Book Review:
When Logging Was Logging: 100 Years of Big Timber in Southwest Washington

  • Posted 7/03/2012
  • Essay 10140

By Karen Bertroch, Donna Gatens-Klint, Jim LeMonds, and Bryan Penttila
The Donning Company Publishers, Virginia Beach, VA
Hardcover, 176 pages
Color and black-and-white photographs, index
ISBN 978-1-57864-705-7

For more than a century, the timber industry has been an integral part of Washington's development.  Drawing upon the fantastic Appello Archives Center in Naselle, When Logging Was Logging examines over 100 years of logging history in the Willapa Hills, located between Pacific and Wahkiakum counties in Southwest Washington. The book provides an in-depth look at the history of large-scale logging operations as well as small logging outfits that have harvested first-growth timber, then second-growth, and now third-growth trees in this area of the state.

The book sets the stage in Chapter 1, with the history of the Deep River Logging Company, one of the earliest and largest operations in the Willapa Hills. The reader is introduced to nineteenth-century logging techniques -- mostly done with hand saws -- that soon gave way to more modern methods involving chainsaws and gas powered engines. But felling the trees is only part of the process. Getting the logs out meant the construction of rail lines and logging roads, which are also given their due.

The heavy work in the timber industry was done by men, but much of the work back at camp was done by their wives, sons, and daughters. The book provides very compelling stories of what is was like growing up in a log camp, from cooking meals, to building camp houses, to teaching schoolchildren, to sharing time with family and friends.  Many of those interviewed who grew up in this environment remember it fondly.

Other large-scale operations like Weyerhaeuser and Crown Willamette (later Crown Zellerbach) are detailed, but one of the more interesting chapters looks at the "gyppo loggers" -- small independent firms that harvested timber under contract from large landowners. The authors have provided an invaluable service by collecting the histories of these smaller operations, many of which were family owned. These are stories that should not be forgotten, and thanks to this book they are not.

This rich history of logging would be incomplete without photographs, and the book provides plenty of them, lovingly reproduced in exquisite detail. And although the tools and machinery seen in the earliest pictures is different than those shown in more recent shots, the pride in work that shows on the faces of loggers is the same in any century.

In the end, this is a book about families -- men and women who grew up logging, raised children in the logging camps, and saw many of them follow in their footsteps, even to this day. For a very personal and human view of Washington's timber industry, When Logging Was Logging towers above.

By Alan J. Stein, July 3, 2012

Submitted: 7/03/2012

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