Wigwam Memories: Swisshome

Daddy, Ed, and I spent an hour or two pulling slab wood off the Erskine sawmill conveyor belt leading  to their wigwam burner,” writes Joe Moreland in A Place to Rest My Head, his memoir about growing up in the coast range after WWII.

Needing to build a chicken coop, they drove to Swisshome one evening to get scrap wood from the sawmill. Joe writes:

… in those days, every mill had a burner. The whole region was covered with an acrid, blue haze from the burning scrap. Slab wood that Daddy intended to use to build the chicken coop was simply the first slab of wood that was sliced off of each log. The outer slab was mostly covered with bark and couldn’t be sold as lumber so it went up the conveyor belt to be burned. The mill had no problem with us pulling out any slab wood that we needed… in fact, a  lot of people got their winter wood supply that way.” (page 281)

Swisshome wigwam burner

Wigwam burner in Swisshome, Oregon.

Is the wigwam burner Joe writes about the same one that still looms beside Highway 36 just outside of Swisshome? Probably not, but I like story. In one paragraph about a single incident in Joe’s life, we learn why the burners were used, their impact on the people who lived around them, and why they were regulated out of use in the 1970s.

Travelling Highway 36 has been on my “to do” list for a couple years now, specifically so I could see this wigwam burner. It sits right on Highway 36 (the Mapleton-Junction City Highway) just west of Swisshome.

Even if you’re not into wigwam burners, Highway 36 is a nice drive and worth the extra time, however I highly recommend checking road conditions before you go (we use tripcheck.com) as there seems to be a lot of landslides along this highway when it rains.

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