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As It Was: Film Documents Loggers Felling Redwood Trees

A film produced in the 1940s, titled “Redwood Saga,” tells the story of how loggers chopped down California coastal redwood trees in the 1940s. The producer, Guy Haselton, filmed the 10-minute, black-and-white movie in 1946. It demonstrates how the redwoods, “now the object of awe and protection, were then regarded simply as commercial assets.” Home builders around the world sought the redwood lumber because of its beauty and resistance to termites and disease.

The film records how loggers with only double-bitted axes and crosscut saws felled trees up to 20 feet thick; how drag saw teams cut logs to length; how Donkey engines loaded sections onto railroad flat cars that moved logs to a pond near a sawmill; and how huge band saws ripped logs into lumber.

One reviewer said the movie’s narrative “usefully conveys to us the ethos of a different time . . . While we are now stunned by this film of how a great natural patrimony was felled, we must also admire the grit and skill of the loggers of the time.”

Today, the non-profit Archangel Ancient Tree Archive propagates genetic copies of coastal redwood trees and supplies the seedlings for replanting.

Sources: Redwood Saga. Prod. Guy D. Haselton. Prelinger Archives, 1940. Web. 16 May 2015. https://archive.org/details/RedwoodS1940; "Cloning takes California’s ancient redwood trees abroad.” USA Today." Associated Press in USA Today 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 May 2015. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/22/redwood-trees-climate-change-environment/2102667/>.

Dr. James S. Long was an As It Was contributor until his passing in January of 2016. He met editor Kernan Turner when Kernan spoke to the Roseburg writers’ club about contributing to JPR's As Is Was series. His contributions to As It Was ranged from a story about the recovery of whitetail deer at the old Dunning Ranch to the story of Nick Botner’s private orchard near Yoncalla created to preserve over 3,000 heritage apple varieties.