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Border Country

The Northwoods Canoe Journals of Howard Greene, 1906–1916

2017
Author:

Martha Greene Phillips
Foreword by Peter Geye

Border Country

A unique archival account of the early twentieth-century north woods, with friends and family, canoes, a ready wit, and a Graflex camera

Border Country is a collection of the remarkable, handmade journals from businessman Howard Greene’s early 1900s canoe trips to the north woods of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Canada. Reproduced with numerous photographs and maps, these journals are a window into a world at once familiar and strange, the wilderness caught on the verge of becoming the North Woods we know today.

Howard Greene’s narratives are not only a grand adventure but a rare glimpse of life along northern waterways during the early 1900s. His superb photographs have a haunting quality that betrays the radical environmental and social change that was to come. You can almost hear Kent Ryden’s ‘quiet human voices whispering in the landscape.’

Mary Graves, chief of Cultural and Natural Resources, Voyageurs National Park

In the summer of 1906, a Milwaukee businessman set out with his young sons and some friends to canoe and camp in the north woods of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Canada. It was the first of several month-long journeys Howard Greene and “The Gang” would make over the years, each detailed in remarkable, handmade journals and documented in hundreds of large-format photographs. Reproduced here with a large selection of photographs and maps, these journals convey readers into a riverine world of outdoor adventure—a northland wilderness and way of life that were, even as Howard Greene charted their genuine charms, already vanishing.

Introduced and annotated by Greene’s daughter, these observant narratives run rapids and portage and paddle lakes and rivers, including the Chippewa, Wisconsin, St. Croix, and Presque Isle as well as traveling in areas now in Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Along the way Greene, a skilled photographer, captures images of logging and mining operations, primitive dams and even more primitive camping, trading posts, and many remote Native American villages. Through it all runs the story of family and friendship forged over campfires in the north woods, reported with dry wit, a keen eye for detail, and an abiding interest in the natural world.

Composed decades before Sigurd Olson or Calvin Rutstrum began documenting the wild life of the upper Midwest, Howard Greene’s journals are a window into a world at once familiar and strange, the wilderness caught on the verge of becoming the North Woods we know today.

Awards

Publishing Professionals Network Book Award

Border Country

Martha Greene Phillips spent several years researching her father’s canoeing and camping adventures and editing and annotating his journals of those trips. She is the author of The Floating Boathouses on the Upper Mississippi River and lives near Madison, Wisconsin..

Peter Geye is the award-winning author of Safe from the Sea, The Lighthouse Road, and, most recently, Wintering. He lives in Minneapolis.

Border Country

Howard Greene’s narratives are not only a grand adventure but a rare glimpse of life along northern waterways during the early 1900s. His superb photographs have a haunting quality that betrays the radical environmental and social change that was to come. You can almost hear Kent Ryden’s ‘quiet human voices whispering in the landscape.’

Mary Graves, chief of Cultural and Natural Resources, Voyageurs National Park

Border Country is evidence of the long sway wild places have had over our lives and imaginations. The pages you’re about to read are, in short, a testament: to both past and future wildernesses, and the ways we inhabit them. And are inhabited by them.

Peter Geye, from the Foreword

Although my stack of books sent to review already contains four others, the oversize book: Border Country dwarfed them all.

Anne Swenson, Ely Echo

Although the sepia-toned historical photos are the most compelling part of this volume, Greene’s tales of shooting rapids, surviving hailstorms and dodging log drives are engaging, as are her homelier depictions of packing lists and offspring.

Star Tribune

A deep and unparalleled look at the state as it appeared a century ago. And because of Greene's writing style and his focused lens, Border Country makes it a joy to tag along on that journey.

OnMilwaukee

A rich snapshot of early adventure.

Star Tribune

This book will be of interest to historians as they describe a north country on the verge of becoming vacationland. It will also be of interest today’s wilderness enthusiasts, who are used to lightweight canoes and tents and modern fabrics - especially those who are fascinated by descriptions of vintage camping equipment.

Minnesota History

The true essence of the book is about the bond of family and friendship through the mutual experience of wilderness escape. Containing a visual photographic feast and delightful tripping stories, Border Country would make a fine addition to any canoeist’s library.

Wooden Canoe

Border Country

Contents

Foreword {~?~TN: book page ix}

Peter Geye

Prologue

Acknowledgments

Border Country: A Field Guide

The Journals {~?~TN: book page 1}

The Wisconsin River, 1906 {~?~TN: book page 3}

Conover—Eagle River—Rhinelander—Hat Rapids—Tomahawk—Grandmother Rapids—Merrill—Stevens Point—Grand Rapids—Necedah—Kilbourn (Wisconsin Dells)

The St. Croix River Trip, 1907

Gordon Dam—Copper Mine Dam—Fishtrap Rapids—Pansy—Tamarack—Grantsburg—Wolf Creek—St. Croix Falls

The Gang on the Presque Isle River, 1909

Watersmeet—Marenisco—Tula—“The Elusive Potato Patch”—Lake Superior

The Rambles of the Gang in the Rainy Lake Country, 1910

Duluth—Ely—Winton—Basswood Falls—Lac La Croix—Bottle Portage—Soldiers’ Portage—Kettle Falls—Ranier

The Rambles of the Gang on the Dawson Trail, 1911

Duluth—French River—Pickerel Lake—Quetico Lake—Burntside Lake—Sturgeon Lake—Maligne River—Lac La Croix—Namakan River—Soldiers’ Portage—Rainy Lake—Ranier

The Gang and the Pigeon Outfit, 1914

Duluth—Split Rock Lighthouse—Two Harbors—Grand Marais—Chicago Bay (Hovland)—Tom Lake—McFarland Lake—Pine Lake

Pack and Paddle from Tower to Ranier, 1915

Duluth—Tower—Vermilion River—Decainey’s Resort—Sand Point Lake—Lake Namakan—Kabetogama—Kettle Falls—Rainy Lake—Ranier

The Chippewa River Trip, 1916

Glidden—Shanagolden—Pelican Lake—Hunter Lake—Radisson Dam—Murray—Holcombe

Coda

Epilogue

Glossary

For Further Reading