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The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History

By Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Stumps of Enterprise:
A Natural Resource-Based
Economy

Young men equipped with no fancy notions, but with plenty of every day sense, practical experience in some special business or profession, well founded integrity of character, and endowed with enterprise and push, whether with capital or not, rarely make a mistake by coming to the new State of Washington, and a great majority of them achieve much greater success than they could hope for in the East.--Charles T. Conover, "Should Young Men Go West." Washington Magazine ( 1890)

Tree stumps symbolized prosperity to nineteenth-century Pacific Northwesterners, because felling trees was often associated with activities that connoted growth and progress. From the forests, builders hacked townsites where blackened stumps still smoldered in the center of newly graded streets; massive stumps once stood at the very doors of Tacoma's best hotels; and enterprising settlers occasionally fashioned snug homes from hollow stumps. Not without reason was early Portland nicknamed Stumptown. The rail baron James J. Hill once quipped to a group of Northwest businessmen that he had seen only four stumps on Puget Sound without a town name attached.

In the early twentieth century, when the lumber industry was the Pacific Northwest's largest employer and economic mainstay, few people questioned whether acres of stumps were ugly or wasteful. Harvesting the region's "limitless" forests was popularly equated only with money and jobs, prosperity and growth. During the "cut and run" era, it mattered little if

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