Normally cordwood was 14 inches
long, split and ready to burn in a cook stove. Sometimes wood was
sawed longer for larger heater stoves or furnaces. Firewood was
hardwood. Before the chainsaw, each tree was chopped down with an
axe, twitched to a wood yard with a single horse, and there cut with
a bucksaw to length. That length depended on the tree’s
diameter and the farmer’s own needs. If it were to be
manufactured into 14-inch cordwood, it would be cut to 56-inch
Here are two pictures of cordwood,
the top at Sam Coopers, is ready for manufacturing. Below is at the
Varnum farm in 1939. Pay no attention to Sam and his horse or to the
What caught my eye in
this image is that huge pile of wood behind the ladies. Bert Varnum
of the Airline Road in Alexander told how that each winter the men
would cut 300 cords of firewood. The day after the March town meeting
the men would start sawing the wood to stove length. They used a
sawing machine or wood machine (pictured below) and could do about 15
cords a day. Later the wood would be split with a mechanical up and
down splitter. Earl and Bert applied labor to a product of the land
to produce cash income.
An account book tells of wood sales in 1933 and 1934. Here are some names of buyers:
John Tori $27.00 Charlie Tori $30.00 Phil Holmes $57.50
Austin Bradish $58.50 Mrs. Alley $79.00 L. Brooks 16 cords at $9.00 each
Emery Babb $7.00 Mrs. Emack $69.00 Peterson Brothers 25 cords cash
Dr. Murphy $49.00 C.
C. Whitlock $24.00 Mr. Bass 3¾ cords furnace wood $33.75
Tori Brothers ran an ice cream store on Main Street in Calais (across from NAPA today) and purchased cream from Earl and Bert Varnum. The Peterson Brothers, Pete, Carl and Bill ran a Chevrolet garage on Main Street in Calais, about where NAPA is today.
On November 1, 1940, Al
Richards of Hillside Street in Woodland was billed $64.00 for wood
delivered between August 11 and October 23; five cords of range wood
at $8.00 per cord and 3 cords of heater wood at the same price. Most
deliveries were of 1½ cords.
1918 Bertha Scribner’s Diary - Alexander
January 3 – Thursday: Cloudy in A. M. began to snow at noon. Pa to Milltown with wood. Robbie, Vira [both Lehan] called. Leon to shop for mail. Snowing something awful tonight.” Pa was Bertha’s father-in-law Mort Scribner. He was to make 15 more trips to Milltown and Calais in three months with wood, that’s cordwood to keep city people warm. These winter trips were on a set of sleds hauled by a pair of horses.
In the Town of Cooper, Sam Cooper’s wood was manufactured just like Varnums’; chopped with an axe, buck sawed to a manageable length, sawed to stove length by a sawing machine and split, either by axe or machine. In the 30s and 40s neighbors Raymond Flood or Nelson Flood hauled Sam’s cordwood to Eastport by truck. See Cooper Family Diary.
Albin Carlow of Alexander and Ralph Sadler of
Cooper were two others who sold cordwood. Locally many farmers bid to
sell cordwood to their neighborhood school, the church or the Grange.
Selling cordwood was a way of turning a natural resource and one’s
labor into cash.