One of the commodities transported by the railroads from Boundary County over the years is timber products. In earlier years, logging camps were common.
“Huge stands of virgin timber in Boundary County have provided jobs for many men throughout the county’s history. Species including white pine, yellow pine, white fir, red fir, tamarack, cedar, spruce, cottonwood, hemlock and lodge pole pine have been logged for nearly a century.
This story from “The History of Boundary County”, first published in 1986, was written by Clara Hewitt from notes by Fred Meddock, Robert Hewitt and Dean Zimmerman.
“Early logging was done with crosscut saws and horsepower. Men often lived in logging camps where mess halls (“cook shacks”) and bunkhouses provided their home. Men who lived in the logging camps remember excellent food prepared by experienced cooks and rules that demanded little or no talk during mealtime. Logging camps operated year round.
“The size of the logging camps varied from perhaps ten men to seventy-five or more. Early camps housed many single men. Both men and women served as camp cooks. The cook was assisted by a flunky who helped to prepare, serve and clean up after the meal. A bull cut wood, carried it to the kitchen and bunkhouse, built early morning fires, swept the bunkhouse, filled the gaslights, put in new mantles, lighted them in the early morning and put out the lights at night. Most camps were built near water and had running water piped into the buildings. An outdoor toilet was nearby.
To learn more about the cook shacks – see “A. C. White Lumber Flunkies“
“The bell called the men from bed at an early hour followed by the breakfast bell fifteen minutes later at 6am. (It was recalled that Fred Mitchell played a tune on his triangle to call his men to chow!) Many camps let their employees fix their own lunches from a large variety of food before leaving the cook shack while some camps took hot lunches to men on the job at noon. The dinner bell called the men to the evening meal about 5:30pm. Lights were turned out at 9pm. Some camps provided a room for cards and visiting but the men were expected to be quiet after 9pm.
“Men worked six days a week. A few who lived nearby went home on Sunday; however food was served to those remaining in the camp. Logs were skidded by horses, hauled on wagons drawn by four horses (sleighs in winter) to railroad sidings, chutes, flumes or a river to be sent on to area mills. Hard rubber gasoline trucks were used in the early 1920s. Caterpillars came into limited use in the 1920s. Power saws were in use by the 1940s.
“The logging camp men felled the trees, cut them into lengths (multiples of two feet), skidded them to a landing and got the logs out of the forest to a decking site. Most of the trees were cut into sixteen foot lengths; however there were lengths of ten, twelve, eighteen and more feet according to needs and special orders. Most of the logs sent to the Bonners Ferry Lumber Company were cut into sixteen foot lengths, hauled to the Kootenai River and floated to the sawmill. During the summer months, many decks of logs were seen along the Kootenai River waiting for high water the next spring when they were floated downriver in big log drives patrolled by men to keep the logs moving. Log drives were common and exciting sights. Many logs were put into the Kootenai River by way of flumes and log chutes; floating logs were seen on the river all year. During the log drives, the logs were floated to a huge log pond at the sawmill.
“Some early logging camps in Boundary County were operated by Frank Mitchell in Paradise Valley, Naples and Twenty Mile Creek; Inland Paper Company on Copper Creek; Harry Brown at Naples and Fall Creek; Schmidt Brothers on Skin Creek; JP Wilson at Moyie Springs and Leonia; AC White Lumber Company in the Rock Creek area; Roddy and Schwab Camp in Smith Creek; Lasso Brothers on Placer Creek; Pat Lynch Camp on Boundary Creek; Floyd Baker on Smith Creek; Ted Kent and Robert Hewett in Moyie Springs and Twenty Mile Creek; Robert Hewett in Moyie Springs and Twenty Mile Creek; Robert Hewett at Leonia; and Gilson in Drainage District #11.
“Numbered logging camps included Camps 10, 14, 17, 21, 25 and 28, all for the Bonners Ferry Lumber Company. Camp 10 near Porthill was the largest of the camps employing in excess of one hundred fifty men. Locations of other camps are 14 near Merle Hubbard’s; 17 in Cow Creek; 21 on the Spokane International Railroad (Fred Meyer’s Canyon) and 25, 5 miles north of Bonners Ferry where Leland Plato now lives. Camp 28 was on Curley Creek. AC White’s camps, all north of Bonners Ferry included 2,3,4,7,9,10 and 11. All these logs were shipped by railroad to the AC White Lumber Company in Dover and Laclede, ID.
“Besides the Bonners Ferry Lumber Company sawmill, smaller sawmills in operation throughout Boundary County included the Dehlbom Mill at Copeland; Peter Moe Mill at Naples; Pape and Springs Mill in Meadow Creek; Murphy Mill in the Rocks on the Westside of Bonners Ferry; Cecil Lovell Mill in Drainage District #5; Vic Cameron Mill in Porthill; Tom More Tie Mill in Moyie Spring. Sawmills in Moyie Springs included Saddler, Charlie Merritt, Elton King, Scott French, Cozier Container Company, Moyie River Lumber Company, Georgia Pacific and now Louisiana Pacific.