The Romantic Side of Logging

Hometown Heroes, People
on July 29, 2001

Near Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon, a collection of antique logging equipment sits idle beneath towering evergreens on the banks of Spring Creek. Except for the carved wooden sign announcing Collier Memorial State Park Logging Museum, you might think you had stumbled upon an abandoned loggers camp.

That is, in fact, how some of the machinery was recovered. While former logger and retired logging company president Lowell Jones inspected a job site in 1948, he discovered a set of large wheels that had previously been used with horses to remove logs from the forests. Research revealed theyd been there since 1932, when a Depression-weary operator simply unhooked his animals and left the area.

Excited by his find, Jones contacted Alfred Cap Collier, who was forming a museum to preserve the history of the logging industry east of the Cascade Mountains. Collier welcomed the wheels Jones delivered, and the two began a four-decade friendship and collaboration. When Collier died in 1988, Jones was named honorary curator of the museum that he has now spent more than 50 years helping to stock.

Lowell is an extraordinary man who has contributed quite a bit to his community and especially to this logging museum, says James Beauchemin, park manager. Hes been very instrumental in helping us collect a lot of things. He knows everyone in the industry, having been in it himself since the 1940s or before.

Jones outgoing, persuasive personality has helped him convince people all over Oregon and parts of California to surrender their antique logging equipment for the museum. Through the years, Jones has orchestrated the acquisition of dozens of pieces of pioneer logging equipment. I was on call 24 hours a day, he says, cause you never know when youll get a call.

One of his favorite finds is a steam engine he and other volunteers hauled 100 miles to the park. They moved the artifact on a state-of-the-art, lowboy trailer with a lowered center of gravity that enables steady transport. It took five roundtrips, totaling 1,000 miles in all, to get all the pieces on-site.

Other displays include tractors, road graders, wagons, and other components once crucial to the logging industry. The restoration of Jones most recent acquisition, a sawmill, will soon be complete, and the machine will perform demonstrations in the park this summer.

While his first allegiance is to the Collier Museum, Jones is also willing to share his finds with other worthy interests. When his help was solicited by a descendent of the inventor of an important piece of logging equipmentthe McGiffert log loaderJones knew just where to find one of the rare specimens. The Collier Museum had two of them, but Jones fetched a third loader from California and transported it all the way to Duluth, Minn., where its now on display at a logging and railroad museum. Because most of the McGifferts were cut for scrap during World War II, many believe these three are the only such machines in existence.

All of this equipment illustrates the romantic side of logging, which diminished with the advent of automation. Instead of swinging an ax, todays loggers operate small, computerized vehicles from inside protective cabs. They would have little in common with the men who depended on the massive equipment in the Collier Museum, who often lived in camps and stayed single their entire lives. It was a way of lifeand a way of doing businessthat survives only in the memories of men like Jones.