June 7, 2006
That was the
shout heard loud and clear in Michigan’s endless forests in the mid and
latter 1800’s. Small armies of loggers descended on Michigan with axes,
saws, and peaveys to cut down the towering white pine forests that were a
gold mine ready to harvest.
A Dangerous Business
The work was hard and a careless misstep could maim a logger for life. And fatal accidents were not uncommon. In 1857, William G. Butler, the first white settler of Saugatuck, was killed in a lumber accident when loading logs. But the demand for more timber increased by leaps and bounds. New towns and cities needed lumber for new buildings. And after Chicago burned to the ground in 1871, Saugatuck lumber mills worked around the clock to help rebuild Chicago.
Log Jams and River Hogs
River hogs rode timber downstream to the lumber mill leaping from log to log to prevent log jams. The sport of log birling arose from this dangerous lumber job.
Before loggers started cutting
Michigan timber, experts thought that there was enough existing timber to
last 500 years! In less than 60 years, nearly all of northern Michigan was
clear cut. So the timber barons and loggers moved to Wisconsin, Minnesota,
and finally the west coast.