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
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
for the "Lumbering in Michigan" gallery.