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Stratford centennial

Stratford beginning,   pp. 21-36

Page 26

expansion. To acquire more timber,
W.D. Connor turned to Forest County
in 1896. In 1900 the company pur-
chased a used sawmill which they
erected at Laona. The "Stratford
story", the beginning of a village, was
repeated at Laona. Even some of the
names were the same as some Strat-
ford people relocated to the new com-   i:
munity.                                                                                       .
The birth of Laona put a financial
strain on the company. To meet their
payroll and keep their workers fed, the
R. Connor Company turned to the use
of lumber company "money". They
issued tokens or scrip, at Stratford in
November, 1900. The scrip could be                              A'
spent the same as money at company
Workers at the Stratford sawmill, Courtesy Pat Zuelke.
Working at the Connor Mill
From Saw-Dust, a collection of stories by Len Sargent, Jr.
At the age of fourteen, I finished my common school education. Dad helped me get a job at the Connor Company saw mill
working the night shift. The night shift was from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., with one hour off for lunch.
My first job consisted of standing on a platform beside the hot pond, with a pike pole in my hand, pushing and pulling the logs
around in the warm water and lining them up and steering them on to the bull-chain, which took them up a steep ramp to the second
story of the saw mill.
Occasionally would change off with the deck man. I would go up the ramp to the deck where the logs land in the mill. I would
take a cant hook and roll the logs down a slight incline, where the head sawyer would operate the steam niggar, a vertical finger-
like machine, that would roll the log over and slam it on to the carriage which would push it against the band saw.
For a while, I "fed the hog". The job consisted of picking up the board edgings and poking them down a hole in the floor, where
they went to a big grinder, known as the hog, and where they would be ground up into chips, known as hog feed. Some of this
hog feed would be used for fuel for the boilers, but most of it would be used for filling in swamps and low spots in the roads.
Another job that I had was cleaning up saw dust that found itself on the first floor of the mill. It was a dangerous job as line
shafts and belts were turning everywhere.
One morning, I was asked to go the the horse barn with Billy Harkins, the foreman. A dump-cart driver had not shown up for
work. We harnessed up a team of horses and hitched them to the cart and went to the slab box at the mill. We filled the cart and
hauled the load to the slab yard. Slabs were piled here to dry for fuel for the saw mill boilers. After a load was hauled, he left
me in charge of the team. Later, I went to work in the locomotive round house to become a night watchman. The round house
was not round at all, but oblong, with one single standard width railroad running into it. There was one funnel like smoke stack
through the roof at the further end. Big wide swinging doors, allowed the engine to enter the building and be closed when inside.
There were no electric lights in the round house and in order to see, the watchman carried a torch, consisting of a tin can with
a spout and wick and filled with kerosene.
When the engineer finished his days work, he spotted the engine over the ash pit which was just outside the round house. The
watchman would dump the grates and hoe out the clinkers and ashes into the pit. He would then shovel coal into the tender from
the coal bin. After that was done, there was still enough steam left to run the engine into the round house.
It was a thrill that I never forgot, when I climbed up on the engineers seat, put the Johnson bar (reverse lever) into the most
forward notch, took hold of the throttle and eased that big baby into the round house.
It was my job, to take cotton rags and clean the engine from top to bottom every night. In the morning, I would take the dirty
waste, soak it with kerosene and throw it on the grates, then fill the fire box full of dry slab wood, and at about 4 a.m., set it afire,
so that I would have a fresh fire and steam up at 6 a.m.

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