Back in Time: Sandy McDougal; The ‘King’ of the Woods

A large load of logs from the Snake River for James McGrath in 1901. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)
A large load of logs from the Snake River for James McGrath in 1901. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

The St. Croix Valley was the site for one of the largest and longest lumber harvests in the history of the country. It took nearly 75 years to cut the tall stands of lumber along the St. Croix River and its tributaries and all those logs filtered right through the St. Croix Boom just a couple miles north of Stillwater.

Many individuals worked in the pineries, some were killed or hurt, many others would leave that job once they got older and work in town or on the farm. There was one man who worked sixty consecutive winters in the woods, for half of them as the walking boss for some of Stillwater’s best known lumbermen.

That man was Alexander J. “Sandy” McDougal [McDougall] His appearance with a long beard and large hands it was said he could swing an axe second only to the mighty Paul Bunyan. Sandy came down on 49 consecutive spring log drives – a record that no one else challenged.

McDougal worked for the firm of Anderson and O’Brien and the Ann River Logging Company. From 1899 to 1919 he was the walking boss for the firm of James E. McGrath on Chesley Brook and the Snake River.

Want to keep reading? Grab the March 10 2017, edition of The Gazette, at newsstands through March 16. Subscribe to The Gazette to read Peterson’s column in its entirety each week. Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. Contact him at [email protected].