White Pine Trees

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Winning Nomination

White pines as a natural resource brought people to Minnesota to harvest the trees, which were used to build cities throughout the Midwest. Many people made their fortune from logging and many people made their living cutting trees. Today's remaining white pines represent the wilderness landscape of northern Minnesota with its lakes and forests.
~Nancy Nelson, Duluth, MN


Runner-up Nominations

The Lost 40 is the last remaining remnant of what our great state looked like before the mass harvest of the great white pines. In the spirit of progress and industry, much was done without long range thinking as to its effect on the environment. This a poignant reminder of what can happen with such careless thinking and acting in the name of making money.
~Kevin Wassenaar, Prinsburg, MN

Environmental Impacts of Logging The clear-cut method of logging in 1900s changed: The Landscape--Northern Minnesota lost most of its old growth, area was succeeded by aspen and hardwoods; Fauna--Vegetation change led to habitat change when the aspen forests grew, which also completly changed the undergrowth. More deer!.
~Laell Schultz, Coleraine, MN

Forests and everything green Even moving here from Michigan there are so many shades of green everywhere. We love it here.
~Sherrie Jones, Mound, MN


Contents

History

A natural resource feeds an industry

A white pine tree can grow to be more than one hundred feet tall, with a trunk diameter of more than forty inches. There was a time when Minnesota’s forests were dense with white pines, which flourish in the cool shade and fine soils of the north.

New Englanders schooled in logging and sawmilling began looking to the pine forests of Minnesota as early as the 1830s. The first easterners established their logging operations along the St. Croix River, where they found white pines that were light enough to float on log drives, soft enough to mill easily, and were strong, durable, and resistant to decay. Commercial lumbering began in Minnesota in 1839 when a group of New England businessmen started a sawmill at what soon became a small town, Marine on St. Croix. A year later, a second commercial mill was built, at Stillwater, which within a decade became Minnesota Territory’s milling capital.

Over time, logging camps spread northward, becoming larger and more efficient in the process. Oxen were replaced with draft horses, and logs moved ever more quickly from the woods to sawmills to lumberyards. The years from 1890 to 1910 were the heyday of logging in Minnesota; lumber companies’ combined output was valued at $1 billion. Production peaked in 1905, when the lumber harvested in Minnesota would have filled 240,000 railroad cars.

"For all this a price was paid," wrote Agnes Larson in her History of the White Pine Industry in Minnesota, published in 1949. "One cannot with impunity rob Mother Nature of her treasures, for truly the sins of the fathers are avenged unto the third or fourth generation. The price we must pay for the rapid use of our forests is a vast area of wasteland for generations, or else a wise and vigorous policy of reforestation." Since 1997, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has overseen the White Pine Initiative to protect and replant this valuable resource.

Resource Links

Related photos in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society

Forest History Center

Minnesota Historic Sites: Logging (and Lumberjacks)

Forests, Fields and the Falls

MPR: Our State, Our Forests

MPR: Timber industry wants to increase logging in Minnesota

Musser/Weyerhaeuser Homes

Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation Home

Endgame Profile of Weyerhaeuser

Weyerhaeuser -- About Us


Grasssy Point: Recent Past

Logging - The Minnesota Pineries

Minnesota History Quarterly: Home


Logging in Minnesota

FSTS Sources - Papers - ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE CENTRAL MINNEAPOLIS RIVERFRONT: PART 2: Chapter 2 Site Formation

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