"Epic of Minnesota's Greatest Forests" Artist's Statement

The following artist's statement was written in 1945 by former University of Minnesota student and faculty member Hazel Thorson Stoick Stoeckler for her mural "Epic of Minnesota's Greatest Forests."

Artist's Statement

“The illustrations in this folder book are photographs of a mural, a wall painting ten feet high and forty-five feet long, which is in Green Hall on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota. The author of this folder book painted the mural which depicts ‘The Epic of Minnesota’s Great Forests.’ The subject matter of the mural is developed out of the rise and fall of the timber empire. There are five sections which unfold to show stages of abundance and magnificent plundering, creative building, the end of the legend of the inexhaustibility, and finally the birth of the conservation movement. On the reverse side is an illustrated description of the tasks involved in creating a public work of art.

"Before Minnesota was a state, it was largely forest land, the home of the Dakota and Chippewa Indians. It was said that a squirrel could go from Maine to Minnesota without touching the earth. After the early American settlers had logged New England, they moved west. Men smoked the peace pipe and made agreements and treaties. The Indians exchanged acres of forests for dubious values, beads, knives, and whiskey. The feats of a mythical Paul Bunyan were told and widely distributed. His saw went so fast that trees falling back had no time to pinch it. He used a gigantic blue ox, Babe, hitched to sections of timber, to clear the land. Together they symbolized the vast destructive logging methods which plundered Minnesota’s primeval pine forests. Huge sawmills were built along Minnesota’s many waterways. In a large millpond at Stillwater on the St. Croix, rivermen with peaveys skillfully balance themselves and direct the logs up the jack-chains to the waiting saws. A Norwegian or Swedish worker strains on a pike pole. A sawyer guides a large white pine log called a cant into the teeth of a whirring band saw. A mill worker tugs with a picaroon at a freshly cut board. Exploitation of the forests had a positive result. Much of the lumber went into building farmsteads, towns, and cities such as Minneapolis with its flour mills. The Mississippi and James J. Hill’s famous Stone Arch railroad bridge depicts the role of accessible transportation in building fortunes and economies.

"Clear-cutting with its slashings led to terrible disasters like the Hinckley fire of 1894 in which more than four hundred people died. However, many were saved by the heroic efforts of engineer James Root piloting St. Paul and Duluth Limited Train Number Four. Events such as this led farsighted men to realize that the pine forests were being exhausted. A Minnesotan, Christopher Columbus Andrews, as minister to Sweden and Norway, was awakened to the science of forestry. He contributed to the establishment of the United States Forest Service, the setting aside of the Chippewa and Superior National Forests, and the founding of a school of forestry at the University of Minnesota. During the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, all phases of conservation were undertaken. The federal Clarke-McNary Act of 1934 implemented forest fire fighting. The local influences are depicted by the Civilian Conservation Corp crew planting trees, a forester marking a tree cutting and the forest ranger in a tower with his alidade watching for smoke, in order to protect old and new trees for future generations. This publication marks the 50th Anniversary of the completion of the mural.”

~Hazel Thorson Stoick Stoeckler, 1945