BURLY LOG DRIVERS UP RIVER
START BIGGEST DRIVE EVER SEEN.
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
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
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.