Vanguards of the Frontier: A Social History of the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains from the Earliest White Contacts to the Coming of the Homemaker

By Everett Dick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
THE FRUIT OF THE FOREST

NATURE endowed our country with remarkably rich natural resources. Not least among these were the incomparable forests which covered a large portion of the continent. One of the richest pine regions of America lay in the upper Mississippi Valley in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. As early as the thirties the conquest of the forests of this region began, and lumbering takes its place as one of the frontier industries along with mining and ranching.

In the earlier days the logger paid no attention to the ownership of the land or the timber. Like the grasses on the Plains a generation later, the forest was open range, and first come first served was the rule. It was argued that squatters who cut the timber on these uncared-for lands were conferring a benefit upon the United States Government, for they were opening the country for settlement and cultivation and were the true vanguard of civilization. The squatters argued, furthermore, that they were pioneers occupying the public domain under an endowed right as cit.izens inheriting their interest in the government.

The United States officials, learning of this wholesale theft in the name of patriotism and natural rights, sent timber agents to investigate and report regarding the exploitation of the natural wealth of the public domain. Steps were then taken to stop the widespread appropriation of these resources of the nation.

This opened the way for the speculator. Enterprising citizens of Maine, profiting by their past experience in the lumber business and sensing the unprecedented opportunity in logging on this new frontier, hastened to buy extensive tracts. They allowed them to

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