Lesson Materials: Camp Clerk

Lumberjack Math Introduction

Essential Questions

  1. Which supplies should be purchased to do your job?
  2. Should the supplies be purchased in town or at camp?
  3. After deducting the costs of your purchases, how much take-home pay will you have at the end of the season?


A classroom set of worksheets, including:

Helping the Clerk (optional lesson extension activities)

Time check and Hospital ticket (optional)


The clerk worked out of the camp office, or wanigan, and kept track of the camp’s finances, specifically camp expenses and incomes. It was important for the clerk to track expenses, such as payroll and cost of supplies, and balance them against the potential profit of the year’s cut. In addition to the clerk, the scaler, who kept a running total of the board feet cut, and the camp foreman stayed in the camp wanigan. This allowed the three men responsible for the financial success of the camp to discuss the daily operations, and help ensure it remained on track to reach the goals set by the company.

In addition to the workspace and sleeping quarters for the clerk, scaler, and foreman, the camp office included a store where lumberjacks could buy goods on credit. The camp store supplied lumberjacks with necessities, such as work clothes and blankets, along with other useful items such as stamps, paper, and medicine. The clerk tracked the cost of the goods purchased by each lumberjack throughout the season, and deducted those costs from the time checks at the end of the season. While the camp store offered convenience for the lumberjacks, who were often days away from a town that sold similar items, the prices were usually higher than in town, and some jacks took to calling the camp store the “swindle shack.”


Barn boss: The barn boss was in charge of caring for the logging camp’s horses. The barn boss earned $20 per month.

Can see to can’t see”: The time the lumberjacks worked each day. There were not a lot of clocks in the camp, so the lumberjacks worked from dawn to dusk, or from when they “can see” to when they “can’t see.” Short days in December meant less work, but longer days in March meant a longer workday.

Clerk: Sometimes known as the “inkslinger,” the clerk kept track of all the camp’s finances, including money paid for wages, supplies, and horses, money collected from the sale of necessities in the camp store, and the profit made from the logs sent to the mill at the end of the season. He made $35 per month.

Company time check: At the end of the season, lumberjacks received time checks indicating how much they were to be paid for their work. To receive the full amount of the time check, the jacks would have to wait until the camp’s logs reached the mill, and the company received payment. Some were unwilling to wait, and, for a 10% fee, or more, cashed their time check at a saloon.

Cookee: Sometimes known as a “slush cook,” a cookee was the camp cook’s helper. Cookees made $25 per month.

Foreman: Sometimes known as “the push,” a foreman was the camp boss. A foreman earned $70 per month.

Hospital ticket: Access to medical care sold by agents of a hospital. Hospital tickets were a lumberjack’s basic form of health insurance, and sold for $5 a ticket.

Make ‘er out: “Pay me, I’m quitting.”

Road apples: Horse droppings.

Road monkey: Sometimes known as “Hay man on the hill,” a road monkey was in charge of keeping the ice-roads clean so logs could be easily moved from the cut to the river bank. This included a lot of cleaning up after the horses. They made $15 per month.

Scale: Total board feet of log or load

Scaler: It was the scaler’s job to measure the amount of board feet cut by a camp each day to determine if the camp was on track to meet their contract. A scaler made $45 per month.

Swindle shack: Clerk’s office and camp store.

Tote road: A supply road to the camp

Camp Clerk videos

New Jack

Transcript | Watch video New Jack on YouTube

Other Supplies

Transcript | Watch video Other Supplies on YouTube

Friendly Advice

Transcript | Watch video Friendly Advice on YouTube