WENDLING, Ore. - By late 1900, the new state-of-the-art mill was open, and the Springfield-Wendling branch of the southern pacific railroad was extended to Wendling.
"A lot of the people who lived there really enjoyed it," Faith Kreskey said. "They enjoyed being out in the woods; they loved being close to nature, and that's something that really comes through is this kind of sense of adventure and camaraderie."
The story of Wendling is the centerpiece of the new Lane County Historical Society and Museum program "Lost Towns: Revisiting Logging Communities."
"It was quite a town," said Faith Kreskey. "They had a school, they had company store, they had a church. They had a pool hall."
Wendling was born out of logging camps and an early mill built in the 1880s.
The Booth-Kelly company eventually bought the operation.
"They realized they needed to build a place for all their workers to live, so they built a town around the sawmill," Kreskey said.
"They blew a whistle for you to get up, blew a whistle for you to go to work and blew a whistle for you to go home," said Kreskey, the exhibit's curator.
Dioramas are part of the exhibit. One shows what a mill office looked like around 1920.
Another diorama depicts the daily reality of family life.
"So they would have had to do laundry with water they had to haul from somewhere by hand to their house," Kreskey said. "They definitely tried to make it a home but it was a rough life for sure."
There's not much of the old town of Wendling left to see, just concrete leftover from bridge footings and something which might be the old vault for the company.
By the mid-1920s, the company had grown to more than 900 souls.
Outside of Wendling were the suburbs: primative logging camps filled with all kinds of characters.
Kreskey said one time in a camp, there was an outbreak of lice.
"And one of the residents got so annoyed with everybody, he built a little apartment for himself in a hollowed-out stump," she said.
His name is unknown, but legend calls him the Stump Man of Wendling.
"Sadly they eventually blew up his stump to make way for a rail line," Kreskey said.
Logging technology was also changing, like an early gas-powered chain saw included in the exhibit.
"The big guy would be on this end with the motor and then there'd be a guy on that end which is known as the stinger, who'd guide it," Kreskey said. "So it has the two-handed handles."
The exhibit also tells the story of a old port city upstream from Florence off Highway 126.
Kreskey said it used to be called Acme, but the name morphed into Cushman.
"Cushman was actually at one point in the early 20th century larger than Florence," kreskey said. "It was a functioning seaport."
As you drive by, you can still see the swing-span railroad bridge which would open to allow ocean barges to reach a now closed sawmill in Mapleton.
Cushman is still a small village with some residents.
Wendling had a different fate.
By the early 1940s, 42,000 acres of old growth timber had been logged in and around Wendling.
The mill was closed in 1946 and sold to Weyerhauser.
Many residents bought their homes and planned to stay on until disaster struck on September 29.
"That's why there's so little left of the town now is a massive fire took out the entire mill and most of the town," Kreskey said. "So in the summer of '46 there really was nothing left."
What was left after the fire was either moved or razed,leaving only memories in the mist, of a bygone way of life in the Northwest.