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Pioneer Farmers have old logging ways down cold

Itasca State Park and the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers (LIRPF) partnered on Saturday to demonstrate logging methods used in the 1800s and early 1900s. About 20 Pioneer Farmers, two horse teams, Itasca staff and visitors gathered in the Jaco...

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Jenny Kleppe and her children, Jake, 4, and Maddie, 5, visit with Mosquito. They drove from Rosemount to spend the weekend camping at Itasca State Park.

Itasca State Park and the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers (LIRPF) partnered on Saturday to demonstrate logging methods used in the 1800s and early 1900s.

About 20 Pioneer Farmers, two horse teams, Itasca staff and visitors gathered in the Jacob Brower Visitor Center parking lot, all bundled up against the 20-below-zero temps.

Itasca's lead interpretive naturalist Connie Cox said, "This demonstration is one we've been doing for 20 years with the Pioneer Farmers. The first logging demo was done in 1999 on the very site we're standing. They opened up the site for the Jacob Brower Visitor Center. They helped to harvest some of the big red pine that are at the center of that building."

A logging demo is held every other year, Cox explained, and an ice harvest demo on alternate years.

Guests were invited to try out a bow saw and folding saw. A warming house, complete with wood stove, offered shelter from the cold.

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These small houses on skids were often towed down the road, Cox said, to keep lumberjacks warm. "It's what some pulp woodcutters would live in for a year, parked out in the woods as they did their logging," she added.

Earl Hemmerich, a longtime LIRPF member, shared tidbits of logging history and explained the cross-hauling log process.

Volunteers used cant hooks to push the logs up the skidway where they were cross loaded by Schauer's two-horse team onto a log sleigh.

Old-time logging crews consisted of teamsters, which were the men who drove the horses, a foreman and a camp cook. Men in these positions were among the higher paid crew members, Cox said.

Other members of the crew were sawyers and fellers who cut and hauled the timber, and there were men lower on the totem pole in camp who had more unpleasant jobs, such as cleaning up after the horses. Some men on the crew may have been injured in a logging accident, and it was then their task to stay in the barracks to keep the fire going.

Logging crews oftentimes had several teams of two men that would be required to cut at least 100 trees per day with just a two-man saw.

Cox noted that freezing temps caused the tree resin to freeze, so as LIRPF volunteers cut away tree limbs, "the branches are shattering off because of the cold."

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Related Topics: ITASCA STATE PARK
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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