Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967) Memoirs: A Lumbering Bait and Switch.

Over the last several posts we saw that resource depletion around the Great Lakes was causing logging operations to move ever westward. Our Matt Hemmingson of Wisconsin ran river drives on the Upper Mississippi, and harvested logs in North Dakota. But the crushing death of his brother, Harry, in the woods of Minnesota late 1900, landed him right back home.

We left Matt in 1903, still in Wisconsin, mourning the loss of his father, Ole. At the same time, his expertise in lumbering was being recognized by way of elevation to supervisory roles.  Although detained by these sad events for several years – as well as to court some bliss – the optimist was about to begin his “go west” quest, anew.

Note: WordPress Reader does not display columns. Please click “Visit Site” to view the balance of this post where descendants have added side-by-side historical and genealogical data to Matt’s Memoirs.

THIS IS PART IX. A Lumbering Bait and Switch.

From Mathias Hemmingsen’s Memoirs1

“During the winter of 1903 and 1904 Camp 1 was the largest operation on the river, and when it was rumoured that old Pete was to be relieved of his duties there, speculation was rife as to whom of the several foreman would be the “lucky guy” to take his place. In September 1904 I was put in charge of Camp 6 but was transferred to Camp 1 to relieve the old foreman there. This move by the Company’s head was very resented by the older foremen, especially after the old man personally announced in public that the young man in Camp 1 produced the most, the best, and the cheapest logs, ever produced on the river.

Descendant Notes

The company was “White River Lumber Co.” with main sawmill in Mason WI. It was owned by the “old man” John Alexander Humbird, along with partner, Frederick Weyerhaeuser, as previously discussed.

In the last post, Matt told us that the “gigantic corporation” had entrusted a camp to run by him, the “young punk”.

In the latter part of the summer of 1904, the Company disposed of all its holdings to an eastern firm. The new company changed its method of operation first by building railroads throughout their timber holdings – thereby transporting all logs direct to the mills by rail, and second by eliminating sled hauls and river driving. Resenting any, and all changes in the logging procedure, I determined not to work for the new owners.

After being idle for two weeks, I had an offer from the C. Lumber Co. to manage their logging operations for them which I accepted.

Descendants finds this quit odd, and retro-recommends that Matt “get with the program” since rail logging is on the way.

One day, after working for this firm for 18 months, I had a telegram from my old friend and ex-owner of the IXL Co. (Humbird), offering a position in his lumber organization on the Pacific Coast. (Chemainus) I had an interview with him in St. Paul and he said “You don’t know the first thing about logging in the west, but I want you to go out there and learn, and when you are ready to take over I will make you our logging superindendent – your wages start now.”

US Census 1900 supports the St Paul MN meeting. “Old man” Humbird was resident of that city.2 (Humbird’s grandson John, was then resident of Mason WI as previously disclosed.)

Matt’s career was now well off the starting block.

I started for the West Coast and arrived at the destination on June 2, 1906. I had been married about one month before going west, which culminated in a sad honeymoon for my wife’s health began to fail on the way west. On September 1st we began on our way back home. She passed away in February with what the doctors called galloping consumption.”

Matt’s minimalist description of this tragedy disguises his caring soul – he placed his promising career, not on hold, rather, on backtrack -and not to place his dearly beloved in nearby hospice, rather to carry her home and to care for her, until she passed.


We celebrated Matt’s marriage, to Caroline Dybedal including her stunning wedding photos, in a previous post. That was May 17, 1905. We cannot know for sure, but we suspect a wee flower girl was Matt’s four-year old half-sister, Grace. We pray she had this joy, for she was gone in September. She was too soon followed by dear Caroline.

So, Matt Hemmingson, did indeed, make his way to the West Coast. Alas, we must leave him back home in Mason WI, once again.

THIS ENDS PART IX. Please offer questions or comments below.

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).

Notes and Sources

1 The “Memoirs of Mathias Hemmingsen – Victoria B.C.” is a 25-page volume dictated to his daughter Margaret Henrietta circa 1956. It is unedited and unpublished, and graciously provided by Mathias’ grandson, Matt via the Matt Hemmingsen Family Collection. This post covers pages 16b to 17. The work is protected here and published at copyright © 2018-2019. All rights reserved.

2 Document accessed at © 2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.: US Censuses 1900 from United States Archive and Record Administration (NARA) for Jno A. Humbird at Election District 5 St. Paul city Ward 7, Ramsey, Minnesota, United States. Accessed Sep 4, 2019.  

13 thoughts on “Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967) Memoirs: A Lumbering Bait and Switch.

      1. That’s amazing and fantastic work that your mother did. My mum had the second episode of TB while she was pregnant with me. Most doctors look at me with horror and wonder how I survived. This was the reason why we could never return to the USA despite the intention to.


      2. San Francisco, where I was born, and curiously I had lung problems as a baby. In my case, I had a congenital cyst that expands from time to time. Most recently it was the size of an egg in my chest cavity between my lungs and spine. Inoperable but now down to the size of a pea. I always test positive for TB…
        Look at us now with our own blogs! ❤️


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