Bio: Pond, Levi Wesley (1914)
Surnames: Pond, Winthrop, Gough, Daniles, McGowan, Randell, Kemp, Rooney, Rust, Weyerhaeuser, Thorpe, Gilbert, Pope
----Source: History of Eau Claire County, Wisconsin (1914) pages 821-827
Levi Wesley Pond was born in Baring, Me., March 1, 1827. He was one of a family of four children; besides himself there were Emily, Gertrude, William H. and Charles Nash Pond. Their father, Charles Pond, and his brother came from England in the same ship with Governor Winthrop, of Boston, who wrote home to England: “Tell the old man Pond that his two sons are doing well." The other brother is lost to history and little has been chronicled of the life of the father of these four children. He was drowned while still a young man while crossing the St. Croix river at Baring, Me., in 1831, while ice was running during a spring freshet leaving his widow in straightened circumstances to care for and educate the daughter and three sons as best she could. Little enough time was given for schooling in well-to-do families, so these children did not fare very well in that regard, for stress of circumstances compelled them to begin in early life to earn their own living by working out, helping their mother in her struggle to care for and educate her fatherless children. Their sister Emily was given the opportunity to get more schooling than the boys. They grew to manhood in Baring, Calais and places near by, working in the woods, mills and off the coast in fishing schooners. Levi loved the sea and at the age of 16 went to Boston and sailed in the Cumberland, a war frigate mounting nineteen guns. This ship was sailing on her trial trip for a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea, which lasted two years. The Cumberland made a most brilliant record in the sea annals of the American navy before she was sunk by the Rebel ram Merrimae at Hampton Roads in the civil war.
The night before sailing John B. Gough, the celebrated Prohibitionist, who had been holding temperance meetings in Boston, went on board and addressed the crew. All the officers and men, except two young English sailors, signed the pledge. These two stubbornly refused, and as every sailor was allowed his rations and potion of grog, they stepped out from the rank regularly, and amid the laughter and jeers of the crew, took their daily grog. The entire crew, except these young English sailors, yielded readily to discipline. Those young fellows caused so much trouble when in liquor that they were often severely punished by their officers, but to no avail. The officers conceived the idea of exchanging these two young men at one of the ports for two total abstainers of another vessel. This was accomplished at the next port and the Cumberland set sail, the first government vessel afloat, manned by a Prohibition crew, officers and men. So remarkable were the reports to "Washington from this vessel, manned by total abstainers, that the idea took root and finally resulted in laws being passed by Congress abolishing grog on all government vessels with the exception of the officers' "wine mess." This law is still on the statue books. However, the recent edict of the secretary of the navy, Daniels, abolishes July 1, 1914, even the "wine mess" of the officers.
He married Mary Ann McGowan, November 10, 1850, at Musquash, N. B., and soon after migrated to Sheboygan, Wis., and later to Wabasha, Minn., then to Chippewa Falls, Wis., and from there to Eau Claire in 1859.
He had an inventive mind and after reaching the region afterwards so noted for its mill and logging operations, he turned his thoughts to labor-saving devices for forwarding that great industry. He invented a number of valuable appliances for saw mills, but the crowning effort of his life was the invention of the sheer boom, which revolutionized the methods of handling logs in running waters and added millions of dollars to the profits of the lumbermen of the United States. His inventions, like those of countless other inventors, profited him little. The big companies with whom he was associated took the fruits of his mind and left him the husks.
April 26, 1869, while operating a saw mill across the river from Fifth avenue, the boiler exploded, wrecking the mill, killing three men and blowing Mr. Pond into the river. He was not seriously injured, however.
The history of the Chippewa Valley by T. E. Randall in 1875, on page _, gives an account of how the Weyerhaeuser companies were then endeavoring to beat Mr. Pond out of his patent by trying to get Congress to annul it, as they had been beaten in every court. What they failed to do by direction they did by indirection, however, in the end.
Later in his life, in 1870, he left his home, went to New Brunswick, secured a patent in that country, and for the first time began to receive the just results from his invention. He returned to his family in Eau Claire in 1907, where he died February 29, 1908.
In the year 1850 the old family Bible records the date of the marriage of my father and mother, Levi Wesley Pond and Mary Ann McGowan, ages 21 and 16 years.
Father was born in Calais, Me., March 1, 1829, and mother in Musquash, N. B., April 19, 1835. Father's ancestors, two brothers from England, came over in the vessel with Governor Winthrop, of Boston, who wrote home, "Tell the old man Pond that his two sons are doing well."
My mother's ancestors were Scotch, English and Irish, and landed in Halifax, N. S., and migrated to New Brunswick. She lived most of her young life with her grandmother and had her schooling in a Catholic convent.
Father was educated in the liberal school of experience. His parents died early. As a little boy he worked around with hard, cold, exacting people, and walked many miles to a school for brief periods, poorly fed and clothed. But he was naturally a marvelous speller. He rarely missed any word even in later years. When a mere boy he went to sea in fishing schooners, and at 16 went to Boston and sailed in the Cumberland, a war frigate of the United States government, mounting nineteen guns, on its trial trip for a two years' cruise to the Mediterranean. This ship made a most brilliant record before it was sunk by the ironclad Merrimae at Hampton Roads in the civil war.
The night before sailing John B. Gough, the celebrated Prohibitionist, who had been holding temperance meetings in Boston, went on board and addressed the crew. All the officers and men, except two young English sailors, signed the pledge. They stubbornly refused, and as every sailor was allowed his rations and potion of grog daily, they stepped out from the ranks regularly and, with laughter and ridicule of the crew, took their daily grog. The entire crew, except these young English sailors, yielded readily to discipline. Those young fellows would cause trouble daily and get disorderly and drunk. They were severely punished; strung up sailor fashion, but to no avail. The officers conceived the idea of exchanging these two men at one of the ports for two prohibitionists of another vessel. This was accomplished at the next port and the Cumberland set sail, the first government vessel afloat manned by a prohibition crew of officers and men. So uplifting were the reports to Washington from this prohibition-manned vessel that the idea took root, and finally resulted in laws being passed by Congress abolishing grog on all government vessels with the exception of the officers' "wine mess." This law is still on the statue books. The recent edict of the secretary of the navy, Daniels, abolishes July 1, 1914, oven the "wine mess" of the officers.
After two years' coasting in the Mediterranean Sea, sick and tired, a company of homesick men one morning heard the command, "All sails up for America." A deafening shout went up; it meant "home and native land." Father was 19 years of age, and in the brief interval before his 21st birthday' he laid siege for the hand of my mother.
He and his bride set out for Sheboygan, Wis., where he built a saw mill, and was ever afterward interested in some department of milling of lumber. About 1852 he sold out everything, intending to go to California, but the first child, Charles, died, and they gave up the journey. Emma E. and Cora S. were born in Sheboygan also. They moved to Wabasha, Minn., where Edward E. was born; then to Chippewa Falls,, where George W. was born; next to Eau Claire, where Levi Eugene, Gilbert A., and Katherine were born. The last child lived but a few days.
Father had an inventive mind. His brain grasped without study practical inventions. He saw what was needed to simplify logging on the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers. He invented several machines for use in saw mills and gave them to a Milwaukee firm to manufacture. Soon he told me this wealthy firm had nearly duplicated them and they were put upon the market, but not as his patent, and he was frozen out. He invented the shear boom. Because he had it in use upon the Chippewa river some lumbermen tried to get this away from him. He gave the Eau Claire Lumber Company one-half interest to establish his rights in the courts and put it upon the market of the country. They carried it to every court and even to the Supreme Court of the United States. He won in every case. The Eau Claire Lumber Company began to build the shear booms for various lumber interests. (How well I recall the scrip that was issued from the company’s store in Eau Claire as our share of the tolls for this invention. Father long had urged the company to agree to send a representative to the Puget Sound territory. Alex. Kemp, an employee of this company, was finally sent to see what could be done. He was gone some time at great expense, returned and reported "nothing to be done," and father set out for his old stamping ground in Maine and put in shear booms at Frederickton, on the Arvostoek, and later upon the St. John's river. What the company did he never could learn. He secured a new patent and operated it for the St. Johns Lumber Company for the remainder of his life.
I was traveling in California in 1897; went to Portland, Ore., and met by chance Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Rooney, brother and sister-in-law of Mr. Rust. I asked how they happened to be in the West. Mr. Rooney said, "We came here to collect the tolls for the shear booms in the rivers at Puget Sound. We have just collected the last tolls. They have been paying for years through the life of the patent." At last! The same old story, and not one cent of the thousands of dollars collected at 10 cents per thousand feet sawed lumber of all that passed through the booms did my father, the inventor, receive. Mr. Kemp's "nothing doing at Puget Sound" came rolling back from childhood's memory.
While steaming to Seattle from Tacoma on board the glass-covered deck roof of a vessel, an agent for Lipton's tea was showing us the sights and pointing to a famous mill on the Sound, I said, "Did you ever hear of any 'booms' in this country? He replied, using the copyrighted name 'shear booms," "Why, bless your soul, these rivers are full of them." Ten cents per thousand feet of lumber passing through those booms during those years must have totaled something large for the already fat purse of the Eau Claire Lumber Company. I told my father of this when I saw him. He never asked a question or spoke a word, but I shall never forget the unutterable look of patient long suffering in his face. The years of disappointment, broken contracts,
promises unfilled, a grasping corporation! The old, old story!
And until our government has passed laws to buy and give the inventor a sum for his invention commensurate with the public's needs, for all inventions and copyrights, the story will be the same. The inventor starves while the product of years of labor swells some one's fat purse.
Frederick W. Weyerhaeuser recently died in Pasadena, one of the richest men in the world. "One generation passeth away and another generation cometh. What profit hath a man of all his labors?" In my childhood he was one of the poor mill owners below Eau Claire, in the first history of my father's shear booms. He used these booms, of course, during the entire life of the patent, and when the patent was renewed and when it expired afterward. Incomparable benefits were his. Millions upon millions of feet of lumber passed through these booms at l0 cents per thousand feet, for royalties were climbing up into five and six figures. Father, the inventor, one-half owner, and the Eau Claire Lumber Company, represented by J. G. Thorpe and "Tommy" Gilbert (T. E.), called Frederick W. Weyerhaeuser to Chicago for a meeting to agree upon a price for his royalties due them. Father and Gilbert agreed to 7 cents per thousand feet sawed lumber. But no agreement was reached, and it was decided to call another meeting at Milwaukee. But that meeting has never been called to this day. But Mr. Weyerhaeuser ceased logging on the Eau Claire river, where all the logging of the Eau Claire Lumber Company was carried on, and finally they were bought out by Mr. Weyerhaeuser, and all the many thousands and thousands of dollars due my father upon royalties for shear booms tolls, not one dollar came to him from Frederick W. Weyerhaeuser.
Father trusted men. When he invented the shear boom the poor mill owners along the Eau Claire and Chippewa river opened their belt buckles a new notch each year. The paltry hundreds they made each year swelled to thousands and then to millions. The shear boom made it safe for them to cut the timber and send it down the Chippewa. The logs then were seldom lost. They could not escape to go by the millions of feet down to the Mississippi river unclaimed.
The first shear boom father made after several years of thought. When it came it was the entire picture in a flash. He made it of timbers bolted together about four feet wide, several hundred feet long, fastened above at one end to piling in the river. The other end was free. Shears or lee boards were fastened to the outer side. A windlass and rope or chain controlled these shears or lee boards in order to have the force of the current throw the boom to the shore and turn the logs into the company's sorting booms at the mill where these logs belonged.
Previous to the invention of the shear boom these logs would follow the current of the river and would give the sorting booms a wide berth. Men would go out with chains and ropes in boats, or wade up to the armpits in water to save these logs. The river would be covered solid during a freshet with these logs sailing down to be lost forever in the Mississippi.
My father did more than any man or set of men with the invention of his shear booms to make the millions of dollars for the lumbermen of Eau Claire. He was generous, happy, trusting. He died unhappy because he could not give his family the comforts which belonged to them. Men had deceived him. He would not fight. He did not want to live in Eau Claire and spent most of the last years in Maine and New Brunswick. But the sweetest song to him was "Home, Sweet Home." In the beautiful "land beyond" the years of sorrow are forgotten.
(Signed) CORA SCOTT POND-POPE,
Los Angeles, Cal.
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