5-, 2002 - 04: 1
The story of John James (Jack) Prevost
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, Jack writes his own biography
This story appears in the newspaper "Pine Knot" on
December 27 1940.
Jack Prevost, Pioneer, is
80 Years 'Young'
Best wishes will be extended by an entire community tomorrow (Saturday) when
one of its pioneer residents celebrates his birthday anniversary.
He is Jack Prevost who will be 80 years young.
Jack, as he is known to practically every youngster, will be honor guest at a
public birthday party to be given by friends tomorrow evening in the Moose hall.
All of his many friends have been invited to attend the event for which tickets
may be secured at the door. An evening of modern and old-time dancing and lunch
has been planned and a large attendance is expected to celebrate with their old
Jack has had a colorful life story. He came to Cloquet more than 58 years
ago, on Aug. 17 1882, to drive oxen for the C. N. Nelson Lumber company and,
except for a brief return to his native Canada to be married, he has since made
his home in the community where his name will be always be closely linked with
the first half century of the lumber industry.
Let Jack tell us the following part of his story in his own words:
"It was in 1881 that I went up in the woods from Ottawa in October. I stayed
all winter and took in the drive and got back to the city the following August.
After buying a trunk and filling it with clothes, I started out for Stillwater
where I hired out with the C. N. Nelson company to go to Cloquet and drive oxen.
I got here on August 17, 1882.
"We went logging where Second street now is and all around the park
(Pinehurst). McGugin was manager of the Nelson company at that time. He resigned
and started the water power mill. I had a crew of men on the Old King farm, what
is now called Doddridge Addition, where he got the pine to build the mill. It
was all hewed with the broadaxe. That was the fall of 1882. The water power mill
and the old Cloquet mill were built at the same time. Brandborg had a small
mill. He was the one who started the Cloquet mill. In the spring of 1883, Shaw
(Shaw Lumber Co.) came up from Davenport, Iowa, and bought out Brandborg.
"I never had any schooling and at that time I could not write my own name
(Jack wrote the material for this article in long hand). James Page was running
a drug store here then and I got some paper and wrote my first letter home.
"In April I went on the drive for Sanders, a logger from Duluth. During the
summer I worked on the boom and that fall I went into the woods for Bob Mitchell
and the next summer I worked here on the pond.
"The next fall -- 1884 -- I went home and was married to Miss Anna Rousey at
Paspebiac. We arrived back in Cloquet on Christmas Eve, 1884."
And that is a brief outline of Jack's first years in the timber industry
here. The following is another interesting part of his life story dealing with
"There is a big difference now and 70 years ago. Now our boys go to school
until they are men but I went to work when I was 9 years old, spreading dry
codfish on gravel for 18 cents a day -- half cash and half trade. And I have
been in the harness ever since.
"When I was 11 years old they sent me to Thunder River to work on the beach
handling dry codfish at $8 per month, also half in trade. We stood many
hardships and were shipped there in the hold of a ship with just enough to get
"We had a cook and got pea soup five times a week. Every Monday morning we
took our baskets to the grub store and this is what we got for one week: 9
pounds of hardtack, 3 1/2 pounds of salt pork, 5 pounds of flour, 1 pound of
butter and one-quarter of black strap molasses. No coffee or tea.
"If I wanted a piece of pork in my soup, I'd cut a small piece, put it on a
stick -- so I could get it back -- and put it in a wooden pail in which the cook
would put some soup.
"The next year I went fishing with my father and then went out for myself. My
uncle was the captain of a trader ship, the Bismarck, and I sailed with him. We
were hauling coal and on our last trip we left the Isle of Bay with some
passengers packed in the hole like cattle when a terrible gale hit us. We lost
our anchor and then our sails but finally got home safe and I made up my mind
that if I ever set foot on dry land again there would be no more sailing for me,
and there wasn't."