Lumberjacks of the 19th Century: The Toughest Men in History

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cascadePhoto: Darius Kinsey

As the process of making paper from wood pulp was established, in the 1850s, William Rittenhouse founded America’s first paper mill in Germantown, Pennsylvania. The future of the timber industry was assured.

logdrivePhoto: Thomas T Taber

In the early days, trees were cut near to water for ease of transport to mills and overseas, and it was here that the sport of logrolling, seeing who can remain standing longest on a rolling log for the longest, was born. However, as the tree fellers moved farther inland, they had to find new ways of moving the ungainly trunks. Horses and oxen were used to drag logs through the woods, and many log flumes, which are manmade channels, sprang up for moving logs to the nearest river.

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oxenlogsPhoto: Leedman

Upon getting there, logs would be tied together in rafts, to be floated to the sawmill. Sometimes they even built crude railway systems made from timber, to get the logs on their way. As the people spread out toward the American west, during the 1800s, looking for land and natural resources, the lumberjacks followed closely, chasing the lumber supply.

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