Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan.gov Home      DNR Home                         First People-1900 | 20th Century | Special Exhibits MI Historical Museum | MI Historical Center

Lumbering in Michigan

Between 1869 and 1900,
Michigan was the nation's
leading lumber producer.

Photograph of Lumbering Gallery shows the Big Wheels, Sawmill and Lumber Baron's Manson facade

Explore the Lumbering Gallery

* The Big Wheels

* The Sawmill

* The Lumber Baron's Mansion

Until the 1880s, lumber companies got their logs from the forest to the sawmill by floating them down rivers. Timber cruisers located streams and surveyed nearby lands for marketable logs. Lumber companies acquired logs in one of three ways: by buying logs already cut, by purchasing stumpage (the right to cut trees on someone else's land) or by purchasing the land itself. As loggers exhausted the accessible timber in New England, they moved west to Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In Michigan they found stands of virgin white pine trees, large and straight grained. The Lumbering Gallery features a photo mural of these trees, some of which still remain at the Hartwick Pines State Park, site of the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum, and in the Upper Peninsula.

The history of lumbering in 19th-century Michigan ranges from tales of the early "shanty boys" to the coming of railroads that made it possible to cut trees far from rivers. As the century ended, Michigan faced the need to conserve natural resources, including forests.

Go to Kids' Stuff and Teachers' Stuff activities
for the "Lumbering in Michigan" gallery.

Contact the Michigan Historical Museum with your question or comment about this page. 

          Accessibility Policy  |   Privacy Policy  |   Link Policy  |   Security Policy
          Copyright State of Michigan