Foreword

The men and women who come to you in these groups of stories “Neighbors of Yesterday” and “Lumberjack Tales,” were real men and women who lived within the boundaries of that section of the Adirondacks known as the North Woods. Their stories are true stories; their portraits are not embellished, nor has their curt idiom been per ceptibly softened or altered.

The psychology of the farmers and lumbermen of this particular section forty or fifty years ago was in many respects different from that of the people of the rural districts of New England, and utterly at variance with the characteristics of the sturdy settlers of the Middle West. The farmers of the country districts of New England had more subtlety; they were invested with the dignity of noble traditions that were kept untarnished for generation after generation, while the agriculturists of the middle western states had a wider vision and a greater impulse to progress.

The Adirondack farmers and lumbermen were a shrewd, kindly, simple people, bound together by a characteristic clannishness that gave them the feeling that they were a race apart from the dwellers in towns. They had little subtlety and they were not progressive. Life moved in a rut for them; they were content with what they knew and what they had, and resented the intrusion of novelty and change.

“Once a native, always a native” held good. Not by kindness or generosity, or long residence among them, could a city man ingratiate himself into the genuine warmth of their hearts. Only those whose birthright was a low-roofed farm house or a log shanty could speak the language of their souls.

As recently as twenty-five years ago there were settlements in the North Woods where manners and customs were untouched by modernity; where the “dye pot” was still in existence; where flannel and rag-carpets were woven on hand looms, and the spinning wheel hummed throughout the long winter evenings.

As the lumber was gradually stripped from the hills and mountains, the old life began to change and primitive customs disappeared. There were new interests and new sources of prosperity. With the introduction of the cheap automobile changes took place more rapidly. State highways replaced the old, narrow roads. New farm machinery brought about different methods of farming; tourists rediscovered the country, and in their wake came all the sophistication of the city dwellers.

The Neighbors of Yesterday of the North Woods are gone, save for a few granddams and grandsires in the remote farmhouses of the back districts. There are a few lumber-jacks and river-drivers left, but they are not the capable, hardy, roystering men of the famous old camps. Here and there you will find a solitary lumber-jack who can sing the shanty-songs and knows the peculiar vocabulary of the lumber-gang. But for the most part this life is in truth of yesterday, and that we may remember it, even in small measure, I have tried faithfully to set down certain things that come crowding into my mind when I remember the days of my childhood in the Great North Woods.

J.R.F.