The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ontonagon students learn about logging history


Jan Tucker/Daily Globe

Tom Pestka shows Ontonagon students some old logging equipment  including this large axe use in the lumber camps.

ONTONAGON — Tom Pestka gave Ontonagon Area Elementary School children a glimpse of the lumberjacks and camps of the past at the school recently.

Pestka, 70, said he was born in a lumber camp near Ontonagon and worked in the woods for better than 50 years. He said his father, Felix, built 19 camps around the Ontonagon County area.

Through the years, he has acquired a unique collection of lumberjack tools of the past, including a cross-saw that is more than 150 years old. In addition to the tools, the children saw pictures of the area camps of the past and the methods the ’jacks used to get their logs to market.

Pestka warmed his students up by having them look at a cut log he brought and determine the tree’s age.

Pestka explained there were 50 men to each camp and all 50 would eat a hearty breakfast of pork chops, potatoes and other staples to start the day. “The dining halls were silent, as no one spoke, except to ask for food to be passed,” he told the children.

No women were allowed in the camps, noon lunch was brought to the men in the woods by the “cookie,” some men earned $3 a day with $1 charged for room and board, and two good jacks could cut 100 logs a day.

The children were surprised to learn the men in the lumber camps had to get up by 4 a.m. to eat and go to work.

Pestka has a video on the History of Logging which has been circulating. That video caught the attention of the Forest History Association and he has been asked to give a presentation for the association’s 39th annual conference in Park Falls, Wis., Sept. 13-15. The video will be shown as the introduction with the discussion by Pestka to follow.


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