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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 8, 2002 - Issue 82


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C.H. Cooke's Diary Written in 1868, Tells of the Logging War, Beef Slough Versus Eau Claire.


From: Eau Claire Telegram April 22, 1918
(Fourth of Four Installments)


Note - This is the conclusion of C.H. Cooke's diary account of a trip up the Chippewa River in the spring of 1868.
It was something of a feeling of regret that we began our homeward journey. Headed down stream with the current we traveled rapidly. At noon we halted to stretch ourselves at an Indian camp of four teepees, two of birch bark and two of canvas.


Chippewa River near WaniganWe were a bit surprised on landing not to be greeted by the usual gang of dogs, not did we see any papooses scampering for cover. The camp was deserted. Taking a peep in at the doors, we found the teepees contained the ordinary amount of mats and robes of buffalo and deer hides, and what most pleased us was to note that in one of the teepees had a heap of maple sugar packages done in all sorts of Indian make. After strolling about for some time and finding no Indians, the idea struck us that we might help ourselves to a supply of maple sugar and leave its value in beads, tobacco and calico. Of which we still had a small supply. While the professor stood guard, George and I made the exchange. Now, while we would not allow that we were thieves in any sense, we could not rid ourselves of the sense that our proceeding was a dubious one. In the view of the untutored savage we might be looked upon as rascals. Anyway, after filling our sack half full of cunningly wrought birch cups and baskets of delicious sugar and leaving a good measure in value in return we pinned the canvas door up just as we found it and straight way decamped down river as fast as we could paddle. Now while our movements to an onlooker might have seemed a bit dubious, we had done nothing really bad. We were merely desirous to avoid an explanation, which must have been made had we been discovered at the deserted wigwams.

Less than two miles below the deserted wigwams we came upon some ten or a dozen teepees out of which poured a storm of many dogs and as many children in buckskin togs. Several bucks stood along the shore and looked inquiringly at us as we hurriedly paddled on. They might have been thinking of the robes and maple sugar in the teepees above, anyway we did not tarry but after lifting our hats to the red men we quietly sped on our way.

Guests at Loggers' Camp
Late in the afternoon we reached a spot where a crew of Eau Claire log drivers were preparing to camp for the night and we decided to make them a call. We had not landed ten minutes before three canoe loads of Indians, apparently following us, beached their canoes and strode into camp. Each carrying a hamper birch bark filled with packages of maple sugar, which they at once offered for sale. While we felt in no sense guilty we were glad the new comers did not ask to look at the contents of the sack in our canoe. After disposing some one hundred pounds, they re-embarked and journeyed on down river. With a true woodsman's hospitality the log drivers invited us to take supper with them, an offer we gladly accepted. After a hearty meal and a brief visit we were about to start again, intending to camp further down the river. The heart of man is much alike the world over. Until this very moment these rude log drivers had given no sign that they expected us to stay through the night. George and I had gone to the riverside expecting to re-embark, when the professor hurriedly came down to the boat and told us to pull the canoe ashore, that we had been invited by McDonald, who was in charge of the drive, to remain for the night.

We were glad, and still more glad when the whole story came out, that McDonald was a comrade in the war with Captain Hall. Only those who have been in the army know anything of the bond and warmth of true fellowship. There is no personal loyalty, no personal friendship so devoted as that between soldiers of the Civil War.

Lumberjacks Unruly
The logging war that was on between the Eau Claire and Beef Slough people was the one theme of conversation until a late hour. We had a rather rough night of it. The drivers drank whiskey and sang songs until midnight. It seemed that there was a trader on the Flambeau five miles from our camp who was selling the stuff and some of the boys made a trip after night and when they made the trip back some dozens had an all around wake until midnight.

I shouldered my gun at daybreak and went in search of a lake, which I knew was in this neighborhood, from the lonesome cry of the loons. I found the lake, or rather it was a mere pond, a half mile or so inland. There were no loons in sight and a flock of ducks which sighted me swam away hurriedly beyond my reach. The sun was just rising, not a breath of air stirred the pine needles in the top of the great pines whose shadows were mirrored away out into the lonesome lake. The whole scene was as wild and virgin as any dreamer could wish. It might have been an hour or more that I leaned against the trunk of a century old pine listening the happy quack of the ducks now far beyond the reach of my old shot gun, their numbers being recruited from the occasional flocks that passed over the lake. Several times I could have shot with the certainty of wining one or more of them, but with no boat could not reach them, and so had no heart to kill them.

When I returned to the river, the log drivers had gone and only my companions remained. They told me that they had fired two alarm guns, warning me to return, but which I had not heard. I breakfasted on various dry crusts and some pickled pork, which they had gotten from the drivers, yes, and potatoes, of which we had nearly forgotten the taste.

It was getting late when after tarring some holes in our little craft and stowing away our equipment we were again picking our way amid the floating logs down the dark and winding river.

Missed Dinner at Brunet's
WaniganWe had planned to take dinner at dear old "Bruney's" but it was too late when we reached the falls above, were we had to unpack and transfer by hand all our stuff, besides the canoe, for more than a quarter of a mile to a little bay below the rapids.

There were apparently forty or fifty log drivers waiting for dinner, when well along in the afternoon when the professor returned from the house whither he had gone to see about dinner and told of the mob still waiting to be fed. It was a bit dampening to the romantic picture which George and I had fancied, of a quite repast all by ourselves with three half-caste Ojibway maidens furtively noting that we were constantly supplied with plenty of Eau Claire pork and delicious fried potatoes.

At the solemn command of the man whose word for two years had been law to us, that we should eat a cold lunch on maple sugar and some of the remaining cold scraps, that dinner with the Frenchman's girls was out of the question, George and I, after exchanging a glance of hope deferred, submissively took our places in our loyal little craft, which had become a very part of ourselves, and with little heart in the matter silently dipped our paddles and to the farewells of a lot of half boozy fellows who had lounged down to take a look at us, we were soon speeding with the current.

I am sure this abrupt leaving of the hospitable old Frenchman's romantic home did not fit into George's frame of mind nor did it into mine, most decidedly. Our honored professor himself was iron clad against the inroads of anything like sentiment. He would be despair as a hero of a border tale to the writer of fiction. He was a Spartan in discipline and in rigid fidelity to the spirit and the letter of truth. He was utterly hostile to the easygoing fast and loose habits of the day.

I had often charged George with being a stoic. His eyes never changed expression, no matter if the situation had been one of bodily danger or of sentimental emotion. He had his feelings under perfect mastery as a trained sleuth. His heart was as tender as a woman's, but whether slow or swift to receive impressions, it would take the mind of the reader to discern his inner most thoughts. My taunts of stoicism to George never elicited anything more than a half smile that never reached his eyes.

"Bruney's" Left Behind
Less than a mile below Bruney's we turned the bend that shut out the view of the lonely log home of the Frenchmen and his daughters and the dark wall of lofty pine in the background.

Each of us by some mystic agreement up to this time nursed his own thoughts in silence. Sometimes we paddled to escape a congestion of logs, sometimes we merely floated, often times resting our hands on some monster section of a lordly pine whose top most branches for centuries perhaps, had tossed In the winter storms and in many recurring summer times at eventide, we could fancy the tawny sons and daughters of the Ojibway listening to the weird melody of its boughs. Sitting upon these banks or floating in their frail bark canoes, the inarticulate voices of the forest to the untutored being who dwelt among these shores, was but a message as they believe from the Great Spirit above.

The roar of Brunet Falls continued to reach us fitfully, for some miles below. After awhile we heard it no more. Some mile above Jim Falls we fell in with a drive crew of Beef Slough boys who told us excited tales of troubles in Eau Claire between the mill men of Eau Claire and the Beef Slough people.

Log Drivers Armed
We were told that several Chippewa Falls loggers, including Pound, Tom Levitt and Ed Rutledge, had sided with Palmer and Bacon of Beef Slough, and that they had armed their drivers each with a gun and an axe and sent them to Eau Claire to cut the booms and let the logs through. This we were told meant war, that Ingram, Buffington and Shaw and their allies would fight these "Michigan robbers," as they styled Palmer and Bacon, to the bitter end.

Getting back to the haunts of men what a change of spirit over came our dreams. Living as we had for weeks amid the forest and lakes and river, remote from the competitions and passions and strife of civilized beings, our uncut beard and hair, the smoky hue of wonted white complexion, the rents in our trousers, and too apparent need of soap on our faces and unmanicured hands reminded us all of a sudden, that we lost step and were out of the procession of our kind.

Arriving at Jim Falls the professor was intent that we hire some half-breeds that were loitering about looking for odd jobs an make the portage of the falls that night so as to make Eau Claire easily the next day. But both George and I wished to celebrate our return trip by sleeping in the wigwam we had occupied the first night on our upward trip, historic as the wigwam of an Ojibway chief. Use to command and being obeyed, and determined, as the professor was that we go on, the issue for some time was in doubt. My heart was set on sleeping in the old chief's lodge as a grand finale to our journey. I knew well George's resources as a diplomat and his power of persuasion with the professor, and I used every device or word and sign without scruple to support him. The professor finally yielded.

The portage of the falls made, we arrived at Chippewa about ten o'clock, after wending our way deviously through millions of logs. The rush of logs at the falls was a sight to see. The torrent of water beaten into foam by jagged rocks was a challenge to the most reckless boatman who would fain make the venture. As a crowding exploit to our trip, I proposed in mock seriousness that we should make decent over the Falls in our little craft. "You get out," replied the professor, "I have had enough of your daredevil schemes. The walking is good enough for me around the falls."

Eau Claire Warlike
We found Eau Claire badly torn up in mind between the joint forces of the Beef Slough and the Mississippi mill men and the hostile mill men of the city. Some booms had been cut by order of Bacon, the commanding general of Beef Slough. Revolvers could be seen in the pockets of the lumberjacks, and pike poles and cant hooks were carried about the booms and the streets much as soldiers carry guns for attack or defense. It was pretty apparent that "Bold John Barleycorn" had much to do in nerving both sides of this logging war to the fighting pitch. During the night, Gans' Ferry, between East and West Eau Claire, which tied up at ten p.m., was taken in hand by drunken lumberjacks and run all night for their accommodation.

The next morning after paying Mr. Marshall, jeweler, twelve dollars for a borrowed revolver, which I lost in the upper Chippewa and after cordial handshakes and good-byes, I re-embarked in the little birch craft to continue my journey down the Chippewa and the Mississippi to my home at Alma. I had thought to reach Durand that night, but a storm coming up, I pulled my boat ashore some ten miles above and resting one end on a log, bottom up, crawled under and lay down on my stomach on the sand, as my army life of nearly three years had taught me, when sleeping on the ground, and after a while went to sleep.

Beef Slough Force Triumph
Chippewa RiverI was awaken at four o'clock by the grating of logs on the shore. Sure enough the river was alive with floating logs, which the Eau Claire people after a fight with the Beef Slough parties had been forced to let through their booms. I was glad to see the logs. I watched them for an hour before crawling out from under my boat. I felt a sort of proprietary interest in them. A something of local or home interest in them, and something of local or home interest made me glad that Eau Claire had been beaten in trying to monopolize the logging business. These logs were to be rafted and sorted and all business touching them done in my hometown of Alma. I was glad of it.

Ten miles above Durand was my last encampment. It was a morning to give thanks, one of those rare May day morning that has passed into proverb. The prairie chickens across the river had caught the infection before the sun rose and ever hoo-hooing their delight of a perfect May morning. A feeling of destructiveness on hearing these chickens, a sound so familiar to my boyhood years for a brief time possessed me. Could I get within a gunshot of them, alas, they were in the middle of a wide meadow some eighty rods distant. The impulse of the barbarian to kill faded at once.

Launching my frail bark canoe, "on the swift rolling tide," I was soon in close companionship, with my fellow travelers, the pine logs, on their voiceless and silent way to the mills of the great river.

Coming in sight of Durand. I laid aside my paddle and reached for my haversack, which contained a lunch of bread and butter and cold fried chicken, prepared by the dainty hands of Julia Wilson, at whose mother's table during the winter past I had eaten delicious viands, many a time and oft. The dinner that her mother gave to her cousin, United States Senator Doolittle, last fall while stumping the state against Matt Carpenter for reelection, was a prime event to myself and three other fellow students whom she invited to dine with the big man. Carpenter may be a good lawyer, but he is less impressive speaker than Senator Doolittle. I can't rid myself of the feeling that Doolittle should have been elected.

Meet 'Bad' Irishman
Arriving at the inlet or opening of the Beef Slough, which is, but a branch of the Chippewa for emptying its waters into the Mississippi, I was warned by surly Irishman on a swing boom, to keep to the right hand stream "unless you wanted to have a hell of a time getting through the logs." I took his advice. (This particular Irishman was a bad one. He at this time wore a deep scar on his face, given him by a fellow driver, belonging to Ingram's crew at Eau Claire.)

After a brief halt at both halt at both Reed's Landing and Wabasha, I reached Alma, which European travelers had christened the "Alpine village of the Mississippi." The year before my father had rented his farm and purchased the American Hotel in Alma. The success of Beef Slough, which now seemed assured, promised a min of wealth to Buffalo County. My father shared in that opinion.

I found Alma in a ferment of excitement. The hotels were crowded with loggers and mill owners from St. Paul to St. Louis. They jostled with log drivers with iron brads in their shoes.

Free Beer in the Saloons
Palmer of Michigan, the moneyed king of Beef Slough, and his particular lieutenant, James Bacon, were holding hourly conferences with Ed Rutledge, Tom Levitt, Coffee and McDonald, the "Chippewa Falls rebels" in the minds of those from Eau Claire. Durand too was there by delegation, to give aid and comfort, not for, but against Eau Claire. The saloons and hotels had orders to serve beer without price to all comers. We do not know it but supposed Palmer of Michigan paid the liquor bill. Beef Slough as an institution has clearly won the fight and is here to stay.

Jean Brunet
(Note: Mr. Cooke having been asked to add a few lines concerning the personal appearance of Jean Brunet, sends the following:)

"Jean Brunet, as I recall him was a man of about five feet seven inches in height, straight as an Indian, and almost as dark. A face of pleasing and regular features, a high forehead, head slightly bald on top, a profusion of more gray hair, than of native black hair reaching to his neck, and eyes dark and questioning, shade by open not lowering brows. He seemed less than seventy years of age. If I remember right he told us he was eighty."

Mr. Cooke also adds some comments on the Shaw family:

"I am glad that you propose to have a cut of Daniel Shaw. Among the mill men he was one of the real gods of Israel. I know what I am talking about when I say that Daniel Shaw was a good man. I met him many times as a schoolboy, and you know a schoolboy's impressions are nearly always right. George Shaw, his son, in his early teens was a pupil of Captain Hall's at the dear old seminary, and a classmate of the writer. As a boy George had splendid stuff in him and it is one of the writer's griefs that he died so soon.

The "Shaws" were a fine race of men in manly bearing and physical make up. George, the youngest son, was well fathered and equally well mothered. Mrs. Daniel Shaw was always foremost in benevolent and charitable work. George need but the sober influence of years to attain a durable fame as a worker in the vineyard of human betterment. I was six years his senior and I loved him, he was so kind and unassuming. I deeply regret his early death. Byron Buffington was also a classmate, something like George, a real good boy, but less democratic. I like Bryon."

Press Accounts of the Fight
In connection with Mr. Cooke's mention of the troubles between the upriver and the Beef Slough logging companies, the following from the Eau Claire Free Press of May 6, 1869, just about one year after Mr. Cooke and his companions made the trip up the Chippewa may be of interest:

"Last Saturday, a difficulty arose at Jim Falls, on the Chippewa, between French & Giddings owners of a mill at that point, and the Beef Slough log drivers, which came near to resulting in a fatality to some of the participants. The reports of the fray, we are unable to obtain full and correct particulars. It appears the drivers on reaching Jim Falls, found some of their logs in French & Giddings booms, which they demanded, and as there was no means of obtaining them save letting out the entire stock, which the reservoir contained, the proceeded to cut the boom, where upon French & Giddings few their revolvers and each fired two shots at those who were engaged in chopping the boom. Neither of the shots taking effect, the drivers immediately gathered around French & Giddings and attempted to wrest the firearms from them, and in the melee French was knocked down with a handspike and Giddings and two of the drivers wrestled into the river. Giddings sank under some logs and it was with some considerable difficulty that he was rescued from the water. A guard was then placed over French & Giddings and they were held in custody until the booms were cleared of logs, when they were released and no further disturbance occurred. Different reports are current to the effect that French and Giddings made liberal propositions to the drivers offering them fair terms of exchange, or good prices for their logs, which offers they would not accept, but insisted on having their own logs at any and all hazards. How true these rumors are, we are unable to say, but it is reasonable to expect that terms of compromise were being offered by French and Giddings, and the actions of the "drivers" in turning out their whole season's stock of logs, was an unwarrantable and evinced a disposition, which is not calculated to meet the approval of any considerable number of citizens of the Chippewa Valley."

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