T. B. (Thomas Barlow) Walker.

Memories of the early life and development of Minnesota online

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mission of 25 cents per acre. Having arranged for the pur-
chase of the scrip, it came to St. Paul from Chicago. The firm
did not take it then, but said they would take it later, and, as
I had to go to my surveys in southwestern Minnesota early in
June, I had to leave the timber surveying and land scrip mat-
ters for this firm to settle and arrange.



When I came back, a couple of months later, and sometime
before the southwestern survey was completed, I found to my
surprise that the scrip had been taken up and I was not cred-
ited, a statement being made that a certain Mr. Brown had pur-
chased this scrip for his own use ; and I also found that George
R. Stuntz had been engaged to do the government surveying
for which I had been engaged, in the quite noted timber lands
around Lake Pokegama and on the Mississippi river below.

My intention was at this time to follow railroad surveying,
and afterwards to be a contractor and builder of railroads, and
finally, perhaps, as Mr. James J. Hill afterward did, to become
interested as a stockholder in the roads. But this disappoint-
ment of not receiving my commissions on the scrip, which
would have amounted to a little over $1,000, and the loss of the
work in doing the surveying, led me to abandon the railroads
and join Dr. Levi Butler in a pine timber enterprise, whereby I
should secure the land notes and locate and look after the af-
fairs in the pine timber region. I then put in the latter part
of the winter in attending to .some of Dr. Butler's previously
arranged timber enterprises, and in the spring made my way
to Pokegama in a large dug-out boat that I made at Pine Knoll,
which carried me and the spring and summer's supply of pro-
visions, wherewith I examined the whole timber region that
Mr. Stuntz had surveyed.

Having made full preparations for locating the timber when
the plats were received at the local land office, I succeeded in
what the newspapers call a " scoop," securing almost every
fine forty acres of timber that was near and most valuable,
around Pokegema lake and the river below. That lumber
firm failed to get one single quarter section that was good.
They did locate one quarter that was in a swamp, from a wrong
description of the land which they intended to locate, and the
scrip was afterward removed. The breach of faith on the
part of the lumber firm changed my whole course of life into
that which I had not intended to follow, lumbering. Having
located these lands, it became necessary for me to continue in
the firm of Butler, Mills and Walker ; and when the logs which
Dr. Butler and Mr. Mills had secured in the winter's logging


that I had no financial interest in, only to look after it for
them, came into the booms, they were taken into ownership
of our new firm. Some of the east side mills were engaged and
rebuilt, and through Mr. Ed. Brown, the east side lumberman,
the logs were manufactured into lumber ; and this work marked
the beginning of the lumber firm then incorporated, of Butler,
Mills and Walker.

Later in the summer, I went up by way of Leech lake with
a haying crew, and went through the temporary, noisy Indian
disturbance that came tolerably near ending in our being
killed by the Indians ; but, having finally gotten there, by way
of Leech lake and Leech river and down the Mississippi to
Pokegama, I secured an abundant supply of hay from the ex-
tended hay meadows running along the river, and prepared for
logging that winter. I met there two very industrious Chip-
pewas, by the name of Naugonup and Chechegum, who had
locations at the outlet of Trout lake, a mile or so from where
the town of Coleraine and the Walker-Hill iron mines are now

Finding that I intended to begin lumbering and bring in
some crews of lumbermen that winter, they set to work to raise
a crop of potatoes to sell to the contractors during the fall and
winter. Their experience and that of Joseph Tuttle, who em-
barked in a civilizing enterprise at Waukenauboo lake, which
I will refer to later, gave me the first real view of the calamity
of socialism. These two men, Naugonup and Chechegum, raised
about thirty-five bushels of potatoes on a little tract of very
rich land that is now occupied by Gilbert Hartley as a summer
home, in a very beautiful and attractive situation. It was cov-
ered with hardwood timber, mostly maple, and in a storm all
the timber on this tract was swept down in so much of a heap
that afterwards it burned off clean the great mass of wood,
fuel, and brush that was available, thus completing the clear-
ing. These potatoes were stored in holes under the houses, and
some rough poles and boards were put over them for a floor.
There being no road from Mr. Haney's lumber camp, six or
seven miles distant, the potatoes could not be moved until the
swamps froze, when they could be hauled over a summer trail
that a team could go over to bring them.


The Indians at Oak Point, twenty-five miles away, heard of
this horrible conspiracy on the part of these two Indians with
Mr. Haney, to deprive the band to which they belonged of their
natural rights to appropriate all the surplus above the day's
supply and to transfer it to a lot of white men in the lumber
camps. This was so repugnant to their ideas, of the rights of
one fellow in the product of the other fellow 's labor, that they
went in force with their canoes down the Mississippi, past the
Pokegama falls, and up the Prairie river and past its falls, and
thence on a portage across to Trout lake, thence across the lake
to the two little log houses under which the potatoes were
stored, and took away across the lake and over the river and
thence down, retracing their way, every potato that the enter-
prising two Indians had raised for their own benefit, to buy pro-
visions and carry them through the winter. Afterward these
two Indians were always at a discount and somewhat ostra-
cized by the band, because of their attempt at robbing the
band of its interest in the produce of their labor.

Naugonup and Chechegum were at that time up on Swan
river above Swan lake, when the Indians came to take the pota-
toes. If they had been at home, very probably the invaders
might have meted out to them greater punishment, even more
than the confiscation of their supply of potatoes.

Several years before this, a very enterprising and capable
young Chippewa Indian, named Joseph Tuttle, was sent to Al-
bion, Michigan, by his friends in St. Paul, or by the Indian
missionary association, to be educated. He went through the
school course and graduated and returned to his native heath,
which was at Waukenauboo or Hill lake, about ten miles south
of Pokegama. He then married a young woman whom he had
known before he left, perhaps being engaged to her, and started
out to establish a nucleus of civilization and progressive life
among his native people. He built a two-story house down by
the junction of Willow river and the outlet of Hill lake, cleared
up a piece of ground, put in some fish traps, was the owner of
a good Winchester rifle, was a good hunter, and altogether was
an industrious fellow. His house was not very large, but suffi-
cient for himself and his family, if he could have been pro-


tected from the multitudes of relatives and friends who saw
no reason why, if he caught more fish than he needed for his
family for that day, they should not take the remainder.
When his corn was ripe or ready to eat, or his potatoes ready
to dig, there was not the slightest reason or good citizenship
in his raising any objections to his friends, relatives, and mem-
bers of the band, taking the remainder above the immediate
needs. Nor was there any reason why, when it came night and
any of them were short of blankets or wigwam room, to sleep
in, they should not occupy the floor of his house, and sometimes
even the second floor where he and his family were sleeping.
All the game that he secured, any rice that he had left over,
or sugar from his maple trees, must be subject to division, from
the natural rights of the others to share the product of his

Two years later I met him at Pokegama, living in a wig-
wam. He spoke perhaps the best English of any one around
the lake. He told me that the customs of the Chippewas were
absolutely a bar to progress and resulted in complete paralysis
of any ambition or industry being pursued by any members
of his band and race, that he had been compelled to abandon
his homestead where he had located, and that he had changed
his residence to Pokegama lake.

During the spring and summer and in later years in the
logging operations in that region, it was our custom to employ
the Indians so far as we could, as a policy, as well as from
necessity ; but we were quite disappointed by the fact that they
worked only a little while, then collected their pay, and went
off on a hunt and a resting spell. This was, as we found, be-
cause any further earnings that would leave a surplus above
their immediate needs must be divided among the neighbors or
other members of the band. In gathering rice in the fall, in
making sugar in the spring, the custom of the Indians was to
use this product to pay off the traders for supplies obtained
during the previous winter, and, to very great extent, to buy
back piecemeal, on credit at a much higher price, the rice and
sugar which they had sold to the traders for the double pur-
pose of settling their account and, if possible, to leave a sur-


plus that could be doled out to them during the winter, instead
of having to divide it up with their neighbors. .

We found that it was not indolence or lack of willingness
to work, which caused the Indians to live in poverty and want,
but from the inevitable outcome of the socialistic doctrine that
has prevailed in all tribal life, which in the long ages before
civilization began has made life a burden and a period of pov-
erty, hardship, and dire want, through the impossibility of any
person receiving the benefit of his own labor or enterprise.
My observations of these experiences among the Chippewas
were nearly duplicated also when carried to a trip of inspec-
tion in the South, where I found the same customs and habits
to a large extent prevailing, so that they keep the colored race
at the bottom and in general poverty, in place of being inde-
pendent farmers, mechanics, and workmen, living in comfort
and with the conveniences and advantages of life as their com-
mon inheritance.

In addressing a large school of over 1,200 negro boys and
girls in Montgomery, Alabama, not long ago, I said that social-
istic customs existing among them are the calamity of their
people ; the fact that no one could profit by his own industry
and build up a home and a fortune, because he was compelled
to divide up with his relatives and neighbors to that extent
that it became practically impossible to advance from a renter
to a landholder and prosperous citizen. Afterward the several
colored teachers came to me and in the most emphatic manner
expressed the view that I was the first one that had ever
seemed to. apprehend or understand the real cause underlying
the misfortune, poverty, and hard times of the colored people
of the South.

The next year but one, after Butler, Mills & Walker began
operations at Pokegama, the mills on the St. Anthony side
burned down and the firm of L. Butler & Company was organ-
ized while I was absent in the woods. They constructed a big
mill on the east side, and in this I became interested more par-
ticularly in selling stumpage to the new firm; and finally,
when it came along toward 1873, I saw the impending twenty-
years' panic coming and I withdrew from the business entirely,


refusing to retain any interest in the lumber business, from
which I had foreseen that our lumbermen could not stand the
competition with Canada, on a free trade basis. My partner,
Mr. Butler, at first agreed to join in at least suspending opera-
tions until better times, or to withdraw entirely from the fur-
ther manufacture of lumber. Afterwards he decided to con-
tinue, and the result was that the panic wasted almost his
entire fortune, which his will indicated to have been about one
million dollars.

In anticipation of the panic, for over a year before it came,
I used every feature of persuasion to induce Dr. Butler, my
then partner in the firm of Butler & "Walker, to withdraw and
to avoid that which I considered inevitable, under the circum-
stances existing in the lumber business, which, even at best
and in good times, gave but small margin of profit. When re-
verses came, they more than ate up any surplus profits above
the cost of living, that the lumbermen could secure from their
lumber business. At first he agreed to withdraw, but after-
ward made the matter worse by continuing on a less favorable
basis than before. He purchased my half interest in a consid-
erable amount of timber we owned jointly, which I let him
have at one dollar a thousand less than the amount that J. Dean
& Co. had rather urgently offered to pay for it. When the
panic came, I had no lumber, logs, nor any interest in any mill-
ing plant, but had paid off my debts and was free from all such
obligations, which w r ould otherwise have closed out my much
smaller capital and property interests.

The panic of 1873 broke down the nervous system of Dr.
Butler to that extent that he never rallied from it, and after
several months of prostration he died, ending a very strenuous,
active life.

In 1877 I joined with Major Camp, who had some surplus
capital, and began the Camp & Walker firm of buying timber
and selling logs. Sometime after this, Major Camp desired to
enter into the lumber manufacturing business, which I reluct-
antly went into, more on the policy which I have .always pur-
sued, of trying to adjust my views and the policy to be pur-
sued, as far as it appeared not too objectionable, to the wishes


and judgment of my partners, of whom I have had quite a num-
ber, including Henry T. "Welles, Franklin Steele, Levi Butler,
Major Camp, Herrick Brothers, Mr. Akeley, and one or two
others that I do not now name.

After my joining with Major Camp, it soon came to pass
that the J. Dean Pacific Mill was for sale at auction. By a
.thorough investigation of the value of the mill, machinery, and
outfit, for which we secured Mr. Menzel of Milwaukee to ex-
amine for us, and which was perhaps the beginning of his in-
terest in Minneapolis, where he located and spent the remainder
of his life, it was figured out that the mill and machinery were
worth about $90,000, and the real property $20,000 or $30,000.
When the auction sale began, there were gathered in the J..
Dean lumber office, next to the mill, the Harrisons, Deans, and
Mr. Johnson, who owned the big iron works adjoining the mill
property, and a considerable number of lumbermen, among
whom several had formed little organizations or associate inter-
ests to purchase the mill. Major Camp and I concluded that
we would bid up to about $80,000, and I was installed as bid-
der for Major Camp and myself.

The property was started off at $20,000, and then by bids
of one thousand it went up to $25,000 or $26,000; then by
500 's, to about $30,000 or $32,000; then by 100 's, coming very
slowly, it ran up to $35,000; and then, to my utter astonish-
ment, Major Camp came to me and said he did not care to go
higher, although we had agreed to go more than double that.
I said, "Very well," and continued on bidding; and as I was
in the back part of the house, near to where the owners were
sitting, the report was spread that I was just bidding up for
the owners, and not in good faith for myself. That seemed to
take the starch out of the bidders who had come there with the
same intention that Major Camp and I had, of bidding up to
$80,000, and tlx? final outcome was that it was struck off for
$37,500 to me parsonally.

The next day Major Camp came to me and said that, if I
was willing, he would be glad to take a half interest in the mill
and make use of it in manufacturing the logs from the timber
that we had secured. This established the firm of Camp &


Walker, which continued for eight or ten years, until I became
weary of trying to make a sufficiently profitable lumber manu-
facturing business by cutting only twenty millions of logs in a
season, when there was about as much overhead or general
expense as there would be in cutting forty or fifty million. As
Major Camp refused to go beyond the small cut, we decided to
sell the mill. I then embarked in the northwestern enterprise
of manufacturing lumber at Crookston and Grand Forks ; and
Major Camp withdrew or retired on a comfortable fortune and
property interests that we had together, including the Central
Market and the property around it, together with some timber-
land interests in the pineries.

The beginning of my lumber manufacturing on the Clear-
water river was owing to the fact of my having sold logs to
the lumber firm of Jarvis & Barridge of Winnipeg, who failed
to meet their payments so that I had to take security on the
lumber sawed and piled; and afterward, through the agency
of the banks in Winnipeg and Montreal, I closed out and se-
cured most that was due me and canceled off the balance.

As I had continued lumbering on the Clearwater river, I
began the construction of a mill at Crookston, in which I manu-
factured lumber from as many logs as the limited driving facili-
ties of the river would allow, until later when I constructed
another mill at Grand Forks, which I ran for several years.
After this later mill once burned down, I rebuilt it, and when
it was destroyed a second time I did not rebuild it, but gave
the millsite and boomage to the city and closed out the busi-

The plant at Crookston ran for some time afterward, and
then was sold to the Shevlin-Carpenter Company, who have
been running it from that time to this.

In 1889 a general agreement to sell my Minnesota timber-
lands to parties in Michigan was made, with terms, conditions,
and estimates arranged; and, presuming that the sale would
go through, I turned my attention to the western coast, to se-
cure there a tract of timber to continue lumbering after clos-
ing out here, more on account of my sons, who had all decided
to go into the lumber business. I began explorations of the


western timber from Montana through Idaho, Washington,
Oregon, and California. My many years' superintendent, Mr.
Kline, with many assistants, explored all of these states in a
general way, at least sufficiently to determine the advantages
of each ; but as the timber deal that I had arranged here fell
through, from serious misfortune in one of the families, I did
not follow up the western timber deal until 1894.

While I was in New York about 1890, my superintendent of
logging and general business man, Mr. F. J. Kline, who was a
graduate of Chicago University and was with me thirty-seven
years, telegraphed to me that a man from Michigan, Mr. Healy
C. Akeley, was looking for a location for a millsite at St.
Cloud, with a view of handling the Itasca Lumber Company's
timber that Mr. Turnbull had arranged for in northern Minne-
sota. I therefore wired Mr. Kline, to ask Mr. Akeley to wait
until I got home, as it would be a serious drawback to Minne-
apolis, and to the whole lumber interests, including himself, if
he should locate on the highway of our logs coming to Minne-
apolis, for which reason I urged him to wait until I could get
back home. I started immediately, and came back to Minne-
apolis. I had never heard of Mr. Akeley before. He lived at
Grand Haven, Michigan, and had been extensively engaged in
lumbering with parties in Chicago.

When I came, I went over the map with him, showing him
the misfortune that would come to all parties if he located on
the river where he would not be able to handle the four or five
hundred million of logs coming to Minneapolis, from which he
should sort out his, whatever amount it would be, which at
most would be only a fractional part. After talking this over
with him, he turned to me and said, "If I should come here, I
do not suppose that you would sell me an interest in your tim-
ber?" This was rather a stumper, as I had then not the slight-
est thought of selling to him or anybody else any interest in
the timber that I owned in that great area around Leech lake
and extending off beyond Itasca lake.

I did not know what to say, but I had been advising him to
come to Minneapolis and manufacture lumber here, so that I
said to him, "I have no timber for sale, at least have had no


intention of selling, excepting to sell logs or stumpage ; but if
you wish to buy a half interest in this large uncut tract, I will
sell it to you." Thereupon he asked how much timber there
was per acre, and how many acres there were. I had no map,
as I did not have any expectation of having to use it, so I ex-
plained to him about how much white pine and how much
Norway pine there was on the land, and made a general guess
only, as to the acreage, which was quite a large tract. He then
inquired when I would want him to pay. I told him that could
be arranged by making a sufficient cash payment and leaving
the remainder on a moderate rate of interest until it was paid
off. He then said, "I will see you about this tomorrow."

The next day I went back and carried a map and showed
him where the timber lay. The timber that I offered him was
in what was then a remote timber region, which my compet-
itors and friends in the lumber business had decided I needed
a guardian for locating, as they looked upon it as inaccessible
timber that would cost more to log and drive than it would be
worth when the logs were in the booms.

I told Mr. Akeley what these reports were, but explained
to him that there were practicable ways of handling the tim-
ber, and that it would soon be necessary to reach that more
distant timber in order to supply the mills with logs. He then
said that he would purchase a half interest in this timber at
the prices I named, and would pay me a very considerable sum
in cash and the balance in deferred payments, running over a
couple of years, if that would be satisfactory to me. I in-
formed him that that was entirely satisfactory and that he
could have the timber on those terms, and he said: "Very
well, I will take it." I then said, "I suppose you mean after
you have examined the timber;" and upon this he said, "Well,
you know what you are selling." I said, "Yes, but how does
that show to you what you are buying?" He then replied,
"As you have looked up the timber, 1 ! have looked you up, and
that satisfies me as to what I am buying."

We closed the deal, he paid me the money, and I gave him
a list of the lands, but he did not call on me for a deed for
twelve or fifteen years. He afterward expressed great regret


that lie did not confine his entire operations in Minnesota to
his dealings with me, as these have been very satisfactory and
profitable in place of the reverse in his other operations.

After several years of experience in the timber industry, I
found that the lumbermen on our side of the line could not
compete with Canada successfully, to make a reasonable profit,
excepting in the favorable years that came around occasion-
ally. The Canadian lumbermen were favored in quality of
timber and market facilities, and in special favors from their
government, while our lumbermen were handicapped by prej-
udiced treatment and discrimination, even to persecution for
practices that were freely given in Canada. Timber supply,
taxation, wages, and freedom of organized business and co-
operation, were all strongly in their favor and against us. In
seasons when the market had been overstocked by the floods
of lumber from Canada, bringing hard times and failure, it
made conditions for the lumber industry here the least favor-
able and the least favored, through adverse laws and their en-
forcement, and through public prejudice without just cause,
that pertained to any industry or occupation.


Online LibraryT. B. (Thomas Barlow) WalkerMemories of the early life and development of Minnesota → online text (page 2 of 3)