Pensylvania Lumber Museum Potter County, PA
Timber is one of Pennsylvania's greatest natural resources. When William Penn arrived in 1682, it is estimated that 90% of the over 20 million acres now comprising the Commonwealth, were covered with dense stands of whitepine, Eastern hemlock, and mixed hardwoods.
Forests near the first settlements were cleared immediately to provide farm fields and to supply construction materials. Gradually, as agriculture and industry developed, the demand for wood products increased. By the eve of the Revolution, lumbering had spread into the interior of the Commonwealth.
The Delaware, lower Susquehanna, and Schuylkill rivers were filled with rafts of lumber and logs, and the banks of creeks and rivers of Western Pennsylvania were dotted with up-down mills. While sawing lumber and building boats and ships represented the principal uses of wood in Pennsylvania's pioneer economy, the forest also furnished fuel, potash, tanbark, wood for furniture and coopering, rifle stocks, shingles, household utensils, charcoal - to name only a few of the many uses. The export of lumber and its by-products was a worthwhile enterprise wherever it was possible to reach the ports of Philadelphia and Baltimore.
After 1850, the rise of the lumber business was rapid and was given further impetus by the demand for lumber produced both by the Civil War and the growth of the country. The introduction of steamdriven machinery, combined with the use of the circular saw blade revolutionized sawmilling. During the period between 1850 and 1870, the center of the lumber industry shifted .into northern and central Pennsylvania. Williamsport, with 29 sawmills, became known as the lumber capital of the world. Its great mills, strategically located on the Susquehanna River, were supplied by logs that were floated down river from tributary streams to the north. The log boom, operated by the Susquehanna Boom Company, stretched seven miles along Williamsport's river front and was credited with a holding capacity of over 250 million board feet of lumber. It is within this period that Pennsylvania was the greatest lumber producing state in the nation.
After 1880, a marked change took place within the industry. Lumbering became a large-scale highly commercialized business. The vast stands of white pine were nearly exhausted, and loggers now directed their operations to the harvesting of the huge hemlock forests of northcentral Pennsylvania. The introduction of the logging railroad, utilizing geared locomotives such as the Shay, Climax, and Heisler, permitted the extension of logging into previously
inaccessible areas. Equally important, steampowered log loaders eliminated the backbreaking job of manually loading logs on railroad cars, and band saws - thin continuous bands of glittering teeth - enabled mill production to skyrocket.
Woodsworkers or woodhicks were housed in camps located near the cutting operation. Camps were temporary, rough wooden buildings that could be quickly dismantled and relocated as the center of logging operations changed. With the location of each large sawmill, towns sprang up almost overnight. Pigs ears (cheap saloons), stores, churches, schools, and houses all followed the shifting lumber operations.
By 1920, the seemingly endless forests had become history, and in hundreds of lumber towns as the log was moved up the jack ladder, the sawmill whistle was given a long, lonely, final blast, which signaled of the mill and the end of an era. Loggers moved to West Virginia and to the lake states, leaving behind thousands of devastated treeless acres. Today, after decades of reg'
tion, Pennsylvania's forests are once again green, healthy, and of great economic and esthetic value. However, unlike the pine and hemlock forests of our forefathers, timber stands now consist primarily of hardwoods. The story of Pennsylvania's lumber history and its impact
day lives of people is uniquely presented by the museum through our Visitor Center galleries, re-created logging camp, sawmill, CCC chestnut log cabin, tanning exhibit with switch engine, and sustainable forestry trail.
|Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
April through, November:9:00am - 5:00pm
Closed Certain Holidays
5660 US 6 West, PO Box 239
Midway between Galeton and Coudersport
Galeton, PA 16922