The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Friday, May 11, 2012

Log Driving and Sawmilling in Old Maine

By far the most popular post on Go Wood is Logging the Redwoods back in the Good Old Days. The video in that post is great for its focus on the hardships endured and overcome in delivering the wood back in the days when the country's demand for wood seemed insatiable.

Well, although the trees were smaller, the hardships endured by loggers back east were about the same. Here are a couple of great videos of log driving and sawmilling in Maine.

The first is a short video about the last log drive on the Kennebec River, which was the last drive of its type in the contiguous United States. Some great footage of things hard to fathom today, like a huge log chute that flung whole loads of logs into the river at the same time, and log booms that were 20 to 30 acres in size. There is also some interesting commentary in the video about the relationship of the end of river drives to the proliferation of logging roads in Maine.

This second video of logging on the Machias River in the 1930's is a longer story of the last long log drive and resulting shipment of timbers of a specific company, as recorded by the owner of the company who knew that the business model had reached the end of the line. The video has some great detail of logging camp, and the narration includes a great many names of the workers. If you're a multi-generational Mainer, you may see a relative identified in the video.

You also might observe how many men were employed in these log drives and sawmill work, most of which is done automatically by processing systems in these modern times. Partially explains why there are so many fewer jobs in manufacturing these days.

The ending of this video is especially poignant. As the ship sails into the sunset, the narrator shares with us his feelings:
"This is the Bertha V sailing out into the night in a southeasterly rain. This is what I call the twilight of my career as a lumberman. The night was filled with music, and the cares that infest the day shall fold their tents like the Arabs, and as silently steal away."
Lumbermen sure were more poetic back in those days.


Bill Rolek said...

beautifully done- thanks for this posting Dr. Ray

Anonymous said...

I love this post. It is amazing how folks use to be able to do so much with so little...something we are quickly losing the ability to do.

Ed Orcutt said...

I remember standing at Wyman Dam on a school field trip in 1975 and watching the pulpwood go down the sluiceway and learning that it would be no more in just a year. DownEast Magazine did an excellent article on it sometime later but I don't recall when...

Charles said...

Informative videos! I love how the narrative ends.