Early Appalachia seemed to have limitless timber; settlers in our area were well supplied with wood for fuel and building their homes, and forests provided bountiful food. The mountains were not easily accessible to logging enterprises, however, nor could the timber be marketed prior to the advent of the railroad in the late 19th century. But when the Northeast was logged out by the 1880s, timber companies looked to Appalachia’s virgin forests.
Loggers at first cut trees with huge cross-cut saws, and their operations used teams of horses, mules, or oxen to haul the logs off the mountain slopes. These were gradually replaced by steam-powered loaders and skidders, and steam band mills were set up to saw the giant oak, poplar, and other hardwoods into boards for local use, but especially to ship by steam locomotive to factories elsewhere in the nation. Appalachian timber harvests peaked about 1910. The timber industry shifted focus again in the mid-20th century, moving to the Pacific Northwest, but logging continues to be a multi-billion dollar industry in Appalachia.
This photo from about 1915 shows loggers employed by Taylor Lumber Company. It was contributed by Mildred Masters, whose father, Jesse Bennett, is the first man seated on the right in the photo.