Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Lumberjacks and Farmers in the Northwoods of Wisconsin
By Paisley Kirkpatrick My Northwoods Series is based in Upper Wisconsin in 1857. The rich history in this area provides a great background for my tales of trapping, fishing, and the harvesting of rich forests. I belong to the Historical Society and once a year spend an afternoon in one of the two museums in our small community. My favorite of the two buildings is a small log cabin filled with artifacts used by lumberjacks and farmers. The rich forests here provide the many sawmills in the area with timber. What I've found remarkable are tools they used all those years ago for the logging business and farming. The water here is pure and the ground rich for growing fields of vegetables and food for livestock. Most major cities in central and northern Wisconsin were built around or over rivers. These waterways provided an opportune way to transport pine logs from rich forests to the mills. Forests adjacent to the Wisconsin River were the first to fall from a lumberjack's ax. Multiple rivers provided a convenient mode of transport for the pine logs to travel from the forests to the mills. These sawmills used the swift-moving rivers to power waterwheels and the huge saws they used to first to cut the logs into boards and then the logs into boards. White settlers moved into the Northwoods and began to develop the lumber industry. Even though their settlements were established far distances from obtaining supplies and enjoying the convenience of markets, a limited form of transportation, and unimproved roads and waterways, the lumber industry grew steadily and formed the backbone of the state's economy by the middle of the nineteenth century. Stevens Point and Wausau are two towns that can thank the mills for expanding. They provided general stores, banks, grocers, and other businesses to support the growing population of loggers and mill workers.