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mills in Massachusetts.
Working in groups, these loggers, equipped with spiked shoes and poles, would ride the logs to poke and twist them on their way. When a jam formed, logs would start piling up. Loggers would have to look for the “key log” similar to a “key stone” (in an arch) and dislodge it.
Dynamite was at times used, but only if other efforts failed because it damaged the timber. Log jams were a constant problem because logs did not behave well in the river — they were not equipped with a rudder or a shaped keel like a boat. Their move downriver went well as long as they didn’t hit a rock or another log and have their course changed. Loggers worked 10- and 12-hour days often standing in freezing cold water with little protection from the wind. It was a dangerous job.
The loggers working a drive would set up camps along the way. One such camp was located on an island in the middle of the Connecticut River in Brattleboro, later known as Island Park. Meals were served at these camps. One report indicated that there wasn’t a green piece of food on a plate — this was clearly a crowd that liked meat and potatoes, beans and bread. At some drives a barge-like craft traveled with the drive that provided space for meals and lodging.
Railroads replaced rivers for log transport and today the truck is playing the most dominant role in moving the logs from the forest to the mill. Brattleboro, a town that once had the logs moving in the Connecticut River to its east, now has trucks laden with logs traveling its Main Street.
Wayne Carhart is president of the Brattleboro Historical Society
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Forest to stream
Water carried wood from place to place
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AT CAMP — A logging camp, above, with cook tent was set up on the island across from Brattleboro in 1902. The site was later called Island Park. Log drives occurred in the spring when the water in the river was high. At right, a work crew stands by fallen trees. There were no gasoline-powered chain saws for these men. Work was done in cold weather, after the leaves had fallen and snow had covered the ground.
WATERWAY — Above, logs fill the river during a 1902 log jam. The round brick structure to the right, seen in this view from Walnut Street, was known as the gashouse and is now the location of the Riverview Café. At right, horses used to haul the logs to the river are transported by raft in this 1890s photo.
DRAWING A CROWD — A 1902 log jam draws a crowd at the Brattleboro-Hinsdale bridge. At left, loggers work to free up the logs that have jammed beneath the bridge. Above, spectators line the bridge and logs to get a closer look.
Ruth Hertsberg collection
Lucille Mitchell collection
Lucille Mitchell collection
Adirondack Museum
LOGGERS used a pike pole during log drives.