A true story, first told by Rosalind Batterbee Bundy Westcott in her book, Pioneer Potpourri


The year was 1875 and Sam Wildfong, a farmer from Stratford, Canada, had determined that the United States of America should be his new home. So, early in February of 1875, when the ice was just beginning to break up, he took his family in a small boat and headed for America.

Progress was slow, as Sam navigated among the great chunks of ice that kept crashing into the sides of the boat. But Sam, relying only on his quick eyes and strong arms, avoided the ice floes that obstructed the way. Sometimes the blocks were so big that a new course had to be set, but each time the boat veered southward, heading for a safe port and a new life.

And God must have been with the Wildfongs for the tiny boat, which was only a speck on that Great Lake, made a safe passage——and so brought the root and branch of a new vine to be planted in our great nation.

Arriving in the United States, Sam and his family boarded the train and headed for Mancelona Michigan, where John Grody met them with his mule and cutter. John took the family to a little cabin near what is now U.S. 131 and M 66 corners, and there they spent their first year in their new homeland.

A year later, Sam finally acquired the Willard Harris homestead in the Green River Valley area. He moved his family onto the farm with only a yoke of oxen, a 25 pound sack of flour and 50 cents in his pocket.

Nevertheless, the family began to clear the land to make room for their home and fields, burning the logs in great pyres, for there were no mills in those early days. Hundreds of dollars worth of prime lumber went up in flames.

In time the Wetzell Handle Factory moved into the area and Sam hauled many loads of bolts to the mill with his ox team, receiving the magnificent sum of $1.75 a cord.

Then one day Mrs. Wildfong was loading logs with 9 year old Levi, when the sleigh tipped over and a huge log rolled onto the boy. Without a thought Sam grabbed the log and lifted it, freeing his son and preventing further damage to the child.

And later, when Levi was found to be all right, Sam tried with might and main to lift the log, but he had no success; he was unable to do so much as budge the huge log.

This is a true story, taken from my Aunt Rosie’s book, Pioneer Potpourri. The trip across a Great Lake was adapted and used in my book Footprints Under the Pines——adapted because I feared the reader might not find the story plausible. Why not go to http://www.dawncreations and take a look at my Aunt Rosie’s book, Pioneer Potpourri.

And while you’re there, read an excerpt from Footprints Under the Pines which is available on Amazon, at Gift and Bible in Lansing or agape booksellers in Jackson. Footprints Under the Pines may also be ordered in most bookstores including Barnes & Nobel or borrowed from the Library of Michigan.

In those days if a couple was going to get married their parents would buy materials and hire a cabinet maker and give him a room in their home.

Now, of course, the couple will need a wedding dress and a suit and linens and so on, so the parents hire a weaver and seamstress who also moves into the house.

And then you give (the weaver) the fleece off of the sheep and you bring her in a bunch of flax that has been broken.

(To break the flax) you have to grow (it), then you bury it in the ground and the next year you dig it up again and let it dry. Then you get right up on it with your feet and stomp, and you break the flax all up. And then you can sift it out and you get rid of the stalks and you’ve just got the tow (short soft fibers) left.

Well then (the weaver) takes the tow and works it and bleaches it until it becomes some of the finest of white linen. And you use the very most beautiful for your wedding garment … and for his shirt.

Then there’s another part of the flax that you can’t use for (the wedding dress). You can’t bleach it until it’s white and nice, so you make other things out of that, such as towels and so on. They used to make a hand towel out of medium material that was so harsh you had to wash it several times before it got soft. Then they had one (kind of material) beyond that yet that was sack cloth, to be used for sacks and bags and stuff.

Then (the weaver) would take the wool and she’d bleach that and she’d spin it into thread and into yarn. Then she would weave it——she had to weave the flax into cloth too, you know——and then make it up into garments, dress, suit and wedding garments and bed linen and stuff.

Well, you bring in the cabinet maker and him a young single fella and then you bring in the weaver/seamstress and her an unmarried girl, they kind of get together sometimes. And that’s what my grandma and grandpa done. They got together and they got married too.

Still hoping you’ll go to http://www.dawncreations and take a look at my book, Footprints Under the Pines. Or you may find it on Amazon or CBC. Footprints Under the Pines may also be ordered in most bookstores including Barnes & Nobel or borrowed from the Library of Michigan.

Lumber Boys were a happy-go-lucky bunch with hearts of gold to help in your time of need. If you needed a dollar they were ready and willing to give it to you.

But those lumber boys also liked their booze, and on any given Saturday night you could find them at the local saloon, chug’n the bottle n’ fillin’ the’r snoots. Fights occurred as regular as rain, leaving the drunken warriors with bloody noses and black eyes to tell the story of their weekly brawl.

On the other hand, if those boys were quick to drown themselves in liquor, they also “had a principle in those days. You know there is principle even among thieves, so it is said.” (Quote from Lee Donaldson, lumber boy) Marital faithfulness, especially on the part of women, was highly regarded.

And in the little town of Ellsworth there was one woman who had little regard for her reputation. She left her husband and went to live with another man.

Now it seemed that those lumber boys found the idea of this unprincipled union to be unforgivingly repugnant, so they——being the highly principled “real men” that they were——felt it was their duty to deal with the issue. They gathered horsewhips and tar and feathers and made their way to that house of sin.

Of course, before they could participate in this brave deed, the men covered themselves with white caps to conceal their identity.

Soon the errant couple came face to face with trouble. Those “real men” dragged both man and woman outside, stripped them, and beat them with horse whips. They smeared them with tar, rolled them in feathers and tied them to a pole. Then they paraded the couple through the streets of the little town of Ellsworth to broadcast the message of their sin.

“But, you see, those ‘real men’ all wore white caps so they wouldn’t be recognized, for people in that kind of business were usually ashamed of themselves.”

And it must be reported that in an unintended mishap they heated the tar too hot, and the man and woman were burned. “Not awful bad but yet is was too hot. It burned them a little; (it was) hotter than it should have been. Of course they shouldn’t have used any at all.” (Quotes by Lee Donaldson, lumber boy)

Why not go to Amazon or CBC and check out my book, Footprints Under the Pines. In the Jackson area, go to agape booksellers. And don’t forget, Footprints Under the Pines may be purchased at http://www.dawncreations.net, ordered in most bookstores or borrowed from the Library of Michigan.

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