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The logging of Town 25 North - Part II

By KATE ZDROIK The Rosholt Record In part one of this two part series I discussed the incredible size of the virgin white pine trees of Town 25 North. I also discussed the logging companies that worked in the area, removing those original timbers. In part two I will discuss the process involved in bringing this timber to mills and the jobs involved in that process. The process began with sawyers felling the trees and other workers trimming, skidding, scaling and loading timber on sleighs. The timber was then hauled either to local mills or to landing spots along the Little Wolf River. The logs which were landed on the Little Wolf River were then floated down the Little Wolf. Some of that lumber was milled at local mills while the majority of the lumber continued down the Wolf River, on to Bay Boom, at Lake Poygan, and then moved on to mills in Oshkosh and Fond du Lac. The jobs involved in the logging industry were often dangerous and always involved hard work. Local landowners and farmers often worked on the logging crews in winter and returned to their land to farm for the summer. The crews that moved the lumber down the river, known as river drivers, then took over. The river drives began as soon as the ice broke on the river and was usually finished by July 4th. Logging Camps Substantial logging began in the township around 1875 when Ripley Lumber Company began operations in the area. It is believed they set up the first logging camp. The camp was located on a hill at the base of the rapids known as the Improvement Rapids or the Rips along the Little Wolf River, west of Norske. Logging camps were scattered around the township. Some camps were near the river while others were in the woods near the timber. Many camps included multiple buildings, including a horse barn, a blacksmith shop, a barn for the oxen, a small office for the foreman and a sleeping and cook shanty. The camps near the rivers were taken over by the river driving crews in the spring and early summer. Logging Roads The job of bringing the logs from the woods to either the mills or the river relied on good roads. One of the most important features for a logging road was relative flatness. This often meant that roads were made through swamps which froze over in winter and became smooth. For those places where roads were not as smooth or flat there was a crew that went out at night and iced the sleigh runner tracks. This made it easier for the horses to pull the loads but it also made the job more dangerous. The ice made sleighs slide faster downhill. To deal with this added danger the crews with loaded sleighs would holler long and hard as they traveled. This warning gave the unloaded crews time to move their rigs off the main track onto a siding. Sidings were located fairly close together to provide the safety valve for all crews involved. The Little Wolf River The logging industry in Town 25 North centered on the work of the Little Wolf River. In those days the Little Wolf was twice as wide as it is now and was free of half fallen trees on the banks. However, this was still not sufficient water surface to transport logs down the river in volume. A man named Jack Hunter took on the task of improving the waterway. He used a combination of blasting powder, to blast large rocks, and winches to move the largest rocks which he couldnt blast. Hunter improved the length of the river between the Wigwam, at the current Hwy. 49, and Norske. To improve the rivers capacity to carry logs, 12 dams were installed from 2 miles north of Galloway down to New London. The dams were employed to help raise the water level and increase the force of water and push the logs downstream to the next dam. When enough water collected at the dams, boards were removed and water was allowed to rush over the dam. The logs followed, though they always caught up to and often overtook the head of water which preceded them.

The troubles river drivers most often faced were log jams and low water levels. Low water levels often caused the log jams. If river jammers could not break up the jams the only remedy was to wait and allow the water levels to rise again. During those times the driving crews went into the village to relax and shop. This was an obvious benefit to the economy of the village. The peak of logging along the Little Wolf River was the 1880s when it estimated that 80,000,000 feet of timber landed on the Little Wolf between Galloway and New London. By 1896, the last of the great white pines had been cut and run down the river. For four more years, various other trees were logged and floated down the river but it took more effort to do so since hardwoods like oak and maple do not float well. Eventually, the river was replaced by the railroad for transporting logs to mills. Railroads were more efficient and required fewer people and animals to operate. The major logging era of the Little Wolf River had run 25 adventurous years.