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Saginaw Valley Lumbering

It may be hard to imagine that forests once covered most of the flat lands of the Saginaw Valley. Forest densely filled with white pine, elm, oak, and other species flourished form the rich soil which was nourished by fresh water rivers and streams of the Saginaw Bay.

The forests didn't last long once Michigan's lumber became commercially viable around the mid-1800s. Like locus, investors from the east stake claims to vast land tracks and set up logging camps to feed the hundreds of hungary sawmills along the rivers edge in the villages of Bay City, Midland and Saginaw, which rapidly grew in population and commercial interests.

The forests closest to the rivers and easiest to get to the mills were the first to disappear. Left behind were vast open fields of tree stumps that took on the appearance headstone covering a cemetary. Evenually the stumps were laboriously removed by immigrant farmers who understood the significance of the valley's rich soil bed for farming.

At the peak of the lumbering boom in the valley, most every river bank had several sawmills where lumberjacks floated their logs to. Logs were even brought in by barge from points north to the large mills along the Saginaw River, which had the largest concentration of mills and a deep water port for shipping wood products to other parts of the country.

As the lumberjacks cleared the forests closest to the river they were forced further inland and the task of haul lumber skids to the river became more difficult. This problem was resolved with the introduction of the iron horse. Train tracks were built from the forests directly to the mills. These powerful steam belly giants industrialized the transportation process, they were also a cause of concern for fires started by their smoke stacks that bellow hot ash and cinders sparking a forest fire or setting a lumberyard a blaze.

Lumbering was the primary stimulus for the rapid growth of the vallye's population. It created thousands of jobs and many new businesses as a result. Wood manufacturing products included construction boards, roof shingles, boxes, barrel, staves, and planks for side walks or roads. The available of milled wood and a deep river also gave birth to the early shipbuilding industry. The Wheeler and Davidson shipards that build wood schooners powered by sail or steam engines were among the best known shipbuilders of their time period.

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