In the summer of 1906, a Milwaukee businessman set out with his young sons and some friends to canoe and camp in the north woods of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Canada. It was the first of several month-long journeys Howard Greene and “The Gang” would make over the years, each detailed in remarkable, handmade journals and documented in hundreds of large-format photographs. Reproduced here with a large selection of photographs and maps, these journals convey readers into a riverine world of outdoor adventure—a northland wilderness and way of life that were, even as Howard Greene charted their genuine charms, already vanishing.
Introduced and annotated by Greene’s daughter, these observant narratives run rapids and portage and paddle lakes and rivers, including the Chippewa, Wisconsin, St. Croix, and Presque Isle as well as traveling in areas now in Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Along the way Greene, a skilled photographer, captures images of logging and mining operations, primitive dams and even more primitive camping, trading posts, and many remote Native American villages. Through it all runs the story of family and friendship forged over campfires in the north woods, reported with dry wit, a keen eye for detail, and an abiding interest in the natural world.
Composed decades before Sigurd Olson or Calvin Rutstrum began documenting the wild life of the upper Midwest, Howard Greene’s journals are a window into a world at once familiar and strange, the wilderness caught on the verge of becoming the North Woods we know today.
About the Author
Martha Greene Phillips spent several years researching her father’s canoeing and camping adventures and editing and annotating his journals of those trips. She is the author of The Floating Boathouses on the Upper Mississippi River and lives near Madison, Wisconsin.
Peter Geye is the award-winning author of Safe from the Sea, The Lighthouse Road, and, most recently, Wintering. He lives in Minneapolis.
"Howard Greene’s narratives are not only a grand adventure but a rare glimpse of life along northern waterways during the early 1900s. His superb photographs have a haunting quality that betrays the radical environmental and social change that was to come. You can almost hear Kent Ryden’s ‘quiet human voices whispering in the landscape.’"—Mary Graves, chief of Cultural and Natural Resources, Voyageurs National Park
"Border Country is evidence of the long sway wild places have had over our lives and imaginations. The pages you’re about to read are, in short, a testament: to both past and future wildernesses, and the ways we inhabit them. And are inhabited by them."—Peter Geye, from the Foreword
"Although my stack of books sent to review already contains four others, the oversize book: Border Country dwarfed them all."—Anne Swenson, Ely Echo
"Although the sepia-toned historical photos are the most compelling part of this volume, Greene’s tales of shooting rapids, surviving hailstorms and dodging log drives are engaging, as are her homelier depictions of packing lists and offspring."—Star Tribune
"A deep and unparalleled look at the state as it appeared a century ago. And because of Greene's writing style and his focused lens, Border Country makes it a joy to tag along on that journey."—OnMilwaukee
"A rich snapshot of early adventure."—Star Tribune
"This book will be of interest to historians as they describe a north country on the verge of becoming vacationland. It will also be of interest today’s wilderness enthusiasts, who are used to lightweight canoes and tents and modern fabrics - especially those who are fascinated by descriptions of vintage camping equipment."—Minnesota History