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Life As a Logger
Image of a logging crew that links to a more detailed image.Photo: Courtesy of British Columbia Archives, Province of British Columbia (www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca). Call #D-04832. In the early 1900s lumber companies needed large crews of men who would work 12- to 14-hour-days at a forest site that was often far from the nearest town. It became necessary for the companies to set up "lumber camps," which provided a place for the workers to eat and sleep after each arduous day of labor. For the most part, the sleeping quarters were dark, dank, foul-smelling places. In cold weather, pot-bellied stoves in makeshift cabins provided heat, but ventilation was poor, and damp clothing and laundry rarely dried in time for the next workday. The few historical photographs from this era do not paint a pretty picture of these places of rest.

Image showing the small camps that the loggers had.  This image links to a more detailed image.Old photographs show that at small camps the dining facilities might have just one female cook; larger camps would have five to nine cooks and dishwashers, most of whom were men, though occasionally one or more women might be seen in an operation. It was a demanding job to feed the loggers, whose appetites were legendary. Photo: Special Collections Division University of Washington Libraries. # UW 11848 "Not to be copied or downloaded without permission."

Once in a while, workers arrived at camps with a family in tow. According to some historical documents and images, families might wind up living in a tent with some rough boards out front to lessen the amount of mud brought into the living space. Cooking would likely have been done in a separate canvas-covered area next to the tent. But these people were not on vacation in Yosemite Park; they were living in a rainforest. What would young children do with their day when it rained--for twelve days in a row? How do you imagine the mother would spend her day? How would she keep her children clean and healthy? Would that even have been possible under these conditions?

Look closely at the image of this lumber camp. It is very typical of the camps in the rainforests of the Northwest in the early 1900s. Imagine yourself in a tent at the far edge of the workers quarters. You can be a child, a teenager, a newly married parent or a logger who has just brought his family out to the lumber camp from town. You may have migrated here to find work, any work. Put yourself in the picture. From what you can see, and other things that you've learned in this module, develop a story. What would it be like to live here?

The Loggers Memorial in Forks, Washington
Forks, Washington, is a town on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. It has always been a town where people earned their living in the woods. Many hazards are associated with this occupation and lives are lost. A Loggers Memorial has been dedicated in Forks, Washington listing the names of more than 150 people from the area who worked in the timber industry and lost their lives in "work-related deaths."

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