Document 5: Asa Mercer Promotes the Puget Sound Lumber Trade, 1865

Asa Mercer, Washington Territory: The Great Northwest, Her Material Resources and Claims to Emigration (Utica, N.Y.: L. C. Childs, 1865),
p. 8, 17-18, 22-23.

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The waters of the Straight now separate, a part flowing north and east though Rosario Strait, between Vancouver and Whidby Islands, being divided by many small islands, richly clothed with verdure, and then again divides, following to the north-west into the Gulf of Georgia, and round to the east of Whidby Island through Deception passage, and again uniting with the waters of Admirality Inlet. The other branch of the Strait bears in a south-easterly course a hundred miles, having a general width of twelve to fifteen miles, and being dotted with numerous islands, some quite small, and others of greater dimensions. A great many most excellent harbors exist on either side of the Inlet. The waters of the Inlet suddenly contract into a narrow volume of a mile in breadth, and force, as it were, a passage through the solid hills of sand stone, when they again, as suddenly, open out into a broad and beautiful sheet, named Puget Sound. This is Puget Sound proper, bearing nearly east and west, and extending some thirty miles west, and as many south. A great many bays and arms extend into the land, making fine harbors; in fact, the Sound is all one vast harbor, safe and secure. . . . The navigation of Puget Sound is considered safe and easy at all times, and few vessels are lost.

. . .

Puget Sound is emphatically a lumber district. We manufacture annually a hundred and thirty million feet of lumber, twenty-two and a half million laths [strips of wood], twenty and a half million shingles, a hundred thousand feet of piles, and about two thousand spars, also a large number of ship knees. The supply of logs for lumber will only be exhausted when the mountains and the valley surrounding the Sound are destroyed by some great calamity of nature. For when this generation shall have perished, the forests by them laid low will have begun anew to assume proportions that do honor to the former growth. Thus nearly as rapidly as is the axe laid at the root of the tree will others grow into place, so quickly does the fir tree grow in Puget Sound climate. It is fair to presume that, as we now manufacture over a hundred million [board] feet per annum, with so small a population, when the coast generally, and our own Territory in particular, multiplies its people by a hundred, the production will increase in like proportion. . . .

There is a large amount of curly maple and red alder upon our low vales, which is well suited for the manufacture of furniture; but in this department none have ventured. Cedar and fir we have in abundance, suited for barrel staves.

. . .

Having such a vast amount of lumber or timber that we cannot ourselves consume, what shall be done with it? Every stick and every plank that we ourselves do not want, others demand. From the Cape of Good Hope [the southern tip of Africa], to the western coast of the Pacific Ocean, to the Straits of Berring [between Alaska and Russia], there is a country more or less continuous, destitude [destitute] of timber, and where now we carry on an extensive trade in that line, and when, as civilization advances in those heathen and partially civilized lands, there will be an increased demand for that material required in the construction and protection of modern homes.

From Cape Horn [the southern tip of South America] to Humboldt [north of San Francisco], there is a region of country treeless and shrubless in many large districts, yet prolific in vegetation, and peopled by nations once proud in wealth and learning. These countries are breathing anew the breath of life. Enterprise and intelligence has marked many localities in Central America and western South America as suitable places for the building up of extensive trade, and the development of important local interests. Here is now a great trade in lumber, and every year will see it increase.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest