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Monday, December 7, 2015

Spruce Production Division & the 4 L

A 4L Button I bought on eBay

           In 1917 the United States Army took over the production of lumber, just as it would  the operation of the railroads by December. Because of the draft, most lumberjacks were in the military, leaving foreigners and older men to man saw mills and logging camps.  Not enough men.  Soldiers with backgrounds in lumber were detailed to the Pacific Northwest to cut Sitka spruce for the manufacture of airplanes and ships.

Spruce Production Division soldiers.jpg
Division soldiers on a Sitka spruce stump

Brigadier General Brice P. Disque.jpg
Colonel Bryce Disque
    The officer in charge was Colonel Bryce Disque of the U.S. Signal Corps, His office was in Portland, Oregon. The main barracks were in Vancouver, Washington.

        Colonel Disque knew that strikes in the lumber industry would slow down the war effort and, on the advice of Carleton Parker, he ordered the eight-hour day for the lumber industry, higher pay, and better and cleaner conditions in camps. All of which were to go into effect on March 1, 1918. He also instituted a new union, the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (see button above), which was to include both laborers and management.

           He also was determined to wipe out the Wobbly influence in the woods and brought in newly trained Military Intelligence officers whom he sent out to logging camps as far away as north Idaho and western Montana where the white pine was being logged to snoop out radical elements and sign up the lumberjacks for the 4 L.

          In my novel, Marble Creek, it's Colonel Disque who has Lt. Robert Jamison, a former Pinkerton detective,  attached to the Spruce Division and then sends him undercover to locate Irish radical Malachi O'Neill, believed to be conspiring to transport guns from Butte to Ireland for a rebellion that would distract Great Britain from the war in Europe. While logging with O'Neill on Marble Creek, one of Disque's Military Intelligence officers shows up to sign up the men for the 4 L and deliver a message to Jamieson.

         Jamieson looked down the table at O’Neill.  What would he do?  The Irishman’s dark eyes had narrowed, but his elbows remained on the oilcloth as he shoveled food into his mouth.  His eyes lifted to Jamieson's and they shared a scowl.  Then O’Neill went back to his meat and potatoes.
            “I want you to know that your cook and his crew have already signed up.”  He turned toward the visible part of the kitchen.  “Step out here, men."
            Pork Grease Eddie strolled out carrying a cleaver, followed by the bull cook, Polite John, the pastry cook and the two flunkies. “Sign up boys,” Eddie called out. “I heard those who refused over at the Rutledge camp were visited by some Idaho State Guard troops and hauled off to St. Maries.  Don’t let the boss down.”
            Mouth full of pie, Jamieson looked around.  One by one, loggers in rubber-soled boots were rising and squeaking forward to exchange signed cards for 4L buttons.  When only a few were left at the tables, he followed suit, curious to see what the piece of brass looked like.
When he passed his card to Dean, the young lieutenant studied his name before peering into his bearded face and murmuring, “Got a message for you.”  Jamieson took a button and lifted it toward the hanging lantern overhead, tipping it as though trying to make out the embossing.  “Captain Dengel up in Spokane orders you to bring your man in.  He said he’ll personally get the information out of him.”
Jamieson fisted the badge and hissed, “I don’t take orders from Dengel.”  He strode away and paused at the door to see what O’Neill would do.  Goddamn, he wasn’t going to speed up this case to please Dengel, much less allow him to get his hands on O’Neill.  One thing he'd learned about being a detective is you have to find the rhythm of the case and fall in with it.  Patience.  It just takes patience to do it right.  Follow your hunch when you've got nothing else.

And a fine lumberjack song HERE

1 comment:

  1. Such good stuff. I am totally into this and want to read more! Awesome that you got the button!