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Logging grew complex

October 30, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

I picked up a contract at a recent antique show that reminded me, once again, that getting the Adirondack logs to market was a complex business. Fortunes were made and lost while millions of logs made their way to the mills. Our growing nation needed the lumber and paper.

The small contract was dated June 1938 and it called for the skidding, cutting, and piling of Adirondack logs.

Apparently, the logging job called for pulpwood, used in making paper. The contract called for four-foot lengths with all the knots trimmed close. It called for Spruce trees, but the location of the woodlot was not specified. It was probably near Edinburg since the contract was being made with Lewis Clother of that settlement.

Technical requirements had to be agreed to in the logging contract. They had to comply and conform to Workmen Compensation requirements. One dollar per cord had to be paid as the job progressed and the balance of one dollar when it was cut and piled. The contract was entitled "Agreement," leaving no doubt as to how the two parties would meet their obligations.

I have a sizable pile (remember the "piles?") of other logging documents that have accumulated over the years. The International Paper Company had organized from several smaller companies and had become a big Adirondack landholder by the year 1900. In October of that year they paid $75 in school taxes, according to a receipt that I have, to District Number 6 in the town of Wells for land in Townships 9, 10, and 29. George Buyce was the sole trustee and he certified that John Parker was the collector of taxes.

The Forest, Fish, and Game Commission of the State of New York played a part in Adirondack logging. In May of 1910, J. S. Whipple, Commissioner, notified the loggers that a legislative statute required the tops of coniferous trees had to be trimmed when felled and not sometime later. The practice had been to fell the trees, cut the logs, and then go back at a later time to trim the tops. Superintendent of State Forests, William Fox, also wrote to each logging company requesting the amount of lumber manufactured at each mill in 1902, separated by spruce, hemlock, pine and hardwoods. He also wanted to know the amount of shingles manufactured in the Adirondacks.

Keeping track of the boundary lines of forest properties was a never-ending task. Often, mistakenly or purposefully, loggers took logs off of state-owned lands. Verifying and proving ownership cases appear throughout the Adirondack records. A good example appeared in a letter from the Champlain Reality Company, which was part of the IPC and the Kenyon Lumber Company, to Mark Hosley of Wells. "The State has raised the question as to the ownership of the 100-acre piece of land in the north end of lot #11, Twps. 10&29, T. and C. Purchase, on which the Alder Flat Dam is supposed to be located." He goes on to inquire if they owned a camp or house there, or whether the dam was on that lot in 1879. Proving occupancy often determined ownership in those logging days.

Record-keeping for the logging drives on the Adirondack waterways became a bookkeeping nightmare on their own. I have more than 50 of the small day-booklets of the working time for each driver along with the food and lodging costs on the Sacandaga River drives. Added to all of the above records, the legal cases of damages along the drives, the employment of jobbers, renting of teams of horses, the counting of the logs, and the hundreds of woodsmen, and it is easy to conclude: logging the Adirondack woodlands was indeed a complex enterprise.



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