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Before Chainsaws, America's Loggers

Logging Monster Trees

Today’s post is an amazing look at a period of our history that wasn’t that long ago involving the challenges loggers faced every day to earn their wages. Remember this the next time you think your job is demanding.

Before chainsaws were invented, the logging industry in the United States & Canada was a seriously challenging occupation and we are only talking about 125 years ago.  In the Pacific Northwest there were forests full of monster trees and cutting them down was done by hand. A friend sent me these photos and I had to share them with you.

Logging in the Pacific Northwest

Look at the length of the two-man hand saw and heavy duty axes they used to drop these tremendous trees. It is almost inconceivable to think of cutting a tree this size with a hand saw.

See the length of the hand saw they needed

The work required very strong men (and horses) working long days for minimal pay. Could you imagine doing this to earn a living?

The work required very strong men to cut such trees

After a tree was finally felled it took a week or more to cut it up into sections that could be managed (somehow) and transported by train to a lumber yard.

After felling, it took a week or more to cut up the tree

Maneuvering the logs down the mountain to the train was a complex job. I didn’t do any research on this, but I would be willing to bet that many men lost their lives doing this dangerous work.  One slip and a hunk of wood as big as a hotel is rolling your way!  The other question that begs an answer is how did they get those logs onto the flatbeds of that train?

Some of the logs were larger than the train engine...

Hollowed out logs became the company’s mobile office.  Can you imagine stacking such logs to build a log home? Two courses would produce a 30′ ceiling. Maybe that’s why it was easier to hollow out a tree.

A hollowed out log became the company's mobile office...

A long time before anyone ever thought of a “mobile home or RV” hollowed out logs were also used to house and feed the logging crews.

Hollowed out logs were also used to house and feed the crews...

We are accustomed to our modern conveniences like electricity and gasoline powered chainsaws, and it is always such a mind-boggling experience to see how such monumental tasks were performed before these conveniences appeared on the scene.

Share this with your friends, even those who don’t live in a log home will enjoy this ‘blast from the past’!

8 comments to Before Chainsaws – America’s Logging Industry

  • Adam

    These are the biggest trees I have ever seen. Where were they cut down from? Imagine building a log cabin kits using these size trees. Would be a log cabin mansion!

  • William Hughes

    Thank you for the pictures!! We grow timber in South East Alabama. But never in our hiatory, that I know of, have there been trees this size here. I have seen trees like this in northern Cal. and Origan. My folks took us to see the Redwoods. They can not be pictured in your mind, you MUST see them!
    Again thank you for the pictures. If you see these pictures, please take a vacation to the Redwood Nat Park and see the real thing.

  • Tom

    Roger that, William. Those were monster trees and as a woodworker, I can’t imagine how you cut those up into manageable sizes :-)

  • tom

    can I get more information on where these photographs came from.

    thanks,

  • James

    I, too, have seen the BIG trees in CA. Yosemite Park is a place every American should see. The huge trees are not able to be imagined, you must see them to grasp the insignificance of man compared to these trees.

  • Yvonne Dixon

    I love these pictures.These trees are incredible and so are the people…No fear is all I gotta say about them :)

  • JL

    Weather conditions must be just right to produce these monsters! These trees were found in California, Oregon, Washington, Canada, and Alaska, primarily, but large Fir and Pine trees could also be found in other Northern areas. California holds many groves of giant redwoods and Sequoias, so don’t be put off if you try to get into Yosemity and find it already overpacked and you can’t get to see the Mariposa Stand, go to Big Trees to the north, or one of the many other stands, like Redwood park near Crescent City on the upper NW coast of CA! Redwoods are the tallest, Sequoias are the heaviest! “No Fear” was true of all loggers in those days! Helped my uncle fall a 7′ diameter Douglas Fir in 1954, largest tree he found that I knew of!
    No logger would have been able resist getting into and harvesting these big trees, lots of money to be made, sad thing is, it was our heritage they destroyed! You’re amazed at the size of the fallen trees, just how much more amazed would you have been to still see them standing? http://forestry.about.com/od/treephysiology/tp/giant_trees.htm
    Coastal Redwood – The Tallest Tree On Earth *** Giant Sequoia – Estimated the World’s Heaviest Tree
    And we cut down all the biggest!

  • Brer Fox

    They left some of the largest ones for posterity. See last months National Geographic. I could show huge Douglas Firs to this day and there is a Cedar near Lake Quinault, WA that we had 27 people inside the natural hollow at the base.