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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


As the timber resources of other regions diminished, attention turned to the southern Appalachian Mountains. In West Virginia, ten million acres of virgin forest covered two-thirds of the state. Then came the loggers.

Logging railroads snaked up into the forest from the mainlines. Once again, immigrants laid much of the track, including Italians who were known only by the identification tags worn around their necks.

Logging camps were hacked out of the woods. A single two-story building served as a kitchen, dining room and bunkhouse for one hundred men.

A crew of six “woodhicks” as the lumberjacks were known, could cut two hundred trees in a day. Whole mountain sides were shaved clean and the logs taken to a band sawmill where seventeen acres of forest was processed every day.

By 1900, aggressive logging had removed half of West Virginia’s forest. Twenty years later it was all gone. Fires swept across the barren landscape leaving more scars. For the first time, West Virginia came to be seen as a place of ugliness. A monotonous panorama of destruction, as one writer put it.

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