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I was about 6 years old, when we moved from East Jordan Michigan to Camp 18 (in Antrim County.) At the time my father (Harry Batterbee) was having a bout with the TB bug. They did not have the knowledge or facilities to care for each case as they do now, and it was largely up to the patient to cure himself by means of proper food, fresh air and exercise——in big doses.

In my father’s case the doctor advised a move to a farm as soon as possible. And that is how I found my self riding atop a load of furniture into a country such as I had never seen. Father and I had gone on ahead with the wagon-load of furniture, leaving my mother and my two younger brothers to come along later.

It was a short trip of 15 miles or so, but on the dirt roads of that time and behind a team of horses, which was a new experience for me, the ride seemed endless. The roads were rough and the load was heavy, so we often stopped to allow the horses a rest.

While it was light, I took turns running alongside the load and riding on the seat beside my father, but when night came I grew tired and Daddy made a place for me on top of the load. I curled up and watched the woods and the stars until I fell asleep, waking at irregular intervals and wondering if we would ever get there. That jolting rumbling ride is one of my clearest memories.

I have no recollection of our arrival for I was sound asleep, but I have often wondered how my father got me down off that load without waking me. The first thing I heard was my father talking to a couple of strange men.

As I roused still more, I saw that I was in a strange house. I lay on a pallet on the floor, and the strangeness was frightening. I began to whimper and call my father.

Father came at once and assured me that we were with friends. He pointed out that he had covered me with his coat. That coat was all the assurance I needed, and I snuggled under it, feeling as safe as a baby in its mother’s arms.

Perhaps this memory gave me my intense interest in the people who settled in Northern Michigan. Often I have stood and gazed at the remains of a log cabin or perhaps just a hollow in the ground with a few rotted timbers where the cellar has been.

And in my mind they would live again——children scampering in the sun and a mother standing in the doorway shading her eyes with her hand as she tried to see her husband at work in nearby woods or field——or perhaps she was watching for him to return from a journey to some far village.

But dreams must give way for reality, and however much we use our imaginations in connection with the everyday life of those who preceded us in this wonderful part of the country, at least we can say with a surety that (these early settlers) were working with a vision in mind——a vision of rich land converted to easy tillage and a people that were free from bondage and superstition.

With them as our inspiration and God as our help, we should be able to keep both our land and our freedom.

Written by my Aunt Rosie and preserved in her book,
Pioneer Potpourri
Check it out at http://www.dawncreations.net

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.

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.

Life in the early, lumber camps was rigorous at best——murderous at worst. Jacks faced death around every bend and bodies rode home to wives and children, smashed and broken.

Far too often broken limbs, loosed from their moorings by wind or falling trees dangled from above, killing any unwary worker who happened to be near——widow-makers they were called. One early lumberman, Haliver (Handskipe) Peterson, was working at camp 10 in northern Michigan, when a branch pivoted and fell from above, hitting him on the head and snuffing out his life.

Handskipe’s body rode home to his family on a tote wagon, frozen and lifeless.

Logs that were decked into great mountains of lumber sometimes shifted and came crashing down onto anyone who happened to be nearby. Dick Kallyshaw met his maker when he drove a loading team onto a crosshaul. A mountain of logs had been skidded to the railroad and decked. Then when Dick guided his team onto the cross-haul (a passageway that had been cut into the forest at right angles to the track) and backed his horses into place, he reached for the toggle chain, a log broke from the deck and rolled onto him, crushing his life away.

Dick’s body went home in a box.

Probably the accident most remembered in the area was preserved in a photograph and placed in the company store. Twenty-two cars had been hauled onto a side track at the top of a 2 mile grade. The brakeman failed to apply brakes on all cars before coupling them to the engine. The cars rolled back down the hill, rumbling out of control for about a mile. Then they jumped the track, settling in a pile of rubble that loomed some 20 feet in the air.

Yet with all this death and destruction, life went on.

Yet when you consider the length of time on this job, the toll in lives was small for this hazardous occupation. Mostly the work went well and (Camp 10) was a happy camp. The work of logging continued; logs were cut, hauled, skidded and loaded.
And rugged men paid the price for difficult times.

These are true stories from the lives of early lumber men that were excerpted from Pioneer Potpourri by Rosalind Batterbee Bundy Westcott.
You may purchase Pioneer Potpourri at http://www.dawncreations.net

 

It was about 1920 and my grandpa had gone to the camps during winter to supplement the family income. Most of the big timber had been taken, so the lumber companies had begun to harvest the more difficult areas, when they found a beautiful stand of hardwood on what is now called Death Hill in the Jordan Valley. The land was so steep as to seem impossible, but the East Jordan Lumber Company was determined to give it a try, so a machine was installed at the top of the hill to lower the logs by cable. When the logs reached the bottom of the hill they were hauled by horses to the decking yards.

It was still early morning when Old Meanie and Brownie were bought into position with their first load of the day. Old Meanie was still smarting from the “tuning up” he had received a little earlier, and he was dancing and throwing his head around. The driver was so busy holding him, while trying to keep Brownie from getting nervous that the sleigh passed over the hookup before the operator could fasten the cable. The load shot down the hill at breakneck speed.

Though the horses tried valiantly to hold steady and the driver sawed desperately on the lines, the 45 degree grade and the two 8 foot bunks, loaded as high as possible with those immense logs, made it a hopeless thing.

Finally when the load was about half way down, the driver recognized the uselessness of the situation and made a great leap, leaving the load and the horses to their fate.

Frozen in their tracks the men watched as the load ran up on the horses, leaping from hump to hollow like some living thing. The horses, running and screaming in fear, were unable to loose themselves from the monster which leaped after them. It was like a nightmare that would never end.

But the end came all too soon, as the monstrosity reached the bottom of the hill and the horses could not make the turn. They leaped into the air and landed in a tangle of brush, logs, sleigh and horses.

The men stood silent——in shock. The only conscious thought was a hopeless wish to see Brownie emerge unhurt.

Several minutes passed before there was any movement. Then something stirred and the veteran, Old Meanie, rose from the tangle. The men looked in vain for some sign of life from the heap that had been Brownie.

Slowly, Old Meanie rose to his feet. He stood momentarily with his head hanging as though he too mourned. Then he shook himself free of his harness and took off on a trot to the barn.

The incident was over, and another load must now pull into position for the double hook. The driver was safe and even though one horse was lost, Old Meanie would take many more loads down the hill.

The work would go on.

Now There was a Blogger

     Everyone is blogging these days and now I’m doing it too. I’m kind of excited about the whole thing because it’s in my blood, I guess. My Aunt Rosie was a blogger way back in the 1950’s; only then they called it newspaper columnist. Much of my inspiration to write my novel, Footprints Under the Pines, comes from her columns. Let me give you a taste of life in lumberjack country as she saw it in her childhood.

She writes: Here are some of the things I see and hear [in memory]: A clear morning and from miles away the sound of a camp horn or triangle calling the men to breakfast, the distant sound of chopping and a clear call of tim-berrr, section after section of cut-over woodlands and everyone’s cattle running loose in them——where many times I looked for hours before locating our own.

I remember those same stump pastures during mushroom season.

And then wherever the loggers had gone there always seemed to be a few high limbless trees left behind which we called stubs. And nearly always after a thunderstorm we could see one or more of those old stubs blazing away into the night, until finally they had all burned or rotted away.

Did you ever wade barefoot for miles through several inches of ashes, where a forest fire had raged through the country and see nothing green in all the way?

One of the clearest things I can hear when I wake in the middle of the night is a train whistle——and the fact that the train and track have been gone for many years doesn’t seem to make much difference.

 

Aunt Rosie is gone now, but her influence lives on. Through her lessons in life this freelancer has written a book, inviting the world to visit a very real and rugged part of our history. Take a run over to dawncreations.net and see my book, Footprints Under the Pines, as well as a compilation of Aunt Rosie’s columns, entitled Pioneer Potpourri.

Come see me at http://www.dawncreations.net

 

 

I traveled down a little used road through the deep woods, traversing a path that grew less and less navigable with each mile. Deeper and deeper we went into that unknown world, until we broke into the open to find a great field of huge, rotting stumps——stumpland it’s called. It was an awesome sight with stumps everywhere. I dropped to my knees and tried to reach around one stump, only to find that I couldn’t begin to encompass it. Think of the stories those old stumps could tell, stories of tough lumberjacks who faced the wilderness in below zero weather to harvest trees for the lumber barons of the 1890’s——stories of death at the hands of a swinging limb or of illness that was treated only with tobacco juice.

 

Surely you’ve read of the wild, drunken melees that took place in cities, where men were stomped upon and killed without retribution, but have you walked with those same men as they braved the icy wilds of the great woods, where a man might be struck down and killed by a swinging limb or where an exploding load of logs might come crashing down upon its builders.

  

Come with me and we’ll watch as the load grows taller and taller and then makes its way into the newspapers as a contestant in a loading contest——or as the sleighs go racing along roads that were deliberately iced to make them fly by. Watch with me as a village rises in the deep woods or a swing dingle carries a hot lunch to hungry lumberjacks.  

 

These are only a few of the events you may experience through my book, Footprints Under the Pines. As you travel deeper and deeper into that wild untamed land, you’ll see life as it was in that brutal world. You’ll walk and talk with those tough men who peopled the lumber camps of the 1890’s.

 

I’ll be looking for you at www.dawncreations.net., where you may read an excerpt.

 

Footprints Under the Pines may be ordered in most bookstores including Barnes & Nobel or Amazon.