“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Bellefonte in Centre County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Gateway & Destination Locations

Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage Region

Gateway & Destination Locations Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), May 31, 2019
1. Gateway & Destination Locations Marker
Welcome to the Lumber Heritage Region of Pennsylvania, a celebration of our history, our people, and our forest. From the onset of early exploration and settlement, when the region was blanketed in virgin timber, to the days when streams and horse drawn carts were overflowing with the burden of transporting lumber, to a time of railroads and large scale saw mills, to a reawakening of forest conservation and sustainable forestry, lumber has always rooted itself deep within Pennsylvania. The north central and northwest regions of the state have provided a stage for this history for over 200 years. Today this area is still a culture that is defined by its forests. Not only are the highest quality hardwoods in the United States found in this region but the area has also seen an ever-increasing tourism industry take root and grow. This delicate balance of the forest is steeped in the story of the Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage Region.

Eras of Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage

Pioneers of Logging

Settlement within the region was a gradual process. Large tracts of land were
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sold to lumber barons, who clear cut the many acres of trees and its virgin forest was lost.

When small family settlements did finally take hold in the region, the trees were considered a hindrance to agriculture and were cut and burned. These settlements created a need to transport lumber to small towns and farms scattered across the landscape. Along with horse sleds, crudely built lumber rafts transported the lumber downstream.

Early sawmills were small family sized operations. Logging and saw-milling during this period were seasonal; trees were felled and logs skidded to the mills during the winter. Lumber rafts were built and floated downstream on spring floods. During the summer, when streams were low, mills were often idle.

Spars and Sticks:
Timber Rafting & Log Booms

By the 1830's, the national market for lumber exploded and Pennsylvania became a prime lumber source. During this time, the lumber was cut and transported by raft and log drives. Spar rafts were built floating this white pine to the Chesapeake Bay for use in ship-building.

Construction of the Susquehanna Boom began in 1850 near Williamsport. When a log drive arrived at the Boom, they were sorted and delivered to the Williamsport sawmills. The construction of the Susquehanna Boom enabled the enormous growth of Williamsport
Gateway & Destination Locations Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), May 31, 2019
2. Gateway & Destination Locations Marker
into the Lumber Capital of the World. Williamsport's population grew rapidly, more than tripling in the 1850's and nearly tripling again in the 1860's.

With many large mills in operation, mill and boom owners made huge profits and some constructed homes along Williamport's Millionaires' Row. By 1900, the industry went into decline with the last log sawed in a Williamsport mill in 1919.

Bark Peelers and Lumber Barons:
Railroad Logging Arrives

Railroads developed into the most efficient means of transporting lumber. Railroads accessed timber were never before attainable.

This era saw a shift from white pine to hemlock, leaving no parts of the forests untouched Discovering that the bark from hemlock trees, which were plentiful in Pennsylvania, contained natural chemicals used for tanning animal hides, barkpeeling became a specialty. After 1890, most of the state's hemlock was owned or controlled by tanneries.

Near the beginning of the twentieth century, Pennsylvania hemlocks trees were becoming scarce. With very little virgin forests left, the few lumber companies and sawmills that remained went bankrupt in the late 1930's. By 1942, the last of Pennsylvania's largest sawmills had closed and the era of logging railroads had ended.

Forest Conservation
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and the Recovery of a Resource

Pennsylvania forests were left with many problems spurring forest conservation. President Theodore Roosevelt made provisions to actively conserve and manage the forests. Joseph Rothrock, Pennsylvania's Father of Forestry, aided in the establishment of the Division of Forestry, aided in the establishment of the Division of Forestry in the Department of Agriculture, and helped establish the Pennsylvania Forest Reserves, allowing for the creation of state forests. Gifford Pinchot, America's Father of Forestry and a two-term Pennsylvania Governor, helped begin the US Forest Service with the philosophy that trees were a crop that could be managed and reestablished after harvesting.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 had one of the largest roles in rebuilding the state's forests during the Depression. The work of the conservationists and CCC workers of the times changed the attitudes toward the lumber industry forever. As lumber is still a high demand product on an international scale, the focus has changed from clear cutting forests to sustainable forestry.

A Second Forest and a Sustainable Approach:
Modern Forest Management

As the forests recovered, the composition changed from white pine and hemlock to hardwoods, especially valuable black cherry. With this "new" forest came the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and special consideration for forest uses took precedence.

Sustainable forest management calls for multiple stages of forest growth, creating a healthier forest allowing it to renew itself for future generations. Even with Pennsylvania ranking first in the country for the volume of hardwoods harvested, its forests are growing at two times the rate at which they are being harvested. Pennsylvania's forests have been certified as "well managed" under the standards set by the International Forests Stewardship Council. The Pennsylvania state forest system accounts for 2.2 million acres, making it the largest certified forest in North America. Sustainable forestry, as a crop that could be managed and adopted by the forest products industry, will set the stage for future forestry practices not only in Pennsylvania, but across the nation.

Erected by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceNatural ResourcesRailroads & StreetcarsWaterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #26 Theodore Roosevelt series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1850.
Location. 40° 54.562′ N, 77° 46.9′ W. Marker is in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, in Centre County. Marker can be reached from South Water Street (Route 550) south of West High Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 181 South Water Street, Bellefonte PA 16823, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Bellefonte, Centre County ~ Gateway to the Lumber Heritage Region (here, next to this marker); Pennsylvania Match Factory (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); U.S. Airmail Pioneers (about 700 feet away); Lucinda Hall (about 800 feet away); Bellefonte Governors Memorial (about 800 feet away); Veterans' Bridge (about 800 feet away); a different marker also named Bellefonte Governors Memorial (about 800 feet away); a different marker also named Bellefonte (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bellefonte.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 1, 2020. It was originally submitted on June 1, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 111 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on June 1, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Jun. 2, 2023