20th Century, History, Logging, Minnesota

Sawmill Workers Strike

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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, government, History, Intercession, Jesus, law, Minnesota, Politics, Prayer, Social Studies, State Government

Clough Becomes Governor

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Jan 31, 1895 to Jan 2, 1899
Lieutenant Governor D. M. (David Marston) Clough becomes the state’s 13th governor on Jan 31, 1895, when Governor Knute Nelson resigns to take a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Clough’s first administration was notable for the ratification of significant amendments to the state constitution, including those establishing a Board of Pardons, withdrawing the right of aliens to vote, and authorizing municipalities to frame “home rule” charters. During his second term, narrowly won in 1896, the legislature raises taxes on several private industries and enacts child-labor laws.*

Governor Clough seems to be a reformer,** and it is no wonder given the times he lived in. The Panic of 1893, started in European markets, and spread to the United States until 1897. It rocked everything, but Minnesotans probably felt it most in commodities: lumber, ore mining, farming, and the rails that delivered it all.

Changing the rules during the game is a delicate business, let alone the constitution of a State. The volume of changes Clough enacted suggests his reforms were supported by the people. But what is the spiritual weight of even one of these reforms?

Establishing a Board of Pardons may suggest a few motives. Minnesotans experienced the ‘power plays’ of economic interests; the farmers vs. the railroads, the individual landowner vs. the lumber barons, etc. Perhaps the Board of Pardons appealed to their sense of mercy to neighbors who experienced this type of injustice. Where there is favoritism under the law, hopelessness and bitterness are not far behind.

Here is where we appeal to You! As a Minnesotan, will You forgive us the anger and bitterness stemming from this era in the fields of lumber, mining, farming, and transportation? Will You release the justly offended parties from the weight of being right? Will You free the powerful from their offense of misusing their power to strip the rights, property, and humanity from those they opposed?

Eternal Father, one can still perceive the sadness of the Range, of Duluth Harbor, of small towns, farms, and Indian reservations where these conflicts arose. Will You change this atmosphere of the heart? Will You restore lost hope, property, and inheritances? Will You give favor to these specific peoples and geographic locations?

Will You bless the inheritance of Governor Clough, whether directly to his family of origin, or those who share his vision? Will You keep us from swinging to extremes? Will You help us stop the cycle of offense/counter offense, judgment/counter judgment?

*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!
**More on David Marston Clough? https://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_minnesota/col2-content/main-content-list/title_clough_david.default.html
***An Inventory of His Gubernatorial Records at the Minnesota Historical Society
http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/gov027.xml

 

 

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19th Century, History, Intercession, Jesus, Logging, Minnesota

Giant Logjam 1894

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Logs bound for sawmills choke the Mississippi River at Little Falls. It takes six months to break up the six-mile-long woodpile.

For the past 50 years, rivers have been the highways that carry logs to the mills. Lumberjacks keep the logs moving and break up jams. Now, small trunk railway lines are also heading deep into the forests to haul out the logs.*

What an apropos metaphor for work! We work hard to improve out lot in life. We take risks and make investments, but our timing can be off, and our productivity grinds to a halt. Forces beyond our control stop our progress, and sometimes years of our efforts are undone?!

Why is this, One Who Orders the Universe? Why do we kill ourselves for a future payoff that may or may not come? Why are we dissatisfied with ’enough’, and push for ‘a little bit more’? Why do others we depend on slack and coast in their work?

Again, thanks that You are a good dad! You gave this land a blessing of trees that were the perfect building material for this climate. You gave this land a blessing of a mighty river to move those trees to others. Thanks that You provide good things for us to use for ourselves and share with others!

Will You forgive us our gluttony for lumber where apropos? Whether it was the loggers, the mills, or the lumber barons it does not matter. You know how each party contributed to this problem. Will You remember and bless all the labor in the forest and on the river: whistle punks, chasers, high climbers, yarders, lumberjacks, lumberjills, woodcutters, shanty boys, woodhicks, river pigs, catty-men, river rats, and river hogs who dealt with this hazardous work? Will You forgive us this offense, and the judgements of those upriver, downriver, or in the middle of the jam?

*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!
**Learn more details about this giant logjam and the community of Little Falls, MN? http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89064525/
***How did logging in this era impact the environment?
https://www.ncrs.fs.fed.us/gla/reports/history.htm

 

 

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

Lumber Giant

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1891
German immigrant Frederick Weyerhaeuser, one of the most powerful men in American lumbering, moves his offices to St. Paul. Skilled at bringing competitors together in huge undertakings, he makes heavy investments in Minnesota timber and mills before moving on to the Pacific Northwest.*

Lord, I believe every person makes an impact on the future. Therefore, every Minnesotan has made an impact this state and it’s consciousness. I am a bit awed by the impact Weyerhauser made on St. Paul and Minnesota!

I can imagine the moxie it took to set up the processing of all the logs that were floated down the Mississippi. Or to have the courage to sign a land deed to purchase 900,000 acres. That’s an astronomical responsibility.

When a man or woman is so dedicated and effective in their field, they cultivate both admirers and critics. Will You forgive St. Paul and all areas that Mr. Weyerhauser impacted of our judgments’ towards him? Will You also forgive any injustices committed by him, or his company towards Minnesotans? We, too often, love the ideal of success, but are fearful and jealous of the successful in practice. Forgive us this foible!

May You bless the heritage of Weyerhauser and all who partook in the logging industry on the Mississippi! May we learn from their mistakes, and have Your insights on how to better use our land, timber, and all wood by-products. Thank You for this precious resource!

*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!

**For more about Weyerhaeuser and other immigrant success stories see: https://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=239

 

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19th Century, Art, Culture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota

1st Public Art Gallery in Northwest 1879

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Lumberman Thomas B. Walker attaches an art gallery to his house and opens it to the people of Minneapolis—the first public art gallery in the Northwest.

He later deeds his collection and a building to house it to the city, thus laying the groundwork for the famous Walker Art Center.*

Thank you Lord that you created beauty for all to enjoy. Thanks that Mr. Walker decided to share his collection with the state of Minnesota. I’m still surprised to learn that the present Walker Art Center was started by a lumberman. Forgive my false assessments of him, and or the notion that “workman” fail to see or ponder what is beautiful.                                   It is also curious that Walker’s generosity seemed to be blocked, or otherwise doomed to failure from outside forces. The city of Minneapolis even refused the gift of his art, and donated land to build a public gallery?! You can quickly read a few more  of these rejections here :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._B._Walker

Lord, will You soothe the pain of this rejection past, and make opportunities to give publicly smoother and easier in the present and the future? You’ve given authority to city and county government, but forgive our leaders their short sighted choices, and failures of pride. We, too often, have loved things, and used people. Have mercy!

Will You forgive the false assessments made of artists, and artistic movements in Minnesota through the years. Lord, I invite You to re-open the Walker. Holy Spirit will You reside there and make it a praise to You? Will You lead our minds higher and to more reality through visual art?

*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, Culture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Native Americans, Treaties

Grand Portage, Fond du Lac, and Lake Vermillion Reservations Established in 1854 

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The Mississippi and Lake Superior bands cede the Arrowhead Region of northeastern Minnesota and are put on the Grand Portage, Fond du Lac, and Lake Vermillion reservations.*

Jehovah, if my family was being force-moved to a reservation by the state of Minnesota; I would be furious! But faced with a hopelessly powerful opponent, I too, would concede! Will You forgive the judgments of the US and territorial governments towards the Mississippi and Lake Superior bands of Ojibwe, especially the necessity to cede this parcel of land from them?

The lumber and mining interests probably knew the value of this land, and would not be afraid to twist the arm of any politicians who stood in the way of this prize. Where there was greed in this moment, will You forgive us? This wood and this iron, from these woods and grounds, have filled the earth with benefits, but when viewed in human terms seems tainted. Will You reclaim Your natural resources? Wherever or whatever form they may take today?

Were there any counter-judgments these Native Americans may have made in their hearts towards our system? It would be only human to feel so. Imagine waking up to the announcement that the government needs your home more than you, and that you must evacuate the area as soon as possible? Lord forgive us this concession as a state, as well as our personal attempts to force our way on others.

Will you heal the reservation lands, what is below, what is above of Grand Portage (Gichi-onigamiing), Fond du Lac (Nah-Gah-Chi-Wa-Nong meaning “Where the current is blocked”), and Lake Vermillion (Onamanii-zaaga’iganiing, “At the Lake with Red ochre”) and continue to resolve this conflict? Will You give us one reservation where all are welcome?

*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 .

 

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