The shantyboys were important American Frontiersmen with a way of life individually their own. From all parts of the country they came to work the endless pines; from the East Coast to the rapidly advancing West they blazed the trails that led to expansion. It was their labor that birthed a giant industry and helped build a nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Unlike the cowboys the shantyboys were not well publicized in song and story. Minimal credit has been given their contribution as they traveled up and down and across the wilderness, hacking, chopping, skidding, hauling, riding the great pine logs that fed the saws for a giant industry. Their labors were as significant to the development of the North as the cowboys’ role was in the development of the West. My grandfather was a shantyboy, so called because they lived in shanties in the woods. Grandpa was born in 1861. During the early 1880’s he guided his team of slow moving oxen from his home in Columbia County, to the pineries of Northern Wisconsin. Butternut, Park Falls, Fosterville (now Presque Isle), Sayner and Star Lake were areas mentioned. There he lived the life of a shantyboy all winter; in the spring he returned to his farm in Southern Wisconsin with cash in his pockets. From Grandpa I learned of the shantyboys, of their influence and their importance to the economy. Theirs was a strong and vital endowment to America.
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