February 10, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Frederick Weyerhauser

Who owns the most land in America? Well, if all the land in the United States was divided up equally we would all get about 10 acres. The Weyerhauser Company owns a little more than their share; they control over 4 million acres.

Frederick Weyerhauser came to America from Hessen, Germany in 1848 when he was 14 with a profound respect for thrift and a hearty appetite for hard work. He began in a lumberyard in North East, Pennsylvania before joining his brother-in-law to operate a sawmill in Rockville, Illinois in 1860.

Weyerhauser-Denckman soon prospered. But being downriver from the timber growing regions of Wisconsin meant his logs had to float past many other mills to reach his.

To insure a steady flow of logs Weyerhauser travelled up and down the Mississippi to urge other small mill operators to join him in buying logs from Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley. Together, he reasoned, they could buy logs in quantities large enough to secure a steady supply and good prices. The Mississippi River Logging Company organized as one of America's earliest mergers of substantial size in 1871.

Years of dispute followed with the local Chippewa millmen who watched enormous flotillas of logs go by their mills downriver to Weyerhauser's co-operative. In 1880 devastating floods crushed many Wisconsin sawmills and washed their log inventories downstream and smack into the log booms of the hated Mississippi River Logging Company.

Weyerhauser now held the future of many of his competitors in his log booms. He engineered a peaceful settlement by agreeing to buy the stray logs at market price and sell others at the same price to Chippewa mills that would re-start.
This agreement ended the decade-old power struggle and brought the Chippewa loggers into the co-operative. Weyerhauser was elected president of the Chippewa Logging Company, the largest sawmill in the world.

In the 1890s Weyerhauser began buying timber stands and sawmills in Minnesota. He moved to St. Paul and purchased a house on chic Summit Avenue, although he did not seek the haughty social life. Weyerhauser was painfully shy because of his thick German accent and spent much of his leisure time keeping bees. But he did become friendly with his new next door neighbor.

After moving in Weyerhauser discovered his new neighbor was James J. Hill, railroad baron of the great Northern Pacific. In 1899 Hill wanted to sell land awarded the railroad as a land grant and offered 900,000 acres of remote western land to Weyerhauser for $7 an acre. Weyerhauser countered with $5; they settled on $6. The two neighbors had consummated the largest private land sale in American history.

Company officials grumbled that Weyerhauser could have gotten the land cheaper. They learned that Hill had been offering parcels of some of the land to the public for 50¢ an acre a year earlier. No matter, Weyerhauser just loved to buy timber. He said, "The only mistake we ever made was in not buying pine trees whenever offered."

Weyerhauser bought much of the extremely speculative Douglas fir regions of the Pacific Northwest. He once remarked to an associate that he liked to buy timber when it rained and sell it when the sun shone. However, no one recalled that he ever sold any pine timber, rain or shine.

The Weyerhauser Company would continue to buy timberland after Frederick's death and became noted for their efforts to renew the timber stands they already owned. Weyerhauser introduced the first tree farms, tending mountains that wouldn't be harvested for 60 years, refurbishing the founder’s legacy in America’s timberlands.

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