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Log Export History: Mill Jobs Exported

By Edie Butler - Hard Times, Vol. 3, #1, February 1983

Observing the frequent loading of logs on ships, during daily drives past Fields Landing several years ago, aroused in me a strong curiosity about the exporting of logs. At the same time as I was so frequently driving past this docking facility, the expansion of Redwood National Park, and its potential impact on the local lumber mills, was a very big news item and the controversy was evident everywhere in the community. Why, I asked, are these logs being exported, in their raw resource form, from an area where steady employment is already a problem and, if the dire forecasts about the (Redwood) Park expansion are to be believed, there will be a much greater problem in the future? As I raised this question with a wide variety of people over the ensuing months and years, I concluded that the average citizens of Humboldt County has very little understanding of the log exporting matter.

Local Self-Sufficiency

This matter takes on added historical significance when viewed against the backdrop of the economy of this area from the last 1800’s on to the present day. At one time Humboldt County was largely self sufficient and the resources available here were, to a large extent used and manufactured here. Some examples of the diversity of Humboldt County industry are the following businesses which are listed in a 1895-96 Business Directory: Arcata Tannery, Eureka Brewery (with the slogan of “Patronize Home Industry and Call for Eureka Beer”), Eureka Bicycle Factory, Humboldt Mineral Water, Bendixin Shipbuilders, twenty-two creameries, three dairies, twelve milliners and fancy goods, and fifteen shoemakers. [1] A 1902 map of Eureka has a border of pictures of prominent buildings, among which are Jackson’s shirt Factory, Eureka Foundry, and Humboldt Bay Woolen Mills.

Bit by bit these industries have withered and a pattern of exporting of resources and importing of products can be seen. There is no longer a woolen mill to process the wool produced locally. While most fish is processed locally, shrimp is sent to an automated picking plant in Santa Rosa and foreign processing ships buy hake directly from fishing boats.

Hides from local cattle are sent out of the area for tanning. These are but a few examples of this trend. (At this point mention should be made of the many industrious and sincere people who are currently working to reverse this trend and reestablish a broad economic base of small industries. They have had some impact and show promise for the future.)

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