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Stratford centennial

Logging and early settlements,   pp. 8-20

Page 8

Logging and
Early Settlements
Photo of early area lumber camp
The western portion of Marathon county was unsettled and
wild in the years before 1871. What settlement there was, was
due to logging operations utilizing the Big Eau Pleine and
Little Eau Pleine Rivers.
The following was found in the History of Clark County,
Wisconsin, by F. Durtiss-Wedge, published in 1918. It is one
of the best descriptions of early logging and applies to the
Stratford area as well as Clark County.
"A logging camp presented to the spectator a combination
of animated sights and sounds. Here, camped in log shanties,
and with log stables for oxen and horses, were congregated
together from 25 to 100 men, according to the size of the
winter's work laid out for them. Some of the men would be
engaged in cutting down the pine trees and were called 'chop-
pers', some were engaged in sawing the logs into lengths
varying from 12 to 18 feet, or more, the average being 16 feet;
others with oxen were busy skidding the logs and others called
teamsters engaged in hauling great loads of logs on immense
sleighs, from the skidway down to the river, where they would
be loaded either on the ice, or else put on rollways on the river
bank, from thence at the opening of the river in the spring to
be tumbled into the swift running steam, the last work being
termed 'breaking the rollways.' Before the logs were landed
they were marked on the bark on the side of the log with the
owner's log mark, and stamped on the ends of each log several
times with what was known as the 'end mark.' Each logger
had his own marks, which were registered with the lumber
inspector's office.
"With the coming of spring and the disappearance of the
snow from the logging roads, labor in the forest came to an
end. The loggers now turned their energies to the log drive.
Presently the rivers were freed from their imprisoning coat of
ice, and spring floods were on hand to carry the logs to the
mill. Unhappy the logger, particularly when his operations
took him far upstream, if the melting snow and the spring rains
produced only a slight rise of water. Then his logs were tied
up and he must wait for a more favorable year to carry them
to market. But when the river was high the red-shirts gaily set
about the hazardous work of breaking the rollways and
delivering to the swollen stream, the accumulated harvest of
the winter's work. The drive was picturesque as it certainly
was the most dangerous portion of the season's operations.
Down the ice-cold torrent thousands upon thousands of logs

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