Sunday, January 23, 2011

FIRE AFTERMATH

Timber sale in the Cabinet Mountains after 1910 fires burned the forests. Courtesy Earl Engle collection.
Timber scaling, and it's effect on government revenues, prompted a study by one astute forest supervisor who concerned himself with statistics. He determined that it cost the government 25.1 cents per thousand to handle timber stumpage sales:
  • Examining - 4 cents
  • Marking - 2.2 cents
  • Scaling - 7.3 cents
  • Supervision - 7.0 cents,
  • Brush burning, 7.2 cents.
Cost of selling 15,000,000 ft. B.M, $3,595.60. He also discovered that scaling methods could produce vastly different revenues.
"The largest per cent of sales ... are for mining timbers. They are sold on the basis of 16 foot sticks. All 8 inches in diameter and less being scaled in linear feet; all above 8 inches in diameter being scaled with the Scribner rule. The converting factor used to convert the timber to board measure (B.M.) is very accurate. It has been found that by using three feet B.M. per one linear foot, the scale is inflated and inaccurate. It would also indicate that $1.32 per M. ft. B.M. was received instead of $3.30 per M. ft. B.M., including both green and dead timber."1. Scaling methods were adjusted accordingly to insure the best revenue returns.
Three photos of Noxon's Main Street paralleling NPRR through Noxon. The lower photo is the front of Lena Baxter's Noxon Hotel facing the railroad tracks at the west end of town. The back of the building and the roof of Buck's Store are in the picture above it. NPRR Depot is #7 in the photo. Building #5 is Weare's Post and Poles Store, east of Baxter's and Buck's buildings, across the street in the picture on the right with its back adjacent to railroad.


That the Forest Service played a primary part in economics and development of the area by controlling what timber would be utilized is evidenced by the following report on the progress of Thomspon Falls water system initially begun by Ed Donlan in 1911.2.
Buck's General Store and Lena Baxter's Noxon Hotel in Noxon.
"In connection with Edward Donlan's Special Use for a ditch and reservoir at Thompson River, it may be of interest to know that a transfer has been consummated and that the Clark's Fork Land Company is now promoting the project (to supply water to Thompson Falls). Five or six thousand acres of land in the vicinity of Thompson will be supplied with water taken from Thompson River.
"A storage reservoir is to be built approximately in Section 33, T22N, R28W, and a flume will conduct the water to the company's lands."
"The company started work on the Thompson River Irrigation project on June 2, 1911 and quit work in September on account of the unusual early cold snap, freezing the ground so deep and hard that they were unable to plow or grade the ditch. There is only about three days work to complete the ditch. The last of the Clark's Fork Land Company timber was scaled on October 28.
"A diversion dam is built across Thompson River at a point known as "Well Gate" about three and a half miles from the mouth of the river. The dam is about 150 feet long and 126 feet high. It is built of three tiers of logs and filled with rocks and faced with heavy plank ...
"The Clark's Fork Land Company purchased and cut from the National forest, 585,670 feet B.M. of yellow pine, fir and larch saw timber for use in constructing their flume and dam. Besides this there was cut timber settlement along the flume right-of-way and on the reservoir site, 157,980 feet B.M. Value $552.90.
"$3.50 per M ft. was charged for the timber under both sales and settlement. This is the largest amount of timber cut on this district since the creation of the Forest."3.
Smaller sales kept rangers busy. And kept timbermen waiting until a sale could be approved by the forest service.
"Owing to the rush of timber sale work on District 4 it was necessary to make a couple of trips to Whitepine and one to Tuscor in December. One $50 tie sale was made to Swan Swanson (The Whitepine Tie King); a free use issued to N. Poole and the lines run on the Pat Whalen claim on section 24 because of an application for timber by Tom Donlan."
On December 2, Calico and Pinto joined Dick and Topsy, the other two Forest Service 'thoroughbreds' at the Dawson and Laird ranch "where they will fill up on Dawson's fine hay and take it easy until spring."
Bobsledding on pristine winter snowfall. Courtesy Geogia MacSpadden collection.
The year ended with the following optimistic note, which also provides a glimpse into how weather affected timbermen,
"Dec. 31, 1911 finds the Trout Creek ranger station under nine inches of snow which is about five inches less than the snowfall had in November. The weather is moderating slowly. On the 29th it was about 6 below zero with a high wind to emphasize it.
"We have the house sided now and all banked up and it doesn't freeze so hard in the kitchen anymore. With a good painting and back porch it will be ok. We need a woodshed pretty badly but not so much as we needed wood during that cold snap about the 11th. Am using one of the tents for a woodshed at present and it does very well.
"Barn needs a few strips on one side, one gable in to keep the wind from going clear thru and some paint and it will be ok. Am devoting all my spare time to the Trout Creek Property List and have some hopes of making it thru if my nerves hold out.
"We have quite a number of Timber Sales on District 4 this winter and the most of them are still active although some are not doing much on account of snow. Andrew Burton is having quite a time on the divide between Marten Creek and Dry Creek getting out railroad ties.
"The snow is about thirty inches deep where he is working which makes it rather hard to handle ties to any advantage. The logging operations on Dry Creek directed by Tom West, 'R. Kraft's foreman', are moving right along and they are getting some ahead as the mill is shut down for repairs and won't start until some time after New years, and unless January has a thaw in store for us, I look for the mill to tie up until Spring. Kraft had a little trouble with Mr. Frot's grader and they finally fell out over a little discussion. Grader left. Is to be another one there.
"White pine on Dry Creek is damaged pretty badly by check and blue sap, especially the small timber and it is mostly small compared with the Marten Creek timber but better quality and the hemlock and white fir are better than average.
"Burrill has cut all the White pine on Marten Creek and expects to have it all in the river by the last of January. About 7 million ft on the Forest and about 5 million on private lands. He has hauled about 170,000 feet to date but when they get their roads in good shape, they expect to haul about 60,000 feet a day. Mr. Fields is doing the logging for Mr. Burrill and was disappointed with not finding more timber and is looking for another contract. Am trying to interest him on Trout Creek and he has promised to look it over.
"Mr. Fields has been a pretty successful logger and I would like to get him interested on Trout Creek if he can handle it. Railroad ties seem to be in great demand. Everyone is asking about tie timber but the most of them want it right close to the track and on level ground and I can't interest them with side hill talk, but I have some that are interested, if I can only show them the goods.
"The Hayes' sale on Dry Creek is under the snow but Prospector Hanson from Noxon is in charge and trying to dig it out. They made some poles right on top of the divide between Trout Creek and Dry Creek and have built a pole chute down to Dry Creek. Hanson says he is going to line it with tin punched full of holes with the rough side up to check the flight of the poles and clean them in good shape ready for market. Will report developments next month.
"Mr. Eplin is working away at his tie sale on the Ranger Station and has quite a bunch made and he expects to start skidding next week. He is very anxious to secure more stumpage and start a tie camp. I am doing my best to locate him.
"The old town of Trout Creek is a back number. Larchwood is it's successor with a brand new post office - the first of the New Year in Brown's store. (The NP railroad division point had been moved out.) The time is not far distant when the Forests will be thoroughly covered by road trails and telephone lines and cabins. To this end we should work with great care and forethought in getting them located suitably. We will also have positions and range finders in our several lookout stations whereby we will be enabled to locate a distant fire to within a few feet.
"When these things have been accomplished, the dreaded fire season as we look upon it in our present conditions, will be practically a thing of the past. Then we can take up Forestry in the true sense of the word and accomplish many things which at this time look impossible."4.
A group of foresters at the steamboat landing, location unknown. Circa early 1900s. Granville Gordon is fourth from the left. Courtesy Blanche Gordon Claxton collection.
Schooling for forest service personnel was offered closer to the valley. "The short course in Forestry given by the University of Montana opened on Tuesday, January 2 and will continue until March 23, 1912." Twenty five enrolled including one girl, Elizabeth Rambo, 13 assistant forest rangers representing nine national forests, forest guards and students interested in Forestry. Ranger Ernest B. Clark attended from the Noxon district.

Besides six professors from the University, Supervisor Dor Skeels of the Kootenai National Forest, Supervisor Mason of the Deerlodge forest, C. H. Adams, Assistant District Forester in charge of Grazing, J. T. Jardin, Grazing Inspector, F. E. Bonner, Chief of Geography, R. B. Adams, Superintendent of Telephone Construction, and Messrs, Henderson and Clark, Assistants to the Solicitor in District No. 1, were class instructors.

Principle subjects were dendrology, silverculture, mathematics, physics, geology, minerology, chemistry, surveying, mapping, drafting, lumbering, mensuration, timber sales, planting, grazing, forest pathology, public land laws, and forest management.

For six days a week, rangers applied their attention to these subjects from 8:30 a.m., with intermission for noon, until 4:30 p.m. Then, taking a copy of Graves' Mensuration, Sargent's Manual, or Sudworth's Trees Of The Pacific Slope, etc., etc., a student wended his way homeward.
"Not a few, however have been heard to mention basket ball, gymnasium, the U. of M. (University of Montana) skating rink, etc."
A series of evening meetings were held in the Missoula Forest Service Offices for the benefit of rangers. At the first meeting, Friday eve, January 12, 1912, W. T. Cox presented a bulletin on the subject of Reforestation.5.

In four turbulent years the forest service had achieved it's goal of manning the forests. Education allowed selectivity for positions of significance but was by no means the only criteria considered.
"The regular force manning the Forests of the District is now so stable that many of the men who pass the ranger examination are not needed for the position. Last year, for the first time, the demand of the Service for Forest Assistants failed to consume the supply from the forestry schools. With many men anxious to enter the Forest Service, some of them technically trained, is there a handwriting on the wall for those who have not attended a forestry school?
"The young man fresh from forest schools is the sourdough which has leavened the whole personnel with a touch of technical forestry. As a matter of fact there are many qualities other than book learning, which are prime essentials to the success of individuals in the Service and to the success of the Service as a whole.
"Our men must first of all be entirely reliable, intelligent, resourceful. Toward the public we must be courteous and tactful, encouraging the use of Forest resources, and doing it in such a manner that forest users will become regular customers, pleased with the service which we are rendering them - for our very existence depends in no small degree upon our popularity.
"Not merely satisfied with doing today's work well, we must be training our minds so that we can do tomorrow's work better. We must continually be planning to bring the general public into closer touch with our work so that they will understand it, approve it, and give us assistance in carrying it out.
"One man working hard with his two hands in the danger season can do something toward controlling fire in his district, but working hard with his brain in season and out he can secure a cooperation from the public which will increase his effectiveness a hundredfold."
Assistant Forest Rangers earned $1,100 a year.5. Harry Tallmadge, having passed his exams, quit. Assistants were required to provide a horse, bedroll and paniers and Harry said he could make more money as a store clerk or working in the woods; and not have half the people mad at him all the time.6.

Throughout the past four years, as the fledgling forest service struggled to survive against not only local opposition, but political opposition in Washington, D. C. as well, their every action was a topic of vociferous attitudes between settlers, drummers, lumbermen, itinerants and the forest service personnel as they mingled in the stores, saloons and at the dances. Another hue was heard when the Noxon district office considered copying the railroads promotional ideas.
"... the publication of an illustrated book outlining routes of travel, points of interest, and general information for travelers within the National forests. Interspersed throughout will be fire warnings, suggestions about campfires, and information about forests. The book will be similar in plan to some of the railroad publications. It will serve to dispel the wide spread idea that the Forest Service does not desire campers and travelers within the Forests, and serve as a means of educating the public concerning the importance of fire prevention."7.
Methods of operation used by the forest service were constantly changing in the early years. Sometimes they came about as a result of settler's complaints to politicians and the pressure from them that resulted. But many of the changes stemmed from a growing knowledge of the area and a sincere desire to 'develop and properly settle' the area.

Getting the word around about public lands inspected and opened for homestead warranted many changes. Over-zealous rangers in some areas didn't want to let the public onto any of the lands in the boundaries of the their forest district. Others found it in their interests to favor certain types of people over others. As settlers filed complaint after complaint, the directives eventually became more and more specific.
"No definite instructions have been granted for the Kootenai. The Supervisor on submitting the reports to the District Office, gives this information to the local newspapers and insures as much publicity as is possible through this source. At intervals, averaging from one to ten days thereafter, applications arrive from as far east as the Dakotas and as far west as Washington and California, thus it is very evident that a notice through the newspapers is watched carefully and closely by the public.
"Applicants will frequently designate a graduated choice of units in case there should happen to be a conflict with their first choice. Distant applicants frequently have had the land examined by some friend of theirs.
"Whatever lands are classified as agricultural it is to the best interests of the Forest Service that this information be placed before as many prospective applicants as possible, since the examination of the land determines that it is agricultural in character, and it should, therefore, be placed to its highest use at the very earliest possible date. This can best be accomplished through local interviews after the land has been recommended for listing."8.
Whether because of loneliness, self-interest, generosity, or whatever, many settlers seemed bent on enticing their friends and relatives to join them in the valleys. As soon as anyone suspected a piece of real estate would become available, someone got the word around to a preferred party. Competition was keen. Secrecy was prevalent.

As snow deepened around each log home on the mountainsides and in the valleys there was a new feature that helped keep loneliness at bay. The forest service had installed their telephone system. Nearly every ranch house had a telephone installed. It connected to the switchboard at Noxon and calls could not be placed to points outside the valley. With each rancher answering a different number of rings they could 'crank' up the ranger station. Officially the telephone was not to be used for any other purpose, but in wintertime when there were no forest fires to take priority ... Still, only the telegraph at the railroad depot would get messages outside the valley for the residents.8.


 FOOTNOTES
  1. Noxon District Cabinet National Forest Quarterly, 1911.
  2. Donlan built a little power plant in Thompson Falls putting in a four-foot flume going up Prospect Creek and generated power for Thompson Falls before they put in their dam. Then the Montana Power Company gave Donlan $25,000-$30,000 for his little power plant. Donlan went back to France. They foreclosed a mortgage they had on him and broke him. Clifford Weare, tape-recorded oral history.
  3. Noxon District Cabinet National Forest Quarterly, 1911
  4. Noxon District Cabinet National Forest Quarterly, November 1911.
  5. Noxon District Cabinet National Forest Quarterly.
  6. Harry Tallmadge, tape-recorded oral history, March 7, 1977.
  7. Noxon District Cabinet National Forest Quarterly, 1911.
  8. Noxon District Cabinet National Forest Quarterly.

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