• jodiperras

Minnie's Diary #26: Strawberries, 4th of July and Flooring for National Parks



Sunday, July 3 - Went out picking strawberry. Del called in evening.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan


The Gamache strawberry patch may have been small, but it was well-tended. Minnie and her mother, Aurora, made sure they mulched the patch every fall with straw and manure to protect the plants during the winter freeze. In the spring, they cultivated between the plant rows to keep the grass and weeds away. They nurtured the runners from the strongest plants and hoed out plants that weren’t needed. By late June, the plants burst forth with white berries that slowly ripen to juicy, red fruit.

After the sun had dried the dew off the berries, Minnie went out to pick the first crop. The harvest wasn't enough to can, but plenty for strawberry shortcake after dinner, served with whipped cream, fresh from their milk house.

“There is nothing so delicious to the palate or so luscious to the eye as the great and ever red-tinted strawberry. There is something about the fruit that softly lulls a man’s sense to rest, and nothin sounds quite so appetizing as an order of “One shortcake; whipped cream, please.”

— The Argyle Atlas, Argyle, Wisconsin, July 1, 1904




-- From Farm Journal, May 1904.

Del came to call after supper, telling Minnie about the family project his dad had everyone working on today: decorating a hay wagon for the Fourth of July parade.


“He brought out some empty milk cans and some straw from the barn. Perm and Albert painted them red-white-and-blue. Ma decorated the wagon with bunting and flags. Tomorrow, they’re putting two calves on the wagon with Jennie, Laura and the granddaughters — Clara and Flora. Perm is going to hold baby Marilda,” Del said.


The Paquins had worked most of the afternoon on the wagon, even though it was Sunday, a day of rest.


“It wasn’t really work,” Del said. “Ma had us saying the rosary and some novenas while we worked.”


“Ah, a holy loophole!” Minnie said with a smile.


Minnie and Del sat for a while on the porch, enjoying the summer evening.


“Would you like to go to town with me tomorrow?” Del asked.

“I don’t think so,” Minnie said. “But I’ll see you at Henry’s barn dance.”


 

Short Cake


2 cups sifted flour

3 tbsp. sugar

4 tsps. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup milk

Fruit in season


Heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake 10 to 12 min. Serve with fruit and whipped cream (sweetened).


— Traditional recipe from the collection of Hanna Christensen Benson, Nadeau, Mich.

 

A French Fourth of July


Monday, July 4 - Celebrated in Henry’s barn. Had a circus.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan


Hermansville may have had its parade and contests, but the Frenchpeople had just as much fun at Henry Zimmerman’s barn. Henry and his wife, the former Delvina Raiche, lived just down the road from the Gamache farm. Henry worked as a foreman at the flooring mill in Hermansville. He also kept a small farm, with hopes to leave the flooring mill someday and be his own boss.


“Welcome, welcome. We are all proud to be Americans today, eh?” Henry said, greeting his neighbors from the French-Canadian “Camp Seven” settlement. Born in German-speaking Switzerland, Henry was one of the few non-Frenchmen in the settlement, but his 1897 marriage to Delvina Raiche had made him part of the family.




-- Henry and Delvina (Raiche) Zimmerman. Photo Credit: Patti Anderson.


As a foreman, Henry earned $2.25 per day at the flooring mill, where he was responsible for a year-round crew that filled orders for maple flooring from around the country. All winter and spring, they had been rushing to finish a special order for a new, rustic lodge at Yellowstone National Park. “Old Faithful Inn” boasted electricity, steam heat and indoor plumbing. While much of the rustic wilderness lodge was constructed with Wyoming pine and stones, the builders wanted the IXL maple flooring from Hermansville for its beauty, durability and ease of installation.

Even after the Yellowstone order was complete, men were working 11- and 12-hour days to keep up with demand. Seems every building in the Midwest and beyond wanted IXL flooring.

Today, though, the mill stood idle for the Fourth of July holiday.


Of course, the men wouldn’t get paid for the day off. Companies only paid men for the days they worked. But with so many of them working 66- or 72-hour weeks, their pay this month wouldn’t be less than last month’s.

Trade unions had been organizing since the 1860s to shorten the 10-hour work day to 8 hours, but with limited success. Workers in New Zealand had fought and won the right to paid holidays, a six-day, 48-hour workweek, and pensions in their old age.

--Appleton Post, Appleton, Wisconsin, 23 Jun 1904


Not so in the United States, where lumber companies demanded a 10-hour day, six days a week. If they worked overtime, they earned the same rate of pay. Lumberjacks and mill workers in Hermansville had no “sick days.” No paid vacation. No paid holidays. No pensions.

But that didn’t stop them from celebrating a rare day off in a country most had adopted, because it was better than life in the old country.


A Hermansville Fourth of July


This morning began with a parade, with each nationality marching with their home country’s flag and America’s flag.

Afterward, a crowd gathered in front of the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company office, where the Methodist Episcopal Church pastor, the Rev. William Roberts, opened with a prayer. The company engineer, Edwin Radford, read the Declaration of Independence from the steps. Dr. George Washington Earle, the company CEO, gave a short speech.

“I don’t have to tell you that this has been a busy time for the company,” Dr. Earle said. “We’ve been working long hours to keep up with demand. Earlier this summer, the Old Faithful Inn opened at Yellowstone National Park. All the flooring in the beautiful lobby is our best IXL maple. And now we’re working overtime to supply flooring for the El Tovar Hotel being built on the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.


“The IXL maple flooring cannot be beat. We ship nothing but the perfect flooring — so perfectly matched it needs no dressing or planing after it’s laid. Every top architect asks for our patented flooring. Builders know just what amount of flooring to buy because it will be all ready to lay. We’ve eliminated waste at the building site by removing all knots and other defects at the mill. The flooring leaves here perfectly polished, butted, end-matched and bundled to protect all polished surfaces in shipping. I want to thank you all for staying true our company motto: ‘I-X-L. I Excel.’


“You all should be proud — whether you work in the flooring mill, shingle mill, general store, the schoolhouse or on a local farm. Hermansville is providing flooring and woodwork for not only our national parks, but gymnasiums, auditoriums, hotels, stores and fine homes across our nation and the world.

“Today, on our nation’s birthday, let’s celebrate our beautiful village, our great country and say a prayer for our leaders, especially President Roosevelt, who has been nominated by the Republican Party to continue as leader of our country. And for Governor Bliss. God bless them and God bless America.”



-- Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company headquarters, now the IXL Museum,

Hermansville, Mich. Photo source: Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0

<https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


The crowd applauded loudly. A few men whistled their approval. In the back, a few men grumbled about the long hours with low pay, but most couldn't hear them. A choir of schoolchildren sang the Star-Spangled Banner, and everyone joined in, followed by “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”


Then the fun really took off. The crowd laughed as competitors made a mess of themselves during the pie-eating contest. They cheered while watching races for boys and men: the three-legged race, sack race, potato race and plain-old foot races. They rooted for their favorites during a tug-of-war between workers from the flooring mill and the shingle mill. They shouted encouragement as boys tried to climb a greased pole.


The highlight, though, was the log-rolling contest in the No. 2 mill pond. Two by two, the best lumberjacks climbed on a pine log and set it spinning. The jack who stayed atop the rolling log the longest was the winner. By a process of elimination, two Frenchmen — Sam Grenier and Joseph Rochon Jr. — survived to the final contest, with Sam the victor.


Hourra pour le gagnant!” the French people cried. “Hooray for the winner!”


All afternoon, the Methodist women served ice cream, cake, sandwiches and coffee from a tent near the C&NW depot. No liquor was officially served, but most men knew where to find it.


The French Celebrate at Henry and Delvina’s


Minnie didn’t venture into town for the community festivities. Instead, she walked to Henry Zimmerman’s nearby barn with her father, mother, and brothers to celebrate with their French Canadian neighbors.


The beer from the Menominee Brewing Co. flowed. All the women brought a covered dish to share.


After dinner, the fiddle and accordion played jig after jig. Minnie danced most every dance. Later, they shot off fireworks to celebrate America’s 128th birthday.


Though it was full of contradictions and divisions, the United States of America was still worth celebrating.

Back to Work



Tuesday, July 5 - Went to Hville and called on Myrtle’s. Had a letter from A.F.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan


At her friend Myrtle’s home, Minnie caught up on all the festivities in Hermansville the day before. The sawmill and flooring mill were humming again with nearly 600 men at work. Trains pulled out of the yard, filled with IXL flooring and heading south to Wisconsin and Illinois or west to Kansas, Arizona and other states. The lumber yard was piled with freshly cut wood, drying in the sun or waiting for space in the kilns so it could be made into flooring, ready-to-install windows and doors, or cedar shingles.

“What a sight,” Minnie thought, as though she were looking at it for the first time.


-- Hermansville, Mich., 1903 postcard from author's personal collection



Minnie’s friend Arthur Frechette worked in a similar sawmill in Michigamme, not far from their hometown of Champion in Marquette County. His short note described the long hours spent working for the F.W. Read Co. and his lack of time to do anything else.

When he did have time to spare, he enjoyed watching the Michigamme men play baseball. They’d recently beaten L’Anse 17-5.


“Some preachers want to shut down Sunday baseball, but I think the town knows that would be a mistake,” Arthur wrote. “I sure do miss you. Write back soon.”


Delivered Larkin Soap




Wednesday, July 6 - Went to pick strawberries. Pick 10 quarts. Went and deliver my soap. Perm came.

After picking more strawberries and taking them to her mother for canning, Minnie delivered soap orders to all her customers. Del’s 14-year-old sister, Permelia, came along for a ride.


“Ooh, look how beautiful this bottle is.”


“Smell this Modjeska lotion!”


“I didn’t think I’d ever say it, but I can’t wait for wash day.”


Minnie smiled. Her customers were happy. She was happy.


A Young Woman Asks Questions


“Do you like selling soap?” Perm asked Minnie as they rode to another home.

Oui. Yes, I do,” Minnie said. “These are good products that women need. And I can earn some money and premiums for myself.”

“Why do you need money? Doesn’t your Pa provide what you need?”


Oui,” Minnie said. “But it’s good for a woman to be able to provide for herself, don't you think?"


"That's not what Pa says."


"No?"


"He says a woman's place is in the home, taking care of her husband and her children."


"You’re a good daughter. You’ll be a good wife and mother someday. But you should always be able to think for yourself and have a way to support yourself, if something happens to your husband.”


“I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle that,” Perm said.


“Oh, you’d be surprised at what we women can do, if we put our minds to it."


With her elementary school education, Perm was destined for domestic life. Minnie knew that's what the schools in rural America offered. Farm girls and boys needed to learn the basics of reading and writing, but they didn't need higher learning. Unlike girls in the city, who could earn a high school diploma and find better work before she married and raised a family.


"We have great faith in the average American girl. When she marries she fully intends making her new home all that it ought to be, and if she failed nine times out of ten it is not because she did not try to do her duty. When we stop to consider under what circumstances the great majority of girls undertake home-making, the wonder is that they succeed as well as they do. From the school room they go directly into some line of business, usually entirely foreign to housekeeping. That a girl who has been stenographer, bookkeeper or school teacher during the period between her school days and her wedding day is able to adopt herself to varying conditions as to keep house at all is but another argument in her favor."

-- Faith in the American girl, Menominee County Journal, Stephenson, Mich., July 9, 1904

More and More Strawberries




Thursday, July 7 - Went pick strawberries. Pick 12 qts.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan


After picking another crop, Minnie helped her mother with canning. It was a hot and sticky job, but the taste of mid-winter strawberry sauce would be their reward.



-- The Lake Geneva Herald, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 08 Jul 1904


The Joy and Toll of the Garden



Friday, July 8 - Worked in the garden.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan


Garden work was never done.


Weeding. Hoeing. Watering. Thinning. Trimming. Harvesting. Preserving.


The rewards, though, were priceless. Fresh peas, radishes and lettuce in the spring. Beans, zucchini, tomatoes and corn in summer. Berries, rhubarb and apples for pie. Summertime was the best time.


Except for the heat. And the bugs. And the aching back. And the blisters.


— “The Independent Farmer,” Sturgeon Bay Advocate,

Jun 4, 1904, via newspaperarchive.com


Minnie's Premium



Saturday, July 9 - Went to Hville and got my chiffonier.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan


Minnie’s work selling soap had paid off with her first premium from the Larkin Soap Company. For every $10 in orders, Larkin provided a variety of "gifts" to its customers, including desks, tables, chairs, sewing tables and other furniture.


Hitching Clem to a cart, Minnie drove to town to pick up her solid oak chiffonier from the depot. Pa helped her carry it upstairs to her bedroom, where she filled the five drawers with her few items of clothing and other precious junk.


She beamed, knowing that she had earned the chiffonier herself. She didn’t have to ask for a handout from Pa. It wasn’t handed down from a neighbor. This lovely chest of drawers with its shining oak finish was brand-new. And it was hers. She would treasure it forever.



Notes and Further Reading


Note to Readers: Minnie's Diary is part history and part fiction. While my great-grandmother's diary entries and the news clippings are real, the rest comes from my imagination and research into life in Hermansville, a company lumber town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula 1904. For more about Minnie and her family, read this introductory page elsewhere on this website.


I've made it easier to comment on posts and always welcome corrections and comments from readers. Don't forget to subscribe to my blog at the bottom of the page if you want to make sure you see every installment of Minnie's Diary. I'll send you an email each time I publish a new post, about once each week or two. I will never sell or share your contact information with other individuals or companies.


-- Jodi Perras, Minnie's Great-Granddaughter


Website Changes: In addition to making it easier for guests to comment, I've removed the Forum and Membership pages from my website because they weren't being used. Originally, I thought the site might spark conversations and sharing of information about Menominee County history, but Facebook already provides several forums for that. Some of my favorites are Historical Menominee and Marinette Counties, Historic North Menominee County Michigan, You Know You Grew Up in Hermansville if..., and French Canadian Heritage of Upper Peninsula.


New Characters: Minnie mentions a July 5 visit to Hermansville to call on “Myrtle’s.” I haven’t been able to figure out who Myrtle was. I couldn’t find anyone with the first or last name of Myrtle in either Hermansville or Champion, Michigan, in the 1900 or 1910 census records in ancestry.com or family search.org. After searching quite a bit, Myrtle remains a mystery to be solved later.


Henry and Delvina (Raiche) Zimmerman lived on a farm just over the hill from the Gamache farm. Henry was born in 1874 in Switzerland and married Delvina in Spalding, Michigan, in 1897. As a foreman at the flooring mill, Henry played an important role in getting quality maple flooring out the door. Delvina was the daughter of Frank and Christina (Duby) Raiche. Thanks to their granddaughter, Patti Anderson, for furnishing photos of Henry and Delvina (above) and their farm (below). Based on the type of construction, I think the large barn was built after 1904. The house would have been there in 1904, though.




Permelia Paquin, Del's sister, has appeared before in the diary, but this week she has a heart-to-heart conversation with Minnie about her future. When I researched Perm's life, I found out she stayed single until June 1909, when at age 20 she married Wilford (or Wilfred) Ducharme, a Hermansville blacksmith. By 1920, they were living in Norway, Michigan. By 1930, though, Permelia and Wilford had divorced and she was living in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, with her seven children. The oldest, 20-year-old Ruby, was working as a waitress and the rest were in school. By 1940, Perm was still in Manitowoc with her two youngest sons, 16-year-old Roger and 14-year-old Roland, and two school-age grandchildren. She was a housekeeper with no other sources of income. Her ex-husband lived in a Milwaukee boarding house with 30 other men, and had been out of work for more than seven years. Although the days of the horse had long passed, Wilford was still a blacksmith who had done work in sewer construction. Perm died in May 1940 at age 51 in Manitowoc. We read about how hard the Depression of the 1930s was, but here's a living example of a single mom surviving without an obvious source of steady income. I wonder if her older children sent money or if the family survived through charity and government assistance. She must have looked back wistfully on those happier days on her parents' farm outside Hermansville.


4th of July: I haven’t found any first-hand accounts of the Hermansville 4th of July festivities in 1904, although in later years they always had a big parade featuring bands and different immigrant groups marching. For this week’s blog, I looked at news stories of Independence Day celebrations in nearby Stephenson, Crystal Falls and Ingalls, Michigan. I hope you enjoy some of those stories below.



-- The Diamond Drill, Crystal Falls, Michigan, July 2, 1904.


The Fourth of July in Stephenson, Michigan:

-- Menominee County Journal, Stephenson, Mich., July 9, 1904


IXL Flooring: The description of the IXL flooring comes primarily from the Hermansville history, "Hermansville From the Beginning," written by long-time company executive Charles M. Case in 1925 and published by the IXL Museum in Hermansville. Another good source is Theodore J. Karamanski's Deep Woods Frontier: A History of Logging in Northern Michigan, available on-line (see page 147). Also, see Upper Peninsula of Michigan: A History, by Russell M. Magnaghi. Several accounts mention that IXL flooring was used in the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park and a "lodge" at Grand Canyon National Park.


I suspect the "lodge" was the El Tovar Hotel, built on the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 1904. The Old Faithful Inn began construction in 1903 and opened June 1, 1904. Both the Old Faithful Inn and the El Tovar Hotel resembled rustic hunting lodges and were built primarily with materials from their local environment — pine logs, gnarly branches and local rocks. But you couldn’t find durable maple flooring out West, so the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company in Hermansville filled that need. While it needs more research, I’d bet there’s some correspondence or record at the IXL Museum that would include a flooring order for the El Tovar Hotel.


At one point in the early 1900s, the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. was the largest wood flooring company in the United States. Architects wrote "IXL or equivalent" in building contracts. The company shipped carloads of flooring to dealers around the country. The post office once delivered a letter to the Wisconsin Land and Lumber Company that was simply addressed: "IXL Lumber Company, U.S.A ."


Working Overtime: The payroll log for July 1904 shows that many of the year-round workers were working 11- and 12-hour shifts. Men didn’t get paid time-and-a-half for overtime, as hourly workers do today. If they worked a 12-hour day, the payroll bookkeeper converted the hours into 10-hour-day equivalents and pay the men at the end of the month based on the per-day rate. You can see an example below. Employee #91, Jacob Rodman, worked 25 12-hour days, or 300 hours. That converts to 30 days at his daily rate of $1.10, giving him a $33 wage for July. If he were working today’s 8-hour, 5-day schedule and getting time-and-a-half for overtime, he would have earned $23.10 regular wage for 21 work days (including a paid holiday off) plus 132 hours overtime at $1.65 per day, or $27.23 in overtime, for a total monthly wage of $50.33. Mary Doria Russell’s excellent 2019 novel, The Women of the Copper Country, documents the fight for an 8-hour day in the Michigan copper mines. Their slogan: "Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest and eight hours for what you will.”



-- Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. Payroll Records, from the collection of the

Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Lansing, Mich.


In the payroll book, you can see Henry Zimmerman’s July record at the bottom of the page (Employee #120). As a foreman, he was working standard 10-hour days (shown as a “1” in each square). He also took July 5 off, the day after his barn dance. Henry earned $2.25 a day, or $54 for the month of July. Expenses, such as rent, general store charges, oil, etc., were also deducted from the men's pay.

The Library of Congress has a nice summary of the movement to establish an 8-hour work day, which began in 1866. It wasn’t until the 1930s that Congress mandated the 40-hour standard work week. After many years of trade union work to establish the 8-hour day, Henry Ford played a role by establishing the 40-hour work week in his factories in 1926.


Another interesting source on this topic is this Bureau of Labor Statistics report: Wages and Hours of Labor in the Lumber, Millwork, and Furniture Industries, 1890 to 1912 : Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, No. 129. It shows Michigan had 27,400 employees in lumber manufacturing in 1905. The report describes the different jobs in a lumber mill. The average worker worked 60.6 hours a week in 1907. Laborers made $1.60 to $1.80 per day, with sawyers and other high-skill workers earning up to $5 a day.


Strawberries: Who doesn’t love the taste of fresh, local strawberries? They are so much better than the California variety that gets shipped across the country. In those days before widespread refrigeration and freezers, women canned a strawberry sauce, often sealed with paraffin wax. My mom remembers her mother, Hanna Benson, making strawberry sauce and canning it. The old-time shortcake recipe above is from my Grandma Benson's recipe collection.



Although strawberry seasons has passed, I hope you're enjoying some late summer or early fall produce this week. We just picked up some apples from the farmer's market and will be having them for lunch.


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