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5/23/06 – Former Sawbill crewmember, John (OB) Oberholtzer, has been in correspondance with Wilson Arbogust. Wilson, along with his family, constructed Sawbill Lodge (our former neighbor) in 1933. His memories of that experience are vivid and accurate. OB inqired about where the trees were cut for the massive log lodge (now reconstructed at Solbakken Resort in Lutsen, Minnesota). Wilson sent a detailed map and a wonderful letter. Here are some excerpts:
Tony Logar and I saw-cut close to 500 Jack Pine trees in Sept. 1933. At this point, the cost of each tree was 50 cents. Each tree was cut close to the ground as possible using a two-man saw. No power saws were then available (of course).
Each tree was felled to fall away from the lake. This made dragging easier. The forest in some areas was quite dense so we tried hard to avoid hang-ups. But one, two or three hang-ups a day were sure to happen! Then one of us (usually Tony) would climb the slanted tree and chop to free the tangled branches. Then rode the tree as it crashed to the ground.
Every tree had to be cut no nearer than 50 feet from the water, a rule of the Forest Service. After grounding, each tree had to be “swamped out”. Tha was our term for carefully cutting off the limbs as we manufactured logs.
As we sawed each tree, before it crashed, we anticipated its fall and, at just the proper moment we each would shout the warning “FIRE”!! to warn one another of the danger. What a laugh. The only other people within 40 or 45 miles were Mr. and Mrs. George E. Arbogust (George – my Dad – and Jean – my step mother) and the men at the Sawbill CCC Camp about six miles south of “our” Sawbill Lake.
So… now it is late Sept. and a few hundred logs are scattered about. So… we figured we had about a month to get these logs to the lodge site before the freeze up. Dad found the help we needed in Duluth. The two men, plus Tony and me, had to drag each log to the water (we could not find available horses). Dad would bind them in single file and tow them to the lake’s south end, about five miles, using a small Johnson outboard. The two helpers found the work too difficult so they quit and were replaced (by Dad).
Tony and I were steady on the job. We “lived” in an 8′ x 8′ umbrella type tent. The front flap of the tent could not be closed. I recall shaking snow off my sox as I started dressing up in the morning. Tony insisted on wearing p.j.s every night!! (Not me. I seldom removed my heavy clothes.) I was the chef! Our most staple foods were white and/or yellow corn meal on a tin plate using canned milk and sugar!
Because winter “hit” us so swiftly we had to abandon quite a few logs. You may discover their rotting presence along with very short stumps. But keep in mind that this wonderful adventure happened 73 years ago. I was age 20, Tony was 18.
Sincerely, Wilson Arbogust
John “OB” Oberholtzer, amateur archeologist, with a 73 year old jack pine stump on the north end of Sawbill Lake.
Every stump we found was just a few feet further than 50′ from the water’s edge.
We also discovered this interesting beaver chewed log. The beaver almost finished making this birch log into several pieces and then gave up. What story lies behind this scene?