Document 10: Michael Luark's Diary Describes Life in the Lumber Industry

Michael Luark diaries, 1853, 1878, Michael Luark Papers, accession 309, Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries.

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September 3 [1853]. Since leaving Portland I have seen no good country. The river bottoms are subject to inundation and immediately back of them the country is hilly and mountainous covered with a heavy growth of fir timber and so thick with underbrush and briar that it is impenetrable by man, but I am [certain] that there is large tracts of fine farming country and timber at a distance back from the rivers and I saw large quantities of various kinds of produce brought into Portland from the back country.

September 5 [1853]. I went to work this morning with a Mr. Head getting out the timbers for a small house and puting [putting] up the frame at [$]2.00 a day and board. He is an emigrant [immigrant] and lives in a tent with his family. They are much dissatisfied with the country yet I scived [split] logs most of the day and was very tired at night not being used to this kind of work. . . .

September 6 [1853]. The country up this river is heavily timbered and very brushy. The larger timber is fir and cedar very large and tall. The small timber is hazel alder and vast quantities of under brush and brambles in many places being inpenetrable to man. All the country lying on the river is claimed on both sides of the river. . . .

[Continuing to travel north looking for work, Michael Luark arrived in Olympia, where he was hired by the Deschutes Mill. He worked for this firm for three weeks.]

October 8 [1853]. I went ahead early to the Deschutes Mills hunting work and obtained a birth at the lower mill where the river falls into the head of Puget Sound over a rock about 20 feet above tide water. This is one of the best millstreams I have ever scene falling about 75 feet in about 300 yards.

October 10 [1853]. . . . I done my first days work on a sawmill in Washington Territory. It is a very good mill only a little out of repair at this time.

October 11 [1853]. . . . At noon I took my place on the mill and sawed up two of the largest size logs. The last one made about 16.50 feet of lumber. . . .

October 14 [1853]. All hands commenced cuting [cutting] logs on the hill opposite the mill and then rolling them into the water below the falls. We worked all day and then I sawed until midnight, the mill having been repaired.

. . .

[Luark took a donation land claim of 320 acres on November 1, 1853 and made modest improvements on the land. He engaged in subsistence farming on his own land and logging for wages near Olympia and Steilacoom.]

January 25 [1854]. I continue chopping rail timber all day, blistering my hands just a little.

. . .

[In the fall of 1855, Michael Luark returned to Indiana to convince his family to move to Washington Territory. He and his family eventually did move to Washington; they reached Michael's old farm in October 1861 only to find that another farmer had occupied it. In November 1861 Michael sold his farm and moved close to his brother's farm near Gray's Harbor. He continued to combine farming with logging. On March 6, 1869, he built a sawmill—the Sylva Mill Company—which he operated until October 1885. He employed his nephew Julian and his son Evened.]

January 14 [1878]. Weather both fair and pleasant. I have a lame back but able to work: Julian managed to get another load of fencing to the Parsonage while Evened done some repairing on the road on the hill. I ran the mill but had to make a new Wrist Baseing. Allen was here for a crosscut saw.

January 15 [1878]. Weather South without rain. Evened cut a Cedar Southeast of the mill and got one log cut beside helping some about the mile. I run the saw closing out jonas's 3 X 3 stuff among other things. Julian got the team and took over the last of the fencing and some of Ryles floor for his sheep shed.

January 16 [1878]. Warm with a little rain. Julian hauled the boards for the roof of the Ryles's shed . . . and Evened and I both worked about the mill all day. Wilson was here for some fan mill irons which I bought of [from] Feller years ago and never used but we found only a few which we let him have for [$]100. I also bargained for 10 bushels of wheat for bread.

January 17 [1878]. No material change in weather. Julian hauled another load of Barn flooring to Ryles. Evened and I run the mill, hauled out some lumber and made some improvement in front of the mill so that teams can get in conveniently near the mill. I finished sawing Garrisons sill after night.

January 18 [1878]. Rain lightly nearly all day. Julian went after the team but came back without if afternoon having waited for the rain to cease so he lost the day except a [?] [this word is illegible because the diary is smudged]. I find myself about worked down being able to help Evened only part of the day about the mill, suffering with Headache and piled up before the fine part of the day all from over work.

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