To be successful in the logging and lumber business in the early 1900's increasingly required significant investment in both logging infrastructure and sawmill equipment. By this time, most of the easy logging around Puget Sound had been done. You now needed to invest in rail lines to access timber at sites further and further into the hinterlands. High lead logging required donkey engines to efficiently sort downed timber and load railcars. Mills increasingly needed to "scale up" and add drying, planing and finishing capacity to remain competitive. The one exception - producing shingles made of red cedar.
Unlike the dense stands of douglas fir and western hemlock we often see, western red cedar typically grows interspersed with other evergreens. Selective logging of cedar often made a lot more sense - higher values per board foot and much less investment required. But it was hard work all done by hand. Fall the timber, buck the log to short lengths and hand split it into bolts suitable for transport and milling. Sleds and teams of horses were used for transport from woods to mill in lieu of rail.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, IND0117, n.d.
The biggest investment made by the mills was often in the highly skilled and more highly paid shingle weavers that did the hard and dangerous works of producing shingles. For more about shingle weavers and their unique skills, follow these links to Milling Cedar Shingles and Timber Beasts, Shingle Weavers and Capitalist Pigs.