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Bay de Noquet Company and Oconto Company records

 Collection
Identifier: MSS-173

Scope and contents note

The Bay de Noquet Company and Oconto Company records document lumbering in northeastern Wisconsin and the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan from the end of World War I to about 1950. While the records for each company are scattered, the combined records give a reasonable picture of the problems faced by the industry in the upper Great Lakes region due to the declining availability of usable timber and the Great Depression of the 1930s, as well as some of the issues faced by the companies during World War II. The items from the Northern Hemlock and Hardwood Manufacturers Association help to put the situation in the upper Great Lakes into a national context.

Dates

  • 1895-1952

Creator

Conditions Governing Access note

No restrictions. Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use note

Permission to publish material from the Bay de Noquet Company and Oconto Company records must be obtained from the University Archivist. The University Archivist may be reached by phone at 906-227-1225, or e-mail, mrobyns@nmu.edu. The University Archivist may also be reached in Room 126 of the Learning Resource Center, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI.

Biographical/Historical note

The Bay de Noquet Company was formed in 1881 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Oconto Company, which had been incorporated on September 20, 1867. The Bay de Noquet Company carried out logging and lumbering operations in Alger, Delta, and possibly Schoolcraft Counties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with headquarters and mill at Nahma in Delta County. The original corporate charter of the company expired in 1911, and the new charter required that the stock be held by individuals. The officers of the Oconto Company therefore individually held the Bay de Noquet Company stock in trust for the Oconto Company.

The Oconto Company carried out logging and lumbering operations in northern Wisconsin with headquarters and mill at Oconto in Oconto County, Wisconsin. At some point after World War I the Oconto Company and the Holt Lumber Company formed Home Lands, Inc. to sell lands and lakefront property no longer needed by the lumber companies. The Oconto Company also formed the Oneva Lumber Company to carry out logging in northern Oconto County and Forest County. In 1917 the Oconto Company began to sell shares in the Bay Noquet Company to its shareholders and employees because of Wisconsin tax laws. Each shareholder was required to have one Oconto Company share for each Bay de Noquet Company share. While each company had a separate management structure, the boards of directors overlapped to a significant extent.

At some point the Bay de Noquet Company acquired the Brown Dimension Company of Manistique and changed its name to the Michigan Dimension Company. The Oconto Company ceased operations in 1944 and the Bay de Noquet Company ceased operations in 1952.

Extent

50 Cubic Feet (17 boxes and 39 ledgers)

Arrangement note

The papers are arranged into three groups, each with several sections as follows:

The Oconto Company papers (7 boxes, 1911-1946) are divided into four sections: tax and financial records, operating and production records, correspondence, and land records. The Tax and Financial Records comprise more than half of the records in this group and document the declining status of lumbering in northeastern Wisconsin. Property taxes were levied on forty-acre squares of land, there being sixteen such squares to a section. The assessment records are almost complete for the period, and the assessed values show the progress of timber cutting on lands owned or leased by the Oconto Company. The Federal and Wisconsin income tax records include most of the information typically found in an annual report and document how the Great Depression affected the Oconto Company.

The Operating and Production Records are primarily scattered records relating to logging operations. Most notable are the records of Francis Clayton, a logging jobber for the Oconto Company, which include his cutting records, labor and supplies payment orders, and items relating to the operation of his logging camp.

The Correspondence is mostly routine correspondence. The correspondence with the Chicago and North Western Railway consists of correspondence relating to the rental of track material–rails, frogs, switch points, switch plates, switch stands, angle bars–used by the Oconto Company to operate temporary logging railroads in its woods operations.

The Land Records document the sale of cut-over lands to individuals and government agencies. Most notable are sales to the Forest Service of lands to be included in the Nicolet National Forest.

The Bay de Noquet Company Papers (10 boxes, 1924-1950) are divided into four sections: finance and operations, correspondence, accident injury cases, and newsletters and similar items.

The Finance and Operations papers consist of scattered records relating to finances and milling operations. This section contains directives from and correspondence with the federal agencies overseeing manpower and production during World War II.

The bulk of the Correspondence is from 1948 and consists primarily of routine correspondence with customers concerning orders and shipments. The largest segment is the correspondence with the Chicago office, which documents management concerns over sales and customers service, employees and labor relations, federal government directives and legislation, the state of the industry, and other matters.

The Accident Injury Cases (1939-1950) are the largest section of the Bay de Noquet Company papers and include foremen’s reports, medical reports from attending physicians, and workmen’s compensation cases. This section documents working conditions in the logging and lumbering industries in the 1940s, medical treatment available to injured employees, and the Company’s practices in regard to injured workers.

The Newsletters section includes the various newsletters and similar items received by the Bay de Noquet Company, primarily in the 1940s. None of the titles are complete, but they do give a picture of the information received by lumber companies regarding industry concerns. The most significant titles are those supplied by the Northern Hemlock and Hardwood Manufactures Association, the trade group to which the Bay de Noquet Company belonged. The Association’s Bulletin provides production and sales information on the various species of wood used by the members. The Mimeos were usually sent out several times a day, and each mimeo was devoted to a single topic. Notable in this series are the mimeos sent out in 1940 and 1941 that describe the U.S. government contracts available for bidding and those awarded for various projects. These mimeos document the preparations being made by the Army and Navy to provide for the increased number of servicemen when the United States finally entered World War II. The mimeos issued between 1946 and 1949 document the return to peacetime conditions and the efforts of the federal government to dampen inflation by controlling certain costs and prices. They also document labor unrest and the demands of organized labor during this period. In fact, labor relations were considered to be so important that those mimeos were issued on yellow paper to distinguish them from the other mimeos.

The third group of papers is comprised of the bound ledgers of both companies.

The Oconto Company ledgers are almost entirely financial in nature. Some of the cash books include the Bay de Noquet Company. The important item here is the ledger of minutes of the meetings of the directors and stockholders.

The Bay de Noquet Company ledgers cover both financial and production matters. The minutes of the meetings of directors and stockholders document the important decisions in the history of the company. Several of the ledgers document operations in the woods camps and include laundry and wash books. Other ledgers include orders for the 1938-1941 period and the Selective Service Classification Register for 1945, which illustrates how a company keeps track of which employees are eligible to be called up for military service.

Related Archival Materials notes

A related collection is the Edith Farnsworth papers, located at the Newberry Library in Chicago, IL. Edith was the daughter of George J. Farnsworth, company president, and granddaughter of George Farnsworth, company founder.

Creator

Title
Bay de Noquet Company and Oconto Company records
Status
Completed
Author
Dr. Steven Peters
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives Repository

Contact:
Harden Learning Resources Center 126
1401 Presque Isle Ave
Marquette 49855 United States
906-227-1225
906-227-1333 (Fax)

ABOUT THIS COLLECTION GUIDE

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