Friday, August 28, 2020

The Friday Link for 8/28/20

No I did not write anything this week.  I had to wade through the "fun" of the RNC while at the same time having my air conditioner go out in the house.  I got sweaty, and my temperament was less than fresh.

Let me tell you a story.  My family cabin in northern Minnesota is old, 110 years to be exact.  Initially the first industry of northern Minnesota was lumber.  When you see images of western towns built of wood, that wood came from Minnesota.  They would come into an area and lumber all the trees for miles, float the logs down rivers when applicable, but most of the time they had to build a train line out to get the logs and bring them to the mills.

After they cut down all the trees, they had a bit of a problem.  They had a ton of land which was relatively useless; treeless land in what was the middle of no where.  Anything which might have had mining potential was sold off, but they still had copious amounts of treeless land. 

What the lumber companies did was to go to the nearest local town and offer large swaths of treeless lakeside property to anyone who had any money.  You could buy a huge chunk of lakeside property for nearly nothing.  My great grandfather was a foreman for one of the mines in Virginia, MN and was offered the entire north side of a lake for near nothing.  He jumped at the opportunity.  

The piece of land he had included the old logging camp, the site where he built the cabin.  It was relatively level, with a little height over the lake.  The lumber company's train line ran through the property for about the first ten years he owned the place (something my great aunt used to tell my father about) as they were still logging further up the line. On a side note, my other great grandfather was (initially) the lumber company's doctor, before becoming the town doctor in Virigina.  He had a self powered medical train car which drove the tracks up to the individual camps.  My father told me that he had taken that car through my other great grandfather's property numerous times.

To get to the cabin initially it took a horse and wagon.  There was a service road cut through the wilderness which made the land accessible.  Starting with what is now the garage, they eventually built other buildings on the site, including a fairly nice cabin for the time.  They even had a tennis court, which was located in the area where the crane lifted logs onto the train cars.  You had to have had a flattened area to do that, and so after the lumber company had taken off, they cemented it over and had one of the first tennis courts in northern Minnesota.

A few years back, a kindly older gentleman stopped by to talk.  He asked if he could look at our property.  He was the local historian and was trying to track down the location of the old train lines.  I welcomed him and a friend to come visit.  He smiled as he walked the property, thrilled to have found the final piece of the train's path.  They knew where the old line had ended east of our place, and they knew which current county road took over the train's line just to the north of our place, but they had never seen where those two lines connected.  

It was an emotional moment when he finally found the train line's location, located on what is now the back road that loops around on our driveway.  He was the one who told us the tennis court had to have been where the log loader was, and even found the trail line spur which went to the tennis court area.  For this old guy, finding this final piece of the train line was the fulfillment of a lifetime of searching. 

Maybe that's why I instantly fell in love with the Australian Beau Miles' video on tracing an old trail line which had been abandoned years ago.  The line used to be a main connector of Australian towns but it eventually was shut down when cars and buses became the norm.  He illegally crosses A LOT of people's property, but the search is fun.  He runs what is basically a marathon in full clothes with a back pack and a shovel. WOW!

Explore your history. Fulfill your quests.  Have a great weekend everyone!

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