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Curtiss-Wedge, F.; Jones, Geo. O. (ed.) / History of Dunn County, Wisconsin

Chapter II: early lumbering operations,   pp. 7-19

Page 11

wards learned, Armstrong-had depended to build the mill. I then made a bargain
with Isaac Saunders, one of the carpenters Armstrong had taken up, giving him an
interest in the mill to superintend it, and engaged Holmes by the day to build the
mill. There had been very little work done during the summer, and they did not
get the mill ready to commence sawing until March, 1831; and by the first of June
following, had sawed about 100,000 feet of lumber. It was impossible at that time
at Prairie du Chien to get any other hands than Canadians, except occasionally a
discharged soldier; and among the Americans that were at the mill, there was not
one who knew how to construct a raft.
"The Canadian manner of rafting had been to lay two floats of timber about
ten inches square, and raft the boards on them, and they rafted our lumber in that
way; but when they had completed the raft, they found there was not water enough
to float it, the water being very low that spring. As many of the men's time would
be out in May, I went up with another set of hands to supply the places of those
that would come away with the raft. But on arriving there, I found the water
very low, and the Canadians declared that the lumber could not be rafted out of
the river. It appeared that we would have to wait for a rise of water; and having
a double set of hands, I concluded to build another mill, on a stream about one
mile from the other. I set the hands to work getting out timber for the dam, mill,
"The Canadians who had first gone there, and went back with me against their
will, and whose times were about expiring, were still disposed to be mutinous, and
declared their intention of not waiting for a rise of water to get the timber out,
and of leaving as soon as their time should expire. I told them that they could not
leave until they took down the lumber; that I would pay them for their time, and
that they could not get provisions to go unless they took it by force, and that, I
did not think, would be very safe for them to attempt while I was there, and if they
cut a pine tree to make a canoe of, I would have them prosecuted and imprisoned-
and, as a Canadian is much afraid of a jail, they concluded to continue their work.
"During the time I was contriving how this lumber was to be got to the mouth
of the Menomonee, and talking with Holmes one day about it, he told me he had
somewhere seen lumber rafted over rapids by laying one sawed board or slab lapping
about half its length upon another, after the manner of shingling, and thus repeat
and combine until the raft or crib should be formed; and that it would hang to-
gether in passing over any rapids. Upon this hint I caused a crib to be made, but
the men said it would drown any one who would be fool-hardy enough to take it.
over the rapids. I waited till the following Sunday, when the men would be idle,
and then told two of the hands that if they would take that crib to the mouth of
the Menomonee, I would pay them one dollar each. They did so without accident,
and returned by land before night, and reported that the lumber could be taken
down in that way without any difficulty. The men now went' to work and rafted it;.
got it nearly all to the mouth of the river, when about the first of June, it commenced
raining, and continued most of the time very hard for a fortnight. The stream orr
which our dam was, rose in about twelve hours something like twelve feet, and the-
Menomonee River about the same, carrying away the dam, and sweeping the loose-
made cribs of lumber from their moorings, and scattered the lumber over the
bottoms of the Menomonee and Chippewa Rivers. About fifty thousand feet of
this lumber was afterwards recovered in a damaged state, at a great expense, and
taken to St. Louis and sold at a reduced price. Such were some of the difficulties
attending the early attempts at lumbering in this country. The only hands that
could be employed were the Canadian voyageurs; they could row a boat well, or
run a raft, but that was about the extent of their knowledge of lumbering. Occa-
sionally you could pick up a discharged soldier that had some knowledge of the
business, and these were the materials that pioneer saw-mill proprietors had to use,
and manage as best they could."
Of the military expedition of 1829 Mr. Fonda says:
"It was in the fall of 1829, while the present Fort Crawford was building, that
Col. Zachary Taylor, afterward president of the United States, ordered a body of

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