Section III: Timeline



1828 The Hudson's Bay Company builds the first sawmill in the Pacific Northwest at Fort Vancouver. 1
1841 John Wilkes and his expedition explore the Pacific Northwest for the United States. Wilkes is impressed by the region's timber resources and by the quality of Puget Sound harbors. 2
1846 The Oregon Boundary Settlement sets the border between the U.S. and Great Britain at the 49th parallel, making the Pacific Northwest a part of the U.S. .
1848-49 The California Gold Rush begins, precipitating a logging boom on Puget Sound. .
1853 William Renton establishes a sawmill at Alki Point and later moves it to Port Blakely on Bainbridge Island. Pope & Talbot's Puget Mill Company begins operations at Port Gamble. .
1860 Over two dozen mills, most owned by San Francisco-based investors, are operating on Puget Sound. 5
1864 The federal government agrees to subsidize the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The railroad receives a 40-mile-wide strip of land (on alternate sections in a checkerboard pattern) for each mile of track it builds in Washington Territory. .
1871-73 Hazard Stevens, an attorney for the Northern Pacific, leads a fight against the widespread illegal cutting of timber on public and railroad land. Stevens resigns after being accused of taking bribes from sawmill companies. .
1878 Congress passes the Timber and Stone Act. This legislation allows residents of West Coast states to purchase 160 acres of forestland for $2.50 per acre. Mill companies abuse the law and use it to acquire millions of acres of timberlands. .
1880 About 160 million board feet of timber are harvested in Washington Territory. The territory is not among the leading lumber-producing regions of the nation. .
1881 John Dolbeer patents the donkey engine, a small steam engine used to power a winch. The donkey engine revolutionizes logging by replacing animal power and allowing companies to reach stands of trees that were previously inaccessible. 15
1883 The Northern Pacific completes a transcontinental line to its terminus in Tacoma. The railroad owns 7.7 million acres in Washington Territory. 7
1885 The Knights of Labor pressure several lumber companies into firing their Chinese employees. .
1887 The Northern Pacific completes a rail line through Stampede Pass, reducing freight rates between Puget Sound and Eastern markets. Washington's lumber industry enters a phase of rapid growth. 12
1888 The St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber Company is established, marking the beginning of the migration of Midwestern lumbermen to Washington. .
1889 Washington achieves statehood. .
1890 The state's companies harvest over one billion board feet of timber. .
1891 The Forest Reserve Act allows the President to create forest reserves (later called national forests) on public lands. .
1893 The Great Northern Railroad completes its transcontinental line to Seattle. .
1897 President Grover Cleveland creates a 1.5 million-acre forest reserve on the Olympic Peninsula. .
1899 Congress establishes Mount Rainier National Park. .
1900 Washington companies harvest 1.9 billion board feet of timber. .
1900 Weyerhaeuser Timber Company purchases 900,000 acres of timberlands in western Washington from the Northern Pacific Railroad. .
circa 1905 Lumber companies develop high-lead logging, a method of using donkey engines to haul logs through the air. High-lead logging increases efficiency but makes logging more dangerous. 18 and 19
1905 Washington becomes the leading lumber-producing state in the nation. .
1905 Congress transfers the national forests from the Department of the Interior to the Forest Service, headed by Gifford Pinchot. .
1907 President Theodore Roosevelt creates the Colville National Forest. Congress takes away the President's power to create national forests in six Western states. .
1907 The Industrial Workers of the World arrive in the Pacific Northwest. 20, 21, and 27
1909 Theodore Roosevelt withdraws 600,000 acres from the Olympic National Forest in order to create the Mount Olympus National Monument. .
1910 Washington companies harvest 4.1 billion board feet of timber. .
1911 Washington enacts the nation's first compulsory workers' compensation law. Lumber executives played a leading role in drafting this legislation. 23
1912 The I.W.W. leads a major strike in the Grays Harbor region. After a bitter struggle, the strike is broken. 22
1914 The First World War begins. The U.S. remains neutral. .
1915 President Woodrow Wilson halves the size of the Mount Olympus National Monument to free up spruce stands needed for the construction of airplanes. .
1916 The I.W.W. supports striking shingleweavers in Everett. A confrontation with employers leads to the Everett Massacre. .
1917 The U.S. enters World War I. .
1917 The I.W.W., demanding the eight-hour day, leads a wave of lumber strikes throughout the Pacific Northwest. The federal government creates the Spruce Production Division and the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen to end the strikes. These agencies crush the I.W.W. but force timber companies to adopt the eight-hour day. 28 and 29
1919 The I.W.W. launches another unsuccessful round of strikes. Six Wobblies are killed in the Centralia Massacre. The I.W.W. ceases to be a powerful force in the Northwest's lumber camps. 28
1920 Washington companies harvest 5.5 billion board feet of timber. .
1926 The state's timber harvest reaches its all-time peak, 7.6 billion board feet. .
1929 The stock market crash starts the Great Depression. Lumber prices plummet. .
1932 Timber harvests fall to 2.3 billion board feet. More than half of Washington's loggers and millworkers are unemployed. .
1933 President Franklin Roosevelt creates the National Recovery Administration. Under its provisions, lumber executives draft a code regulating production and encouraging conservation measures. .
1935 The Supreme Court declares the NRA unconstitutional, voiding the lumber code. .
1935 Local unions form the Northwest Council of Sawmill and Timber Workers. Most millworkers and loggers are unionized during the 1930s. .
1938 Oregon passes Washington as the nation's leading timber producer. .
1938 Congress creates a 650,000-acre Olympic National Park. 31 and 32
1940 President Roosevelt adds nearly 200,000 acres to Olympic National Park. 33
1940 Washington companies harvest 4.5 billion board feet of timber. .
1947 Joseph Cox patents a revolutionary new chainsaw design. The chainsaw dramatically increases the efficiency of logging operations, as does the use of caterpillar tractors and logging trucks. 42, 43, and 44
1950 Washington companies harvest 4.5 billion board feet of timber. .
1956-58 Conservationists successfully fight against salvage logging in Olympic National Park. 48
1960 Washington companies harvest 4.6 billion board feet of timber. .
1964 Congress passes the Wilderness Act, allowing the Forest Service and other federal agencies to create wilderness areas where logging and roadbuilding are forbidden. The passage of this legislation demonstrates the growing power of the environmental movement. .
1968 Environmentalists help create North Cascades National Park. 49 and 50
1970 Washington companies harvest 6.4 billion board feet of timber. .
1973 Environmental groups push the Endangered Species Act through Congress. .
1980 Washington companies harvest 5.7 billion board feet of timber. .
1986 Over the objections of environmentalists, Congress begins ordering the Forest Service to increase the sale of timber on public lands. .
1989 Environmental groups launch a series of lawsuits alleging that federal timber sales in the Northwest violate the Endangered Species Act by harming the northern spotted owl. .
1990 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the spotted owl as endangered. 53 and 54
1990 Washington companies harvest 5.8 billion board feet of timber. .
1991 U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer places an injunction on federal timber sales and restricts logging on most national forests and some private timberlands in the Northwest. .
1993 In an attempt to resolve the spotted owl controversy, President Clinton holds a forest summit in Portland. His administration later devises the Northwest Forest Plan. The plan sets aside habitat for owls, substantially reduces timber harvests on public lands, and increases economic aid to lumber workers and timber-dependent communities. 52 and 55
1994 Congress and Judge Dwyer approve the Northwest Forest Plan. The injunctions on timber sales are lifted. .
1998 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists several Washington State salmon runs as endangered. This decision leads to new limitations on logging near rivers and streams. .
2000 Washington companies harvest 4.1 billion board feet of timber. The reduced logging during the 1990s bankrupts many of the state's small mills. .
2001 President Clinton substantially increases the amount of federal lands where logging and roadbuilding are prohibited. President George W. Bush reverses this policy a few months later. .
2002 President Bush announces a plan to increase salvage logging on federal lands in order to reduce forest fires. Environmental groups object. .

Section I Section II Section IV Section V Section VI
Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest