| 03.18.2018

Learning about lumberjacks


UI Library holds event to honor logging culture, lumberjacks

These days, the lumberjack is commonly associated with bearded hipsters in red and black flannel, but in the past, loggers and lumberjacks played an important role in the development of northern Idaho.

To celebrate the culture and history of logging, the University of Idaho Library will host “Logging Day” Tuesday.

“This is really about the people of lumbering culture in Idaho,” said UI Library Special Collections Assistant Jordan Wrigley, who organized Logging Day. “We’re hoping to give people a really solid connection by showing them things … like the clothes that the workmen actually wore, and some of the artifacts there and a lot of the literature we have here — books and manuscripts groups and primary resources that we have here in the archives.”

Wrigley said logging has been a massive economic force in Idaho, particularly in northern Idaho, where many of the communities that exist today started as logging company towns. She said there are still some repercussions from the logging industry in these towns today.

“A lot of the towns are seeing issues with industry pullout and a lot of the men, who are often descendants of these men, and women who are descendants of these men, wind up jobless because they don’t have that industry in these towns anymore,” she said. “I think a lot of the skills that came with this sort of work are being lost — a lot of basic, physical task skills.”

Wrigley, who has a personal connection to logging in Idaho through her grandparents, said some people have kept part of the culture alive through events like “Lumberjack Days,” which involve physical competitions in things like log rolling, horizontal chopping and other contests in ways to break up wood.

She said she had no personal experience with what it was actually like to be a logger, but she knows it was dangerous and involved low pay.

“I’ve seen the pictures of my grandmother and grandfather’s house,” Wrigley said. “It was a one-room dirt floor cabin, and they shared a twin bed, and grandpa was out all day long and came home late at night, and it was way deep in the woods. My grandmother and her family were some of the first women in the logging camps who weren’t prostitutes, so it was a hard life, and I think it’s really gotten me grounded in northern Idaho.”

The events of Logging Day will start at 10 a.m., with a lecture from logging historian Sandra Goffinet. UI professor Kim Barnes will also read an excerpt from her memoir about growing up in logging culture.

Barnes said she and her family, including Wrigley — who is her daughter, have been strongly influenced by the logging industry.

“My memories, of course, are only idyllic,” Barnes said. “This was up on the north fork of the Clearwater, and it was extraordinarily isolated. They would hook these little 8′ by 20′ shacks with no running water or electricity, to the back of the logging truck, and then we would circle them. They’d clear an area, and it was like pioneering.”

Wrigley said she thinks the stories that come from logging are important, especially considering the way loggers and lumberjacks helped develop northern Idaho.

“The men and women who were part of the history of logging were remarkably cool people, and there are some stories to be heard about this,” Wrigley said. “I think it’s fascinating, just even looking at these artifacts. It’s fascinating to look at what they had.”

Daphne Jackson can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @DaphneNJackson

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