Industry, Commerce and Labor
INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE: Timber is the dominant factor
in Oregon's industrial and commercial life, and activities connected
with it spread over all but the grasslands and the high plateaus in the
southeastern section. So important is timber and its products that there
is hardly a community, in western Oregon at least, whose prosperity
does not depend upon it. Even the state's tax-supported schools derive a
good portion of their income from the forests. The importance of the
industry is symbolized in the state shield, which the founding fathers
inscribed with a forest and a ship.
Water-powered mills, with up-and-down mulay saws, cut the boards
for Oregon's earliest frame houses. The first steam-driven mill, with
a circular saw, was built in Portland in 1850, while teams of oxen
were busy hauling logs down skidroads which are now Portland streets.
Along the shores of the Columbia, inland as far as Hood River, were
great stands of timber. Here the lumber industry had its first real
beginnings. Skidroads were pushed from the river banks into the dense
forest. Over these the bull teams, driven by swaggering bullwhackers,
hauled the big butts to water, where they were made into rafts and
floated down to the mills.
By 1890, when the exhaustion of the forests of the Great Lakes
region was in sight, Oregon began to be prominent as a lumber state.
The lumberj acks followed the timber west. It is common to find
loggers in Oregon today whose fathers helped cut the pine of Michigan,
and whose grandfathers helped fell and saw the spruce of Maine.
Timber owners and sawmill operators, too, came from the lake
states to Oregon and built mills in the Willamette Valley and pushed
logging railroads into the foothills. The Coos and Tillamook Bay
districts were developed. When, later, lumber operators from the
southern states arrived, because the timber there was giving out, they
found Oregon forest land mostly taken up.
Shortly after 1900, widespread corruption in the lumber industry was
exposed in the great Oregon Timber Fraud cases. Men grew wealthy