Minnesota’s last old-growth forests were clear-cut in the early 20th century, leaving only remnants of the red pine and white pine forests that had covered much of the north-central parts of the state. The chimney at this site is the most visible relic of the Chisholm-Nichols logging camp, one of the last large logging operations in the state.
Between 1904 and 1917, large swaths of forest in the area west of Itasca State Park were cut down. At one point 500 people were employed in the logging operations, with trees cleared from over 100 square miles and the logs moved by four railroad locomotives over 40 miles of track to Elbow Lake, where they were floated down the Ottertail river to mills in Frazee, Minnesota, about 30 miles south. Rafts of logs larger than 40 acres in size were piled on the winter ice of the lake. The size of the operation is reflected in the kitchen and dining hall that once was located at the headquarters; it is reported that it was a building 100 by 30 feet, able to seat 200 workers at four large dining tables.
In 1918, after all of the old growth had been removed, the lumber company intentionally set large fires to avoid the legally-required cost of removing the piles of drying “slash,” the leftover limbs from logging. Though little forest remained after the fires, the trees have regrown over the last century. The site of the headquarters is now surrounded by red pine that was planted in the 1960s.
Know Before You Go
The historical marker is located in southern Clearwater County, just off county highway 39 at the intersection with Chimney Road (1.6 miles north of Minnesota Highway 113). The map coordinates are 47.1667615, -95.4150219. It is directly across the road from an access point to the North Country Trail. The site is in the glacial moraine of the Buckboard Hills, near the continental divide separating the watersheds draining to the Gulf of Mexico and Hudson’s Bay. Long Lost Lake is a half mile north of the Old Headquarters.