Blade

Collection of Bunyoniana

Limbo of Forgotten Things

Mystic Knights

The Banner-Journal
Black River Falls, Wisconsin
January 23, 1935

An Interesting Letter
Lumberjacks And River Hogs

The following interesting letter has been received from an old time resident of Jackson county. His purpose in writing the B-J is commendable and we trust that some of our readers may be able to furnish Mr. Daniels with the words of the songs and with other encouragement for this worthy purpose.

***

Iron River, Wis., Jan.11, 1935
Editor Banner-Journal:
Dear Editor: I was born in the town of Springfield, in Jackson county, on what was known as the Daniels farm, afterwards known as the Spaulding farm when it became the property of D.J. Spaulding; my grandfather bought that land off the government, and settled on it before the Civil War.

The country north and also east of Black River Falls, was practically all pine forests; when I became large enough, I went out to work in the logging camps, and river drives. I worked for Bill Price, Sawyer, Amos Elliott, Bright, Mark Douglas, "Uncle" Ob. Darwin and many other loggers and lumbermen who had their headquarters in Black River Falls.

Now you are wondering why I am telling you this. I will explain.

This great north was a vast forest of pines when I came here; but as soon as the timber was released by the government the lumber barons came in and in 30 years cleaned off timber; like the lumbering and logging in Jackson county, it has now passed into history, with the pages left mostly blank.

The people of the city of Bayfield, in Bayfield county, and particularly one Gus Weber, an old time camp cook, are starting a movement to perfect an organization to collect and preserve the history of the "Lumber Jack", his ways and customs, the songs he sang, and everything connected with the logging camps and the life of the "lumberjack" and the "River Hog."

There will be a general meeting and camp dinner at Bayfield on the 27th of January for the purpose of raising funds for a Paul Bunyan statue and for perfecting a parent organization, and for other purposes above mentioned.

I want to get all of the old lumber camp songs possible so I can present them at this meeting for permanent record, and I am asking you to help me get some of them. There are probably a number of old timers around Black River that remember some of those old camp songs; and if you would send out a call in the next issue of the Banner-Journal, asking any one who may have, or can remember any of those old camp songs to send me a copy, enclosing their name and address. I am sure we would get response.

I understand that Jule Walters is still there; he has heard all of those old songs many times; tho I doubt if he knows any of them. He could swear better than he could sing, but he may know of some one who has them.

I am particularly anxious to get the following songs:
"The Little Brown Bulls."
"On the Big Eau Claire."
"Down! Down! Black River Down."
The last named would not pass censor in print, but it was an old time favorite with the boys around Black River.

I am wondering if any of the Coopers are now connected with the
Banner-Journal. I knew the old Veteran Frank Cooper very well when I was a boy.

I am sending you herewith a clipping from the Bayfield Press, descriptive of the lumberjack dinner which I am writing about. I would suggest that you get in touch with the Bayfield Press, and exchange with them. The Press is the oldest newspaper in north Wisconsin, and represents what was at one time a great lumbering country, so you have something in common.

Will you let me know what you think of this organization; and I should like to have you send greetings to the promoters of this movement, to be read at the meeting.
E.F. Daniels

***

Following is the article taken from the Bayfield paper:

Lumberjack Dinner January 27th to Start Paul Bunyan Statue Fund

The date of the second "Lumberjack dinner" has been tentatively set for Sunday, January 27th, and preparations are in progress in Bayfield for the resurrection of the festival which made such a hit when first staged two years ago and is this year to be established as an annual event.

The first lumberjack dinner was planned largely as a lark by a group of Bayfield live-wires, headed by Gus Weber, former lumber camp cook, who served a real old-time, open-air lumber camp dinner, with all its great variety of robust, masculine dishes. It was staged on a beautiful sunny January Sunday of 1933 and its success far outran the hopes and estimates of its sponsors. From all the communities of the bay region, and from other parts of northern Wisconsin to Feldmaier woodlot north of Bayfield came scores of men, many of them former lumber workers, all dressed in rough, outdoor clothes, all ripe and ready for a real frolic in the great outdoors.

The total attendance was over 200. They engaged in lumberjack sports and all sorts of rough and tumble horseplay in the snow, listened to a program of logging reminiscences from old-timers of the region, ate a hearty meal of well-cooked lumberjack fare, and went home after one of the most enjoyable days many of them had ever spent.

The fame of the first lumberjack dinner spread far and wide, and when last winter passed without it being repeated, a demand sprang up thru-out the region for its resurrection this year. So the Bayfielders, with their customary willingness to oblige, are preparing to hold the event again. As stated above, the date has been set for January 27, but may be changed. The place has not been definitely decided upon yet, but both place and date will be definitely announced in the near future. A committee under the leadership of Gus Weber is in charge of arrangements.

Added impetus had been given the affair by the proposal to use the net proceeds of the lumberjack dinner as the nucleus of a fund for the erection of a colossal statue of Paul Bunyan, mythical demi-god of the lumberjacks, and his Blue Ox, Babe, on the Bayfield water front as a tribute to the memory of the old midwestern lumberjacks, a breed of men who are fast receding into the limbo of forgotten things. This plan has been given extensive publicity in newspapers throughout the country and received expressions of approval from wide-spread sources. Augustus Lukeman, sculptor of the famous Stone Mountain monument to the leaders of the confederacy, and other prominent sculptors of the nation have expressed their interest and indicated their willingness to submit sketches and models of the proposed statue.

There can be no doubt that the project will be carried to completion in one form or another, but its sponsors are now endeavoring to ascertain the probable cost of erecting such a statue, so they will have a definite goal to work toward. A permanent organization is being formed to carry the plan forward, known as the "Mystic Knights of the Blue Ox", named for the mighty Paul's great beast of burden. Membership in the organization may be obtained by purchase of a button bearing the insignia of the lodge, which includes a picture of Babe, and the recital of a reasonably ridiculous Paul Bunyan yarn, preferably original. Receipts from the button sale will go into the statue fund. Other methods of raising the necessary funds will also be used, including the solicitation of donations from lumber companies, who will undoubtedly be willing to contribute to the erection of a suitable memorial to the legendary figure who bulks so large in the history of the lumber industry.

All members of the Mystic Knights of the Blue Ox will be given lumber camp titles, such as: foreman, wanigan clerk, straw push, walking boss, skyhooter, scaler, mud clerk, wood butcher, bull cook, tote teamster, log checker, cruiser, swamper, road monkey and so on.

All those attending the lumberjack dinner are requested to bring with them authentic mementoes of Paul Bunyan, which are to be used to establish a Paul Bunyan museum of logging equipment. It is generally acknowledged by old lumbermen that there must be thousands of logging tools and pieces of logging equipment, of colossal size, scattered thru-out northern Wisconsin, which were once used by the mighty Paul. Altho these are always highly treasured by their owners, it is hoped that they will be willing to donate them for a Bunyan museum, along with the accounts of their origin and their descent from the lumberjack here. Needless to say, the more huge these relics are and the more fantastic their stories, the more suitable they will be for inclusion in a collection of Bunyoniana.

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