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Part One

An Oregon Story:
Cottage Grove & the Willamette River

From Rivers to Reservoirs:
Cottage Grove & Dorena Dams

Part Two

The Last of the Lumbermills:
Changing Cultures & Economies

Cottage Grove:
Then & Now


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Oral History Archive


Table of Contents

Timber Workers

Musick Mine tramway.
Courtesy U.S. Forest Service

Timber-related work attracted all kinds of people to the area. The jobs paid well but they required skill and were quite dangerous. Young men often started mill work on the "green chain" where they would sort outgoing lumber according to quality and size. Better jobs and, for decades, job security awaited them in the booming mills and surrounding forests.

I was working on, they call it the green chain now but didn't call it the green chain then. They just had some rollers there that push the lumber down. We'd slip it over there and put it out on the pile and then a guy would come around and straighten it up a little bit so they could haul it. . . The green chain is a flat table with a whole bunch of chains on it that they put all the lumber on as they cut it and it comes down on there and they sort it for size. . . They had two trucks hauling it away faster than we could stack it up.
--Charles Plummer, logger and mill worker, 1999.

Cottage Grove experienced its first strike in 1935 when loggers organized under the American Federation of Labor and demanded a forty-hour work week, better pay, and recognition of the union. The three primary mills in the area Bohemia, Chambers and Woodard -- closed their shops but eventually negotiated terms with their employees. The companies agreed to recognize the union and pay for overtime.

Cottage Grove Sentinel coverage of the 1935 strike

Women began making inroads in this male-dominated industry when the demands of World War II created a labor shortage. In 1942 the Row River Lumber Company hired the first woman in a Cottage Grove mill. Women also worked in the offices of Cottage Grove lumber mills.

I did office work for Dougherty Lumber Company. It was a wholesale lumber company and we bought lumber from all the little mills around the area. There were a lot of small mills and then the war came along and we got lots of orders and Dougherty Piling Company would send large poles to Oakland or down there when they were building their docks and things. And we shipped lots of lumber to California and I would write up mill orders and acknowledgements and then I did the weights on the cars. But we don't have small sawmills like that anymore.
--Isabelle Woolcott, longtime resident of Cottage Grove, 1999 interview.

Isabelle Woolcott discusses wages.

Isabelle Woolcott's oral history transcript.