In 1929 the lumber mills, along with agriculture, fueled the Snohomish County economy. Part of this economic growth was also driven by the need to supply the numerous logging camps in the nearby Cascade Mountains. The dairy and farming industries in particular experienced growth in synergy with the logging industry as the demand to feed the logging crews grew as well.
Lumber was moved east by rail as well as west to the regional port systems where some of the largest mills in the world were housed. The closest and at one time one of the most prolific lumber manufacturing ports was in Everett. When the stock market crashed on what is known as Black Tuesday, paper pulp orders fell: mills cut production, laid off workers, and reduced wages. The Puget Sound Pulp and Timber Company in Everett closed permanently. By 1933, lumber exports declined to less than half of the 1929 levels.
First oxen hauled the trees to the rivers to be transported to the mills followed by steam donkeys and steam railroads. Each mill area had a “spur” also known as a branch line. These spurs are secondary railway lines which branch off for loading and unloading of goods. As transportation methods evolved the lumber industry became less dependent on the railroads. During the 1930s, logging railroads and steam engines were replaced with caterpillar tractors, logging trucks, and diesel-powered yarders to haul the logs. Racking diesel truck sounds replaced the whistles of Shay, Heisler, and Climax steam locomotives, while chain saws ended the quiet thuds of falling crosscuts. In the late 1940s, the last major use of steam ended with the closure of the Sauk River Lumber Company.
During World War II, the marine vessel and aircraft industry, notably Paine Field and Boeing, expanded rapidly to fill war quotas. When the war ended in 1945, Snohomish County resumed harvesting trees and processing logs. The housing demand grew as veterans returned from war. Weyerhaeuser’s Mill B, a huge complex at the mouth of the Snohomish River, sawed the diminishing amounts of timber.
Timber products continued to diminish in scale and importance. After 1953, President Eisenhower ordered an increase of the timber harvest on public lands. The Forest Service ramped up production in eastern Snohomish County. Money flowed to school and road funds, creating a network of logger built roads that opened the backcountry for recreation and firefighting access.
Timber harvests shifted again when Congress adopted the National Wilderness Act of 1964 that set aside millions of acres of National Forest Land where logging and mining were banned. The authors of the act, Congressmen Lloyd Meeds, of Snohomish County, and Senator Henry M. Scoop Jackson, wanted to protect the forest and its watershed for recreation and wildlife. New laws, most famously the Endangered Species Act of 1973, helped to preserve wildlife and ecosystems.
Snohomish County cedar log (Image from the Everett Public Library)
The genesis of Lake Stevens, the Rucker Mill (1907-1925) was thought to be one of the “world’s largest sawmills”. Neighboring Arlington was heralded at the time as the “Shingle Capital of the World”, vying with the City of Everett. Regardless of titles, these Snohomish County towns were big players in the prolific NW lumber industry. (Photo courtesy of the City of Arlington)
Giant tree. (Photo courtesy of the City of Arlington)
Logging trains in Arlington. (Photo courtesy of the City of Arlington)