In the days before log trucks, automation, or heli-logging, sawmills were built closer to the woods. Here in south Lane County, they sprang up along the O&SE Rail line (now the Row River Trail) to take advantage of the railroad. In some instances, whole communities would surround the mill, like the sawmill at Prune Hill.
When I think of early sawmills, I usually think of teams of guys working big saws or riding logs in the mill ponds. With those men, though, came families. Women worked in the cookhouses; children needed schools. Large landholders, like Booth Kelly, built company towns to attract a stable and reliable workforce. Today, most of those tiny, early, logging communities are gone or quickly disappearing.
Last month, we had the chance to stop by the Lane County Historical Museum to see their current exhibit, Lost Towns: Revisiting Logging Communities. The exhibit focuses on two lost communities, Wendling (outside of Marcola) and Acme (now Cushman, just west of Florence), in the years from 1890-1946, when timber company towns thrived. Using historic photos and oral histories the goal for the exhibit is “to find traces of the lives once carried out in these towns that disappeared so quickly.”
If you have an interest in logging history or the history of south Lane County, I encourage you to stop by for a visit. The exhibit goes through September 2017. The Lane County Historical Museum is located at 740 W. 13th Ave in Eugene next to the Lane County Fairgrounds.