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Art work of the Wisconsin River Valley
(1901)

[Part 1]


inspiration of the woodsman's hopes for future fortune. The axe and the saw were laid at the
forest's inviting frontier, and Portage, which has long since forgotten what a Mackinaw looks
like, was the outfitting point for cruisers and for the logging camps. Supplies, in those days
were "toted" from Galena, Illinois, which was then the northernmost metropolis for the lumber-
ing trade, St. Louis being the financial and commercial center of the whole north-west. Gradu-
ally, but sprely the timber line receded before the resolute strokes of the invaders, and the log-
ging camps gave way to the homes of the settlers. Where there had been pine slashings, the
smoldering fires of the stumps and underbrush gave promise of the coming of seeding and har-
vesting. The axe gave way to the plow, and the saw to the harrow, and where all the activities
of man had been devoted to destruction, all the energy of those who followed was expended in
production. In their turn, Grand Rapids, Stevens Point, Wausau, Merrill, and Tomahawk, were
the outposts of commerce on the edge of the forest, and now Rhinelander is the farthest up the
river that a town of any size can be found. The farmer has followed in the close wake of the
logger all the way, and as fast as the camps have been pulled up the settler has come in.
With the tremendous growth of modern progress in all directions there has been a re-
markable change in the business which is the characteristic industry of The Wisconsin Valley.
In the early days the railroad was not a factor in the world's commerce. It was a dream, which
the sanguine ones hoped might some day come true, but even they did not believe it would ever
have much effect on the lumber business. It was so easy to put the lumber into rafts and float it
down the river, and it would surely cost too much to ship it by rail to ever make that a practica-
ble system.
In those days the men went into the woods in the winter to get out the logs. And usually
a merry winter it was. A crew of men shut away from all communication with the outside
world, in the dead of a northern winter, with work from the early dawn of morning till the
deepening shadows of evening, are bound to condense into the short hour after supper left for
-diversion, all the relaxation their ingenuity can devise. In the spring they "drove" the logs
down the streams and rivers, and as soon as the "drive" was down, worked in the mills and at
the rafting. Particularly fortunate were those who got work at the rafting, for that meant a trip
into the fabled world outside, and a glimpse of the splendours which had only come to them in
the tales that are spun by the fires of the camps in the winter nights. But the men who staid at
the mills are mostly the ones who lasted longest; the enervations of the effete civilization of the
lower river were too often too much for the denizens of the higher altitudes.
Now all that is changed. It is many years since the river has carried any of the lumber
made in The Wisconsin Valley to market, and it has floated almost its last log. Certainly the
volume of logs "driven" in the river will decrease measurably each year. The railroad, which
for many years has distributed the manufactured product, is now by far the largest carrier of
the raw material. Tracks and spurs are laid into the timber, and the logging operations are
conducted summer and winter, while the mills not only run the year round in many cases, but


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