History of Lumberjacks
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History of Lumberjacks

from middle of the 19th century through earliest years of the twentieth century, Wisconsin ended up being a number one timber producer in the usa. As timber products inside Northeast dwindled, there clearly was increasing demand for replacement stock—and the grand pine-hardwood woodlands of this Upper Midwest were another hotspot.

Lumbering inside condition (along with Michigan and Minnesota) started in earnest in the 1830s, specially following the Menominee people relinquished a majority of their old-fashioned territory in main and north Wisconsin to your authorities (1). The woodlands across the Wisconsin River—including inside Wisconsin Dells region—were among the list of really first is harvested on a big scale, given their close distance into the great drainage. Ahead of the railroads, in the end, the main mode of transporting felled logs and processed lumber was by river.

The preeminent tree inside eyes of Wisconsin’s early lumberjacks had been the eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), certainly one of east America’s mightiest woods. The 2nd- and third-growth white pines peppering the forests in Dells location tend to be impressive-enough places, but it’s well worth searching for one of many little remnants of old-growth pine groves (a few of which occur in the area, because at Roche-A-Cri) to completely value this tree’s inherent brilliance. Ab muscles biggest approach 200 feet in height with trunks five feet across. Provided their particular noble stature and broad-sweeping boughs of rich green needles, these conifers alllow for certainly monumental woodlands.

It was into such woodlands that loggers within the mid-1800s forayed in search of huge pines. White-pine lumber ended up being prized because of its workability, buoyancy (for down-river floating), and total strength and durability (5). Panels were used for boats, homes, furnishings, and all sorts of types of various other essential sectors.

Mixed-pine forests prospered on sandy soils of main Wisconsin, while white pine-hardwood stands drawn loggers within the various other two major early facilities of lumbering inside Badger State: the Wolf River nation for the northeast and Black and Chippewa drainages for the northwest (1).

During the early times, the primary felling season was the wintertime. Signing camps establish procedure in effective woods that had been scouted out by timber cruisers. Some guys definitely toppled the huge trees; other people trimmed and sawed the trunks. Teams of oxen or draft-horses lugged the logs—in the case of white pines, frequently 16 legs long—to the finance companies of this closest suitable creek or river, that was sometimes dammed to produce a holding pool for lumber (2, 4).

If the springtime thaw emerged, the logs had been rafted downriver—steered by courageous and hard-working teams of “river pigs” towards sawmills (3). The lumber turned out because of the mills had been fashioned into rafts and likewise steered down the Wisconsin River. These drives were incredibly dangerous, given the high order of maneuvering the natural logs or lumber rafts in snowmelt-swollen, ice-choked currents and splitting up the unavoidable logjams.

The Dells of this Wisconsin River introduced a notorious danger to these types of businesses as a result of tough sandstone structures and energy associated with channel through gorge. Simon Augustus Sherman, whom worked as a lumberjack when you look at the nineteenth century, recalled the perils of Lone Rock within lips associated with Dells, noting it absolutely was “much dreaded by raftsmen, because the current sets strongly against it, and rafts had been regularly driven to destruction there” (4).

Wisconsin was turning out 3.4 billion board legs of pinewood a year by the end for the nineteenth century (2). The building of railroads allowed logging camps to enter year-round into forests further and farther from riverways. As white pines had been gradually taken off pure groves and mixed-hardwood stands alike, lumberjacks began cutting native hardwoods. Cutover places oftentimes had been more denuded by huge fires—some of these deliberately set-to clear slash for agriculture.

The lumber boom in Wisconsin came to a detailed in the first half the 20th century, alongside prime timber logged out plus the significant conifer forests of Northwest attracting attention. By that time, lake cities such as Wisconsin Dells—originally Kilbourn City—had burgeoned around sawmills, although other individuals took much hit following the state’s logging business faded.

Signing played an important role into the Euro-American settlement regarding the central Wisconsin sand plains together with Northwoods (with timber harvest nonetheless a significant financial power on recovered forestlands over the condition). Next time you’re admiring a vintage home-built with pine timbers within the belated 1800s or early 1900s, or wandering a few of the gorgeous woods around Wisconsin Dells, free an instant to consider the magnitude of this history.


(1) Wisconsin Historical community: Logging and woodland Products [

(2) Daniel, Glenda and Jerry Sullivan. A Sierra Club Naturalist’s Help Guide To the North Woods. San

Francisco: Sierra Club Books. 1981.

(3) Minnesota Historical Society: Sign Drives (and River Pigs)

(4) Sherman, Simon Augustus. “Lumber Rafting regarding Wisconsin River.” Proceedings for the State Historical community of Wisconsin, 1910. [


Source: www.dellslumberjackshow.com