Archive for February, 2009

A glimpse into the life of Lee Donaldson, lumber-boy.

It was 1897 and Grandpa Donaldson was 3 years old. His father was a wood cutter, cutting hardwoods for a living and harvesting cordwood for Antrim Iron Co. just south of Ellsworth MI.

It was there that Great-grandpa Donaldson met a man named Marshall Newell; and it was there that he traded his Winchester for squatter’s rights on 49 acres of land on the county line between Antrim and Charlevoix counties. If ever a man needed a good gun it was in that desolate place, but Mr. Donaldson needed a home for his family even more, so he took the chance and moved into Marshall Newell’s “rolled up” house with nothing but a cross-cut saw, an axe, a sledge and a wedge.

A rolled up house was built by placing poles at an angle with one end on the ground and the other atop the walls. Logs were then rolled up the poles and secured to the structure. With each tier of logs the house became taller. When the walls were complete, it was generally necessary to use milled boards for a roof. Insert By Dawn Batterbee Miller

When builders rolled up the logs, it left a crack between them, so they chinked it with moss. There was a lot of lichen on the north side of the trees in those days and it became a handy sealant.

Chinking was done by cutting a piece of wood into a wedge and wrapping it with moss. Then with the chinking strip ready the settlers wedged it into the crack between the logs. Moss is a spongy substance and when it is in place, it seals the crack so the wind won’t blow in and the cold is kept out.

With the walls in place, the early settlers finished the gables with bark peeled from elm trees and cut into strips, which were then nailed into place.

Grandpa Donaldson’s home was about 2 miles from Ellsworth MI, but it may as well have been many more miles for there were no roads, only trails made by loggers who had taken out the virgin timber. Then as time went on, Great-grandpa Donaldson acquired horses, hired some men and went into the logging business, cutting and hauling logs.

Given the abundance of hardwoods it is not surprising that the woodcutters and lumbermen came. They settled in the area and the little village of Ellsworth, Michigan grew into a thriving town with 5 mills including one shingle mill. And rising from its environs came a little boy named Lee Donaldson, who grew into manhood, took a motherless child into his home and family, and became one of the dearest men in this writer’s life.

Next time I’ll tell you another of the stories that Grandpa Donaldson told——a “tragic event” in the little town of Ellsworth.

Why not go to http://www.dawncreations and take a look at my book, Footprints Under the Pines. There you may learn more about the culture of those rough, tough men of the forest. Footprints Under the Pines may be purchased at http://www.dawncreations.net, on Amazon, ordered in most bookstores or borrowed from the Library of Michigan.


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April 19, 1917!! A day we had long looked forward to, and a day long to be remembered. We set out early with a heavy load of household goods, including father’s library.

The weather was cloudy and cold. Our new team was fresh and in high spirits, but 18 miles is a long way over hills and long stretches of deep sand. They were not heavy horses, just medium weight. John was young and seemed the stronger of the two at the start. But old Dick was gritty and tough.

Rose, my little 6 year old daughter saw many things to interest her naturally inquisitive mind. And after our picnic dinner, as the long hours and longer miles stretched out, she found time to make many excursions into the woods and slashings to find the treasures and wonders that are everywhere for a child.

When we came to the part of the country that lies south of Chestonia, the road was very crooked, reminding one of a snake track in the deep sand. The horses were getting very tired and John, who had been so fiery in the morning, was beginning to lag.

At the beginning of the worst of the road we saw a sign. CHEER UP! THE WORST IS YET TO COME. STROEBEL BROS.
That sign remained there for many years and never failed to bring a smile and memories of the first trip over that road.

By the time we had traversed the sandy part and were facing several miles of hills, John was completely exhausted and discouraged. We stopped to rest every few rods and old Dick would paw and try to go on. Good old Dick! I still remember what a fiery old soldier he was. And he remained the same ‘til he died (on his feet) a couple of years later.

I finally had to leave the wagon by the roadside and hitch to the double buggy we had been trailing all day. By this time it was dark and Rose was asleep, wrapped in a blanket. I guess she never knew when we changed rigs, but she rode the rest of the way propped up on the seat by my side.

John had perked up a bit when we started out with the lighter load and after a couple of miles, he walked along pretty well. I still think his weariness was mostly discouragement, because he never was a good hauler after that. He balked whenever he had an extra hard task.

When we reached the Scott wood-camp, I stopped and hired them to go back and bring my load of goods.

We finally arrived at our new home about 10:00 o’clock P.M. Rose was still sleeping, when we arrived, and I carried her in the house and laid her on a improvised pallet on the floor.

We had traveled 18 miles, it had taken 15 hours; we had spoiled a good young horse and had to leave our load several miles from its destination. Today the same trip could be made easily in an hour with little cost and much less trouble.

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