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Book and Documentary Look at Oregon Coast Logging Tales, Nov 4 in Nehalem

Published 10/28/23 at 5:33 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Book and Documentary Look at Oregon Coast Logging Tales, Nov 4 in Nehalem

(Nehalem, Oregon) – 100 years ago, logging was among the top two or three backbones of Oregon coast life, and tourism was down the economic rung quite a ways. It made for many a story and exciting moments along this burgeoning region. (Steam donkey at Tillamook Pioneer Museum - Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

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Now, there's a new book and documentary on the subject, with both premiering on November 4 in Nehalem, with the movie "Logging Oregon's Coastal Forests." It happens at 3:30 p.m. at the North County Recreation District's Performing Arts Center in Nehalem.

Historian and author Mark Beach, and filmmaker Carl Vandervoort have both taken a close look at the first 60 years of the 20th century, when logging dominated the physical, economic and social landscape of the Oregon coast. They bring this coastal legacy to life with stories, music and historic photographs that capture the culture of logging, the dangers loggers faced, and the pride they took in their work.

Thousands of young men labored and sweated in the forests and then swaggered in the towns.

“Mills from Astoria to Brookings belched smoke and shipped lumber throughout the world,” write the pair. “As the industry responded to its worldwide market, it went from boom to bust and back to boom. Every decade brought new technologies that meant fewer loggers could cut more trees and send them to mills faster than ever. This book, which includes historical images from museums, agencies, and personal collections, reveals the dangers and pride loggers experienced as part of their profession and captures the culture of logging as forests shrank and markets grew.”

$10 at the door. Proceeds benefit educational programs presented by Nehalem Valley Historical Society.

Timber was an enormous force all over the Oregon coast early on. From about 1870 to 80, cargo mills grew in size, from smaller operations to much bigger ones, thus transforming port towns like Coos Bay into major hubs. Rail lines and steamships added more growth, but at the same time this and innovation caused smaller mills to go out of business in favor of larger ones. New technologies like the steam donkey not only caused the industry to shift rather suddenly, but it also attracted the attentions of already-wealthy industrialists from back east who took over quite quickly.

Historians also note that by 1900, numerous coastal towns began to change their looks: clear-cutting was obvious in the scenery.

One name of these lumber barons is still recognizable today: John S. Pillsbury was already in the flour mill business when he joined up with a Swedish-born lumber man named Charles Axel Smith to build logging operations in Coos Bay.

Some of these lumber barons – including Smith – got their start on the Oregon coast by coming to visit incognito. Competition here between larger operations had become fierce enough that some scouting the region for new expansions would do so in secret, as to not let their competitors have a clue they were here.

Smith bought up prime timber land this way, rather anonymously, and in some instances acquired land illegally.

The Oregon coast is full of reminders of this integral part of its history. One rather eye-popping remnant is the steam donkey sitting outside the Tillamook Pioneer Museum. MORE NEHALEM BELOW

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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