“The old way of lumbering was passing by 1900, driven out by the demand for pulpwood and by power companies wanting to control watersheds. Steamboats, motorboats, railroads and gravel trucking roads turned the formerly inaccessible places in the woods into public highways and swept away the old industry with all its tools and retainers (Pike, 1967).”
Maine Conservation Corps took me to places in Maine I had never even thought of going. From Scopan (outside of Presque Isle), to Mt. Blue in Weld, to Baxter State Park in Millinocket and many other corners, I learned more and more about hardworking people and beautiful places. I have never been much of a morning person, but waking up on Daicey Pond and getting ready for the hike and workday ahead, I would often be up in time to see the sun rise. I count this time as some of the most meaningful in my life, and the most serene. I think about the loggers and river drivers, and what their time must have been like. In remote locations only accessible by water, without the technology of modern equipment and advantage of synthetic and quick drying clothes, one would certainly have to have certain qualities to survive. I cannot imagine people working under the conditions required without getting some joy out of it. It must have been hard, but also rewarding to work in such pristine conditions.
The last log drive was held on the Kennebec River in 1976 (Council). While the driving of logs down the river is a thing of the past, the lumber industry in Maine is still a vital part of our state. According to the Maine Forest Products Council, “$1 out of every $16 in Maine’s gross state product and 1 of every 20 jobs is associated with Maine’s forest products sector” (Council) . According to this same document, Maine is also home to the “Largest, contiguous, privately owned, working forest in the United States.” Although there have been some serious changes in the way Maine deals with wood, great advancements and progress is being made. It is interesting to know that while a huge part of Maine history, working with wood is also a huge part of our future. “Forest products businesses (e.g., paper mills) tend to generate more output per worker and provide higher wages than other businesses in Maine (Council).” It is also interesting to note, that with the change in technology, more can be accomplished by less physical work. Pre- 1960’s, a logger could cut about 9 cord per week. 1980 to the present, using modern machines, a logger can cut 75.7 cord per week (Council). That’s a HUGE increase.
While many machines have played a role increasing the amount of work one person can achieve, I would like to focus on the chainsaw. I am personally a huge fan of chainsaws. I first learned the basics of operating one while living on a Katahdin sheep farm in Monmouth, Maine. The owner heated with firewood, and I was interested in helping out with day to day operations. It was an enlightening and empowering experience. My first season at MCC I went through the formal chainsaw training, and I was amazed how much more was involved in chainsaw use and safety. I also felled my first tree. Two season of Field Team work later, I feel quite competent. My current saw weighs 10.8 lbs, and have many safety features. This is a huge change from what saws were originally.
Created out of necessity, its evolution originates from the cross-cut saw. “Until about 1897 all the falling of trees in the lumber woods of northern New England was done with an axe. At that time the two-man cross-cut saw was greatly improved by the addition of the raker tooth, which cleans out the sawdust. From then until about 1915, practically all woodsmen used the raker-tooth cross-cut saw for falling and cutting up trees. About that time, the raker tooth was added to the one-man bucksaw, enabling one man to cut as fast as two with a cross-cut. From 1915 to about 1945 practically all pulpwood sawing was done with a one-man bucksaw. Then the two-man chain-saw was put into use, but it never became very popular. This was followed shortly by the one-man power chain-saw, which is now used almost entirely (Pike, 1967).”I’ve been able to see many old saws, at different museums/garages in the state. The Ashland Logging Museum had a few, as well as the Greenville Historical Society’s lumber section. Seeing these antiques made me appreciate the streamlined and safer version I use today. Safety and respect are needed in abundance when dealing with such.
In this picture my grandmother (below), Valerie Fuller, is posing with a NON-RUNNING chainsaw and showing it to my mom Stephanie Stanchfield. You can see from its size that it is not something convenient to carry miles into the woods, along with gas, bar and chain oil, and the tools to maintain it. I am relieved that by the time I learned how to use one, times had changed.
My time at Maine Conservation Corps certainly sparked my interest in this history of the people and industry of logging. My education time contributed to my understanding, and further research has yielded even more knowledge. I am grateful for these opportunities, and hope that this series of blogs might spark your interest in the history of logging. I would like to thank the Maine State Library, Roberta Scruggs of the Maine Forest Products Council, Chuck Harris of the Ambajejus Boom House, The Ashland Logging Museum, and the writers of the resources used for this. Thank You all for sharing the knowledge, and helping me put the pieces together.
Council, M. F. (n.d.). Maine Forest Economy. Retrieved September 15, 2015, from http://maineforest.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Maines-Forest-Economy.pdf
Pike, R. E. (1967). Tall Trees, Tough Men. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. .