At just half past two o’clock, Friday afternoon, June 12, 1914, the last log passed through the sorting works of the St. Croix Boom Company. Captain W. F. McGray, who hitched the first log that passed through the works in the year 1856, who was employed by the Boom Company for fifty years, during the majority of which he was the efficient superintendent of the works, having at times four to five hundred men under him, also hitched the last log.
– Stillwater Gazette, June 17, 1914
The logging era in the St. Croix River region looms large today. The lumber mills, mansions, dams and camps are well-known landmarks. Stories of this industry and its impacts, from the wannigans to the great fires, are some of the most enduring in the region.
Logging in fact lasted a relatively brief span of time – so short that the same man rode the first and last logs that passed through the St. Croix Boom north of Stillwater. But its impacts are felt today, a century after it effectively ended. At its peak, the logs covered nine miles of the river upstream. All told, it handled more than 15.5 billion feet of trees, mostly white pine.
“The St. Croix Boom Site was the earliest, most important, and longest-lived of the major log storage and handling areas in Minnesota,” writes Dave Thorson of Down to Earth Tours in a recent article. “From its opening in 1856 and until 1914, the St. Croix Boom served as the terminal point for the great Minnesota log drives down the St. Croix River and its tributaries.”
Each year for almost six decades, millions of logs were stored, sorted, scaled, measured, and their ownership determined. Then, “fitting-up crews” would form the logs into rafts and send them down the river to the mills at Stillwater.
The final log passed through the St. Croix Boom at 2:30 p.m. on June 12, 1914. An event next week will commemorate this influential era on the 100th anniversary of its culmination.
The event, organized by Washington County Historical Society, St. Croix River Association, and Friends of the St. Croix Boom Site, and promoted by Down to Earth Tours, will feature speakers and festivities:
A celebration of this centennial will be observed at the Boomsite Wayside on June 12, 2.75 miles north of the stoplight in Stillwater on Highway 95. The program starts at 2:30. Public participation in this historic remembrance and centennial celebration is encouraged. Come early and enjoy the festivities with other lovers of history, the St Croix River, and its watershed.
- Marc Hugunin, Friends of the Boomsite
- David Grabitske , Minnesota Historical Society
- Chris Stein, National Park Service
- Erika Rivers, Minnesota DNR
- Danette Olson, Representing the National Heritage Area Initiative
RSVP by June 6, 2014 – firstname.lastname@example.org