Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the logging industry in Michigan and other mid-west states began to explode with activity. The Civil War had ended and the United States entered a time of growth and prosperity.
With growth, comes the need for building materials and the Michigan white pine was a perfect fit for the that need. The trees grow tall, straight, and close together, therefore are basically branch-less until close to the top.
The logging industry ushered in a time of great wealth for a select few and provided steady, though backbreaking, employment for thousands of others. Farmers, army deserters, and any other man who needed work would travel from one logging camp to another in search of good paying work. They each received a week’s wage, a place to sleep, though cold and bug infested, and two meals a day. Vinegar pie was a favorite among the men.
Vinegar Pie: (Recipe from Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling Michigan)
One pie shell
½ cup of white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup flour
Dash of nutmeg to taste
¼ cup butter
3 Tbsp of vinegar *
1 cup of water **
In a large bowl, blend white, brown sugar, flour, and nutmeg, with fingers until no lumps remain. Stir in vinegar, eggs, butter, and water until well mixed. Pour into pie shell and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
*Try different variety of vinegars. Distilled white may give a pecan pie flavor. Apple cider may give an apple flavor. Both would be historical adaptations.
** Original recipe calls for 1 cup of water, but Hartwick Pines State Park has found that the pie comes out a little soupy. We have adjusted the amount to ½ cup of water and the pie seems to be much better.
Shanty boys, river hogs, and fellers, as the loggers, river workers, and tree cutters named themselves, put their lives on the line every day. By most accounts, loggers had a bond with each other, a brotherhood. They counted on their co-workers to do their job correctly to keep one another other safe. The crew worked as one to get the logs cut, hauled, stacked, and finally in the spring floated down the river.
It only took less than a half of century to clear-cut most of the white pine in the lower peninsula of Michigan. The resulting devastation on the land and wildlife can still be felt, almost two hundred years later. Very few stands of white pines are left. Hartwick Pines State park in Graying Michigan has one of the oldest.
If given the chance to visit an old tree stand . . . take it. The peacefulness of the pine needles moving in the wind, the birds singing their songs, the heady aroma of the damp ground, and brisk pine, as you walk among trees who’ve lived hundreds of years is soul soothing. A sensation that’s hard for us to find in this day and age.
*Photos: curtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
Award winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and eight grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook and Twitter.
Represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.