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Woods Camp Labor Schedule

A notice from the Spruce Wood Department of GNP dated 1917-18 often catches the attention of visitors to the museum’s logging/river drive room. It lists the wages per day for each job. A look down the list reveals that the men actually cutting and handling the wood did not earn the most money! The highest paid were Cook A ($2.75), Blacksmith A ($2.50) and Saw Filer A ($2.50). Lower wages were paid to helpers of the three above mentioned (B and C). These three were considered the most valuable because if the crew who cut, sawed, and hauled the wood were not well fed, the wood needed would not get to the rivers and streams for the journey to the mill. If the blacksmith did not keep the horses’ hooves well-shod and if the cutting saws were not sharpened correctly, again the needed raw material would not get to the mill.

The teamsters were next in line on the pay scale (4 horse sled, $1.75; 2 horse sled, $1.65) followed by the sawyers, sled tenders, landing man and swampers. Of all on this list, the lowest paid were the swampers and the cook’s helper (4th in line after Cooks A, B, and C).

Just recently the museum obtained another copy of a labor schedule (GNP, Spruce Wood Dept.) with the same list of jobs and wages. This is for 1919, right after the end of WWI and the increase in pay is noticeable. Cook A received $4.00 a day and Blacksmith A and Saw Filer A received $3.65. Other jobs also showed an increase.

The Spruce Wood Dept. of GNP had an office in Bangor. Many of the men who went into the woods to work in that era were hired through an independent agency owned and managed by Harry T. Burr. It was located first at 84 Exchange St. and then at 68 Exchange St. In 1918, this employment agency was taken over by the Federal Govt. and run as the Eastern Lumberman’s Association for a short time until it was turned back to GNP. Mr. Burr was kept on as superintendent and his name appeared on the sign over the door.

Some of the lumbermen and river drivers (in the gap between the cutting/piling and the start of the drive) would congregate at this employment office and treated it as sort of a club. Burr did not discourage this as long as the men kept sober and orderly. The Northern magazine, Dec. 1925 states that since 1915, forty thousand men at a conservative estimate, shipped to the woods from that office.

To be continued…

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