Today, I’d like to share a little Wisconsin lumbering history with you that I wrote into my latest historical novel, In a Grove of Maples, inspired by my grandparents. In a portion of the story Edward Massart leaves his wife, Beryl, to head up to northern Wisconsin to be a teamster—a man handling a team of horses, pulling a sled of felled trees—at a lumber camp.
From school and just growing up in an area not far from where lumber camps once operated, I knew much of the historical information I used for In a Grove of Maples but did brush up on some terminology, different jobs at the camps, and details about specific camps.
In particular I researched the lumber camp at Morse, WI. I have been to Morse numerous times to stay at a cabin my sister and her husband own in the tiny town. Morse is mainly a collection of a few old, small homes and not the thriving lumber town it once was. At its height, it shipped out thirty train cars of lumber per week to Ashland, WI.
🍁Learn more about the history of Morse, Wisconsin here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morse_(community),_Wisconsin
🍁I found the book, Ghosts of the Forest: Vanished Lumber Towns of Wisconsin, by Randall Eugene Rohe very helpful in my research on lumbering in northern Wisconsin.
I loved learning more about the camp at Morse and imagining my grandfather working in such a spot, which he very well might have. For many years, he spent the winters up north at a logging camp, working as a teamster. The graphic banner above contains a picture of my grandfather with his team of horses, Sal and Sam, and my dad. I’m not certain that these are the horses Grandpa took up north to the logging camp or not, but they could have been, as horses have long lives. The photo was probably taken 18 to 20 years after they purchased the farm. Next to their photo is one of a lumber camp and would have been typical of the sleds of logs my grandfather would have managed, along with his horses.
🍁Interesting fact: my grandfather made $.50 a day, but the horses made $1.00 a day.
🍁Have you ever visited a historical logging camp?
🍁Interesting fact: There was no talking allowed in the cookshack. Talking often led to brawling with the many different nationalities of men represented.
In the story, I weave in the many different jobs done at the camps, like the jacks, barkers, and the road monkeys and also a bit of a mystery. Someone at the camp places a target on Edward’s back. Will he survive the attempt on his life? Read to find out!
I hope you enjoyed this taste of Wisconsin’s lumber history. Thank you for reading, J