Farm Collector

Leonard and the Old Timers

Box 476 Jamestown, North Dakota 58402

This story took place quite a ways back, so there may be some

Leonard Jensen came home from a run of threshing. He had
$200.00. He went to one of the neighbors to see if he would sell a
sawmill which hadn’t been used recently. The neighbor said the
old mill wasn’t worth anything but there was a good belt in the
shed. He said, ‘Give me $50.00 for it and you can have
everything there.’ Leonard went home, got a team and wagon. I
don’t remember how many trips he had to make to get it all
home. Then he went to the lumber yard and bought timber to rebuild
the mill. They were living in the Turtle Mountains west of St.
John, North Dakota. He cut poplar logs on his father’s farm,
steamed up his father’s engine and started sawing. He said
people were buying all the lumber he could saw. They were even
buying the slabs and sawdust. He said he was making lots of

I don’t know how long Leonard stayed in North Dakota. In the
Spring of 1939, Gust Westvik had a large job northwest of Effie,
Minnesota. He ended up with a large number of tie bolts. By this
time, Leonard had moved to Bigfork, Minnesota. He built another
mill and powered it with a Packard engine. Gust offered him ten
cents per tie and he would furnish all expenses and the men

I was working just across #6 Highway from Gust’s camp,
peeling cedar posts. The exhaust of the Packard could be heard for
miles when it came into the cut. Leonard had no governor on the
mill, but had a wire running back to the hash where he stood as he
sawed. When the bolt was coming into the saw, he would touch the
wire with his knee throwing her wide open.

After 1939 I don’t remember seeing Leonard until about
fifteen years after World War II. I got some news from his
brother-in-law, Richie Olson, who was a truck driver.

There was a machinist by the name of Persons who put some time
in his shop while waiting in Grand Rapids for repairs. I saw some
fairly short lengths of steel in a rack. Mr. Persons said they were
drill steel. They usually bought their drills, but in case they
couldn’t replace a drill he kept this steel so he could make
one. Some years before, a tool maker came to town and charged
$25.00 a piece tuition. Mr. Persons said he had the largest shop in
town so he got his tuition for use of the shop. He said you heated
a piece of steel and set it in a vise. Drill steel had to be worked
at a low heat on a warm anvil.

I guess Mr. Persons has gone where good craftsmen go. Leonard
Jensen bought the machinery which he moved to his shop in Bigfork.
Olson said he was making more than ever before. I didn’t ask
too many questions but it looked as though he had done a lot of
sawing during war years. He had two 120 HP Buda diesels. He also
had two sawmills which needed rebuilding. He bought one of the
Budas and liked it so well he bought a second the next year. He
claimed those engines had so much power that they seemed to idle
along all day with the governor not opening. They would saw all day
on ten gallons of diesel fuel. He had a lot of used equipment on
his place. If someone tried to buy it, Leonard would say,
‘It’s paid for, and I might need it some day.’

When I was there he was making a piece. I asked what it was. He
said he didn’t know. ‘Rajalas sent it over.’ Said he
didn’t know why their own machinist didn’t do it.

When I can get around again I would like to go to see Leonard
and what old timers are left from when I worked in that area.

  • Published on Sep 1, 1993
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