Camp Martin Johnson History Part Two by Martin Johnson


I could see the north part of the lake and some of the land I had seen when I first struck the lake, which proved to be islands. I sat down on a fallen tree to meditate and realized that this was the place I had been dreaming about all the time. So I made up my mind I would buy this land and make a home of it. It was also desperately desolate with all the dead timber, and stumps, and brush standing and laying around. It would not be long until the old dead stuff would be gone and the second growth would come and make the place beautiful again.

We camped at Loon Lake the rest of the summer and fall. There were lots of small game and wood ducks that came to the lake when the acorns began to fall, so we had lots of game and could get all the fish we wanted. When the weather began to get cold we went home for the winter, but the next year in May returned and camped at upper Saubel Lake among the green pine. I there met George Murkel and made a bargain with him for the land I had picked out. I put a down payment on it and got a deed years later.

Bromen begain to grow stronger and we hunted and fished together. The woods were filled with huckelberries and blackberries and we picked lots of them. I made a cart with wood wheels with flanges so I could pull it along Peters’ narrow guage track, and on that cart I piled the berries to ship at the P.M. RR Junction. In the fall when the cranberries were ripe we picked and shipped them the same way. At that time there were not many people here except the lumbermen and two fellows on Saubel Lake, and two other men, one a darkey , the other an old soldier who lived in a shack which had once been in a lumber camp. The old soldier was a friendly sociable man. When anyone came to his shack he would say “Come in nieghbor; help yourself to the nearest seat; fill your pipe and let’s have a good sociable smoke and a good sociable chat”. Then he would begin to talk about his adventures in hunting deer and bear and trapping otter and beaver, and about wishing people would come and settle here so that they would visit him.

In the autumn I made several oil sketches around Bass Lake, but when it began to be cold Bromen and I went home to Sparta and I took up my work of portrait and landscape painting for several years. The call to go back north again began to be stronger all the time. I managed to get up for a week or two each year and in the fall of 1893 I put up a little log cabin and stayed all winter and did some chopping and clearing way of brush around the cabin where I intended to build my house. For several more years I did portraits, but the call to go north to my place grew stronger all the while. In January, 1901, I said goodbye to civilization and came up to my little cabin and began to cut timber for my house. The snow was deep and the weather was bad, and it took me until March before I had enough material for the house. Before the ice went out I hired a man with a team to haul logs and poles to the place where I wanted to build. Afterwards I hired the same man to help me hew the logs. It took me all summer to build, as I worked mostly alone and as everything had to be made with the ax.

For the joists, rafters, and studdings I used small logs and hewed them on two sides, and for the rafters I used pine and cedar poles. The rafters were hewed on the top only. I had to have some sawed lumber but it was cheap in those days. Dressed lumber for window frames and casings, and maple flooring cost $12 a thousand delivered at Peacock; now it is nearly ten times that amount. By the time I had the house up and the roof on my brother John came and made most of the window frames for me, and would have stayed longer but for a message from home saying that his boy was sick. After that I did the rest myself. The worst was the plastering especially on the ceiling. When I started to plaster it came down again and covered me all over. I was very discouraged and would quit but in a few minutes was at it again until I got the hang of it. After that the work went fairly well.

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