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