20th Century, History, Logging, Minnesota

Sawmill Workers Strike

Unknown

1917
Workers at the Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company sawmill, the largest in the world, strike for higher pay and safer working conditions. Organizers from the radical International Workers of the World spread the strike to the logging camps before police break it up with arrests and force.*

Minnesota’s history of logging in this era is rife with irony. On one hand, it is a shining example of cooperation and productivity.
“The VRL Lumber Co. was the largest on earth producing on average a million board feet of lumber a day seven days a week. Production on such a vast scale required an enormous supply of virgin white and red pine harvesting a total of four billion board feet over a 20 year period.**

On the other hand it was pitifully negligent in its care for its workers’ health and well-being.
“Toilet facilities were primitive in the extreme. Privies were no more than shallow, open pits with a roof and some poles for seats. Excrement was only rarely treated with lime or even covered with dirt. State inspectors repeatedly and despairingly observed that “there seems to prevail an idea that toilet facilities in a camp are superfluous.””
Safety precautions were ignored, too. Engaged in strenuous manual labor with lethal tools in frigid weather, lumberjacks had an extremely high accident rate. Although immediate first aid was therefore the jacks’ greatest medical need, a survey of logging
camps several years before the strike revealed that “in none . . . were there any facilities for giving first aid to the injured.”**

Below is the an eye-witness testimony regarding the ‘jacks accommodations.
“Prospects of a major IWW walkout were enhanced, however, by the working and living conditions of the lumberjacks. Typically, jacks lived in rough-cut lumber shanties. A bunkhouse 30 feet by 80 feet by 11 feet would house anywhere from 60 to 90 men in rows of double-decked wooden bunks lining each wall. Each individual bed with its mattress of loose straw slept two men. Each jack received two or three woolen blankets from the camp (sheets were unknown). The turnover was so high that four or five men might easily use the same blankets each season.

Virtually all the beds, blankets, and men were infested with lice. In 1914 inspectors from the State Department of Labor and Industries observed that “the conditions under which the men were housed made it impossible for men to keep their bodies free from vermin.”

Bunkhouses were ventilated only by doors at each cud and one or two small skylights in the roof. One or perhaps two iron stoves, kept fired all night, provided heat. The poor ventilation compounded sanitary problems.

The men worked 11-hour days in the cold northern Minnesota winter and generally wore two or three sets of underwear in addition to their outer garments. The combination of wet snow and hard labor soaked the jacks’ clothes every day, but the men were without washing facilities either for themselves or what they wore.

Since most of them put on all the clothing they owned, dozens of sets of wet-from-sweat clothes hung near the stove every night to dry for the next day. The steam from the clothing joined the stench of tightly-packed, unwashed bodies in the bunkhouse, prompting one Wobbly to comment that “the bunk houses in which the lumber jacks sleep are enough to gag a skunk.” Testimony of Jay Hall; Sixteenth Biennial Report, p. 117; Boose, in International Socialist Review, 14:414**

“Chronology
December 24, 1916
Timber mill workers at the Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company draw up a list of demands.
December 26, 1916
Workers present their demands to the superintendent of manufacturing, Chester R. Rogers.
December 27, 1916
Mill workers decide to go ahead with the strike.
December 28, 1916
Pickets begin at the company’s gates. One thousand workers go on strike. Flying squads (IWW messengers) head north to lumber camps.
January 1, 1917
One thousand lumberjacks walk out of the camps.
January 2, 1917
A thousand more lumberjacks strike. Lumberjacks are banished from Virginia, Minnesota.
February 1, 1917
The lumber strike is officially called off.”***

So, what was the aftermath of this strike, and how did it improve the lives of lumberjacks and those that worked the sawmill? Below is an excerpt from Wobbly (IWW) records:

“The mill workers returned to their jobs in the last week of January. The lumberjacks held on a bit longer and neither the Virginia and Rainy Lake Company nor the International Lumber Company was able to reopen logging operations until February. What remained of the Wobbly lumber strike leadership gathered in Duluth. On February 1 the leaders called off the strike, claiming a partial victory by way of improved conditions.
Most companies did attend to their camps better after the strike. The ILC bought new blankets for the men and raised slightly the base pay. The quality of food seems to have been improved, too, in most camps. In 1917 the Virginia and Rainy Lake Company spent nearly 20 per cent more per man for food than earlier. Wartime price inflation accounted for part, but not most, of the increase.”****

What say You of this event and the broken relationships between loggers, their representatives in the IWW, and the V.R.L. company managers and International Lumber Company (ILC) owners? We invite Your timeless knowledge, and graceful judgment into their circumstance Ruach Ha Kodesh. How do we begin to make right this wrong from Your perspective? How have we offended You and the principles of Your kingdom?

You have said clearly through the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians:
“Do I say this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Isn’t He actually speaking on our behalf? Indeed, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they should also expect to share in the harvest.” I Corinthians 9:8-10

We acknowledge, first, our offense to You through the judgments of Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company and the ILC. We offend You as employers when we do not provide a Sabbath rest. We offend You when do not provide for the lives and safety of Your workers. We offend You when we fail to provide food, clothing, and adequate shelter for those in our care. We offend You when profit becomes an idol that forgets the contributions of the employees to the health of the corporation. Will You forgive VRL Co. and the International Lumber Company in this era, and create right relationships that lead to blessing in our timber industry’s management both in the present and future?

Similarly, we have offended You through the judgments of the lumberjacks and sawmill workers towards the VRL Company’s owners and ILC managers. We offend You when we do not take a Sabbath where it is offered. We offend You when we expect our employer to solve our unmentioned problems, and fail to be proactive in our own needs. We offend You as workers through the misbelief that profit is a given, therefore, the company has unlimited resources to spend on labor. Will You forgive the lumberjacks and millworkers of VRL Co. and ILC of this era, and create new
interconnections between laborers, labor unions, and executives of our logging industry that lead to present and future blessings for all?

Above all, we especially ask for the release of the victims of the injustices of this era from the prisons of their counter-judgments. We know that there are those who lost life and limb. We know that there are those who were circumstantially hemmed in who felt they had no choice but to submit to abusive work conditions to survive.

Will You forgive those who were ensnared through the maintenance of offense towards the abuses of Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company and the ILC? Will You give them gifts of grace that look to You for justice, while not resubmitting themselves to abuse? Will You take these judgments and counter-judgments up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ? Will You remove the log from the eyes of all in the logging industry?

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
**http://monarchtreepublishing.com/Ilets/1916-Lumbering-Strike.pdf

***Chronology and an excellent brief summary by Anja Witek can be viewed at this MNopedia link. http://www.mnopedia.org/event/iww-lumber-strike-1916-1917

****https://iww.org/node/1524

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19th Century, 20th Century, Business, Environment, History, Intercession, Minnesota, Shipping, Transportation

Split Rock Lighthouse Opens

Unknown

Jul 31, 1910
Shipwrecks from a mighty 1905 November gale prompted this rugged landmark’s construction. The construction was an engineering feat in such a remote location. The lighthouse was completed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1910.*

Why is it that pain elicits an active response that “normal” life doesn’t? Why is it that we do not neglect action after a certain level of loss? Why do we wait to become creative problem solvers?

Will You guide this writing to elucidate the reader to the level of shipwrecks in this era of iron ore, grain, lumber, and fish shipments across Lake Superior and the Great Lakes? In a single season of November 1905, there were 78 fatalities and 29 disabled or destroyed ships.** When one adds in the frigid water, rocky coastline, and tendency of these shippers to overload their vessels it is easy to empathize with the concerns of sailors.

In response, United States Steel Corporation lobbied Congress to build a lighthouse with a foghorn. This effort was executed by engineer Ralph Russell Tinkham of the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment. All building materials had to be hoisted up the 110 foot cliff from lakeside either by steam-powered derick, or
railed up on a freight tram. Workers spent 13 months living and working on the cliff in tents with a brief respite during the coldest months of winter.

This day we remember the names of these lost vessels and their unnamed crews to You, Lord of All Seas: the A.C. Adams, Alice Vivian, Amboy, Bob Anderson, Lotta Bernard, A. Booth, E.T. Carrington, Charley, City of Winnipeg, Comet, Belle P. Cross, F.L. Danforth, Donna Marie, Duluth, Elgin, Samuel P. Ely, U.S.S. Essex, Fayling, E.P.Ferry, Fiorgyn, Thomas Friant, F.W. Gillet, R.F.Goodman, Criss Grover, Harriet B, George Herbert, Hesper, B.B. Inman, Isle Royale, John H. Jeffrey Jr., J.C. Keyes, Lafayette, Lewie, Liberty, Madeline, Madeira, Mary Martini, May Flower, Mentor, Niagara, Benjamin Noble, Oden, Onoko, Osprey, G. Pfister, Rebel, George Spencer, Ella G. Stone, Stillman Witt, Stranger, Robert Wallace, Thomas Wilson, and the Six Dredge Scows.

Will You forgive any judgments of these lost seamen, their wives, families and friends, and employers towards each other and towards You? Will You cleanse Superior and the Great Lakes of its vast depths of unforgivenness? Will You especially release the pain caused by the urgency of the timber, iron mining, and taconite industries to expedite these shipments to world markets? Will You forgive us our industriousness that broke with Your Sabbath? We have missed Your wisdom when we work too much.

We remember also the efforts of Ralph Russell Tinkham and his construction workers. We thank You for their superhuman efforts to build Split Rock Lighthouse. Will You bless them, their progeny, and those who follow in their footsteps? Will You give us strength and acceptance when we face storms beyond our control? Will You make us beacon and horn today to lead our peers away from the rocks and towards safe harbor?

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

**http://www.mnhs.org/splitrock/learn/shipwrecks

***http://www.mnhs.org/places/nationalregister/shipwrecks/list.php

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20th Century, Architecture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Transportation

Aerial Bridge Completed

aerialbridge1

Mar 24, 1905
The Aerial Bridge is completed in Duluth. The bridge permits land traffic to cross the ship canal without interfering with the ships that pass in and out of the harbor. A lift bridge replaces the aerial system in 1930.*

Aerial Bridge in Duluth began as a transporter bridge. Imagine an arch or high structure that spans a harbor that a segment of the bridge is suspended from on rails. Traffic boards on one side, and this segment of bridge rolls across to the other. When the segment reaches its destination, about 2/3rds of the channel is left open for harbor traffic. Quite ingenious!

Thank You for the mind of Thomas F. Mc Gilvray. How much pleasure You must take in the soul of an architect! A character that both delights in the disciplines of education, and in the revelation of beauty wherever it may be found or felt! A massive steel bulwark spanning a harbor may not immediately bring to mind the word ’beautiful’. Yet, to the residents needing to cross the harbor, it was tremendously useful. Is there a word for ‘useful beauty’? I’m sure there is in Your vocabulary, and that is what I praise You for today!

Furthermore, thank you for the means to connect cultures! In this context, the physical barrier of the harbor could make it difficult for one to know and trade with neighbors just across the water. Thank you that this physical structure opened the doors of residents of Superior, WI. and Duluth, MN. to know each other, as well as the myriad of cultures of sailors from around the world. Will You bless this moment of March 24, 1905, and create a perpetual heritage of blessing in this Harbor? As You have promised…”the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:8 NIV
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transporter_bridge

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

 

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19th Century, Business, Geology, History, Industry, Intercession, Jesus, Mining, Minnesota

Iron Industry Launch

unknown

1884
With the state’s first shipment of ore from the Vermilion Range, Minnesota’s iron industry is launched. Within 20 years, new immigrants will mine from the region a great majority of the iron for the nation’s industrial boom.

What Becomes of the Iron?
Ore is moved by train to ports like Duluth. From there giant ships carry it to the blast furnaces of Ohio and Pennsylvania where it is melted and processed by the heat of burning coal from mines in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. The result is steel, which goes to factories in cities such as Detroit to become the rails of railroads, the skeletons of skyscrapers, and the chassis of cars.*

Who Works in the Mines?
The growth of iron mining brings tens of thousands of new people to northeastern Minnesota. They come from almost every country in Europe and elsewhere, bringing different languages and cultures from places like Canada, Wales, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Syria, Russia, and China.*

Father, we adore You! You have given us an earth full of blessings! We thank You for the gift of iron ore. We thank You for the impact of this gift on our state and peoples!
Father, we are full of bitter roots and rusty hearts! This blessing has been corroded by our mis-dealings. We are guilty of judging the owners of the steel business: Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, etc. We have stolen and tainted the land of the individual, the Indian nations, our neighbor’s business, our state, and our nation.
We have judged our fellow workers on the basis of his race or culture: Canadian, Welsh, Irish, Swedish, Finnish, Belgian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Italian, Greek, Syrian, Russian, Chinese, and Native American! We have offenses based on interstate prejudices: Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Michigan, Sioux, Dakota, Ojibway.
Lord, will You have mercy on our humanity? Will You replace this heritage of curses with blessings for us? Will You reverse the curses against the land, and all the pathways it has travelled out this state through out the world? I want to pronounce the blessing of the Lord to every molecule of steel that has passed, is passing, or will pass from this state! May You grant us humility, wisdom, and imagination to properly use the resources of this state! May the iron of Minnesota, regardless of its present use or form, ring with the unlimited, infinite blessings of its’ King! Hallelujah!

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

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17th Century, Culture, Economics, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Native Americans

Dakota & Ojibwe Treaty 1679

Source: Google Images

Daniel Greysolon Dulhut

Tensions mount between the Dakota and the Ojibwe newcomers. At a meeting arranged by Daniel du Luth, a European trader interested in keeping the peace, they strike a bargain. The Dakota agree to let the Ojibwe hunt in their territory, and the Ojibwe will let traders cross Lake Superior to trade with the Dakota.*

Lord, thanks for being a good dad! Thanks that You know how to deal with the pettiness of children…and adults. I want to acknowledge the tensions that have risen in my own heart through the judgments of others, and the property that You have entrusted them with. I am just like du Luth, the Dakota, and the Ojibwe!

Will you forgive the fears of these groups towards one another? Will You forgive any envy of these groups? Will You release both victim and victimizer from the judgements of this event? Will You release us in the present from any heritage of bitterness or self-righteousness as it pertains to trade and commerce on Lake Superior? May You bless all, like du Luth, who seek to establish chesed (right relationship) rather than conflict?

*Note – PrayThroughHistory uses the timeline located for several years at the Minnesota Historical Society Web site, at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm .  Currently the timeline seems to be unavailable. I am hopeful that it will be back up in the future, as it was a valuable, user-friendly tool for anyone wishing to explore Minnesota history.

 

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