Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967) Memoirs: Logging; Sleigh Roads, Decking Riverbanks, Humbird and Weyerhaeuser


This continues the memoirs of pioneer lumberman Matt Hemmingsen. It is now the final decade of the 19th Century with our grandfather at the family homestead in northwestern Wisconsin. 

Part II ended in the drought stricken summer of 1894, a time of economic depression with raging forest fires. Like numerous settlers, Matt’s father, Ole, was burned out.

Matt’s draft memoirs do not tell all, nor do we know if our package is complete. He did not locate himself in what we have, nor identify some key players who had great influence in Part III and forward, so we shall provide some needed context.  


Those players were of the lumber barons whose business activity developed the industry in the Midwest, and as the resource depleted, moved it ever westward. Matt came to adulthood, eighteen in 1894, when the decade to come would see their operations peak in his vicinity.1

Hemmingsons were in Mason, Bayfield County, WI, close to Lake Superior and roughly 70 miles southeast of Duluth MN. Ole had left Norway in April 1882 for destination Cumberland WI, for Mason was just being mapped.2   On his demise in 1903, his first family, that with Berith, had passed, except for three children; Etta, Matt and Ed. They would soon be westward bound. 

As it was, John Alexander Humbird (1836-1911) and his White River Lumber Co. matched their timeline in Mason. In fact, Mason was established in the early 1880s on his account as the company town to his mill and timber stands.  Humbird sold these assets around 1905.Matt had favorably impressed “the old man”, who summoned him to one of his new enterprises. It was on Vancouver Island in British Columbia; the Victoria Lumber and Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

Humbird and Frederick Weyerhaeuser (1834-1914) were business associates and partners in the Midwest, Idaho, British Columbia, etc. 4 Matt’s path would be linked with these entrepreneurs, their descendants and subsequent enterprises whether as an employee, out on his own, or as a contractor.  

As the rugged individual stepped forth in the fall of 1894, Matt had endured his awful immigration event at eleven years of age, to embrace the death of his mother. The next ten years would take a sister, two brothers, his father and then his own dear, new wife. Yet, this sweet bruised soul with a fourth grade education would flourish and lead a big life.


Although Matt did not specify, the Humbird mill was lost in the fire. They did rebuild, but Matt says he “left home” in the fall of 1894. Perhaps he needed to find work farther away for a spell. However, while he was often at logging campsites, home base remained Mason for another decade. He will increasingly reference jobs in western states, reflective of the move of the forest industry, toward Pacific shores.


Decking of logs 12 to 24 feet long into piles 30 feet high and 100 feet long is described along with the role of the cant hook man. Matt was often described as a cant hook man, although he was experienced in every operation of logging, whether of the summer or winter aspect.  

Detailed plans such as for skid ways and cross hauls continued from one season to the next.

bbls: 1 fluid barrel = 31.5 US Gallons or 119 Liter. Capacity was 400 bbls.

Did the horse recall creating the skidway when hauling the logs?


The hook part of a cant or peavey grasps logs to roll or steer. Art was straddling logs while using the device.

The ravenous Matt would have appreciated his meals from the cookhouse flunkies having fulfilled that function at 12. 

We see the depression lifting with wages rising, although and extra $2/mo does not seem exciting today.


The Humbird family proved to be more than business associates. There were just over 1200 persons enumerated in the US Census for Mason in 1900. 5 Little Hedvig Pearson appeared on page 3, aged 8. Her husband-to-be decorated page 4; John Alexander Humbird (1888-1963), namesake of his grandfather. Matt and Ed Hemmingson were listed separately in lumbering camps on later pages, as was Ole, at his homestead, with his second family. It was comforting to see that more than a couple of siblings from Mason went west with Matt.

Grandson Humbird was a principal in the Victoria Lumber and Manufacturing Co at the time of its purchase by H R MacMillan, in the mid-1940s.1  By then, Matt Hemmingsen was on his own, and MacMillan would eventually consolidate to MacMillan and Bloedel. It was within this latter venture that Matt’s son, John, ascended. Now, Prentice Bloedel was the principal at the time of that merger, but his father, Julius. had migrated around 1890 from Fond du Lac WI. MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. became one of the world’s largest in forest products. Weyerhaeuser acquired it just before our millennium, such that the Wisconsin names that swept the Hemmingsen name to British Columbia had utterly transformed the Province itself.

Grandson Humbird and Matt Hemmingsen were residents of the Chemainus BC area where our father was born, and the men were brothers in local Masonic Temple Lodges.6 Matt’s brother Ed, as well. Ed was just 12 as Part III commenced; he would develop his lumberman skills, too. 

Sixty years or so passed since the Mason census, with Matt in his mid-eighties; it appears that he and Ed had paid the Humbirds a visit, who turned the event into a greeting card.

Matt and Ed Hemmingsen circa 1960 in a postcard from John and Hedvig Humbird.

We thank the Humbirds for this picture of Matt and Ed together. They aged well, as can be seen in comparison to the picture of the two at Matt’s first wedding in Mason; that to Caroline Dybedal. (see previous post).7 Life in full circle.

This ends Part III.  Part IV will describe Bunkhouse Lice, Wash Day, Logging Horse Welfare, and Matt the Log Loader.

Left: Hemmingsen Logging at Cowichan Lake B.C., ca. 1912. Matt emigrated from Norway in 1887, was logging in the Wisconsin woods at twelve and migrated to Vancouver Island in 1906. Our woods pioneer retired in 1946 after significant innovation. CLICK for our broader genealogy and Memoirs of Matt Hemmingsen (1867-1976).

Note and Sources

1 History of Minnesota’s Lake Superior: Northern Minnesota Lumbering (1870s to 1930s) 2 “Incorporated: Articles of Incorporation of the White River Lumber company”
3 The Hemmingsen Family Collection including “John O Hemmingsen/Mary Margaret Hemmingsen (Dickson)” authored 1999 by John Oliver Hemmingsen. All materials posthumously published here are copyright © Marilee Wein 2018-1019. All rights reserved.
4  Minnesota Historical Society, Archivegrid  Jacob and John A Humbird papers 1868-1893
5  The United States Archive and Record Administration (NARA) College Park MD. US Census 1900 for Mason, Bayfield County, WI – accessed at
6 Temple Lodge No. 33 Duncan BC specifically and
7 Posts published by Doublegenealogytheadoptionwitness at this blog are copyright © Marilee Wein 2018-1019. All rights reserved.


5 thoughts on “Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967) Memoirs: Logging; Sleigh Roads, Decking Riverbanks, Humbird and Weyerhaeuser

  1. This was interesting. One of my family members worked at Weyerhaeuser here in AR until he retired. They opened a new sawmill here in 2018.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s