The River Drives
In addition to farming, logging historically has been a major occupation in Thurman. In the 1800s and early 1900s, the river carried saw logs and pulpwood to the mills. During the long, cold winters, farmers could earn badly-needed cash by signing on to work in the lumber woods for the season. As soon as their crops were in each fall, they headed off to lumber camps. They cut and limbed huge trees. In big sleighs, they drew the logs to the frozen river and piled them on or beside the ice to be floated downriver in spring.
Working the river drives was hard and dangerous work. Keeping those logs moving required drivers to walk across the floating logs or maneuver through them on small boats. When logs drifted into little “bays”, a river driver had to snake them back out into the current, using his pike pole, the river driver’s stock in trade. Should he fall into the icy water, he could use the pike to maneuver himself to shore. The last log drive was in 1950, ending the era of the river driver.