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January 21, 2021

Michigan Loggers Pose Alongside Their World Record Haul, a Load of More Than 36,000 Board-Feet of Lumber Destined for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

To show off Michigan’s forest industry at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, lumberjacks from the Great Lakes State cut and stacked 145 tons of white pine logs on the sled shown here. The timber formed part of the Michigan’s Loggers’ Camp exhibit, which included a 20-by-70-foot log cabin staffed by real lumberjacks who were shown chowing down on their diet of pork and beans, johnnycake, and black coffee. Besides a sleigh displaying the 18-foot-long logs, the camp included a 200-by-125-foot sawmill and various other tools for cutting, shaping, and transporting wood from the forest to mills.

This load of white pine was cut on the Nestor Estate near Ewen, Michigan, in Ontonagon County in the Upper Peninsula. It was a world’s record load of more than 36,000 board-feet of lumber. The two horses did indeed pull the load approximately a quarter of a mile. It was then loaded onto railcars, along with the sled, and sent to Chicago. The load was reloaded as part of the Michigan Lumber exhibit at the 1893 Columbia Exposition.

On the skidways were small piles of logs to be hauled out on the big sleighs to the rollways on the river bank, where they would await the spring drive. The sleighs used to haul the great loads of logs were from eight to ten feet wide at the double runners and shod with inch-thick steel. Twelve and fourteen cross beams or bunks were fastened across the sleigh with “king bolt” in the middle in order that the bunks could be swung back lengthwise on the return trip so that sleighs could pass each other more easily at the “turn-outs.”

The sleighs were drawn to the side of the skidways and the logs were rolled onto the bunks, at first by the loading and decking crew with canthooks, then as the pile became higher, decking chains were placed around the middle of the logs and the logs pulled onto the high load with horses. The entire load was bound by chains at each end and was ready to go. The teamster climbed to the top and drew up his reins. Again speaking quietly to his horses, the driver reined his team to the right to “break” the runners. Then straightening the animals out for a forward pull, he eased them into their collars. Digging their sharp-shod feet into the ice and snow, the horses started the load. Once the load, weighing from ten to fifteen tons at times, gathered momentum, it did not stop until the rollway was reached.

Each teamster endeavored to haul a record load. There was spirited competition and lively small betting between the drivers. In the bunkhouse each crew bragged about the loads hauled during the day.

The largest load of logs ever hauled out of the woods consisted of 36,055 feet of virgin Michigan pine. The logs averaged 18 feet in length. The height of the load was thirty-three feet and three inches. The weight was one hundred and forty-four tons. This load was decked by a chain and a team of horses. It was hauled by a team on iced roads to the Ontonagon river, then rafted in the spring to the nearest railroad where it was loaded onto nine flatcars and shipped to the Chicago World’s Fair to be used in buildings there. As many a forty million feet of logs were taken out of the woods by one outfit in one season.


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