Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Lumber Boom of Scammon Cove . . .

Kreetan Co. - successor to H C Johnson
Circa 1915 Two Engines - a Davenport and a Heisler
shown with their crews

In the fall of 1883 a large lumbering operation began in the small village known then as Scammon Cove. It was the genesis of what was eventually the largest sawmill on Drummond Island. Hitchcock and Foster, Chicago were the principal owners of the Island Cedar Company. Although the Island Cedar Company moved to Detour (DeTour) in 1890, Harold Johnson inherited the Island property and formed the H. C. Johnson Company at the Scammon Cove location.

            Map scanned and shared by Coni Craig

As the lumbering business was booming, so was the town of Scammon Cove - soon to be renamed Kreetan after one of it's most famous residents, none other than Maggie Walz (Kreeta [Margareeta] Kontra.

The H C Johnson company was eventually  acquired by Charles H. Wood, a prominent manufacturer of piano keys and actions with plants in Buffalo, NY and Rockford, IL. The company was re-named Kreetan Company with Charles H. Wood, president in 1916. The town was re-named John's Wood (Johnswood) during this same period - Maggie having disassociated herself from the town when a group of socialists took it over in 1914.

The sawmill poured out lumber ten hours a day, six days a week. The mill produced, in an average ten hour day, forty thousand board feet of hardwood lumber and sixty thousand in softwood, the “boxmill” production was in addition to that. There were numerous (8-20) lumber camps cutting 8, 12, and 16 foot logs for transport to the mill, and twenty to thirty miles of narrow gauge railroad was laid to transport the logs.

Photo courtesy of the MSU archives - Michigan narrow gauge lumber railsystems

The main railroad line went northeast toward Glen Cove with several spurs that went up north of Dry Lake, east to Marble Head and south, nearly to Bass Cove, to haul logs out to Scammon Cove. These logs were sawed into lumber at the mill in Johnswood and shipped out on sailing boats. In its heyday, Johnswood had a mill working two 10-hour shifts, a company store, a boarding house, a row of two-story houses, a row of one-story houses, a clubhouse, a silent-picture theater, a small hospital and was served by telegraph, a school, a post office and the above mentioned railroad.

Steamer J C Ford often hauled lumber on the Great Lakes

The mill caught fire in 1920 and by 1925 the Johnswood operations were shut down. Many of the settlers dismantled their homes to rebuild them in more fertile parts of the Island.

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