Hard work, but still fun”

FALL 1952 – SPRING 1953

By Donald McLellan of South Princeton, Me

[Published as LOGGING in the May 1983 ACHS Newsletter]

My brothers Marshall, Delwin, Avard and our cousin Alton McLellan started cutting pine logs in the Dog Brook Area, north end ‘Poke’ Lake. The first time was Fall of 1946 – Spring 1947. We cut with a crosscut saw and axes. We yarded logs out with Avard’s bay horse ‘Barny’, and paired him up with a black horse Marshall owned to yard large logs.

I drove Marshall’s 1939 Chev. Truck towing sleds we loaded at edge of woods where Dog Brook flowage ends. We delivered them on lake shore just above Alexander landing. A man by name of LaBelle had a saw mill about where Stowell MacGregor used to have spool bar mill I 1930s. By Fall of 1952 Alton McLellan and I were the only two working cutting pine in that area.

From where Dog Brook crosses Princeton road on way from South Princeton to Princeton, it makes a large circle up to a large truck road known now as ‘Poky’ road.

We traveled in the old West Princeton road always known as Jerusalem road, about half way from lake to Poky road, then we swing toward the lake and crossed Dog Brook on a beaver flowage.

The hovel was built across flowage so if brook flooded we could still have our horses to work till water went down again. The old town bridge was still across brook on West Princeton road, and at times we had to walk clear in to that bridge and down brook to work and feed the horses.

‘Barny’ was hard to shoe. We had to rope each leg and get him down and tie each leg to trees so we could shoe him. I think now his legs would itch and he would hoist one hoof to scratch and would cut himself something terrible. When we got horse to edge of flowage it was froze over about six inches and all smooth. Being late in the afternoon we thought we could get him across that once to the hovel so to have the day ahead to shoe him.

He was really a fine horse. He tried to make it with very little urging, but slipped and fell. We had to get on his head and quiet him down to lay still. We tied ropes across the flowage and to us, and another to the horses head and dragged him across. He slid across real easy.

Don’s brother Avard McLellan has been rolling pine logs up onto the pile.

We cut and piled logs and kept waiting for a bulldozer to make our road on other side of brook. About six inches of snow came and we cut ice across brook and sunk ice to freeze deeper, we got about two feet of ice. Tommy Stewart had bought Nason mill about this time on Mill Street, Princeton. He hired St. Stephen Highway Dept. dozer with Hazen Bagley to operate. Tommy would not put it across on ice. But up brook, at a narrow place there was a log laying lengthwise, so it was decided to fill the brook full of pine tops and walk across them.

Well, Henry took one top, pushed it toward the brook, kept on going till lag of dozer caught on old log in the middle of the brook, swinging the dozer straddle the log. There it set all high, and the lags just spinning around.

Tommy Stewart went to Princeton to St Croix Pulp Co. and got some large chains to hook in lags and to a stump. As the lags turned to tighten chains it pulled dozer off log and toward bank. The hauling gear hitch on the dozer went under the bank of the brook and there it set again, going neither ahead or back. The fan was dishing water up over the rest of the machine, then forming ice.

We could get a car within a short way from the place. I went home, got coffee, whiskey and plenty of food and four of us stayed all night by the fire, talking and hearing the old dozer hammer away.

It was three o’clock the next afternoon before Walter Higgins and some men arrived with Alley Nason’s large dozer to pull St. Stephen machine out. They broke the big tow cable on Alley Nason’s machine, but on the third try made it high and dry. They drained all the gear casings and left the machine there for about a week.

They should have taken it right to a garage and warm place, but Tommy told me he had to pay $3000 damage to St. Stephen. We never got a road dozed, we hauled logs out by sled. Emerson Cilley drove Ken Wheelock’s truck hauling to Princeton.

One morning as Alton and I were riding on top of logs across brook flowage, the trees were covered real heavy with frost. I said, “Look, Alton, that is a sure sign of rain.” Alton said, “No, that is a sign of moisture in some form.” Well it was, about two feet of snow!

We got logs all cut in that sledding area and began cutting in the spring down near where the brook comes out of the woods and through the meadow ground before reaching the lake. We put logs on ice everywhere we could and put boom logs across below them till ice was clear and we could tow them down lake.

Alton and I took turns cutting and yarding. His day to cut, about 3 p. m. as the horse and I came back for the last log for day, I heard moaning in brush. Alton had cut a pine which went off line and landed in a big clump of grey birch. He went up on the pine and cut off some limbs, then some of the grey birch. The tree started down and one of those birch caught him, breaking three ribs.

I helped him walk to the hovel till I put the horse in for the night. It was about one mile altogether to the car, which we took in the woods across brook from hovel. I hired Vernon “Sonny’ Wentworth to drive the horse the rest of the job. We piled two tier of logs to be rolled in brook after ice went out.

We waded horses across brook near where dozer went in; the water was shallow and running. We were lucky because two days later rain came and everything was flooded. We would not have been able to get them home for some time.

Logs being boomed down Brown’s Cove.

Alton and I went up to tow the logs down one morning about 2 a. m. Alton used my 12 foot Sears Roebuck row boat with a 2½ horse Scott Atwater out-board motor which I still have. I had a homemade row boat with the front end rotted out and I guess about one of the first old time Johnson, two lung, small motor. Everything was alright as long as I was in the stern and the weight of the motor held bow out of water. When water got a little rough I put my coat up in bow, then bailed what water came by my coat.

We each had a can of gas and plenty to eat in the boats. We must have been two hours getting the logs to move, both boats pulling left then right to swing logs till we got entire boom started. It was about 11 a. m. getting out of Dog Brook flowage and into lake. By noon we were about opposite South Princeton landing.

Things began to happen then, the wind began to come up lake from Alexander way. At 1:30 we hauled and drifted to first little cove in middle ground. There we drove stakes here and there around the boom and tied logs until some day when wind was right, or calm to bring them across to George Clark’s landing, which was known when I was a kid as Seaman’s landing, also known as Black Cove.

One day I said to Alton, “We better get those logs.” He said, “Too late. George Clark already brought them over, took them out of the water and hauled them to Princeton for us.”

There was about 60 thousand, not a large boom, but a lot to bring down with those little boats swinging first right, then left to keep them moving. That was the Spring of 1953, and this being written Spring 1982. 29 years have past and I cannot recollect any log drive on Poke Lake since. It may well be the last or an era as log driving or booming becoming a thing of the past.

George Clark cut 500 thousand on Allen Stream below Poke Mountain in 1947. These were boomed down Allen Stream and up Poky outlet to George Clark’s landing.

Fred Leavitt and Paul Towe were two of Alley Nason’s crew who drove long log trucks and trailers up off the lake and into Princeton mill. Well I remember those trucks roaring up the lake road, those drivers having their toe right to the floor boards.

“Hard work, but still fun.” Alton McLellan’s last words to Don in 1978, about a week before Alton died.