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.

No comments: