Monday, April 26, 2010

The ‘Sprucers’ in Lincoln County, 1918 - Part 3

How the logging was done

Once the Spruce Division soldiers were established in camps around Lincoln County, and had completed the railroad, then the work of getting the spruce logs out began.The trees in the area known as the Blodget Tract (between Waldport and Yachats) was thick with huge spruce.  

Photo shows use of jack, axe, sledge hammer & wedges, and fiber splitting iron, from Pacific County (WA) Historical Society website (also at this site, more photos and description of Spruce Div. in Washington).

Before the railroad was completed, it was necessary to rive, or split, the logs into cants, or sections (all done with hand tools, such as jacks, wedges, and fiber cutting irons).  The cants were then taken out with teams of draft horses.  This method wasted a lot of wood when the pieces were squared up and cut into lumber.  Once the railroad was up and running, whole logs could be transported by rail and could be cut more efficiently.  Since the Toledo Mill was still under construction for the duration of the war, the spruce cants were shipped from Yaquina Bay to Vancouver, WA, on the Columbia River to the Cut-Up Plant there.  To get an idea of the size of the logs they were handling, I quote from Leonard Groth again.
Interviewer:  (Looking at photos in a book) “It just says they seldom weighed less than two to three tons.  Each one. So they look to be about an eighth of a log, or a quarter of a log.”
LG:  “Yeah, I imagine.  Something like that.”
I:  “Of course, these are just being split out in the woods.”

Photo of loggers riving spruce log into cants with hand tools.  From Pacific County Historical Society (see link above).
I:  “You mentioned that in the woods you used to split the logs into cants with jacks...What sort of jacks were they, and how was it carried out?”
LG:  “Well, they were a jack that was--oh, the stem of them was about three feet high, and then they’d have a handle that fit right into them, and you just crank that up like a dog.  The jack would have dogs, or teeth here, you know.  And you just bring her down and catch it, bring her down and catch it, and that’s the way they split some of them.”
Obtaining manpower was no small task.  Thousands of men had enlisted or been drafted into the military to fight in Europe after the US entered WWI in 1917.  Initially Col. Disque also had to compete with the Corps of Engineers for experienced woodsmen, but was later given priority to recruit and reassign volunteers into the Spruce Production Division.  The Division tried to recruit men from around the U.S. with logging and lumbering expertise.  Even so, a specialized set of skills was required to handle the immense Sitka spruce of the Pacific Northwest than in logging other types of trees.

Leonard Groth stated, “...I would guess that there wasn’t over twenty-five or thirty from the West.  Then...we had several men from Colorado.  And then it just went on back, and from the East coast--my land!  They just poured in here, and none of them knew how to swing an axe, or a slash hook, or anything.”
As one local logger (oral history of Frank Gatens) put it, “They had them apes from down south, you know, working there.  But couldn’t do nothin’.  Couldn’t chop, or couldn’t do nothin’.  Couldn’t use an axe, nor a goddamned thing, sawing or nothin’, you know.  They had never done it.  And you take a fellow get up around twenty-five years old, never worked in the woods--he never will be no good in the woods.”
LG:  “Well, I was very fortunate in that I had been born out here in the West, at Vancouver, Washington, and I lived on a farm where my dad...taught me how to handle a cross-cut saw, and how to handle an axe, and a slash hook, and so forth, and drive horses.  So when I got down here, I got a pretty good job [felling pilings for bridges and trestles]...I never really had to use a shovel, thank goodness!”
“There [at Camp “H”, near Starfish Cove] I fell heir to the job of falling pilings, which I thoroughly enjoyed, because I was one of the better fallers.  Most of them were from the East.  I don’t think any of them had ever seen a tree back there, or any of the implements you use to cut with.  And, anyway, we had to use springboards.  Well, my dad--I don’t know if it was a short-coming on his part, or whether it was orneriness on my part, but I didn’t know how to cut a springboard hole, and put the springboard in, and...after I got that far, I didn’t know how to hitch that thing around the tree in order to saw, you know, on a big tree.  But I finally got so I could do it.  A time or two I slid down the side of the tree with the springboard!” 

Photo showing use of springboards & crosscut saw from here.
LG:  “Well, they used donkey engines for the big stuff.  The spruce was brought out with donkey engines, which was fired with wood to get up their steam, and they had their whistle punks, and their grease monkeys, and all that, just the same as they always have had in that kind of logging.”
I:  “Were there choker setters who worked for a team driver...?”
LG:  “Yeah, same way.”
I:  “OK, how is the felling and bucking of the timber carried out?  What tools did you use, and what procedures did you go through?  What did you have to do to get the trees down?”
LG:  “Well, they used a cross-cut saw with springboards.  They usually would springboard up--occasionally on some trees, they would go up two springboards high, which would be approximately ten feet.  In that neighborhood.”
I:  “And that was to get above the butt swell on the tree?”
LG:  “That’s right.”
I:  “And the cross-cut saws were about eight feet long?”
LG:  “Yeah, about eight feet long.

Photo of steam donkey from author's family photos (man in front is Luther Pace).
LG:  “There was usually, what they called the “three on a team.”  There was your swamper, who cleaned it out around the tree, and then your head faller, and your second faller.  And that was usually the way that we worked.”
I:  “How did you work between the head faller and the second faller?”  
LG:  “The head faller, the only difference was, the head faller was responsible...and got a dollar a day more money...The swamper would go ahead of the fallers, and get rid of the underbrush around the trees.”
I:  “Did you have buckers, who came in after?”
LG:  “Yeah.  Regular buckers.  Come in with a cross-cut saw again."
For a description of logging in the early 1900's in the Pacific Northwest, check out this website.  And for a glossary of logging lingo, click here.

These two links have some great photos of the Spruce Division:  one is from the Oregon State University Archives, Gerald W. Williams Collection (28 photos), and the other is from the collection of Bob Swanson (11 photos on Spruce Squadrons, 190 photos of WWI).  Both sites are on Flickr.  

Posted by jackie.

The ‘Sprucers’ in Lincoln County, 1918 - Part 2

Building the Railroad

This is a continuation of the story of the Spruce Production Division in Lincoln County in 1918.  The following oral history excerpts describe the building of the railroad needed to transport the giant Sitka spruce logs.  The first step was to clear the right-of-way.
Interviewer:  “How was the clearing done for the railroad right-of-way?”
Leonard Groth:  “Well, there’d be a cruiser would go ahead, and take out all the underbrush, which was really rough going.”
I:  “Take the roots out, too?  Or just take it down to the ground?”
LG:  “No, no.  Take it down to the ground.  And then it was shovels from there on.  And it really was a job.  Gee, it was a job.”
In another oral history interview with Paul Keady, he describes the soldiers making the right-of-way through Waldport.  
“And the railroad from South Beach down to Camp 1 north of Yachats was built, mostly with hand labor.  Quite a few horses on the job.  But as I recall it, no steam shovels, or equipment of that kind.  The grade of the hill south of Waldport was almost all built with men with wheelbarrows, digging out the side of the hill, and dumping it over the hill.  South of there they had heavy horses, with Fresnos, wheel scrapers, and a four-horse team with a big breaking plow that would plow through that sand of that area, and break it up so the wheel scrapers and Fresnos could move it.  That way they filled all these canyons, cut the hills and built the road through.  Right through Waldport, past where the school now is, and where the highway now is, the railroad was built up with horses and Fresnos out of the barrow pit.  There was a barrow pit all the way through Waldport before they hit hill land on the south side, on each side of the railroad grade...The supplies, when these railroads first started, all came in by water.  Then after the railroad was built into Waldport, of course, all the supplies [for the Spruce Division] came by rail.”

This photo shows a crew removing dirt (mud) from a small slide in the right-of-way.  A temporary track was laid to allow the use of the cart.  This shows some of the conditions these fellows had to deal with in building the railroad.

Back to the interview with Leonard Groth.
I: “And how was the railroad itself built?  Was that built by the same people who cleared the right-of-way?  
LG:  “Yeah, yeah.  Same soldiers.”
I: “So first you came in and cleared, and then you built the railroad onto that...”
LG:  “Yeah.  They’d have their tie crews.  They’d have their rail crews.  And the rail crews in this book, it shows in there how they used them right on the flatbeds of the railroad cars, the rails...they’d just shove it ahead until they got to the place where they wanted to dump it, and then they’d dump the rail off.  Then there’d be--oh, any amount of men you’d want, you know, to pick it up, and put it in place.  Then they, of course, had fellows that drove the spikes, and like that.”
LG:  “The piling was logged with horses, brought out of the woods.  A team of horses.  And of course, there’s quite a bit of rain, and there was mud, and that made your pilings skid along pretty good.  And that’s the way we got the pilings out.”

These two photos are from Lloyd Palmer’s 1982 book, Steam Towards the Sunset.  It is a wonderful account of the railroads of Lincoln County, and contains many photos and a large section on the Spruce Production Division.  He also collected historic excerpts from local newspapers in the book that pertain to this topic.  Mr. Palmer has done, and continues to do, extensive research on the railroads of this area.  [His book is available through the Lincoln County Historical Society Museum Bookstore, and the oral histories are from the LCHS Research Library].  The map is from the LCHS book called, Pacific Spruce Corporation & Subsidiaries, available at the LCHS Museum Bookstore, same link above.

Our previous post, "A Railroad Ran Through It," (click here for link) shows some "then and now" photos and a map of the Spruce Railroad as it went along Beaver Creek. 
Posted by jackie.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The ‘Sprucers’ in Lincoln County, 1918 - Part 1

Photo by John D. Cress, from the book, Pacific Spruce Corporation & Subsidiaries, reprinted from the 1924 edition by the Lincoln County Historical Society, available through their Museum Bookstore (click here for link).

This is a continuation of the previous post about the history of the Spruce Production Division during World War I.  Lincoln County had some of the best quality Sitka spruce available (preferred for airplane construction), so a large effort to harvest it was focused here.  
I find it so impressive that the Spruce Division soldiers arrived in the area in the early months of 1918 and managed to establish their camps, clear trees & brush for the railroad right-of-way, log hemlock and mill it for railroad ties and trestles, build the railroad from just north of Yachats to Agate Beach, AND build a world-class sawmill at Toledo--all in a matter of months.  And this was accomplished without chainsaws, log trucks, and much of the other logging equipment that was developed later.  (The war ended on November 11, 1918, so they were not able to complete the mill in Toledo.  This was done later by a private corporation.  I will tell that story in a later post).  The Warren Spruce Corporation contracted with the army to get the timber out in Lincoln County.  Spruce soldiers received their regular military pay, and were also paid by the Warren Spruce Corporation, who hired both the soldiers and civilian loggers.
The Lincoln County Historical Society Oral History Collection contains several references to the Spruce Division soldiers during that time.  One oral history interview was actually recorded over two occasions (at a LCHS meeting on April 18, 1974 and a follow up interview on August 8, 1974) with a man, Leonard Groth, who was in the 95th Spruce Squadron in Lincoln County in 1918.  (Mr. Groth arrived in July 1918 and stayed until January of 1919.  He was discharged from the military in February 1919 at Vancouver, WA, which was his place of enlistment and his home).  The following excerpt describes his experience of arriving in Lincoln County.   
“Originally, when I first came down, we were brought across from the turntable [railroad terminus at Yaquina City] over to Newport in a ferry, and then they ferried us over to South Beach.”
“We took the train from Corvallis, and come in on the only track there was...”
[Mr. Groth didn’t remember much about the train trip to the coast because], “I had just had my three shots for typhoid before we left...One each day for the last three days.  And I took my last one the night before we left.  And oh, brother!  Was I sick!  Oh!  I had a terrible headache coming down, and the first--when I began feeling a little better was when we got off the train at the [railroad] turntable, and got on the ferry.  And smelled the salt air.”

Photo of Spruce soldiers at Agate Beach, North of Newport, found here.

“We stayed there one night, and walked out to the beach [after we settled in to camp].  As I remember, there was a store over there, that I think we went right past where it is, and [the next day] they took us in a truck, and remember the old trucks with the hard rubber tires?  Well, that’s what we were in, and they drove on a plank road out to the beach, and then they dumped us off, and we hiked down to Seal Rock, as I remember.  I think it must have been right, because I don’t think you can get through beyond that on the beach, unless you come up on top [onto the rocky headland].  Well, there was a road anyway that turned off along in there somewhere, and we went back up on top of the ridge, and we had a camp there, and we started cutting brush for a right-of-way to go across the Alsea Bay, and over to Waldport, and Yachats, and in there.  I guess there was quite a bit of big timber down in that section [the Blodgett Tract at Camp 1].”
Mr. Groth describes the plank road made of fir that went through the sand dunes at South Beach.  He said the planks were placed in the direction of the line of travel (as opposed to corduroy roads, where the planks are laid horizontally), and they were just two boards wide spaced to go under the wheels of a vehicle.  (I’m not sure what they did if they met someone coming the other way!)  And this plank road just went through the dunes and then the beach was used for the road the rest of the way south.  

This photo (from the Florence Hollowell Collection) is of a Spruce Div. Camp on Beaver Creek and may have been the one that Mr. Groth describes coming to over the ridge at Seal Rock.  The exact location of this camp is not known--perhaps it is near Ona, or further south along South Beaver Creek.
Posted by jackie.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Was The Spruce Production Division?

Photo credit:  "Possibly WWI Fighter Plane, 1916," Prints & Photographs Div., Library of Congress, Reproduction Number LC-D418-407 DLC

[Also click here to check out this fascinating and funny website of photos and info about early aircraft].

The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, three years after the war began in Europe. Airplanes were a relatively new technology at that time, especially untried in the arena of war. U.S. industry had been supplying England and France with some planes during the first part of the war. A number of different aircraft designs were tested. By the time the U.S. got involved in the war, the Allies decided to try using air assaults, since ground offensives had reached a stalemate. The preferred material for airplane structure was Sitka spruce wood for its qualities of strength, light weight, and clear straight grain, “and would not splinter when struck by a rifle bullet” [quote by Lt. Col. Disque, cited in “The Spruce Production Division,” Forest History Today, Spring, 1999. See this site also for detailed history & photos]. The wooden framework was then covered with a canvas-like membrane.

Weeks after the nation joined the war, an act of Congress allocated $11 million for stepping up aircraft production. Lt. Col. Brice P. Disque was appointed by the government to secret duty to assess the situation in the Pacific Northwest, where most of the prime Sitka spruce forests were located. A powder keg of labor unrest was getting ready to blow at that time in the logging and lumber milling industries. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, aka the “Wobblies”) were agitating the situation and workers were getting ready to strike for shorter work days and higher wages.

On November 6, 1917, Disque was promoted to Colonel and was given command of the Spruce Production Division (as part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps). Headquarters were stationed in the Yeon Building in downtown Portland, Oregon. The main operations center for troop movement & training was Vancouver Barracks, Vancouver, Washington. Vancouver was also the site of the main sawmill called the Cut-Up Plant, which was also constructed and run by “spruce soldiers” [see this link for extensive history of the Vancouver Barracks & photo of the Cut-Up Plant on page 7 of 173 pp.].

Initial recruitment of soldiers with logging and woods experience to the Spruce Division were viewed by local lumbermen as “scabs,” or strike breakers, which did not relieve the tensions of the labor situation. Disque developed a brilliant strategy to overcome these problems by appealing to workers’ patriotic loyalty to country and understanding of the extreme efforts required of citizens during wartime. The plan gave the Army oversight of the spruce production, while soldiers were hired out to and paid through civilian logging operations. Despite initial resistence, all parties soon recognized that the scheme was of mutual benefit to private lumber owners and laborers, as well as to the government. This led to the founding of the Loyal Legion of Loggers & Lumbermen (the 4-L’s), a civilian organization whose members had to sign a patriotic pledge in exchange for a membership card and badge. The LLLL loggers worked along side the Spruce Division soldiers.

Photo found here.

There were five military field districts of the Spruce Production Division. In addition to the Headquarters in Portland, and the Vancouver Barracks, the districts were located in Puget Sound, WA; Grays Harbor & Wallapa Bay, WA; Clatsop & Coos Counties, OR; and Lincoln County, OR. Over 26,000 soldiers and about 1,000 officers established 234 camps in these sections of the Washington and Oregon coasts.

The war ended on November 11, 1918.

Posted by jackie.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Power Of Information

A couple of weeks ago using solar electricity in the home was mentioned here.  This activity involves evaluating energy (watts) use and then installing an appropriately-sized solar electrical system that includes photovoltaic panels, inverter, and energy meters to monitor energy production and use.  How is electrical energy evaluated in a home?  For home residents, information on energy use usually involves reading the monthly power bill that arrives in the mail, supported by numbers from the kilowatt meter on the side of the house.  This power company bill does not tell much about patterns of energy use in the home and with it, decisions about how to improve energy use are difficult to make.  
But why wait to install an expensive solar electric system, when energy could be monitored and adjusted in cheaper ways.  Many types of home energy meters are becoming available and are appearing on the market horizon.  The information from energy meters can change behavior, often in surprising ways.  Information from these meters can help home residents to evaluate their energy uses and plan improvements and expenses accordingly.  Energy budgeting is a powerful experience that helps residents change energy use if so desired.  Studies have shown a 5 to 15 percent reduction in power consumption when energy use data is available to the consumer.  It is like calculating the miles per gallon of gas used in a car and making purchasing and driving decisions based on that information.
Information on power production and use can help communities plan for future power needs using smart grid technology.  Coordination of use in and among households can reduce power use during peak periods and shift power use to times when surplus power is available.  Audits of energy use can be made to suggest appropriate weatherization and insulation for homes.  Since solar electrical systems are relatively expensive, other less expensive energy technologies may be installed first.  Solar hot water systems are efficient and relatively inexpensive.  Energy efficient appliances are becoming more available.  There are lots of energy options available for the home when information on energy use is gathered and budgets are constructed.  Behavior can be changed when knowledge comes from experience.
Posted by michael   

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lost And Found In Reflections

Walking slowly, turning in the weather, I get lost along the road and then find space in reflections.  There are abundant reflections here in the marsh.  They offer the seasons of the day and speak of the rain and sun.  Who needs paint when reflections are complete, with gentle breeze, vegetation, and sky all mixed by expert water.  They all whisper, relax... the work is done.

Posted by michael

Monday, April 19, 2010

Flower Clocks In The Marsh

Time is the indefinite continuation of existence, marked by a convention.  There is no special, unique, and singular convention that marks time and existence is free to find new ones as needed.  We humans measure time with precise atomic clocks and radio signals that transfer to shiny watches that crows sometimes covet for their nests.  This measured time is orderly and divided into equal parts that mark the passing of our lives through space.  We can be early, late, in, on, or out of time.  We have somehow relegated our existence to fixed, arbitrary intervals of language.  Nature takes another road, one with soft clocks that turn with constantly adjusting intervals, embracing the play of earth, air, fire, water, and space.  

In the marsh, time is often measured and marked with the arrival and departure of insect hatches, birds migrating, and flowers.  These events can happen in many intermeshed cycles dependent on astronomical movements; now, tidal, daily, lunar, seasonal, annual, sunspot cycles, and El Niño.  In Spring, as the temperature warms and daylight lengthens in duration and intensity, plants grow and reach maturity.  This maturity is marked by the appearance of flowers and later seeds.  Each type of flower signals like the hand on a clock.  The progression of the seasons is traced by the rainbow of colors, shapes, forms, smells, and desires of flowers, insects, and birds.  These elements and lives are woven together in a web of dependence, a dance of eat and be eaten.

There are so many details of flowering that science can unfold and we will leave that for now.  Suffice it to say that a complicated and detailed picture emerges and these complications (factors) provide plenty of freedom to adjust to changing environmental conditions and habitats as they arise.  It is enough to recognize that days follow each other into seasons which can be marked by the passing of flower clock time.  Every year is similar with minor variations, mostly to do with temperature and rainfall.  Each walk along the marsh reveals new flowers and their celebration of completion.  We can read the time in wildness if we choose to.  In this place, duck, red-winged blackbird, kingfisher, swallow, robin, blue jay, flicker, woodpecker, hummingbird, goldfinch, hermit thrush, towhee, sparrow, chickadee, and ruby-crowned kinglet are busy with nests and feeding on the abundant plants, insects, and worms that have emerged from winter’s sleep.  Frogs have woken and sing through the night.  They all seem to know flower clock time and get along without atomic clock radio time.   

Posted by michael  

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tules Are Growing In The Marsh

Tule shoots emerging

Tule shoots emerging

Tules are the main vegetation in lower Beaver Creek marsh, where they grow up to 8’ in height.  The shoots emerge at the beginning of April and grow to full height by the end of May, when they flower.  So they grow 8’ in eight weeks (one foot per week). Tules are used by many animals in the marsh.  Birds use them for shelter, nesting support, and food from the flowers and seeds.  Nutria feed on the shoots and rhizomes.  Other marsh animals use them for shelter from predators and territorial disputes.

Tule at full height in June

Humans have used tules extensively.  An introduction to tule ethnobotany was written by Norm Kidder.  For example tules were used to make baskets, clothing, mats, houses, dolls and toys, boats and rafts, and duck decoys.  Locally the Alsi people used tule in dresses that also included grass and cedar bark.  Local uses of tule by Alsi and Yakona tribes are not well documented and would be a subject for further study.  I am looking forward to hearing from elders about past use of tules in this area.

Gathering tules -  Photo; Edward Curtis, 1910

Tule canoe - Photo; Edward Curtis, 1924

Tule shelter - Photo; Edward Curtis, 1924

Posted by michael