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Longest Trip in the United States of Its Kind.

The biggest log drive that ever swept down the Connecticut since the first ax-armed lumberman invaded the virgin forests of New England was started April 21, and the Springfield Union correspondent describes the work as follows:

Hundreds of men are at work at the hazardous business of getting the millions of feet of lumber into the swirling waters of the Connecticut. These men, of a fast disappearing type, will daily take their lives in their hands. The once great forests of New England are now little more than a memory. There may be other log drives in the future, but none like that which started April 21--the greatest of them all.

For 300 miles from the head waters of the Connecticut in the wild country along the Canadian border, to the mills of the Connecticut Valley Lumber Co., at Mt. Tom, Mass., 585,445 brown logs will race on the longest drive in the United States. The big drive of an older generation made famous in works of fiction will be repeated on a grander scale, but no picturesque detail will be lacking, there will be all the thrills ever attendant when man matches his strength and cunning against the forces of nature, and the spice of danger to add to the glamor of romance.

Dare-devil rivermen from the backwoods of Maine and the provinces, and lumber camps of this district where the record cut of 59,000,000 feet was made the past winter, are rubbing tallow into their river boots and filing the inch-long spikes to needle sharpness in readiness for the drive.

Over the Maine Central from Bangor, 100 white water birlers came roaring into town. Bully boys, all ready for a fight or a frolic, they stormed through the village (Stratford, N. H.,) like a tornado. Calked boots slung over the dunnage bags strapped across the backs of their Pontiac coats and Mackinaws, moccasins upon their feet and heavy lumbermen's socks, not quite reaching the bottom of their stagged rivermen's trousers, they leaped high and yelled shrill defiance to all.

It is the log jam that makes the riverman's trade one of the most precarious of the landings. Great piles of logs parallel with the streams where the winter's cut is sledded are broken out and the big sticks thunder into the flood in a brown avalanche. Guided by the clever touch of peavie and pick holes, in the hands of agile rivermen, they are supposed to float swiftly on to market, but if they don't suddenly a log will stop, another will rear its shaggy side against it, others are hurled upon them by the rushing waters by a tangle of grinding, groaning logs. It is a log jam.

While the water birlers, rivermen to whom the feat of calked boots gripping the bark of big log whirling through the white water of the rapids is dearer than whiskey, go leaping out over the tangle when a single misstep means a plunge into the icy floor or worse, and seek to break out the key log and start the jam.

They use dynamite in the small streams, but when the logs come together in the main drive and sweep down the Connecticut in a mighty army 20 miles long it is another story; it is a matter of pride to break the jam with the peavie or cantdog, that wonderful instrument like a giant finger and thumb in the hands of an expert riverman. Of last winter's record cut 10,000,000 feet will go into pulp wood in this North country, 4,000,000 are to be manufactured into lumber in a local mill and the remaining 45,000,000 will be in the big drive, the longest in the United States and the biggest in the history of the river.

In the old days when Michigan was the lumber king's paradise, there were occasional drives of 35,000,000 and 40,000,000 was a bumper crop, yet the longest drive was scarcely half so long as this. Donald J. McDonald, the company's northern manager, is running the big drive, with Tom Dyke of the family of New England lumber barons. Mr. McDonald's father was one of those who carried out a fortune from the forests of the Northwest, and it was in that rugged school the son learned the trade.

Tom Dyke is brother of George Dyke, former president of the company who lost his life while bossing the drive of 1909. J. J. Phelan, the Boston financier, is now president, and to his efforts is due the credit for the big drive of this season--a record for the Connecticut, the oldest rivermen say that will never be broken. Last night the cooks were working hard with the cookees, outfitting the wanigan. Stout, portable kitchens are erected in snub-nosed scows, and the resultant Mary Ann follows the drive down the stream, shooting the raging rapids with many a fearsome pan-rattling bump for the riverman, working from dawn until dark and sometimes all night, eats five meals a day and the commissary must always be on the spot.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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The pace of logging in New England reached a peak in around 1910. This article is already aware of the consequences of the frenzy, as it notes that "the once-great forests of New England are now little more than a memory." The changes in the logs taken from 1887 to 1937 were dramatic. For example, the history of the cutting of the Dartmouth College Tract in northern New Hampshire is typical. The first cut, made 1887, was for logs not less than 56 feet long; then spruce, fir and pine more than fourteen inches in diameter. The next cut several years later was for any tree more than nine inches in diameter with four-foot lengths were taken for pulpwood. Then all old-growth maple and birch trees with stumps more than twelve inches wide were taken for furniture making. Finally, in the last cut in the late 1920s, all trees with more than eight inches diameter were taken for pulpwood. At that point, the forests were left alone. Many have regenerated, some have been placed into various federal or state protection, and some have been logged again.


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"Burly Log Drivers Up River Start Biggest Drive Ever Seen"

publisher   Greenfield Gazette and Courier
date   May 20, 1911
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
height   17.0"
width   2.25"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L02.099

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See Also...

"Annual Log Drive on the River"

"Log Drive of 36,000,000 Feet"

Logging at the Oxbow on the Connecticut River near Holyoke, Mass.

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