Heartwood | Author's Notes
Allegheny Lumbering: A Bittersweet Saga
The Early Days
The story of Allegheny lumbering unfolded in stages, starting after William Penn’s time when timber in the eastern part of the state, taken in the clearing of farm fields and thought of as an obstacle, was marketed for local construction, if marketed at all. As industry grew, so did the demand for wood products.
By the American revolution, commercial lumbering had begun in the heartland of the commonwealth. At first, operations featured up-and-down pit saws, essentially vertical cross-cut saws run manually or by water. These crude mills produced material mainly for boat and ship builders.Timber was also taken for fuel, potash, tanbark, furniture, coopering, rifle stocks, shingles and household utensils. But extensive, sweeping timbering would wait until the market called for more logs, and for when that demand would create the means to move large quantities.
After 1850, the lumber business catapulted as industrial growth, westward expansion, and the Civil War increased demand for wood products. The expansion of railroads alone required 2,500 wooden railroad ties per mile, and coal mines devoured billions of board feet of lumber for wall and ceilings props. In the 1860s, timber operations on the tier began harvesting pulp and chemical wood: trees unsuitable for lumber were sawed to make paper or to produce alcohol, acetate, charcoal and tar.