Charles Patrick Donovan (1861 – 1950)

“King of Lumberjacks’ is Dead; Was Legendary Figure Here for Over Fifty Years

Charles Patrick Donovan, well known as “Paddy the Pig,” died Monday at the Spears’ Rest Home. “Paddy” was hailed as “King of the Lumberjacks,” and his appearance in modern Bemidji brought back memories of the days of fifty saloons, roaring timber operations, and the hush of pine-filled forests whose grandeur lured many a man away from civilization.

“Paddy” was a temperate man, but he communicated freely in lumberjack society, and was a familiar figure in Bemidji saloons in the days when Hank Underwood was singing ballads in Bemidji bistros. Underwood and Donovan were an unforgettable part of Bemidji. The singer was a protege of Chauncey Olcott, and at one time vied with “Paddy” for the title, “King of the Lumberjacks.” Paddy was handy with a deck of cards, and he plied his luck from Bemidji to Alaska, with time out now and then for visits to the rich Dakota harvest fields.

Old-time saloonkeepers used to joke that “first thing you know, Underwood will call himself ‘King of the Lumberjacks,” Paddy, on the other hand, held the undisputed title, and this was large ly amplified in 1937 during the Paul Bunyan winter winter carnival when Donovan was much photographed for the wire service.

Paddy became a real life Paul Bunyan for several days, as news stories went out heralding Bemidji as the birthplace of the mythical Paul.

And well Paddy might have been the real Bunyan, since both the man and myth were surrounded with so much legend.

As the years went on, one heard fabulous stories about Paddy. It was rumored that he had a great horde of wealth cached away, and this rumor persisted even until after his death, which it was falsely said on the streets that the pioneer figure of the lumber camps left a “small fortune” in his shack in the Carson Hill district, sometimes referred to as “no man’s land.”

But Paddy’s fortune was only $500, and came form relatives who probably were providing against the day he would be buried. Through the years when Paddy became old, a nephew sent him gifts, and two nieces visited him in Bemidji last summer.

Even Paddy’s age was believed to be legend, until last summer when his nieces established it for Bemidji friends. Paddy’s death record says that he was born on Nov 10, 1861 but his card-playing friends and a steward at a city dispensary says that he was born Nov 14, 1852, which would make him 98 years old.

“Paddy never did work much in camps,” an old-timer told a Times reporter. “He was always around the camps, and he sometimes held down jobs as barn boss, but his days weren’t filled with the activities of most of the lumberjacks. Yet, he was known as the “King.”

Paddy moved around to camps in Brainerd, Bemidji, Farley, Tenstrike, etc., as did many other “jacks” in the old days, and in the fall he would head for the harvest.

Paddy was a consistent winner at poker until he became red ridden a couple of years ago. Before he became ill, Donovan could read men across the cards, and those who played cards with him respected him as a keen judge of men. During the Gold Rush, Paddy took his talents to Alaska. When eh came home, Donovan walked back to the Mid-West with General Coxey’s Army, but gave up the trek at Grand Forks, where the harvest was on, leaving Coxey and his men to take their demands to Washington.

When Paddy returned to Bemidji that time, he had $500 winnings from a single game with him, and he told this to a saloon keeper, who was known to “roll” the jacks for their money. The saloon keeper did not seem impressed, but when Paddy retired in the saloon, the operator searched him… in his sleep. Paddy never moved, and the operator gave up in disgust. Beside Paddy on the floor lay a rolled-up hat. In the morning Paddy tried to make a purchase at the saloon. The saloon keeper demanded to see the color of his money.

Paddy took off his hat, opened the lining and produced “five bills” as the old-timers say.

Paddy never could take credit for his name; however, he did have something to do with it. He was credited with having an enormous appetite, although he told a reporter two years before his death that this had been overplayed, that he ate no more than any other “hard working lumberjack,” But the name was received when he was batching with a lumberjack known only now as “Tom” in a cabin near Farley.

The story was retold by an old-timer today:

“Paddy and this ‘Tom’ were batchin’ at Farley, and in those days food was sent out to the camps on the old ‘Mike and Ike’ on flat cars. Meat was usually wrapped in burlap, and Paddy and Tom was hungry. Well, sir, this is the way it was, Tom went to the siding at Farley and spotted a flat car loaded with things wrapped in gunnysack. He saw a good sized package and brought it home to Paddy. It was heavy. He had a devil of a time carrying the meat home, and when he got to the shack, he yelled, ‘C’mere Paddy, help me bring in this pig. When they got it inside and opened the burlap, the found out that old Tom had carried home a dead Finlander that was being sent down on that flat-car. When the story got to Bemidji, ’twas told t’other way around, and they kidded Paddy and called him ‘Paddy the Pig, King of the Lumberjacks!’ Paddy never had much to say about it, but he enjoyed being a character. Paddy took a lot of kidding about this all his life!

Before he became ill, Paddy was a familiar sight at “Ole’s Poor-Air-Conditioned Bar” on Second Street and at the Kelliher card room, where, his playing partner said today, eh did a very creditable job of playing poker and enjoyed himself tremendously.

Paddy lived in three “houses”, small structures near each other — one he inhabited in the spring, another in the summer, and the other in the winter. Paddy never married. He “batched” or ate in cafes. (Front page story, Northland Times, March 3, 1950)

Fred Foote (1905)

Fred Foote, the self confessed murderer of Matt Gannon, who was shot at the Cathcart hotel bar in Baudette on April 9 1905, this morning gave a statement to the Pioneer describing the killing….

Foote was asked to allow his photograph to be taken, but this he refused to do, saying he
did not wish any more notoriety than was absolutely necessary.  Foote is about 45 years of age. He was born in New York state and lived there a number of years, afterwards moving to Missouri, where he was brought up. He is a typical frontier character, and his nationality is French-Canadian. He is dressed in the ordinary lumberjack apparel. (Bemidji Daily Pioneer, May 9, 1905)

Foote went to Stillwater Prison.

Pine Tiger

The only original “Pine Tiger” famous to local police circles and around the town, was in police court this morning to answer to a charge of drunkenness. “Pine Tiger” is an old time woodsman and one of the best known characters in this section. Judge Reynolds said after hearing the case that he supposed the right thing to do would be to send the tiger to the pen for life, but he made such a plea for clemency that the court personally escorted him to a downtown restaurant, bought him his breakfast and ordered him out of town. (Bemidji Pioneer, June 1904)

“Dutch Mary” Thompson

One of the better-known Lumberjack Queens, who operated out of the Great Northern Restaurant in Bemidji, was “Dutch Mary.” She was not Dutch but had at one time been married to “Dutch Slough,” a well known gambler. At first they called her “Dutch’s Mary’ and later “Dutch Mary.” She was actually Finnish. When the police came to arrest her and take her to the town hall every two weeks, she would start drinking the morning she was to pay her fine, and by the time the police came after her, she would be very drunk. They would take her by the arms and march her about two blocks to the City Hall. If it was a nice day in spring, all the lumberjacks would line up to see her march up the street. She would wave her arms and sing and just before she entered the City Hall, she would reach down and pull up her skirts and walk in with her bare rear showing. She said she wanted to give the boys a good show.

In 1918, when there was a push in Bemidji for all able men to “work or fight” during WWI, Bemidji Chief of Police Essler paid a visit to the OK restaurant, of which “Dutch Mary” was the proprietor and informed her in no uncertain terms that hereafter men would be forbidden to loiter in her place. The chief said the place was a hangout of idlers and was a nuisance and loafing there had to be stopped. (Oct 23, 1918)

Peter, himself, registered for the draft in September 1918. On his registration, he noted that he lived at the corner of 2nd and Beltrami, but he reported his occupation as working as a woodsman for Frank Gagnon, also known as a former saloon owner and operator of a soft drink dispensary in 1918. Peter signed his name as Peter Billeadou.

As part of a search for illegal bootleggers, Deputy Sheriff Cahill served another warrant and called for the arrest of Peter Billideau, and his wife, known as Mary Thompson, (Dutch Mary) who conducted the O. K. restaurant, charged with illegal sale of liquor. (Feb 19, 1919)

There was a disruption in the domestic affairs of the O.K. Restaurant on South Beltrami avenue a week later between Peter Billideau and “Dutch Mary'” Thompson, who jointly were in charge of the establishment, and the result was that Peter appeared in the municipal court the next morning looking as if he had attempted to stop the bullets from a Hun machine gun, while Mary appeared to have attempted to cross a barbed wire entanglement. For some reason, a cloud obscured the sunshine of the habitat, as it was admitted to have done on previous occasions, and the armistice was declared off. Peter proceeded to handle his fair partner in anything but a gentlemanly manner and her facial anatomy was serious disfigured, while his countenance somewhat resembled a sketch of a trench defense. He was found guilty of assault and fined $100 or 90 days in the county jail, and not having the necessary amount of change with him went to where there are plenty of bars and only water served. (Feb 28, 1919)

Peter Billadeau  admitted at the fall term of court that he sold booze in “Dutch Mary’s” place for which the judge thought he should spend 60 days in jail, pay a $100 fine, and also the costs of $101. (Sept 29, 1919)

Mary Thompson, however, was taken ill and made a long stay in the hospital and could not be present at the fall term of court in 1919.  She appeared at the spring term of district court in February 1920. She pleaded guilty to having sold liquor in her former restaurant the year before. She was fined $50 and given 30 days in the county jail, failure to pay the fine entailing a continuance of 30 days more.

On July 6, 1921, she again appeared in Municipal Court against Peter Billideau charging him with assault. Billideau was held to be guilty and was given 60 days in jail.

When the International Lumber Company started their large logging operation near Craig in 1921, she was one of the ladies who made their last stand in tarpaper shacks. She burned up in Craig when her shack caught on fire, which ended the life of one of the most colorful ladies of the trade. (Info taken from J.C. Ryan, the Lumberjack Queens, pp. 15-16, and newspaper reports in the Bemidji Daily Pioneer).

Mary was born at  Garsky, N.D., the daughter of John Reining. Died as a result of suffocation when she was caught in a fire at her home at Craigville. Widow of Harry Thompson.  Dutch Mary’s daughter, Louise Billedeau was a resident of 402 ½ Minnesota Ave. at the time of her mother’s death at Craigville on Sept 7, 1936. Mary had lived at Craigville for ten years. She was buried at International Falls, Mn. (Minnesota Death Certificate 1936-05766)