Thursday, August 3, 2017

Life in a Logging Camp

Hi, Kit Morgan here, and I'm in the midst of trying to write books while surrounded by loggers who are select cut logging our property right now. It is, to say the least, nearly impossible to get any work done while all this is going on. The noise is incredible when the cutters are here. Add to that the huge machinery used to stack the logs, load them onto the trucks, and of course the loud BOOM when those trees come down. Which, after watching these guys work over the last week, it's amazing what they can do. This, of course, got me to wondering what life was like for loggers back in the 1800's. Say, the 1880's or 1890's. So I did a little digging...

 For much of its history, logging was a winter activity. In winter, logs could be easily transported to riverbanks via bob sleds, (or in later years, by railroad). In spring, when the ice melted, logs were floated down the rivers to sawmills. Log marks (the logging equivalent of cattle brands) determined ownership. Due to the seasonal nature of the business, logging camps tended to be tempory.

A typical lumber camp of the late 1800's (1875-1900) accommodated sixty to one hundred men. Typically there could be five or six main buildings, all made of logs. A bunkhouse, a cook shanty, a barn, and a black smith shop. A camp office and store would also be among the buildings. The camp office and store typically included living quarters for the camp foreman and log scaler.

A lumberjack out of Michigan, Ralph Hooker, was interviewed by a couple a few months before his death in 1965, (he was 79) and told them of his life as a lumberjack working the camps. 
Hooker recalled working 60 hours each week with Sunday being the only day of rest. From Monday through Saturday, they'd be awakened at 5:00 a.m. and went to bed at 9:00 p.m. every night. There were large breakfasts, consisting of buckwheat pancakes, fresh meat, fresh meat grease, sauces, cookies, and hash.  "Hash was legal tender in them days," Hooker told his interviewers. "After the second helping of hash, I could cut logs until noon." Hooker described long days of hard work, and evenings full of story telling and card games. "I stayed out of the poker games," he said, "But I'd swap lies with any of them." On the work as a whole, Hooker said, "I worked like the dickens, but I didn't think anything of it."

So looking at how things were back then, and watching these guys now, what a difference! They didn't have the heavy machinery we have today that can do so much of the heavy work back then. What's interesting too, is they found out I was a writer and they started asking me if we, as romance/western/americana authors write much about loggers. I said I knew of a few books, one in particular that came to mind. Sharla Rae's How to Fell a Timberman. Though I'm sure there are others out there. Now I guess I'll have to write one!

If you'd like to check out my books, you can find them at


  1. Amazing pictures, Kit--especially the final one. Two mules(?) pulling 18 thousand-pound logs? (I'm guessing, naturally). No wonder someone captured the image by photography. Interesting part of Victorian life. =)

  2. I agree, you need to write one! Look forward to it.

    Loved the photos and information. Thanks Doris

  3. Awesome love this tidbit stories and wow at the pictures.