Logging History – Sweetly Sings the Donkey

Thanks to  The Seneca Family of Companies

In 1881 John Dolbeer invented a steam engine and put it to work in the great redwood forests near Eureka, California.  It took the place of the oxen previously used to haul logs out of the woods. It was called the “steam donkey engine” or simply the “donkey engine”.  By 1895 it had made “ground-lead logging” the mode of the day.

“Chokermen” put heavy wire loops around a log and then hooked the loop or “choker” to the line from the donkey engine.  Sometimes a “snipper” rounded the front end of a log to make it less likely to hang up on rocks, snags, or mire down in the mud.   The “flagman” or signalman stood on a high stump in sight of the crew in the woods and the donkey engine.  The boss or “hooker” of the yarding crew yelled “Hi,” and the flagman dipped his flag or signaled to the engineer to put on steam.   A turning spool or capstan began to turn, winding up the line (cable), and the log was pulled or “yanked” out of the woods.  The “spool tender” watched the line to see that it kept winding in good order.  The signal that all was going well and to speed things up was “Highball!”

Once the log was out of the woods and unhooked from the line, a horse was hitched to the line to pull it back into the woods so it could be fastened to another log.

See Morris Pike’s fun story about Seneca – The Miracle Working Sawmill


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