Histories > Eau Claire Co. Historical Accounts
"History of Northern Wisconsin, 1881"
The Lumber Interest
(-as transcribed from pages 303 - 305)
The Chippewa being a large river, with an immense log-driving capacity, and tributaries from the pine region, with abundant water-power, it has extensive lumbering establishments, none of them more important than at Eau Claire. At this point, in addition to the booms on the Eau Claire River, there is a boom formed by Half Moon Lake, which has a connecting canal with the river. This lake was possibly once the bed of the river, which has been changed by accumulating sands and worn banks. A company to operate this property was formed in 1859, and re-organized in December, 1871.
It may be proper, in this connection, to mention the lowest and most extensive boom on the river, located near its mouth. This is owned by the Beef Slough Manufacturing, Booming, Log-Driving and Transportation Company. It was organized April 27, 1867, with a capital of $100,000. Its rates of toll are seventy-five cents per 1,000 feet for logs and timber, two cents for railroad ties, and one cent for fence posts. It has a capacity of 200,000,000 feet. So long ago as 1874, it delivered 133,000,000 feet.
At Eau Claire, a long and bitter legislative fight, continuing ten years, was carried on with the capitalists on the river above. It was known as the "Dells' fight." It was finally terminated by authority granted to build a dam.
In 1842, H. S. Allen, Simon and George Randall, selected the lower Dalles, as it was then and now is called, as the proper and only place where lumber could be rescued from the current and successfully handled with security during all stages of water. As a logging stream, it is of the greatest importance, arid for years to come the lumber business will be paramount, as it has been in the past. In 1873, an account which was authentic as far as it went, was published, showing the magnitude of the lumber business as it then existed. From it we learn that the Eau Claire Lumber Company had fifteen camps, four hundred men, one hundred and fifty horse teams, and fifty yoke of oxen. They secured thirty million feet of lumber that season.
Smith & Buffington had three camps, one on the Chippewa and two on the Flambeau. Twelve horse teams, eleven yoke of oxen, and one hundred and twenty men, putting in six million feet on the Chippewa and five million on the Flambeau.
D. Swan & Co. had three camps of their own and nine of their " jobbers," making twelve in all; eight on the Chippewa, one on the Flambeau, two on the Thornapple and one on another branch. They employed two hundred men, thirty-one ox-teams, thirty-three horse teams, and put afloat twenty million feet of logs.
Ingham & Kennedy floated forty million feet. The business of these firms here specified, represented about one-third of the logging interest at that time.
As the population has nearly or quite doubled since that time, in response to the increased business, it will be seen that the amount done then as compared with the present time, must have been correctly reported.
An account published in 1871, showed that there were one hundred and twelve camps on the upper Chippewa, and the aggregate lumber cut in Northern Wisconsin, for that year was as follows:
Lumber cut on the Chippewa and its tributaries: 1873, 388,417,993 feet; 1874, 298,098,096 feet; 1875, 250,747,936 feet.
Rafted at Beef Slough: 1873, 91,000,000 feet; 1874, 133,000,000 feet; 1875, 129,000,000 feet.
The log product for the Winter of 1875-6, 480,000,000 feet.
It is estimated that one-half of the pine lumber of Wisconsin is in the Chippewa Valley.
Various calculations have been made as to the amount of lumber now standing. These estimates vary from eight to twenty thousand million.
Lumber cut in 1878, in Eau Claire: lumber, 99,876,120; lath, 24,274,100; shingle, 28,125,500; pickets, 482,000.
Logs scaled in 1879: Dist.No. 3, 101,422,299; Dist.No. 6, 37,000,980.
Log crop of 1878-9, of the Chippewa Valley: lumber, 165,683,216; shingles, 51,777,000; lath, 43,343,550; pickets, 1,150,880.
Crop of 1877-8: lumber, 99,871,120; shingles, 28,122,500; lath, 24,270,100 pickets, 482,194.
Logging in 1880: amount banked on the Elk, north and south forks of the Flambeau: 147,500,000.
Lumber cut in the Winter of 1878, on Little Falls Dam and Taylor's Creek: 8,000,000.
Drive for the season of 1881, on the Chippewa, was: Little Falls Dam, 75,000,000; Paint Creek, 40,000,000; Dells Dam and Half Moon Lake, 75,000,000; Upper tributaries of the Chippewa, 60,000,000; Lower Chippewa, Beef Slough, 250,000,000.
The Valley Lumber Company, at Eau Claire, in one day, with two rotary and one gang saw, cut, 311,610 feet of lumber in less than eleven hours.
Since the first lumbering operations were commenced in this region, when a saw-mill was run by a flutter wheel, connected directly with the same frame by a crank, at an enormous waste of power, there has been a radical change. Labor-saving and expediting machinery is now used, which seems to possess human intelligence, as it handles the logs and rapidly converts them into timber, boards, shingles, lath, or pickets.
The dam has sixteen feet fall, and has an immense power, which will one day be utilized, perhaps by transmitting the power by means of condensed air, to all parts of the city.
Lumber piled in the Eau Claire Lumber Company's yards during the season of 1880: lumber, 28,260,339;
shingles, 12,112,500; lath, 6,693,000.
The Lumbermen's Association. -- A National convention of lumbermen was formed in Williamsport in the Spring of 1874; nearly every point in the lumbering interest was represented. Our distinguished townsman, J. G. Thorp, was elected president.
On the 19th of September, 1876, the convention met in Eau Claire. Hon. J. G. Thorp, presided, and presented the annual address. The report of G. E. Stockbridge, the secretary, showed that the amount of lumber on hand in the States was, January 1, 1875, 3,256,889,689 feet. January 1,1876, 3,069,595,472. The convention adjourned after a profitable session, having received every attention from the citizens.
Assorting Logs on the Chippewa. -- This assorting and log-running business is not well understood by non-residents. It will here be briefly explained. On account of the numerous falls, many rapids and the consequently swift current, no logs can be rafted, as is done in more placid streams, but the logs, after being marked with the owner's registered marks, are dumped promiscuously into the river, and they all flow on together to be caught in the several booms on the river.
These booms are floating dams, kept in place by submerged wings, and project into the river in such a manner that logs floating with the current will be caught or turned aside into an expansion of the river to be there held until men, with suitable corks on their boots, can assort them out, subject to the owner's order. Formerly, when a sufficient quantity of one firm's mark had accumulated to make two cribs, the mill took one for sawing, and gave the other to the owner.
This was when any mill on the river hauled up logs as they came, regardless of the ownership, and men seldom or never got the lumber from the very logs they cut, and as there is a very great difference in the quality of lumber cut in different camps, much injustice was done by the old methods. Now, however, an assorting boom obviates many of the old troubles, as the logs can be promptly delivered to the owners.
Sawing Lumber. -- As time rolls on, in the-distant future, when the prediction that "Old things shall pass away and all things become new " may have been wellnigh fulfilled, when the exhaustion of the lumber shall have necessitated new material for building purposes, and lumber mills may have gone the way of the distaff and spinning-wheel, it may not be uninteresting to read even a brief account of a mill
As you stand inside, you see the ends of four huge logs just hovering over the angle on the log-slip. They are dripping with water and bear, besides the owner's mark, the scars and scratches of a long drive; another instant, and the dogs that gripped and hauled them up are removed, the outside logs are rolled by cant-hooks right and left to carriages traveling back and forth like a huge piston of a steam-engine, carrying usually two men and a boy to adjust and set the log, which is driven through a circular saw, revolving with lightning rapidity, to strip off the outside or slab, the log is tumbled over automatically, and rapidly squared; it then is carried by a set of rollers, and becomes an easy victim of the great family gang, that, with its reciprocating motion, beckons it on to unhesitating mastication, and the huge logs, that a few moments before were quietly reposing in the placid water above the mill, are falling down into the sheds or upon a car, finished boards. More logs crawling up; more tumbling over; more buzzing; more maunching, and more finished lumber, for eleven hours a day, realizes the prosperity and wealth of the lumber region. The slabs are rapidly worked up into pickets and lath.
The Eau Claire Lumber Company. -- The most extensive lumbering corporation on the river, and one of the largest in the world. The nucleus of the immense property was purchased by Chapman & Thorp, of Gage & Reed, in 1856. It included the mill, pine-lands, and one-half the village plat. The financial crash of 1857, with its commercial convulsions, was a crushing blow to this struggling firm, and notwithstanding these young men had brought a quarter of a million dollars into the business, the firm was in desperate circumstances, and only the prompt aid of powerful friends in the East saved it from impending destruction. The company was reorganized in 1866, as the Eau Claire Lumber Company, and has always been closely identified with the city and its interests. Although subject to the vicissitudes incident to such extensive operations it has gone on from a beginning with $500,000 capital until now it employs $3,000,000 in its business. It has machine shops, flouring mills, and large lumber mills, in Eau Claire, Meriden and Alma, with a combined capacity of 100,000,000 feet a year, and last year actually cut 80,000,000 feet of lumber, and this year will cut 90,000,000 feet. In 1874, the company erected a large brick store for the retail of general merchandise, costing $30,000. At one time the business of the store amounted to $350,000 a year, that part of the business, however, is now closing up. The losses of the firm by fire and flood at various times would aggregate a large sum. In November, 1877, their extensive flouring mill was destroyed by fire. The loss was 50,000; insured for $27,000. December 19, 1878, their machine shop was also destroyed by fire. In December, 1879, the boiler of the planing mill exploded, killing J. Wright Hoskins, the engineer, Anthony Gallagher and Michael Helping. Thomas Hall was also injured. The mill was badly shattered. The company has extensive yards in St. Louis, where a large part of their lumber is shipped. Fifteen hundred men are regularly employed in all departments of the business. In the Winter of 1880-1 1,800 men and the necessary teams were in the lumbering camps. In addition to their own manufacture, 20,000,000 feet were bought and disposed of. The present officers and members of the company are: J. G. Thorp, president; Richard Schulenburg, vice-president; N. C. Chapman, treasurer; W. A. Rust, secretary. These gentlemen with J. T. Gilbert, George Y. Gilbert and J. G. Chapman constitute the board of directors.
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