Our discovery of 100 year old logs and how we bring them full circle to your home

At Vince's Tree, we got started with tree services, but have expanded our offerings into creative wood work, and in 2018 purchased our own sawmill to mill, treat, and plane logs for additional uses. But sometimes, new ventures present interesting discoveries.

In Summer 2018, we came across some logs with some odd markings. We've been obtaining logs from the Mississippi River, and to our amazement, we found that some logs are over 100 years old!

These photos were taken showing the ax marks. From my research, loggers would make certain ax marks to mark their registered stamp so they could keep track of them as they floated them down the Mississippi to the logging mills as far away as southern Minnesota.

The ax marking was no longer used after 1910 - so these logs are over 100 years old AT LEAST.

Logging was started in the early 1850's, and a law which required that all log marks be ax-mark-recorded before the logs bearing them could be moved was passed in 1858.

SO.... This log has the potential to be as old as 160 years old !!

After all these years floating in the river, we've rescued them from the Mighty Mississippi River to finally be cut into lumber to have a new life as lawn chairs or end tables, or whatever authentic wood furniture we can build for you.

After all, who do you know that has wood furniture built from 100 year old logs?

The Old-Time Logging Industry That Started The Timber Boom In Minnesota

When you look at Minnesota you already know that it is the land of a thousand lakes. However, this is also a state that has a lot of trees and woods that are simply amazing. With so many trees, this is a state that actually was an old time lumber boom area in the mid-to-late 1800's into the early 1900's.

The logging industry in Minnesota would not really start until the 1830s when the then-young USA would start to be settled by the different pioneers of the area. The first real harvest of the trees would be the favored white pine and would be harvested along the bands of the rivers and creeks that are abundant in the area. This would actually lead to the first mill formation in St. Croix.

The second mill would come just a few short years later and this would lead to the foundation of what would be a very profitable industry at the time. When you look at the second mill you will find that it was actually found in Stillwater and this helped this region of the state grow into the higher levels that it wanted to be at as well.

Around this time, a third boom set up around Brainerd. The dense and lush forests of the area were perfect for logging, and perhaps coincidentally led to the legend of Paul Bunyan, who was a fictional character but probably had a grain of truth since the Brainerd loggers were known for their strength and efficiency in clearing trees in record time.

In 1910, the industry would start to have some issues as well. The industry would actually start to move out further because of the fall in lumber production and they would start to go towards the Pacific Northwest. So this was definitely a major change for the state. Some of this drop was from the invention of the extra steam power that would lead to bigger mills and an easier way to satisfy the demand of products.

In the more modern times, the logging industry was able to start to move out and moved to the Pacific Northwest. This allowed the forest of Minnesota to recover from the issues they had of over-logging. With this recovery people were able to start to have some small scale lumber operations starting back up, but not at the demand it had in the middle of the 1800's.

Did the Paul Bunyan legend start in Brainerd?

The Brainerd Lumberjacks are now the name of a football team, but a century ago they were true lumberjacks that played a major role in local logging. The job was a hard one that was well known for requiring the work of men with a great deal of strength and stamina. In some legends regarding Paul Bunyan it is asserted that he was born in the town of Brainerd, Minnesota, but other legends give various birthplace as well.

As is true with any mythological figure and story, it is not exactly clear where the stories regarding the life of Paul Bunyan originated. Those that have studied the tales suspect they began in the Midwest where most of his exploits were said to have taken place but in the end these assertions are no more than educated guesses. There will never be an answer to this question due to the nature of how the stories were first told and shared.

It is known that these stories were created by men in the lumberjack community who were often also travelers. Due to the fact that they would travel to one camp and then another to find work, they were able to spread the myth of Paul Bunyan all over the country. The stories were told by word of mouth for quite sometime before ever being put into print.

The first known printing that referenced Paul Bunyan was an advertisement in 1916 that was created by William Laughead. His depiction of Bunyan was in line with what was said of him in the countless stories that had been told. He as a larger than life figure that had an ox as his pet and companion.

This use of the character led to the popularization of a group of stories that had previously only been told in certain circles. Many people saw the fascination children had regarding these stories and continued to embellish them. In the oral stories Bunyan was typically described as being an extremely tall man that had performed amazing physical feats. The new books and movies created went far beyond that. He became a man that was larger than possible for any human being. In some cases he was taller than trees.

Some natural wonders in the United States are even attributed to him in both the oral stories and the others that were later created. One story claims that he is single-handedly responsible for the clearing of the trees in the Midwest. Another says that the Grand Canyon was created when he was dragging his ax behind him as he walked. There are many more stories of this nature that have been widely shared with children to explain geography that was likely unexplainable to those that told them.

Like the myths that were told by men, there is and was no consensus on what traits were actually possessed by the character. Even his ox has been said to be both blue and pink. One thing that is known is that his character is one that is enjoyed to this day by youth and adults around the world.

It will likely never be known if anyone existed that began the stories of Paul Bunyan or if was completely mythical in nature. Some will assert to this day that he was born in Brainerd, Minnesota and while that will never be able to be proven with any certainty, there will be those that will hold that as the area's claim to fame. There, however, is no doubt stories of Paul Bunyan will continue to hold the attention of Americans long into the future.