The history of logging in New England is a pet subject of mine and had the excuse recently to dig and discover some further materials. Sidenote: the actual felling of trees isn't as interesting to me as the minutia of the lumber camps and the extraction of logs (by horse or oxen), and subsequent springtime river drives... There has infact been a slight
return to horse power in the recent decades (due to environmental, sustainable, and heritage benefits) though not referenced below.
A few of these are well known, hopefully you will discover something new. Included are journals, documentary films, books, [and a photo collection on tap, waiting on the OK], but is def' not exhaustive (I did not get to A History of Lumbering in Maine: 1820-1861
or A History of Lumbering in Maine: 1861-1960
). Have not included John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River: A Novel
although it had some descriptions of camp life, as that was too far in the realm of general fiction.
I have included one item that might be termed historical fiction since it is based on confirmed truths of the subject and is well known. The author of that fiction also wrote another piece of historical research that is included; that incidentally features a large dose of tinder-dry Yankee humor. Marked it essential reading
. * * * * * *
Ames, Alfred, et al. From Stump to Ship
. Bucksport ME. Distributed by Northeast Historic Film, 1985.
16mm filmed record of a Maine lumber business in the 1930s. B&W footage of lumber camps, a river drive, and a saw mill. Originally silent, the 1985 edit is narrated in a somber manner by humorist Tim Sample from text by the filmmaker Alfred Ames (then president of Machias Lumber Co.) who shot the film. 28 minutes.
Collin, Joseph R. “Old Boy Did You Get Enough Pie
.” Forest History Today, 1996: 11-22. [n.b. this is a 40mb pdf].
Discusses cooks, the dining halls and cooking, in logging camps in New England and the rest of the USA. Conclusion: best camps are due to best food and those held onto the men. The woodsmen ate early and often with 9,000 calories a day the norm. Has become one of the most reprinted articles in the journal’s history. 8 large photos.
Hilton, C. Max. Woodsmen, Horses, and Dynamite: Rough Pulpwood Operating in Northwestern Maine
, 1935-1940. Orono ME: University of Maine Press, 2004.
Detailed account. Includes figures for amounts of food, horses, men, hours, and dynamite needed in a year long logging operation. Starts at the cruising or walking of the wood lot in summer and ends at the sawmill after the log drive. Mention of Maine’s place as one-time center of world’s papermaking. Ends with 63 illustrations of equipment, by author, in style reminiscent of Eric Sloane. 213 pages and 2 foldout maps.
Holbrook, Stewart H. Yankee Logger: a recollection of Woodsmen, Cooks and River Drivers
. New York: International Paper Company, 1961.
Highly personal memoir of a Vermonter. Begins with childhood dreams of becoming a “riverman” to working for various “realty” companies; meaning pulp wood operations. Contemporary forestry practices are discussed also the ongoing struggle of “letting light” into New England clearings. Loggers lexicon included. Author wrote many other historical pieces in this journeyman’s style. 123 pages. [Anyone read Holy Old Mackinaw
Pike, Robert E. Spiked Boots: Sketches of the North Country
. Woodstock VT: Countryman Press, 1999. 22 short stories told using the literary mechanism of visits with an aged logger. Musings are in the Yankee tradition of flinty and dry. Informative book that has become a classic on the subject. River drives, camp life, debauched visits to town and the county fair are included. 292 pages.
Pike, Robert E. Tall Trees, Tough Men
. New York: W.W. Norton, 1967. Nineteenth and twentieth-century descriptions from amalgam of sources; first person experience and interviews; all detailing lumber camps and forestry work in the woods of New England. Historic figures and the everyman logger described. Evidently many obstacles overcome by brute force or chaw of tobacco applied. Glossary of terms at back. Self-described as a “vivid, anecdotal history of logging and log-driving in New England." Essential reading. 320 pages.
Simmons, Fred C. Northeastern Loggers Handbook: U.S.D.A. Handbook No. 6.
Washington USGPO, 1951.
Aimed at the novice woodsman who is taking up logging as a profession. Advice ranges from simply choosing an ax to skidding with tractors. Also chapters on saws, wedges, felling, bucking, skidding with horses and tractors, cable logging and hauling. Illustrations and photos accompany the text throughout. Glossary of terms included. No nonsense. 165 pages.
Springer, John S. Forest Life and Forest Trees
. Somersworth, N.H: New Hampshire Pub. Co, 1971. 1851 text divided into two main sectionsL: logging in the Maine woods and river driving. Author gives firsthand, detailed accounts. Not pious; the drunken exploits of the spring drive are discussed at length. Full subtitle is revealing; Comprising Winter Camp-Life Among the Loggers and Wild-Wood Adventure with Descriptions of Lumbering Operations on the Various Rivers of Maine and New Brunswick. An intense portrait of life in the woods and working with trees, also notable for having being published prior to Thoreau’s Walden. Pithy writing. 259 pages. [this was a huge find for me... fantastic.]
Strickland, Ron. “Chester Chet Grimes Horse Logger and Storyteller.” Vermonters: Oral Histories from Down Country to the Northeast Kingdom
. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1986. 58-64.
1985 interview with Vermonter Chet Grimes, former logger and teamster as he describes using horses for logging work, various other teamsters and their habits in the woods. At time of interview Grimes had no indoor plumbing but would still spend social security check on his two horses, knowingly dubbed "hayburners." Interview edited but generally left in the vernacular.
Strickland, Ron. “Jim King, Woods Cook
.” Vermonters: Oral Histories from Down Country to the Northeast Kingdom. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1986. 65-68.
1985 interview with Jim King about his experiences as a cook for the lumber camps of northern Vermont. Discussion of cooking, meals served and especially types of bread baked. Interview edited but generally left in the vernacular. Includes short introduction.
Thoreau, Henry D. The Maine Woods
. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Reader becomes an outdoorsman along with the author during three trips to Maine over an eleven year period. Detailed descriptions of sounds, tastes, fishing, camping, flora and fauna, inhabitants met, riding in and porting the “bateau” with rivermen. This is exploration of the forest, not so much contemplation or conservation as author perhaps known for. Periodic encounters with logging crews and camps. The last third features an “Indian” guide. Nineteenth-century adventure writing. Informative appendix. 328 pages.
Wallach, Bret. “Logging in Maine's Empty Quarter.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 70.4 (Dec., 1980): 542-52.
Focused on the interior of Maine. Describes commercial forestry management practices that have resulted in large tracts of same-age growth trees. Clear cutting was for profit and for pest control; debatable results with regard to pest control. Paper mills and sawmills are described. Detailed descriptions of a 1970s era workday clearing a “chance” by saw and skidder. [anyone w/ an academic account will be able to find this...]
Weiss, David, et al. Woodsmen and River Drivers: Another Day, Another Era
. Blue Hill Falls ME. Northeast Historic Film, 2000.
Interviews with retired lumbermen interspersed with archival photos and footage. Demonstrations of camp cooking, axe sharpening and other day-to-day logging activities as well as recollections of river drives, millwork and schooners of early twentieth-century Maine. 30 minutes.
Wilson, Donald A. Logging and Lumbering in Maine: Images of America
. Charleston, S.C: Arcadia, 2001.
A pictorial history of life as a logger in Maine. Approximately 200 images from private collections and the public domain dated 1830-1920. Details camp life and the logging operations but especially valuable as concentrates on the spring river drives and inevitable log jams. 128 pages.