Miners came into this area in the 1860s hoping to strike it rich in gold. Gradually as the area was opened to homesteaders and towns were built, timber became the new green gold. Early settlers cut timber to build homes and heat those homes. As the 1900s were approaching the timber was being discovered as a great commodity for wealthy timbermen.
Charles O. Brown had worked in Pennsylvania and Michigan woods as a cruiser, scaler, buyer and seller of timberland. He heard about the abundance of timber in Idaho from Governor William McConnell in 1893, so Brown, his son Nate and Theodore Fohl, a German logger in Michigan, decided in 1894 to take a trip up there to see for themselves. The three men were amazed to see huge white pine forests with huge trees. The Browns and Fohl did not have the resources to take advantage of this so Brown started a campaign to get timber barons from the Midwest out to Idaho. Eventually he talked Edward Scofield, and later Frederick Weyerhaeuser into taking a look.
Edward Scofield sent his son George to meet with Brown who showed him around the Clearwater drainage timberland. Scofield quietly sent Warren McChord out with surveyors and cruisers to establish lines and find the best timber. Shortly after that Weyerhaeuser sent out his colleague John Glover and his cruiser James Johnson when Brown showed them around the homesteads at Bovill. Brown was immediately hired at $150 a month to act as Weyerhaeuser’s local agent to scout out available timberland.
Frederick Weyerhaeuser, his son Charles and John Humbird came out to Idaho to inspect their newly acquired land. Needless to say they were delighted to see the quality of timber on their fifty thousand acres. This became the Clearwater Timber Company, organized at the Pioneer Hotel in Pierce City, Idaho November 1900. It had a capitalization of $500,000 and would eventually acquire more than two hundred thousand acres of one of the finest stands of timber in the country. Weyerhaeuser’s son Charles and his partners in the Pine Tree Lumber Company incorporated Potlatch Timber Company in 1903.
While this big business logging was developing there were still many loggers supplying timber to small sawmills running all over the region. Men floated hundreds of cords of wood and logs down from the upper reaches of the North Fork of the Clearwater River to Ahsahka, Idaho and other points on the Clearwater River including Lewiston, Idaho. The first logging camp for Potlatch Timber Co. was placed just above Ahsahka to supply Potlatch with timber to build the dam for the new mill going in on the Clearwater River at Lewiston.
Elk River, Idaho had the first all-electric sawmill built in 1911 to replace the obsolete steam-driven single-belt mill at Potlatch, Idaho. By 1912 Elk River had a larger population than Orofino and the Elk River Sentinel newspaper had an article stating that this new, well populated town should replace Orofino as the county seat.
The log drives run by Potlatch began in 1928 and ran the North Fork and Clearwater rivers every spring except during World War II, from the upper North Fork of the Clearwater River down to Lewiston’s mill, through 1971.
Logging Camps labelled with a letter (Camp T) were camps that used the rivers to move logs to the mill. Camps with a number (Camp 60) housed the loggers that supplied logs to the railroads and logging trucks to move logs out of the forests to the mill.