The Last Great Log Drive - 1929
Source: Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Page 3, Thursday, July 25, 1929 - Transcribed by Larry Peterson
MANISTIQUE IS SETTING FOR LAST BIG DRIVE
2,500,000 FEET OF LUMBER
Manistique, Mich., July 25—(AP) —Down swift waters of the Manistique river there swept today the last big drive of logs in the great lakes state, marking the end of bonanza lumbering which first brought wealth to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Cramming the stream from bank to bank, some 2,500,000 feet of pine, hemlock and hardwood was on its way to this upper Michigan city from the upper reaches of the Driggs river, tributary to the circuitous Manistique. With it there passed in the midwest the epic days of big-scale logging, with its heroic figures and traditions woven into the background of modern cities now thriving on new industries.
Those who recalled the early days of the industry saw in the present "drive" the final shifting of major lumber operations from the midwest to the Pacific northwest. As in Minnesota and Wisconsin, all but a few of the cities which once existed on the great pineries alone, have turned to the making of paper, wood by-products or other industries alien to the one which gave them their first taste of prosperity.
The pineries have gone, and only on government or state reserves and a few scattered sections are there reminders of the "big timber" which first drew settlers to this territory. It was from one of these isolated sections that the logs en route to his city came.
Today, two and a half million feet of logs cause gasps from the layman, but to the veteran logger it is only a start compared with the old days. Three billion feet of pine alone have been driven down the Manistique since logging operations were started shortly before the Civil War.
Old-timers who have watched the progress of this year's drive recall in it the halcyon days of the eighties and nineties—vast tracts of virgin timber which seemed inexhaustible; —bloody brawls between lumberjacks—saloons crowded-Paul Bunyan stories—lives lost in log jams.
The Manistique river has never been a bad stream for log jams. It is deep all the way and there are no sandbars. Jams do occur, however, and it is in breaking these there comes the peril which has cost the lives of "river hogs,” drivers of the past. Dressed in heavy woolen clothing, feet clad in heavy calked boots, the driver leaps from log to log looking for the key log which holds the jam. With his "peavie" (crowbar-stick) he releases this log and then jumps for his life as the pent-up timber and water roars down in an avalanche. If the driver reached the bateaux or the shore, it meant safety. If not, there would be a funeral.
Frank N. Cookson, typical "old school" lumberman who received his first training in the Penobscot river in Maine as a boy of 14, is the man making the historic drive on the Manistique. "Cookson's camp" has been a familiar term through the years of upper peninsula logging. Under the direction of Harvey Saunders, also a Maine logging veteran, Cookson's crews cut the pine and hemlock last fall in an area previously shunned by timber operators because of its isolation. It was a thorough cutting, and it took the largest remaining stand of virgin pine in the state of Michigan.
The timber was hauled by teams in early winter to the banks of the Driggs river and piled to await the coming of spring. In April it was rolled off the skidways into the river and started on its way, traveling about 30 miles to the main stream. Here the logs were held back by booms until the flood stage passed on the Manistique. When the water came back within its banks, they were started on their way again to be made into huge rafts with unfloatable hardwood farther down the stream. The rafts now are making their final journey to the sawmill here, 60 miles away by water and only 15 by road, due to the horseshoe curves of the Manistique.
The entire drive will end in August, writing "finis” to bonanza lumbering in the midwest.