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The White Pine Industry in Minnesota

The White Pine Industry in Minnesota: A History

Agnes M. Larson
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 456
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  • Book Info
    The White Pine Industry in Minnesota
    Book Description:

    Telling the complete history of the white pine industry, Agnes M. Larson brings us back to a time when Minnesota’s lumber business was thriving. Larson recounts the development of the Upper Mississippi Valley with a wealth of information, including the building of the railroads and bustling mill towns; the daily lives of lumberjacks; and the final devastation of the forests.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5375-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    FOR as long as hearty souls have ventured into the woods to clear the way for civilization, Americans have enjoyed reading about life in the lumber camps and the larger-than-life lumberjacks who called them home. Scholars have likewise been long interested in the men who made their fortunes in lumber, as well as in the larger economic importance of the industry. Yet, from colonial harvests in New England to the development of modern lumbering in the Pacific Northwest, the history of lumbering is far more than a simple tale of technological advancement, economic fluctuations, or hardscrabble characters enduring endless hardships....

  5. Preface
    (pp. xvii-1)
    Agnes M. Larson
  6. County Map of Minnesota
    (pp. 2-2)
  7. CHAPTER I Minnesota’s Forest Treasure
    (pp. 3-10)

    ONE summer day in 1634, fourteen years after the coming of theMayflower,a dramatic figure clad in damask stepped from a canoe, manned by red men, onto the white sands of the shores of that water which we today call Green Bay, on the western reaches of Lake Michigan. He was Jean Nicolet from Cherbourg in France, who had been sent by his king to find another route to Cathay.¹ His king wanted gold; he wanted silver; he wanted precious jewels; he wanted spices. Cathay, it was supposed, had all these.

    Jean Nicolet never found the northwest route to...

  8. CHAPTER II The Lumber Industry Comes to the Upper Mississippi Valley
    (pp. 11-28)

    AT A convention of delegates from the then West and Southwest of the United States meeting at Memphis, Tennessee, in 1845 to consider internal improvements, there was much agitation for improving the river for lumber shipments from the St. Croix and other headwaters of the Mississippi.¹ The states of the Lower and Middle Mississippi had entered statehood considerably earlier than Minnesota and were well populated at an early date. Some of these states with a relative scarcity of timber were demanding lumber from the immense pineries of the Upper Mississippi² — lumber for the building of homes. Therefore, there was agitation...

  9. CHAPTER III The Home Market Stimulates the Mills at St. Anthony and Winona, 1850–1870
    (pp. 29-52)

    IT IS axiomatic to say there is no single cause that shapes development in history; rather, many things act on each other and from the interaction arise new situations, new developments, and new events. So it was with the lumber industry on the Upper Mississippi during the 1850s and 1860s. World developments were helping to set the stage for the growth of that industry.

    The eyes of Europe were turned toward the great midland empire of the United States. English free trade and the Industrial Revolution had created a great and growing market for the food that could be produced...

  10. CHAPTER IV The Pinelands of the St. Croix Delta Become the Property of Lumbermen
    (pp. 53-70)

    IN 1845 the Commissioner of the General Land Office of the United States recommended in his annual report that lands near St. Anthony Falls and the mouths of the St. Croix, Chippewa, and Black rivers should be surveyed. These lands, his report stated, were rapidly being stripped of timber and would soon become unsalable and comparatively valueless.¹ His recommendation was adopted, and in 1847 the General Land Office ordered the survey of the land lying west of the St. Croix and around the Falls of St. Anthony.² That very year surveyors came into the St. Croix Delta and began their...

  11. CHAPTER V Logging in the St. Croix Forests
    (pp. 71-85)

    THE first crew of loggers in the St. Croix Delta of which there is any record operated at the junction of the Snake and St. Croix rivers in the winter of 1837, even before Minnesota had become a territory. John Boyce, who had come from St. Louis in a Mackinaw boat, carried on his logging there with eleven men and six oxen.¹ Franklin Steele had as his crew an ox with a cart and six half-breeds when he first “fleshed his axe” in the wilderness of the St. Croix that same year.²

    When lands began to pass into private ownership,...

  12. CHAPTER VI Rafting and Selling Downriver
    (pp. 86-104)

    IN THE early years of the lumber industry on the Upper Mississippi the product found its market chiefly downriver, and even after the coming of the railroad the Mississippi carried logs and lumber to market. The river way to market was long and uncertain and the market widely scattered. But the Mississippi was available without any expense of construction; it offered the most rapid form of transportation before railroads came to the region; and it was the most convenient method of transportation for heavy products at the time.

    The cutting of the white pine on the upper reaches of the...

  13. CHAPTER VII Railroads Broaden the Market for the White Pine of the Upper Mississippi, 1870–1890
    (pp. 105-124)

    IN AN earlier chapter we have seen how the railroad reached the Mississippi, crossed it, and moved into the vast stretches of fat land beyond. The trans-Mississippi railroad came first to the states south of Minnesota. Immediately after the Panic of 1857 two railroads made important progress there. The Hannibal and St. Joseph was completed in 1859, connecting the Mississippi at Hannibal with the Missouri River at St. Joseph north of St. Louis; Hannibal, the railhead on the river, was to become a prominent river market for lumber from the St. Croix and the Chippewa rivers. The Missouri Pacific from...

  14. CHAPTER VIII Lumber and Logs on the Mississippi after 1870
    (pp. 125-146)

    MINNEAPOLIS, Stillwater, and Winona, as we have seen, increased their lumber production and expanded their market as railroads developed and opened up new regions to the westward. Activity on the Mississippi River increased, too, as railroads struck out from that artery. When railroads first entered American life they were planned primarily as adjuncts to water transportation: the widening market made possible by railroads would increase traffic on the river. This proved to be quite correct in regard to the Mississippi, for railroads did speed up the log and lumber industry of that river between 1870 and 1890.

    Between 1840 and...

  15. CHAPTER IX Growth of Sawmills in Minnesota, 1870-1890
    (pp. 147-164)

    In 1839 only one mill was cutting lumber in Minnesota. By 1870 the industry of sawmilling had come of age; there were 207 mills operating in Minnesota, the capital invested equaled $3,311,140, and 2952 people were earning their daily bread in those mills.¹

    In that thirty-one year period great changes had come over the industry. New methods had been developed, and mills had increased not only in number but in amount of production per mill as well. The pit saw, the up-and-down saw, and the old muley, all of which had once seen service in Minnesota, were replaced by newer...

  16. CHAPTER X Logging and Driving, 1870-1890
    (pp. 165-191)

    In the business of estimating timber as to quality and quantity — of determining which areas and which trees should be cut by the logger — confidence was placed in one man. On his decision depended tens of thousands of dollars; if he made an error in his estimate, his employer was a loser in cold coin. This important individual who marched in the vanguard of the army of lumbermen was called the cruiser. The typical cruiser was a successor to thecoureur de bois,the ranger of the woods. Thecoureurlooked for furs, for peltries; the cruiser looked for valuable...

  17. CHAPTER XI Life in the Woods
    (pp. 192-219)

    The logger who worked in the heavy timber has been almost forgotten in Minnesota. He represents a phase of frontier life which can never return. This industrial pioneer lived in the deep forest where his life was simple, even elemental; his clothes were rough, often a strange combination of store clothes and fringed buckskins. His manner was rough too, though most often there was a “heart in him.” Logging called for strong, daredevil men; there was no place in it for either invalids or shirkers — they were “shown the tote road.” The man in the woods was usually strong and...

  18. CHAPTER XII The Downriver Sawmills Are Stilled
    (pp. 220-228)

    In the preceding chapters we have described the rapid development in the lumber industry of the Upper Mississippi in the period from 1870 to to 1890. The lumber demands of the growing cities along the river and even more of the new settlements to the westward had produced an industry which cut immense forest areas, built important lumber towns, and brought rafting to the river. But this could not last; there was not enough forest to sustain such intense and widespread activity long. The industry now here kept moving on to virgin regions, and as it moved, the sawmills it...

  19. CHAPTER XIII The Lumber Industry in Minneapolis Reaches Its Height, 1890-1905
    (pp. 229-246)

    Before 1890 the white pine of Minnesota had found its market chiefly in the region to the west of the Mississippi. With the opening of that decade, however, dealers and consumers to the east of the Mississippi sought lumber in Minnesota. They had been the market for Michigan’s white pine, but that was nearly exhausted now and could no longer meet the demand.

    Michigan’s market, Michigan’s capital, and Michigan’s lumbermen were being released to Minnesota: Akeley, Hall, Ducey, Shevlin — names of importance in the world of lumber — came to Minneapolis; others moved to Duluth. This was the second great relay...

  20. CHAPTER XIV The Duluth District Sends Its White Pine Eastward
    (pp. 247-264)

    Duluth had great natural possibilities. At her feet lay a deep waterway reaching to the Atlantic, and her vast hinterland had abundant resources in timber and iron ore. In 1854 the region around the northwestern extremity of Lake Superior was ceded to the United States government, and the next year the interlake channel at Sault Ste. Marie was deepened, which made it possible for heavy traffic to pass that way. At first Duluth’s development was slow and there was little demand for lumber, either local or distant. The coming of the railroad gave a decided impetus to the industry, but...

  21. CHAPTER XV The Pinelands of Northern Minnesota Become Private Property
    (pp. 265-288)

    The early history of the disposition of land in the region to the north and west of Lake Superior differs from that of the St. Croix and St. Cloud areas in that lumbermen were not the first land buyers in the Lake region. The men into whose possession passed the timberlands of the St. Croix Delta were sawmill men, and at the land offices at Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud, lumbermen who had mills along the Mississippi were in the vanguard of the group who purchased pineland. In the Duluth area, however, lumbermen actually did not buy much timberland until...

  22. CHAPTER XVI The Operation of National Land Laws in the Pineland Area
    (pp. 289-333)

    The government of the United States had no definite policy to govern the disposition of its timberlands throughout the greater part of the nineteenth century. Timberlands were in the same category as the good farm lands of the prairie or the lands of the treeless plains. The United States was not industrial when the national government established its most basic land laws, and the people thought in terms of agriculture. In passing the preëmption and homestead acts Congress had in mind arable lands, not timber-covered lands. Indeed, the idea prevailed in the pioneer period of our country’s history that even...

  23. CHAPTER XVII The Operation of State Laws in the Pineland Area
    (pp. 334-348)

    The state of Minnesota was itself a landowner of no small proportions. In various ways and at various times the national government had granted the states substantial amounts of land. During the first fifty years of its existence Minnesota had acquired from the United States nearly 17,000,000 acres, plus swamp land yet unmeasured — a region as large as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, and a third of New Hampshire.¹

    Much of this land was rich in natural resources, such as agricultural fertility, white pine, and iron ore. It became the responsibility of the state, then, to secure the greatest return...

  24. CHAPTER XVIII The New Age in Logging and Sawing
    (pp. 349-371)

    There were many striking new developments in the techniques of lumber production in the 1890s and the early years of the new century; this was true in both logging and sawing. The mills in Minneapolis, which in 1899 made their greatest cut when their saws produced 594,373,000 feet of lumber, represented the best in equipment at that time. And the newest equipment was quite different from that of a half century earlier when, it has been said, the sawyer could take a nap while the saw “traversed the cut” — when the noise stopped, the sawyer woke up!¹

    The lumberman driving...

  25. CHAPTER XIX Marketing and Prices, Especially after 1890
    (pp. 372-398)

    In pioneer days the marketing of logs and lumber had often been simple and direct. In the Upper Mississippi Valley there were then no specialized middlemen between the producer and consumer except an occasional retailer like the Lairds of Winona, who in 1855 were selling to the incoming settlers of that region lumber from the sawmills on the St. Croix or the Chippewa. The early lumber producer generally combined ownership of timber with logging, sawing, and wholesaling, and he was often his own retailer as well. As we have already seen, if he manufactured more than his immediate community needed,...

  26. CHAPTER XX The White Pine in the Building of the State
    (pp. 399-415)

    The last scene of the last act of the great drama of white pine was being played in Minnesota. No improvements in machinery, no cheapening of costs could make up for the lack of raw material, for the absence of timber. The lumber industry was on its downward trend by 1907. In the golden age which was then past, great capital, a demanding market, the newest technical methods and machines, and skillful management had combined in such a slaughter of the pine as the region was never again to see. After that, the industry was in retreat. One lumber area...

  27. Index
    (pp. 416-433)
  28. Back Matter
    (pp. 434-434)