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(Seattle & Northern 1890)

Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition Stories & Photos
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit.

Covers from British Columbia to Puget sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan. An evolving history dedicated to the principle of committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Jesse B. Ball's early Washington territory
logging with Norwegians
From the Prairie to Puget Sound

By O.B. Iverson, Volume XVI: Page 91, Norwegian-American Historical Association
A partial reprint of the story from Stanwood News, October 22, 1920:

(Jesse Beriah Ball)
Jesse Beriah Ball, circa 1860s

There was plenty of fairly good land
[Story starts during Iverson's trip around March 16, 1875, near Olympia, the capital of Washington territory, with other jolly Norwegians who were skilled woodsmen.]

      About half a mile from "burnt point" was a logging camp (not used) belonging to Jesse Ball, that Dave proposed to occupy until he could build his own house. We went there and found Ball's twelve year old boy, Warren, all alone. We turned in with him and I think he was glad to have our company. During the past week the only company he had enjoyed was skunks. A family or colony of skunks had located under the floor. While [we were] staying at "skunk" camp Mr. Ball came with his "sloop." Mr. Ball was operating several logging camps. He got his supplies from the Hanson mill at Tacoma, and carried them to his camps on this sloop, all alone.
      Mr. Ball was a widower. He had two boys, Dave 16 and Warren 12 years of age. Dave did a man's work in one of the camps, but Warren was a sort of nuisance to the camp, and the camp a nuisance to Warren. Mr. Ball stayed a couple of days at "skunk" camp, and gave me much valuable information. Before he left he asked me to take Warren with me and he would pay the expense. He said that he could see that Warren was fond of me and he was sure I would have no trouble with him. I thought so, too, and agreed. Warren was delighted. We got aboard of Ball's sloop, leaving Hume in possession of "skunk" camp. Ball landed Warren and me at the U.S. penitentiary on McNeil Island, to take the next boat to Olympia.
      The warden at the pen, Mr. Pitt, informed us that the Olympia boat had passed and we would have to wait until 4 o'clock next day. He invited us to supper, but said he was sorry he could not offer us a room, as the court had just sent him a consignment of liquor merchants and he did not have a vacant cell. I met these merchants at supper. Most all the prisoners at that time were in from 3 to 6 months for selling whiskey to the Indians. It was a 100 per cent business if they were not caught at it, and 3 to 6 months good, free board and lodging if they were caught. They could not lose, it was a snap.
      Mr. Pitt directed us across the lagoon to Mr. Smith, a rancher. [There we spent the night.]

(Jesse Ball logging crew)
This is a Jesse Ball logging crew, probably in the Sterling area [See below]

Getting acquainted with the country
Stanwood News, November 5, 1920
      Back in Olympia. We began to look up a boat without much success, either the boat or the price was unsatisfactory. One day Warren and I were exploring the beach about two miles from Olympia; we found a wreck, that is a boat on the beach with a plank on the bottom stove in. I gave it a thorough examination. It was a boat about 22 feet long, about 7 feet wide, and quite deep. It was partly decked with a small half cabin. Upon inquiry in Olympia we found that the boat was shipped from New York two years before, and used as a smuggler for a year, or until captured and sold by the revenue department to some Olympia boys, who had run it ashore and wrecked it in a squall. They took off the sails and abandoned the boat. I was told to see Mr. Cook about it. I did so. Mr. Cook said he would give me the boat, and sell me the sails for $20.00. I bought it. Cook gave me a bill of sale, and I became a ship owner. With a piece of new plank, and some paint, the boat and sails would be about as good as new. The sails were nearly new, and of excellent quality.
      The smugglers had saved no expense to make their blockade runner capable. I learned that their way of operating, was to lay up in Victoria harbor with their cargo of opium aboard and wait for a very dark and stormy night, cross the straits, where no small boat was expected to be able to navigate, land in one of the innumerable small covers [coves], hide the cargo, and return to Victoria. The boat was just small enough to be under register; confederates in small fishing boats would visit the cache, take a few cans of opium at the time and deliver to their Chinese confederates in the city. They would of course smuggle anything that paid, but opium was the chief article. They made the moderate margin of 1000 per cent. But Warren and I were not competent as sailors to take up the business, though we had the boat, [a] perfect sea boat and very fast.
      We rigged up the sails and started for Shuttlroe Bay, where Mr. Ball had a logging camp. We sailed into the little harbor before a good breeze. We had the boat hauled ashore, borrowed tools, got a plank and repaired the boat, good job too. We also gave the boat two coats of paint. It took the paint two weeks to dry, but when finished we had a new boat, and a dandy.
      The present day logging is conducted on quite a different plan from logging in 1875. Much of the timber was cut on government land so near the shore that the logs were rolled into the water by hand power. This was called "land [could be 'hand'] logging." Much the larger part was hauled on skid roads by oxen. Very few horses were used, and no steam power. The skid roads all terminated on the beach, and were seldom more than a mile long, most of them much less. The logs were hauled to the shore, and rolled into the water behind a boom made of long timbers linked together with heavy chains.
      The camp (by describing Ball's camp I describe a hundred others as well) was the cook house, about 50x16 feet, 8 foot wall. The kitchen in one end, and the rest, dining room, with a table down the center the whole length. The bunkhouse was about the same size with a continuous upper and lower bunk, about three feet wide the whole length of the building, on both sides. A bench in front of the bunks and a large box stove in the center constituted the furniture. There was hay in the bunks, the men furnished their own bedding. There was not many windows (not any in the bunkhouse). The stable was wider, say 20 feet, and long enough to hold the teams (Ball had twenty oxen). The manger ran down the center and the oxen were tied only on one side of the manger, the other side was used for storing hay and grain. There was also a shop, (blacksmith and carpenter) and a small two room house for the boss. All these buildings were built of rough lumber with cedar shake roof.
      The power plant was the oxen (called bulls), the chain and dog hooks (big, sharp, steel hooks to drive into the logs). In the shops was the sling, in which they hung the "bulls" while shoeing them, the forge, the grindstone, the sawyer's bench, and a multitude of good and bad tools. The force (named in the order of their importance) were the cook, the boss, the bull driver, the faller, the skidder, the hook tender, the sawyer, the swampers, the barkers, the greaser, the landing and generally useful man.
      The driver is very important. On him chiefly depends the output of the camp, and he gets the biggest salary. If he keeps the team in condition, and gets out the logs, he is worth it. I knew one driver, "Ricord" by name, that got a bigger salary than the governor, and strange as it seems, Ricord did no cursing and hardly ever drew blood. Another very important man is the skidder. He is the real road builder — the engineer — and some of those old skidders that didn't know a tangent from a tomato, did as good surveying as some R.R. engineers with their elaborate instruments, and education. The greaser is necessarily a Mexican. He is usually a boy, or an old man. His office is to grease the skids. He does not need much brains, but he needs a reliable nose and stomach. The grease used was mostly dogfish liver which had a smell to be noticed not only near by, but at a distance. A blind man could follow a skid road recently greased, if he had a nose, or half a nose. Warren had tried the job but his stomach revolted. The best greaser is a Siwash. They have trained noses, and impregnable stomachs.
      In Ball's lumber pile I found some wide and very thin cedar boards. I got some of them and built a small skiff to carry on the sloop for landing. I built another boat for Ball. Also did some surveying. This paid my board. That was not necessary. These old time lumbermen were the most hospitable people in the world. They would feed any tramp, and urge him to stay. This was not Ball only, it was universal. They would share their blanket and grub, with anybody. These hard working, hard drinking and hard swearing lumber jacks were gentlemen in the truest sense of the word. I fear they are extinct, if they are, the world has lost some of its best.
      The boat being painted and dried, I had no longer any excuse to remain with my delightful friends in the camp. I could have got a job as greaser I think, but I was not hunting for work, so one fine morning Warren and I said goodby, and set sail for Henderson Bay.

      See our logging section for more stories about early logging and methods in Washington territory and state.

      Also see these features about Sterling and its settlers. Some are from our old website and the links will not work. Please return here for links. These stories that started on our old website in 2001 are being updated with new information from our research and from readers and will be completely updated, starting in May 2004, with your help.

Story posted on Dec. 2, 2001, last updated on Dec. 25, 2004
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