Notes on a Michigan Lumber Town


HELEN suggests a sign manual for Alpena. It consists, she says, of a whitefish natant, three beavers mordant, and a pine tree statant. Good, say I; for the whitefish first enticed the Lake Huron fisherman to Thunder Bay; the beaver, yielding his skin an unwilling sacrifice to Indian trappers, made Alpena a trading post; and the pine, as in all that southern peninsula of Michigan, attracted an army of sturdy woodsmen.

This, strange to tell, was but fifty years ago. The early surveyors, through incompetency or intrigue, had charted the Thunder Bay country as a “ Great Northern Swamp.” Men skilled in agriculture saw nothing there but bugs and sand. The railways, hastening westward and coaxing immigration into the Mississippi Valley, merely skirted the southern borderland of Michigan; indeed, they seemed set, heart and soul, upon inducing people to live as far as possible from the seaboard, so as to sell them the longer and the costlier tickets when they traveled to and fro. So the northern part of the lower peninsula received, with Oregon, the stigma of “ worthlessness.” Its Marcus Whitman was the tall white pine.

Was ever beginning more humble? Where the city of Alpena now rolls up its trailing clouds of pale blue smoke, a dank morass, snarled with fallen timber, wallowed beneath the primeval forest. Upon the border of the swamp, in midwinter time, eighty miles from the nearest settlement, the pioneer lumber folk built their rude cabin. They had blankets at the windows in lieu of glass. Their door swung on leathern hinges. Men threaded the woods with snowshoes, hunting, trapping, and “ looking for pine.” A broken tribe of Indians, who called the white man chimokomon, held drunken powwows at the mouth of the river. Once a week the United States mail, in charge of a couple of half-breeds, came through on traîneaux drawn by dogs. Settlers followed the traîneaux with packs on their backs. In those days, if you fell ill of typhoid or malaria, a brave Mother Brickerdyke would tend you as best she could; if your case became desperate, men would swathe you in blankets, and take you in a sailboat to Thunder Bay Island, put you aboard the next steamer that happened by, carry you to Bay City, and telegraph to Detroit for a physician. And yet, despite all those hardships, the roar of the wind-blown pines echoed out through Michigan, enticing newcomers.

Four kinds of men flocked into Alpena, — traders, fishermen, land-lookers, and lumbermen. The knavish traders brought in rum, and took out furs ; they dealt with the red man ; and now, when the red man has " montapied,” the fur trade is soundly done for. Every year my friend Shannon buys some two thousand dollars’ worth of skins, — bear, mink, coon, muskrat, wild cat, lynx, and otter, — and ships them all away ; but what, pray, is that to the old-time hunting of the dispossessed and disappearing savage ? Alpena — and the thought is significant — was anciently an Indian burying ground! To-day, dig down where you will through the sawdust and slabs, and there, with pipe, tomahawk, and rusted pistol, lo, the poor Indian ! Fishing fared better than trading. Many a white-sailed schooner, listed hard to leeward by the breezes of Thunder Bay, went swinging her nets to the crystalline deeps, to gather them up filled near to bursting, while the slant-winged gulls clustered eagerly about. Yet so scant regard had the men for the days to come that they spoiled the bay by well-nigh fishing it out. Miles upon miles of seines are now set and lifted by tugboats ; the fishing grounds are replenished by the government hatchery ; and the demand for fish is keener than ever; what was once the poor man’s salted food has become, thanks to quick transportation, the rich man’s dainty. When, in turn, the land-looker arrived in Alpena, you found him a man with a beam in his eye. Wherever he went he saw standing pine. He came to prospect; he remained to inspect. For while originally the land-looker went out to draught “ minutes,” noting the whereabouts of valuable timber, his chief present function is to detect wily trespassing. But the great newcomer, the man of large promise, was always the lumberman.

The year 1861 brought a most beneficent catastrophe. Civil war, lifting gold to a towering premium, turned a single yellow coin to two and a half dollars in green paper, which, exchanged for Michigan scrip, more than doubled its value again. Accordingly, an acre of government land could be bought for some eighteen cents. Hence an inrushing of eager investors, chiefly from New York and New England. Helen, I fancy, might quarter the greenback along with the rest of her charming heraldic emblems.

Here, then, though tardy enough in coming, were all the resources — material, industrial, personal, and financial — for making a city. A city, therefore, was made forthwith, made at the mouth of Thunder Bay River, and there made chiefly of sawdust. Sawdust filled in the swamp ; sawdust graded the streets ; sawdust extended the beach out into the lake; sawdust, inclosed within rows of piles, made huge piers or quays, where the busy “ dockwalloper ” shoves the lumber aboard ship. But for the tall, fuming refuse-consumers, steadily burning the “ pulverized plank, ” there would be a sawdust mountain, like that at Cheboygan, — sixty feet in height and ten acres in area. Until twelve years ago the rumble of a wheel or the beat of a hoof was never heard in Alpena. Now they have roadways of round cedar blocks, affording an astonishing appearance, as if paved with pancakes. That is a forward step. For the sawdust pavements blew in at one window and out at the other, till you never knew whether you were at home or abroad. And pulverized plank underfoot meant plank upon plank overhead ; Alpena was built of wood, and the wood took fire. Twice the city burned to the ground. Then came brick ; and the present Alpena is a waste of two-story brick shops and twostory frame dwellings, level and featureless as East London, save for those towering sawdust-burners and the reeking chimneys and smokestacks.

If such is the secular look of the city, what, pray, is its secular life ? Originally a lumber camp, Alpena became a mill town. To-day it is both. Year by year the camps have moved inland ; and though the logs now travel sixty miles to the city, the same men work by turns in the woods and the sawmills. Not to know the camps is not to know Alpena.

Accordingly, the calendar of Alpena begins in October. It is then the woodsman dons his Mackinaw jacket (a merry Norfolk coat of coarse party-colored stuff, with a gorgeous barbaric pattern), packs his “ turkey,” shoulders his cant hook and double-bitted axe, and makes for the wilds, there to remain (unless perchance he “jumps his job ”) until the following spring.

Now, these in brief are the ways of the camp. Law proceeds from the “ office,” where dwell the superintendent and his mate the bookkeeper, who wear white collars and maintain a tablecloth. Minor heroes, the foremen, enforce their edicts. At five, at the blast of the choreboy’s horn, all hands turn out, to gather about the long breakfast tables in the “ cooking camp.” There, as at every meal, dead silence reigns. One treats these men like children. One has to. Talking, they joke ; joking, they romp, and the air will be filled with tin cups, blackstrap, white beans, and “ salt mule.” Breakfast over, the day’s work is on, with the singing of the crosscut saw, the crash of the falling pine, the ring of the axe. Heavy horses or oxen draw a brace of huge wheels for hauling. (This is the “ Michigan buggy.”) Paths open out through the woods to the prostrate tree trunks. Immense “ rollers ” pass up the skids to be loaded on wagons or sledges. With the horn again for dinner and the toil again till dark, so runs the day.

Then follows an evening of jovial hilarity, and many a log shanty reels and shakes while the men play “ scuddy ” and “ shovel the brogue.” Squatting in a wide circle, they beat the person of their chosen victim with an old potato hid in a sock. The victim, struck from behind, must detect his assailant, which is by no means easy, as the elusive old potato keeps making the round of the ring. After the game, why not a fight, “ just to see who’s the best man ” ? And then, why not a song ? “ The Lumberman’s Alphabet! ” cries a leading spirit, and starts the tune, which is sung with great vigor: —

“ A is the Axe, as you very well know,
B is us Boys who can swing it al-so,
C is for Chopping, which now does begin,
D is the Danger that we are all in,
E is the Echo that through the woods rang,
F is the Foreman who headed our gang,”

and so on and on, with G for the Grindstone, J for the Jobber, M for one’s Mending, while

“ O is the Owl that hooted at night,
P is the Pine, which we always fell right; ”

and more yet, with Q for Quarrels, R for the River, and S for the Sleighs; the whole concluding with a touch of primitive poetry : —

“ W is the Wood we left in the spring,
And on the way home we could hear the birds sing.”

But whatever the evening’s sport, — scuddy, fight, song, or poker, — the horn blows curfew at nine and the lights go out; unless, of course, it be Saturday night or the night of a stag dance. And of all odd spectacles, — pike poles and pevie hooks ! — that is the oddest. Ferocious, unshaven woodsmen, hats on and coats off, prancing through a quadrille, in yellow shoe pacs or Dutch socks and trousers “ cut pompadour,” while a fiddle wails forth a highly Gregorian melody ! Occasionally a lumberman’s dance comes off in a neighboring farmhouse, and then the countrywomen assemble from miles around. Sterling, the cedar king, gives testimony of thirteen babies stowed in one bed, and meanwhile such an orgy as would scare the last witch from the Brocken.

Day has also its frolics, — chiefly practical jests, both gentle and cruel, though mainly the latter. And yet, for all the lumberman’s rough jocularity, his heart is right. Once the forest harbored fugitives from justice ; but the railroad brought the sheriff, the sheriff brought the law, and law brings decency. Besides, as at sea and on the plains, the open air breathes a spirit of chivalry. Suppose a man affronts a waitress : twenty defenders leap to their feet. Suppose a poor fellow is hurt: round goes the hat. What is more, two comrades will drop their work and take him sixty miles to the doctor. And, sad to tell, there is need enough for that sort of sympathy. “Woodman,” says Helen, who, in spite of my earnest remonstrance, never verifies her quotations,— “Woodman, spare that toe! ” A fine hero, no doubt, is this man of the forest, a brave and a generous soul ; but nevertheless, as in the case of Mr. Burgess’s impurpled heifer, “ I’d rather see than be one.” For, roundly outdoing that sly humorist’s confessed preference for “ fingers rather than toes,” the lumberman does his best to dispense with both. What are left by the woods are claimed by the mill.

Millward tends the camping crew as winter verges toward spring. Branded logs, heaped high on the banking grounds, await the drive. Freshets deepen the river. Dams let loose the flood. The camp is abandoned. Then it is “ breaking the rollers,” wading in cork boots in icy water, “ taking off the rear,” “ baldheading,” “ pigtailing,” “ shoving the deadhead,” “ tying up the drive ” at night, and eating and sleeping in a tented raft called a “wangan.” Out of the drive comes the “ boom,” a sort of informal float inclosed by logs firmly chained together ; and the boom goes to town.

After the drive the mill, and the mill till autumn again. Up the slant of the “ endless chain ” go the dripping “ boomsticks,” to be measured at a stroke of the logarithmic scaling rod, and to enter the sawmill. “ Carriages,” bright with red and green lanterns and manned by a squad of motor drivers, rush to and fro, seizing the logs as they come from the “ kickers ” and “ niggers,” clamping them tight to their sides, and dashing them headlong into the “ band mill ” or circular saw. Cleft into planks, the lumber darts away across the “ live rollers,” to mount the horse car and be trundled along an elevated railway, and added at last to the slanting piles that groan upon the pier. Oh, the charm and beauty of the mill, — its dim light, its eager figures, its excited motion, its daring, its shrieking saws, its color tone all brought to a soft, harmonious brown, — a scene, in truth, for Rudyard Kipling !

So ends the round of the year, — a happy year, full of change and zestful incident. But how, think you, do these wild woodsmen abide being tied to the tongue of the mill bell ? Never a choice have they. As with every kind of man who gets paid in the lump, whether seaman or soldier or miner, the forester lacks the faculty of retention. The winter’s wage is quickly gone. A new suit of clothes, a dice game over the bar, a glad reunion with old friends, an exuberance of generosity, a solid week of reckless gayety! One thing alone the lumberman keeps, and that is his health. Of the Michigan volunteers who served through the Spanish war, the men from the logging camps fared best. They digested the “ embalmed beef ” with infinite relish. Salt mule in the woods had tutored their stomachs.

The stomach, I think, is the seat of the labor problem. Educate the stomach, and you head off strikes and lockouts. Alpena knows nothing of industrial unrest, has never witnessed an uprising of workingmen, suffers nothing from trades unions. There is practically no class of unemployed. The poorhouse is almost tenantless. When the hard times approached, the capitalists called a meeting and agreed to keep all the mills running ; the banks stood back of the capitalists ; the men submitted to a ten per cent cut; and the lumber lay piled in Cleveland and Chicago and Tonawanda till universal prosperity returned.


We were standing at evening twilight in the Court of Honor at the World’s Fair. It was the still hour of pause between the excitement of the day and the ruddy gayety of the night. One looked forth upon dim white colonnades, upon fairy towers and domes, and upon interminable lines of soft yellow lights just beginning to pulse and quiver in the mirror lagoon. It was then more than at any other time, before or since, that the wonder of America — its wealth, its power, its plenty, its infinite, exuberant resourcefulness — filled the imagination with inexpressible delight and gratitude. Helen’s eyes met mine, but before she could speak a peal of chimes rang out from an unseen belfry, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”

Have they of Alpena any similar religious interpretation of their material advancement ? Thank God, they have. Thronging into Michigan from New England and New York, the Wolverines brought with them the faith of their old home. Churches lifted their spires above the tall pine crests ; bells echoed across Thunder Bay ; Alpena gave thanks. Later — and I know no sadder story — Alpena evolved a new religion.

It is with no censorious aim that I set that awful business on record. The “Christ ” of Alpena illustrates an inexorable spiritual law. It is only in the Paradiso that living man treads the courts of heaven : the saint bears watching ; the perfectionist, of all souls, stands most imperiled. So, when a group of devout women proclaimed in Alpena a novel dispensation whereby human life should be wholly purged of sin, you could see the end from the beginning.

The “Church Triumphant ” they styled it. A woman declared herself the bride of Christ. A stripling preacher became her apostolic advocate. After a time the woman died, and the faithful swore allegiance to the man who permitted himself to be called the “Returned Christ.” He did not convert them ; they converted him. Yet I cannot hold him innocent. He wore a double-pointed beard ; he worked at the carpenter’s bench ; he performed wonderful “ cures ; ” and although, fearing the people, he never openly claimed Messiahship, he fostered a strange delusion. A hundred disciples left all and followed. In five other communities the Church Triumphant found lodgment, and the delusion was spread in all that forest land.

Then was this “ Christ ” a knave ? I think not, — at least, not wholly. The spiritual power of the “ Christ ” of Alpena led many a trusting soul to the very sunlit summits of religious exaltation. “ Be ye therefore perfect,” said he, “ even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Here, then, lay the secret, — the secret alike of success and of failure : of success, because that perfervid mystic instinct of the religious mind, which yearns eagerly for a higher and yet higher realization of moral possibilities, laid hold of a new and golden key to paradise; of failure, because it is on this wise that even the angel of the Most High falls like lightning from heaven.

The “ Christ ” of Alpena has since confessed his delusion ; but the sect still exists, though greatly diminished in numbers. And while, of course, the Church Triumphant is by no means broadly representative of the religious life of Alpena, Alpena produced it, Alpena fostered it, and it remains the most startling fact in the spiritual history of the Wolverines. Nevertheless, the really potent factors in the higher life of Alpena are, and have always been, the great denominations transplanted unchanged from New York and New England.

But the main issue is not one of abstract doctrine ; rather one of practical realization. Trace the three dimensions of personality as drawn by Phillips Brooks : length, selfhood ; breadth, brotherhood ; height, devotion. Thus measured, Alpena is long and narrow, and none too tall.

Self predominates. An intense individualism drove up the man from the old home to the new. Nothing less could have moved him. Coming to Michigan, he chose the southern peninsula rather than the northern, because the woods meant independence, while the deep mines of copper meant lifelong servitude. The aggressive, progressive self-assertion of the best type of New Englander and New Yorker got full expression ; “ lumber Jacks ” and dockwallopers rose to wealth ; Alpena borrowed little, paid all, and literally made itself. Such men bulk big and talk large. A round score boast each the honor of earliest arrival. Turn where you will, you meet him who built the first house, or measured the first load of lumber, or cut the first log, or scaled it, or drew it. Alpena sounds its blaring trumpet on the street corner ; it also discloses a mad passion for having its picture taken. “ Ecce ego, — spontaneous me ! ”

I like that trait. It speaks of youth and ardor and strong life. I like, too, the bluff manner of men just raised from the ranks. Truce to convenance ! My host sits, while I stand; half the guests in the hotel tuck their napkins round their throats, as if prepared for a shave or a shampoo ; strangers unpack their inmost souls, disembosoming themselves gratuitously of half their family history. Your faithful Alpenite sports a diamond stud with a negligee shirt, — the stud for brag, the soft shirt for comfort, the two for individualism. Coarser fellows — and I like them best of all — wear immense badges or buttons adorned with photographs of their sweethearts. Delicious ! I have seen Tommy Atkins caressing Judy O’Grady on the top of the Mile End ’bus; Abner Glenn sat for his tintype with his brawny arms wound close about pretty Rachel: both had their hearts on their sleeves. So be it, say I; but here struts a man with his heart in his buttonhole. In quite this boyish spirit the errant chevalier sang forth his love, when knighthood was in flower.

“Very parfait gentle knights” are they of Alpena. The man will dress like a devilish bad fellow, — slouch hat, rude clothes, loose tie ; he will wear the face of a desperado ; you creep when you meet him ; but within — I pledge you the warm and tender heart of a fine gentleman. Better yet, in the fight with the forest he comes forth a character. Look at Pancake Jack, Baldy Dan, Buff Brown, and Buck Beaufort, — fit heroes, one and all, for Malory or Cervantes.

This, say I, is “ length ” with a dazzling vengeance, —selfhood expressed in enterprise, in independence, in communicativeness, brusqueness, and delightful mendacity. What now of “ breadth ” or brotherhood? Far less. Alpena knows nothing of public spirit; indeed, plainly shows its absence, — no park, no town hall, no monuments, no club, no pioneer society, and, save for the women and upstart urchins, no sort of social intercourse ! A library, to be sure, there is, and its principal lack is books. Every soul in Alpena is so busily counting out his money that only the weaklings (with never a dollar to count) will serve in office or toil for progress. Suggest improvement, and the good citizen replies in the words of the fair Lynette, “ Lead, and I follow.” Thus selfishly deferring to one another, the Alpenites avoid the task, like the two saints of Antioch, who stood from morn till night at the door of the anchorite cell, each too ostentatiously humble to enter first.

Things were not so in Sapphira, yet with all my heart I believe that those daring Montanians obeyed a similar impulse of individualism. Very grand were the public buildings they built, splendid their spirit of progress, lavish their investment of capital ; but underneath lay the hope of a brilliant personal reward. To boom the town was to boom one’s self and one’s property. That is why unlettered silver kings founded libraries. That is why gamesters gave money for churches. Had Alpena the spirit of speculation, Alpena would turn, like old Rome, from brick to marble. As it is, Alpena will do a better thing. The Turtle Railroad, when completed to Cheboygan, will bring Alpena into touch with the rest of the world. More and more frequently young men will find their way to Yale or Harvard, to Williams or Amherst, and young women to Wellesley or Smith or Vassar; little by little the finer idealism of older, riper commonwealths will emerge clear and bright from the rude and self-centred secularism of pioneer life. The truth is this : Alpena is just one generation behind Ohio. What happened there will happen here.

Already a splendid possibility grows manifest. You expected to find in Alpena the lawlessness of irresponsibility. You said, I doubt not, that there, as in frontier cities, the tapster, the gambler, and the courtesan would hold full sway. Yet it is not so. Stories go broadcast of horrid nights in the bull-pen, of a whole winter’s earnings flung to naught across the green table, and of infamous stockades, where lost women were kenneled against their will, and chased, if escaping, by bloodhounds. Rarely, however, were such things really done ; and to-day I know no port, no milling town, no commercial centre, more moral under trying circumstances than this same Alpena. These Wolverines brought with them not only the laws and the sane standards of the East, but also a sturdy conscience for their enforcement. Here throbs that dynamic vitality which, in the next generation, will yield the highest social and civic results.

Length, breadth, and height, — the symmetry of life ! What, pray, is the purely devotional genius of Alpena? It is like that which prevails in all the middle West, — youthful, practical, dogmatic, straightforward, but not poetic. Look at the churches ! There they have spent their treasure unstinted ; sought what they prized, and secured it. There is gay color, highly secular ornament, garish light, evidence everywhere of strained and crude modernity. Jackknife seats, patented in 1899, face the pulpit directly, suggesting a theatre. The preacher, called by his people a “ hustler,” boasts of his “ up-to-date plant.” Neither in house nor in service will you find any faintest suggestion of the historic, the romantic, the symbolic. It is not in the church because it is not in the people. They lack the spiritual culture of the imagination; they lack the solemn sense of religious awe ; in fact, they boyishly despise it. Religiously, Alpena is but halfgrown. At twenty you chatted glibly as you walked the stately aisles of York Minster, — at twenty, but not at forty.

All this will change. Standing one evening in the prow of an ocean steamer, Helen and I looked back upon the reeling ship; watched the toplights rushing to and fro across the starless sky ; saw the lanterns, green and red, plunged alternately into the sea till you would have thought them buried there ; felt the heave and swing of the midatlantic billows; learned the sense of utter and absolute dependence. And while we mused, a broken melody came up from the steerage, where a group of uncouth Devon peasants were singing, “Jesus — Saviour— pilot me! ” There, says Helen, was a deeper philosophy and a nobler sentiment than even the song of the chimes in the Court of Honor. Alpena, and indeed the whole of Michigan, will learn the difference. Just now they are chanting, “ Praise God — praise God, we did the thing !


“ There are two kinds of men,” says the president of the Turtle Railroad, — “those you can stretch, and those you can’t stretch.” The pine man belongs to the former kind, not the latter. A doleful plaint moaned the pine man: “ Fur trade gone, fisheries going, pine trees far and few! Stripped of our all, we shall fall like Au Sable.” See what befell there. In 1885 Au Sable had twelve thousand people ; now it has one thousand, or less. Eight sawmills ran day and night; three planing mills and four salt blocks kept them company ; all have ceased save one. A Jew drives a bustling trade in second-hand dwelling houses. He takes their pictures, and shows you his album. You select the house you want (formerly fifteen hundred dollars, cut to a hundred and fifty), and he promptly pulls it to pieces, packs it on a car or a boat, and delivers it “ at any address in the United States, C. 0. D.” The pine man had no place with the makers of the new Alpena. Younger hearts, stronger hands, and broader minds must establish its future. And so they did. To-day, as in many another Wolverine city, two eras meet and lap over.

Little is left of the elder order. The whole land is rapidly being lumbered out. Woodland fires, whose smoke turned the moon into blood and drove wolf and deer to town for shelter, have wrought a measureless havoc. Forests, once dense with pine and hemlock, cedar and tamarack, are left a sorry spectacle : beneath, the underbrush ; above, the gaunt, infrequent skeletons of deadened, whitened, barktorn trees. Only the northern peninsula lumbers as once Alpena lumbered. The camps move farther away each year. But for the hated two-dollar tariff immense rafts of boomsticks would cross Lake Huron from Canada. Mills which formerly selected only the stoutest pine trunks now welcome the slender log. the crooked log, the rotten log, and the sunken log fished up from the river bottom. In place of beams for the western railway bridge or huge rafters for the Gothic church, Alpena busily turns out planks, shingles, spools, pail handles, veneering, and the wooden peg for furniture. It also makes manila paper out of hemlock pulp. It brings hemlock bark to its tannery. It combs its brains for inventions to utilize by-products, as does the Chicago pork-packer.

Obedient to the quaint Oxonian maxim, the younger generation and the newcomers in Alpena set their shoulders to do “ye nexte thyng.” Scarce had the cry of despair been heard, when brave men took heart anew. “ We ’ve a harbor,” said they, — “ the only good harbor between Bay City and the Straits of Mackinaw; no fortune can rob us of that.” Moreover, there were whitefish left in Thunder Bay, which scientific methods should keep undiminished in numbers. Then they looked landward, and found vast beds of marl to make Portland cement, and quarries of limestone to refine beet sugar. Landward, too, were lakes full of trout and pike, and wild tracts where deer and the black bear, roaming with the fox and fox squirrel, lured countless sportsmen. Then might not Alpena live (like the northern islanders) on fish and strangers ? Besides, there were beaches and a lovely summer climate ; so, with the factory and the outing hotel, the future looked bright indeed. Yet, for all this sturdy optimism, there was never the wild prediction or the blustering boast of the man overgunned for his beam. Alpena is Eastern, not Western.

However else the Michiganders of Alpena have changed in a novel environment, they preserve the patient, substantial sobriety of an older civilization. You find a very Eastern deliberateness in Alpena’s struggle for social and industrial reconstruction. One day a load of modern fanning mills came into Thunder Bay, and the Alpenites stared astounded. “ Aha,” said the Bay City paper, “ we know what that portends: Alpena means to separate the sawdust from the sand ! ” Neither Bay City nor Alpena had heard of the marvelous agricultural evolution which had all the while been in progress “ back in the bush,” — an evolution which expresses and exemplifies the noblest traits of Yankee character. Little by little, toiling with infinite endurance, the “ habitaw ” (French habitant) and the “ mossback ” had redeemed the Great Northern Swamp. The habitaw, trapper and hunter, tested the soil at his cabin door ; the mossback, taught by the habitaw, trod on the heels of the lumber Jack. Both brought tidings of fertile loam ; both met wide-eyed incredulity ; both, spite of jeering, came laden at last with grapes of Eshcol. Here was once more the indomitable hardihood which had anciently turned the Puritan or Knickerbocker home country from forest to garden.

Think what that meant in Alpena County ! First you sent out the landlooker. Trusting his “ minutes,” you turned homesteader, entering your eighty acres at the cost of a five-dollar bill; five years later a deed would be granted you, to reward your improvements. You began with no other capital than muscle and axe and courage and two months’ provisions. You tucked a load on your back, traced a blazed line through the woods, whisked with both hands at black flies and mosquitoes, built a brush tent, and pecked away in solitude at roots and stumps, till your precious supplies ran short. Then you returned to Alpena to toil in a mill till you earned enough money for another stock of provisions. Back again you hied you, and the struggle began afresh, to end as before in retreat. Three years of such hardships would make you master, and, with wife and little ones, you took proud possession.

Thus came a lusty rejoinder to pine men’s plaints. Worthless soil ? Go look, and see ! Yet the pine men had half the fact, after all; for the land of the Michigander lies based upon limestone foundations, which, ground to white sand by the surging of restless waters, rolled up long, undulating ridges, as sterile as the beaches of Thunder Bay. “ Beg pardon, sir,” said Helen, leaning out of the buggy to accost a genial mossback, “ but is this a good farming country ? ” “ Nope,” said he ; “ you can’t even raise an umbrella ! ” Half a mile further on, Helen repeated her question. “ You bet! ” exclaimed the mossback. “ Jest tickle the airth, an’ you ’ll raise ’most anything.” Both were right. Between the sand ridges the disappearing swamps laid down a deep deposit of rich black muck, so fertile that Alpena celery now figures on the bill of fare at the Russell House in Detroit in precedence to that of Kalamazoo. As for the sand tracts, with their coarse, sparse vegetation, why, there is the place for Little Bo-Peep to pasture her flock.

What a pleasant ride together through Alpena County ! — pleasant save for the corduroy roads, which set us both aquiver, as with the old-time ague ; recalling the days when they rang the church bells every half hour in Alpena to remind the settlers to take their quinine, and when sawmills (so runs the tale) were operated solely by fever-and-ague power. Curious sights met our unaccustomed Eastern eyes, as we rode, — log homesteads chinked with plaster, root houses half buried in the earth, sheds thatched with straw, stump-pullers (immense portable derricks) at work clearing up, frequent drains, huge mounds of cobblestones newly plucked out of the fields, wagons loaded with cedar ties moving cityward, splendid crops on every hand ; so, bless you, who minded the corduroy ? Here and there it is covered with gravel, and for many a long mile it gives place in the farm land to modern macadam, introduced by the county at a cost of a hundred thousand dollars. Would that the Turtle Railroad had plotted its course with like deference to agricultural advancement !

Now and then Helen would alight, and go tripping into a pretty dooryard to ask if the house was “ haunted.” That mischievous query, Helen says, conquers rural timidity, and cudgels the bucolic mind into reminiscence and philosophy. Invariably the ruse succeeds. Spooks lead to hungry bears, bears to red deer seen feeding that very morning amongst the cattle, red deer to flying squirrels, flying squirrels to partridge chicks adopted by the mother bantam, the mother bantam to the price of eggs, and that in turn to “ crops and critters ; ” while beyond fail the subject of “ crops and critters ” leads indoors, where flows the purple wildgrape wine. “ Me an’ my woman,” says the happy farmer, “ cal’late this here county ’s the best in the hull state of Michigan.”

Now, while I cannot conscientiously call Alpena the best county in Michigan, I can at least say this : The future of the whole broad peninsula lay unrolled before us, while that kindly mossback talked so large. The lumber Jack is passing, — soon will have passed forever. Farms must cover the rural tracts, factories busy the people in town, commerce supply both country and city. Such is the social and industrial problem of the Great Northern Swamp, and such its solution. It is a good land, full of undeveloped possibilities. It is a good people, faithful and industrious. We shall not ask the finer outblossoming of culture and progress yet many a day. Alpena is doing its nearest duty, — getting the pot a-boiling. Forgiving the crudity, the hardness, the dull beautilessness of that Wolverine life, one cannot but admire its magnificent energy and perseverance. And however devout or however secular one’s personal philosophy, this much remains unmistakably legible : all things are working together for good.

Rollin Lynde Hartt.