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Iowa History Daily: August 9 - Iowa Logging Industry

Iowa History Daily: On August 9, 1915, the last load of logs slid past Dubuque on the Mississippi River signaling an end to Iowa’s timber industry. Although not known for trees, logging operations thrived in Iowa during the late 1800s to help provide the raw materials for settlement.

Iowa’s river valleys, full of hardwood, bottomlands forests at the time of American arrival in the 1800s stood ready for logging as pioneers sharpened their axes. With the products of large pine forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin transported on the Mississippi, early Iowa entrepreneurs set up steam-powered saw mills along the river from Lansing to Keokuk.

When the spring thaw allowed, huge rafts of logs floated down the Mississippi River, some nearly as large as a football field. Small firms grew, including the Standard Lumber Company of Dubuque as the forests of the great north rapidly yielded logs. In February of 1876, the Dubuque Herald reported 100 million logs banked at the eastern Iowa city.

As railroads came online in Iowa, the cars helped to carry the logs to settlements further west. One train, leaving Dubuque in June of 1876, carried 77 cars fully-loaded with lumber out of the city on the Illinois Central. Like all booms, lumber eventually went bust in Iowa. By the early 1900s the decimation of the northern forests led to industry decline. During August of 1915, the steamer ‘Ottumwa’ pulled the last raft of logs south to signal an end of an early Iowa industry. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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