Muskegon’s Logging and Lumber

Muskegon became known as the “Lumber Queen” during its prosperous lumbering era, which lasted for nearly 63 years during the 19th century [1837-1900] (“Muskegon’s Lumbering Era” pp. 2). Some scholars have estimated that nearly “47 sawmills surrounded Muskegon [during] the local lumber industry’s peak in the mid-1880s,” (Ibid pp. 2) validating its position as a major timber supplier for the United States during the era.

Lumbermen had a plentiful selection of trees to choose from during the lumbering era, among the likes of: “pine trees, Jack Pine, Norway Pine, and White Pine,” (Ibid pp. 2). The trees at their disposal were massive in size and stature, with some estimates putting the trees at “over one hundred feet in height and five feet in diameter,” (Ibid pp. 2). Members of the lumbering industry had assumed that they would be able to exhaust their timber resources for nearly one hundred years, but they soon discovered that “within a 20-year period, from 1870-1890, most of the trees were cut and the lumbering days as they were known were gone,” (Ibid pp. 3).

Although the period of prosperity lasted for only a little over a half-century, a handful of “lumber barons” became quite wealthy. Local lumber barons had the opportunity to buy land for as little as $1.25 per acre, (Ibid pp. 1) allowing even the modest business man to get a large return on a small investment. Some of the most successful lumber barons of Michigan included: “Charles Mears, Martin Ryerson, Lyman Mason, Charles Hills, George Ruddiman, and Charles H. Hackley,” (Ibid pp. 2).

 

Charles H. Hackley may have been one of the forty millionaires that prospered because of his role in the lumbering industry, (Rosentreter pp. 170) but he left a lasting impression on the city of Muskegon. Hackley donated nearly 1/3 of his fortune to be reinvested in the city, (Ibid pp. 170) an incredibly charitable gesture to his hometown. His name still remains on more than four institutions: “Hackley Hospital, the Hackley Public Library, the Hackley House, and the Hackley Athletic Field,” (Ibid pp. 170).