St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Planting Pine Trees 50 years ago

Working on the Cushing Fire Department History--1963 beginnings, I ran across some interesting items in the 1963 treasurer's receipts.   Two were related to me!  One was a $10 bill submitted for 4 boys and their mother spending 2 days brushing, cleaning and mowing the Pioneer Cemetery out on Evergreen Av (the Bush Cemetery) and the other was a bill submitted for a week of planting Red Pines for the town of Sterling.  

Sterling Township ordered 20,000 jack pines and 10,000 Norway Pines through the WI state nursery at Gordon WI Feb 20, 1963.  The Jacks were 2 year old and the Red pines 3 year old. 

Sterling rented the Polk County tree planter (a pull behind plow/seat where you dropped trees into a furrow) to plant the 20,000 Jack Pines.  

Sterling paid Russ Hanson and Walter Dahl $45 each to spend 4.5 days planting the 10,000 Red Pines.   1,000 trees per day was considered a full day's work.  We got $1.25 per hour.  Russ took off school days to earn the money.  He spent it on a telescope mirror for a 6 inch reflector telescope he was building.  

The Sterling letterhead in those days showed with pride the 4000 acres of Sterling Forest land.  Much of this was land that had been acquired from folks who no longer paid the taxes in the Depression years.   Polk County acquired a great deal more land.  Sterling Town has the largest town forest in all of Wisconsin.  It is open to all sorts of recreational activities along with timber harvest.

We planted trees in two different places.  Both were old fields that had been farmed in the heyday of barrens farming back in the 1870s-1900.  The thin topsoil was soon exhausted of fertility and the dry years in the 1890s caused a great deal of sandstorms on the open land.  The farmers moved on, and with the beginning of fire control in the 1930s, much of the land was beginning to turn from a great open prairie to jack-pine and scrub oak forests (what is there now).  

I remember one of the field locations--along the beginning of the old road running down to the Sunrise ferry from where Wally Lund had his home on the corner -- turn west off of 330th St down Ferry Drive and go until you see a pine plantation along the north side of the road.  The other, was some old field back in the woods along a trail I can't remember anymore. I plan to take a drive to the plantation and photograph it any day now--what our tree planting looks like 50 years later. 

You can read a little about the tree planting effort by Polk County at POLK FORESTATION