen feet long. In Pennsylvania a load of logs would range from one to three thousand feet, while there a load would range from three to ten thousand feet.
The above comparison would seem to be entirely out of reason until it is explained that in Pennsylvania we always lumber among the hills, with roads running both up and down the hills, and along dug roads that are too narrow to permit the use of wide sleds or long bolsters, while in north Minnesota the ground is very level and a road is cut perhaps thirty feet wide through the forest to permit a double road---one for loaded teams and the other for empty sleds going back; for the sleds, bolsters and chains are too heavy to handle without a good road, even when there is no load on them.
At the first sign of winter the two tracks that have been well rounded out in the surface of the ground for the runners of the sleds to run in, are well watered in the same manner in which we here water a slide for sliding logs, and thus a solid track of ice is made. Then when a load of logs is placed on the sleds, pinch bars are used to start the load, and it must be kept going until the mill, lake, river or landing is reached; for to stop would mean great difficulty in again getting started. Two teams are used to haul those great loads.
The job was nearly finished when I arrived and it took only a short time to finish.
The Sunday following my arrival, I strolled down along the river and communed with myself in the great quietness of that wonderful panorama of wooded beauty. The skies were superb, the weather ideal. The invigorating experience of the past few days had filled my very soul with wonder, with thanksgiving and with awe.
My thoughts naturally turned back to my home and family so many miles away,-- my wife still sick in bed, my infant daughter now about three weeks old and my five other children ranging up to fourteen years. I had never left to travel so far before, and that awful lonesome feeling and homesickness crept over me as never before, for I had never known what it was to be homesick. I sat down on a log, and, as if inspired by the situation, wrote the following lines, to which I gave the title:
MY PENNSYLVANIA HOME AMONG THE HILLS
Oftentime I hear you sing about your old home,
Through pastures and green fields you oft did roam,
But the spot that is dearest to my childhood
I ‘mong the hills in my old Pennsylvania home.
For the birds were sweetly singing in the wildwood,
Fond memories my soul with rapture thrills,
As my thoughts turn back to tender scenes of childhood
‘Round my Pennsylvania home among the hills.
There’s the little brown church by the hillside,
The spot that we all love so well,
And the flowers that grew by the brookside—
The prettiest spot in the dell.
Then there’s the old-fashioned doorstep,
In silence I have listened there alone.
And the well with the moss covered bucket,
’Mong the hills in my old Pennsylvania home.
You may sing about your old home in Georgia,
You can sing about your sunny Tennessee,
Of Minnesota woods or Texas rangers,
But my Pennsylvania home give me.
You may sing about your Indiana homestead,
Where the moonbeams come shining through the trees,
You can sing about you old home in Kentucky,
Where the violet scented song floats through the breeze.
But I’ll go down among the hills by the brookside
Where the meadow flowers bloom all the day,
To my Pennsylvania home, wife and babies,
And together watch the lambs skip and play.
The river was still frozen over, with no signs of breaking up, so the camp was abandoned, excepting the cook and a chore boy to look after things; and we started for the mill across country, about fifty miles away—it was almost a hundred miles by the river route.
William Watrous, Obe Bailey, Jesse Kennedy and I had each a horse to ride; but some of the way brush was too thick or limbs hung so low from the trees that we were compelled to dismount and lead the horses. We had not been long on the way, going single file—Jesse Kennedy leading the way and I was next in line—when Jesse’s gun, a Winchester rifle which he was carrying on his shoulder struck against a tree in such a way as to explode the cartridge. The ball struck the hip of the horse he was leading, whizzed past my head so close that I thought first it had hit me, and lodged in a tree near by.
We were in gun country, where guns are toted by everybody, but this was becoming a little too dangerous; so we held a parley, resulting in everyone unloading his gun before the procession would again proceed.
About midday we reached a cabin known as “Traveler’s Roost,” built by generous hands for the use of any stranger, hunter or lost person, with always a few matches, salt pork, flour and sugar. We stopped and replenished the larder but took nothing, because we were neither lost, cold, hungry or tired; then went on our way. Toward nightfall we reached a half-way house that answered as a hotel, inn or almost any other resting place, and we stopped for the night.
The night was very cold, and there were many strangers traveling both up and down the river who had stopped for the night. Those going down were all sober—those going up were mostly either drunk of getting drunk. Several quarrels were in order and the outlook was anything but pleasant for one who cared little for that particular pastime.
Presently, Obe Bailey, who was an excellent shot and who had a day or two before shot the clay pipe from the mouth of a true Irishman, who was smoking it upside down with about an inch of stem, came to me and asked if I had a revolver. Of course I had, and answered in the affirmative. He asked if I would lend it to him for a few minutes, and I readily handed it over.
He started in the direction of a big, husky Swede that was getting pretty noisy, and was visibly intoxicated. Sensing trouble, I hastened to where Bailey was and lured him away long enough to inquire what he wanted of the gun.
He replied without hesitation, “I want to shoot that d—d Swede.”
I said, “ Not with my gun you don’t shoot any Swede.”
He came back with the question, “Why not?”
And I answered, “There are many reasons `why not.’ One is, I don’t want to see anyone shot; another reason is, I don’t want to see you hang; and the third and last reason is, I don’t want to stay in Minnesota for the next two years to act as a witness in your murder trial.”
The next day while on the way I asked, “Tell me, Obe, did you really intend to kill that Swede?”
He answered, “Why, certainly I did! He ought to be killed. He’s the meanest man on the river.”
I asked, “ Well, suppose you had killed him. What would you have done about the matter?”
He replied, “ Oh, I suppose I would cut a hole in the ice and tucked him in.”
We reached the mill the afternoon of the second day without any further incident, although we had traveled about fifty miles through a most delightful wilderness of pine, cedar, spruce and poplar timber. There were long stretches of solid spruce timber, where the trees were straight and tall, looking for all the world as though they had been set out by hand, so regular were they in size, and with a carpet of moss underneath that resembled the finest Brussels carpet as we walked upon it.
To one who has never walked through an unbroken forest, there can be no adequate conception of its beauty and attractiveness. The great stillness, the impressiveness of such an enormous living commodity, the richness and perfection of it all, makes one stand in awe of its strength and gentleness. Each breath of its gentle breezes, as they waft to and fro, weaves fabric upon fabric day and night, summer and winter, without the sound of a hammer, the turn of a wheel or the murmur of a human voice! For all is wrought in silence, at least, if not for the most part in the quietness of the night.
Upon arrival at the mill we received a warm welcome from my old friend, Charles B. Watrous, and from the wife of young William Watrous, whom I had known back in Pennsylvania years before.
Plans were made for me to enjoy a moose hunt. Accordingly, I was armed with a Winchester rifle, and, with several other young fellows, started out for the monarch of the forest.
We found tracks everywhere, and soon came across their “stamping grounds” or hiding place. I was filled with animation, for it seemed as though I would surely sight one of those big fellows at almost any moment. Well, we hunted all day without getting a shot; and, as time was too precious to hunt longer, I was compelled to give up that pleasure without further attempt.
Next day we began repairing the mill—getting it ready for sawing as
soon as the drive was to bring in the logs. While engaged at this work
an Indian, well known to Mr. Watrous, came into the mill and engaged in
the following dialogue, unique and extremely brief in character and significance:
“Got raft head island, want ten dollars, go down to Emo, get grub.”
Having had dealings with said Indian before, Mr. Watrous asked if ten
dollars was enough.
The answer was “Ugh, ugh.” That seemed to mean, “Yes, yes,” and he got his money.
A few days after, we took a canoe ride up to where the raft was anchored, and found a splendid raft of logs worth considerably more than the amount paid, thus showing the character of that particular Indian.
Finally, the mill was pronounced in A-1 condition and we were ready for the drive; but the river was still low. The ice had gone out but there had been no rain.
I was working around the yard when four prairie chickens came and lit in a tall spruce tree near the house. I asked Mrs. Watrous, for a shotgun and she produced a weapon quickly. I took aim and fired. The birds nestled a little and I fired again. They nestled some more and I was out of ammunition. I then asked for a rifle, and was greeted with a keen, smiling bit of sarcasm and the following taunt:
“How in the world do you expect to hit those birds with a rifle if you can’t hit them with a shotgun?”
“Well, I can have the fun of trying, at any rate,” I replied.
She handed me the gun and I picked the four birds at the first four shots. This was about the first thing I had accomplished that was 100%, and it was “ a grand and glorious feeling” to win, after such a signal failure as I had made with the shotgun.
This experience encouraged me greatly, and that evening several of the men challenged me to go gigging for fish. I accepted, and was allowed to stand on the bow of the boat with a spear in my hands while others rowed the boat, and still others carried torches to light up the water.
I had succeeded in spearing several fairly good sized fish when I spied what looked to me like a tremendous fish lying close to the shore, and asked the boatmen to pull over toward the object. I cut loose with the spear and made a safe and sure hit. It proved to a muskellunge, two feet and eight inches in length. My happiness was complete so far as fishing was concerned. Always an ardent lover of that sport I had fished in many streams, lakes and rivers of Pennsylvania; but I had never been able to bring home anything like that in my life. Now my reputation was established for sharp shooting and also for spearing fish from a boat in deep waters of the Black River.
These little side lines were greatly enjoyed by me, and seemed to be placed in my pathway for my special benefit; for I had gone there to accomplish something definite, and that was to drive the spring drive down the Big Fork River to the sawmill on the banks of the Rainy River, at what is now known as Loman, Minn. I had helped to cut and skid logs and haul them to the river bank nearly a hundred miles above, had had the little side lines that had added luster and color to my valuable experience, but had not yet accomplished a single thing for which I had journeyed to that far country.
The play was now to end and the real business was to begin; for the water began to rise and we were out on the river fixing the boom for the purpose of catching and holding the logs as they came down from up the river. A boom was stretched from the head of the island up the stream ( the Rainy River) for about a mile to the mouth of the Big Fork, and anchored above the fork so that any logs coming down the Big Fork must cling along the southern shore of the Rainy until safely landed behind the island at the mill.
A crew of men was sent up the river to camp, which we had left a few days before, and they were soon breaking the logs, which were piled in great landings along the river, into the stream where they were carried down to the mill below.
It did not take long to break the landings, and then the real driving began. This work is known among log drivers as “Sacking the rear.” Of course, many of the logs would go through to the mill without stopping, but many of them would lodge along the eddies, on islands, against rocks that might be there from time to time, and along the shore nearly all the way.
Wanigans were used to carry the food, cooking apparatus, etc., also the beds for the drivers at night. A wanigan is a flat boat, and, usually, two or more of them would be lashed together for convenience; for the river was wide and the water deep. Other small boats, or more properly called bateaux, were used to transport the men from one side of the river to the other, or to carry them over to an island—then back again, after the logs were rolled off.
The driving of logs in deep water is an entirely different process than in the shallow, swift streams. There was none of that thrilling, daring, dangerous log jamming so common to old log drivers of the old days of Pennsylvania. The water was too deep to permit the use of teams at all, and there was very little use of horses in that water, for it was unlike our streams, the floods of which often come with a rush, carrying logs away out on the land, far from the stream, then as quickly recede and leave the logs on high and dry ground. The water there begins to rise slowly and gets a little higher every day for some time, then holds up for several weeks, usually.
Much of the driving was done by the use of pike poles, a contrivance with a pike in one end for the purpose of pushing logs in the water that had temporarily stopped, or for pulling them whenever that was more convenient. Some used levers and others the pike poles, so that the driving was, after all, a somewhat tame affair compared with our customary Pennsylvania log driving.
Mr. Watrous, always princely and appreciative, was indeed a happy man when the “rear” reached the Rainy River and his drive was safe in the boom. He was so pleased that he paid me about six times as mich as I had expected, and offered to help me get to Koochiching, about twenty miles up the river, where I was to take the train for home.
When my mission was finished, I did not wait long but was off the next morning for home. Mr. Watrous accompanied me in a canoe, for there was no road of any kind in that new country—everything was transported by water, whether freight or human cargo. One would row awhile, then the other, and thus we wended our slow but sure way along that beautiful Rainy River from Loman to Koochiching, since called International Falls.
That was one of the biggest and best days of my life. There we were, doing something so different from anything else that I had ever done, at least,--just one of those extraordinary experiences that furnished me the grandest opportunity to learn the inmost traditions and life-yearnings of that great soul who had meant so much in life to me. We talked of everything that we had ever dreamed of. We stopped beside the river for a rest and ate our luncheon. We came in contact with a band of Indians who were fishing, and they had sturgeon hanging up on trees almost as tall or long as a man. Some would weigh nearly a hundred pounds. I have never seen such fresh water fish.
We rowed on until toward evening we sighted Koochiching in the distance. At that time the town was very new. The buildings were of the mushroom type, hastily built, for a great sawmill and papermill were being built there, and there were opportunities for all comers. The town is situated, as the new name would imply, at one of the most beautiful falls to be found in North America. The low hills on the American side are solid granite, and on the Canadian side is the relic of the Reil Canal, so-called for the leader of the Reil rebellion of the nineteenth century. This rebel leader undertook to build a canal from Rainy Lake around the falls to the river below, and thereby establish a waterway on to the Hudson Bay.
After scanning the landscape over, I proceeded to the post office for any mail that might perchance be waiting there for me. The mail from the east came to this point and then was sent down the river about once or twice a week. I asked the clerk if I any mail. He looked down through the list and answered that there seemed to be none. From where I stood I could see what I thought was a letter that he had not noticed, and ventured to call his attention to the oversight. He picked up the letter, glanced at the address scrutinizingly, and again asked me what my name was. I told him and he immediately handed it to me, with the remark: “I guess your persistency has been the means of your getting at least one letter.”
I accepted that letter, which was from the Emporium Lumber Company of Galeton, Pennsylvania, written exactly two weeks before, and this is what it said: “Come at once; we are holding the job for you.”
If ever a mortal in this world was glad, I was that chap; for I had prayed from my youth for the privilege of cutting that particular tract of timber—which I had mentioned in a former chapter.
There was a new railroad being built from Fort William, on the northern
coast of Lake Superior, to the new town, and a telegraph line was already
established; but, owing to this newness of everything, there was no night
service and the day man had left.
Next morning I was at the station at the regular time for opening, and another of those strange things that sometimes happen in story-books, but seldom in life, had happened there. The wife of the telegraph operator had died and was being buried that day, so that there would be no telegraph service that day. Horror of horrors! The important letter had been written two weeks before, the stupid clerk had almost failed to give me the letter after I had asked for it, and now it seemed as though fate had decreed that I could not get an answer through before the company would get tired of waiting for me and let the job to some other fellow.
My spirits, which only the night before had been at such high tension, were now almost down to zero; for it seemed that it would be almost too good to be true that anyone would hold off so long for me to get back when I had no way of even letting them know that I had received their message.
The parting with Mr. Watrous was one of those heart wrenching experiences that we so dislike to meet, for in all probability, we had come to the crossroads where I would never be privileged to come in contact in a business way again. Tears of genuine love and affection were plainly visible on our faces as we bade each other good-bye.
I boarded that train, which was a mixture of freight, gondolas, one coach, and a lot of genuine misery; for we crept along over the newly laid track, with frequent stops where it seemed there was no need for stopping except to kill time. Finally the ting ran off the track, and we sat for hours there in the dense Canadian woods, waiting for a wrecking crew to get that train back on the tracks.
One thing I had neglected to do in my off hours of anxiety before the train started in the morning, and that was to provide myself with a lunch of any kind. I had eaten very little breakfast, and there was not even a drink of water to be had. I had been thirsty many times in my life but had never been real hungry; and while we were waiting until long late in the afternoon for the wrecking crew, I became so famished that I was furious. I offered one of the workmen a half dollar for a taste of his sandwich, but he assured me that the food belonged to the railroad company and that he could not sell their property.
/after a while the train was back on the track and we proceeded on our way. At four o’clock in the afternoon we reached a little station called Bear’s Pass, and I got my telegram off to the Emporium Lumber Company. I also got something to eat and drink, and immediately my spirits began to approach normalcy. I kept on hoping that my telegram would get there in time, but was filled that commodity or quantity or state of mind that seemed to bother old Thomas of Bible reference, for I firmly believed that I would be too late.
I learned afterwards that the telegram was received at a quarter of five that Saturday afternoon, and the office closed at five. Mr. William L. Sykes, president of the company, received it; and he told me that all that day long one Perry Filmore, an old lumberman, had besieged him for that job; and he had finally agreed that if he did not hear from me that day that he would let Filmore have the job.
He also told me that he felt sure that somehow he would hear from me before closing time, and suggested that it was telepathy of an extraordinary magnitude that was working the whole thing out. At any rate, the job was waiting for me, and such a job it was! I learned to think of Mr. Sykes as I had always thought of Mr. Watrous; and he came into my life at the very time when I had finished my lumbering career with Mr. Watrous.
I rode all night on that train, and finally, sometime in the early morning, reached Fort William. It was Sunday, and the quietest Sunday I ever saw in a town. It was explained to me that the king was very strict about Sunday laws, and that little business of any kind was allowed. There was one exception, however, and that was the unloading of the ship, Athabasca, which I was to take that evening for a voyage across Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and the Georgian Bay.
/there were fourteen trainloads of wheat fields in the hold of that vessel, and, in addition, it carried five hundred passengers. It was the first vessel to leave port that spring. We left about four o’clock that Sunday night, and we had just time to pass the straits and out in the deep water before dark. The lake was as smooth as a pane of glass, with not a riffle of any kind. We rode all night and until about four o’clock in the afternoon of Monday, when we reached the great locks at the Soo (Sault Sainte Marie). We had just time to get through the straits again and out into deep water in Lake Huron, when darkness set in again.
Again we rode all night, and sometime next day we headed into the Georgian Bay and at length reached Owen Sound, where we landed and disembarked. We had spent two days and two nights on the water.
While on this voyage another interesting episode came into my life that I believe had much to do with my future career. It was this: The churning of that immense plunger that drove that monster vessel across the seep would give an ordinary landlubber something to think about—and I was no exception to that rule. The thought came to me: Supposing that the craft would sink with all on board! What a calamity it would be to all, and especially to my own family; for at that time I carried no insurance of any kind.
I fervently promised Almighty God that if he would spare my life I would take out some insurance as soon as I reached home. The thought of my little wife and six children at home, with a small mortgage on my farm, and the prospect of my spending eternity on the bottom of Lake Superior was too much for me. I became a thorough convert to life insurance while plowing across that wonderful and awe-inspiring body of water. And upon reaching home I kept my promise, and have since been a most ardent supporter of the cause of insurance; and it has been closely woven into my life work, as I shall try to explain later.
When we reached Owen Sound, I took the train for Toronto, arriving there early in the evening; and after a good night’s rest, I started for home by rail. I could only reach Addison, N.Y., that night, where I put up for the night. It seemed as though I was traveling at a snail’s pace, for I had been six days and six nights on the way. I reached home about 11:00 a.m., and found my family very well and the little babe growing nicely.
Another circumstance was to deprive me of getting in touch with the Emporium Lumber Company for several hours. It was the death of a neighbor woman, and the funeral was to be at 2:00 p.m. I attended this funeral and then, together with my brother Frank, drove to Galeton, and found and met for the first time, W.L. Sykes, President of the Emporium Lumber Company. We soon came to a conclusion as to the terms of the contract, and Frank and I formed a partnership in the deal.
This was indeed a happy climax to the days and hours of anxiety concerning
this undertaking, which was to mean so much to me in the years to follow.