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Michigan's Historic Lumbering Days   

IN-PERSON: The Elderwise classroom at the Vineyard Church

Shanty Boys, Peaveys, and River Hogs: Michigan's Historic Lumbering Days
Late in the 19th century, Michigan had more millionaires than nearly any other state. Lumber was “green gold,” worth more than the gold from California’s Gold Rush. The names of those lumber barons are part of Michigan’s story: David Whitney, Arthur Hill, Henry Sage, William Atwood, Charles Hackley and Henry Crapo. In the peak year, 1880, Michigan provided one quarter of all of the timber cut in the United States. The way of life for lumberjacks, or shanty boys as they called themselves, was unique. Everything at the lumber camp had a name: widow-maker, Gabriel’s horn, river hogs, swampers, skidders, big wheel, log mark, and the most important person, cookee (the cook). Two of Rochelle Balkam’s great-grandfathers were Michigan shanty boys, and their lives tell the stories of that historic time. Rochelle Balkam taught history and government at Ypsilanti High School for 36 years. She taught Michigan history at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) for 27 years and at the University of Michigan for 4 years. Rochelle holds an M.A. degree in history and an M.S. in historic preservation from EMU. She is president of the Michigan One-room Schoolhouse Association. She formerly served on the board of the Historical Society of Michigan and as a member of the Washtenaw County Historic District Commission.



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