Logging on the Olympic Peninsula, with its immense stand of Douglas fir, spruce, cedar, and hemlock, began in 1882 with the building of the North Western Lumber Company's mill at Hoquiam.
George H. Emerson, lumberman and engineer, was sent by the Simpson Brothers Company of San Francisco and Oregon, to look for a mill site accessible to the timber on Grays Harbor. Upon his arrival he stopped at Ed Campbell's lodging house.
The location of Hoquiam pleased him. Accordingly, he paid John James $1,209.00 for his holdings on the west side of the Hoquiam River, which included nearly all the business section and much of the residential area of present-day Hoquiam.
Then, following Simpson Bros. instructions, Emerson proceeded to Crescent City, California, where he dismantled an abandoned mill, loaded it on the 'Orient', a sailing vessel, and shipped it to Hoquiam. Making his way overland up the coast, mostly afoot, he arrived ahead of the boat. When he figured it was about due he climbed the bluff above Ed Campbell's; cleared off some brush that obstructed the view; and sat there for about three days, scanning the Harbor for a glimpse of that sailing vessel.
Finally he sighted the 'Orient'. But, before a pilot could reach her, a storm forced her to put to sea again. She had been towing a pile-driver on a scow. Now, during the storm, it broke loose. It came ashore on Pacific Beach, but was never salvaged. Fortunately however, the hammer of the pile-driver was aboard the vessel.
George Emerson, a good broadaxe man, said he could build a pile-driver. And he did. With the help of local men he cut down trees, floated them to the site, squared them with his broadaxe, and got the frame built. Then they had no power - no engine. So they rigged a winch, and many men wound the rope to pull the hammer up. At the top it was "kicked off" and came down to drive the piling into the mud. With the arrival of a boiler on the next boat, they had steam power. Construction of the mill started in April, 1882. By August, the Northwestern was in operation, and logging began on the lower Chehalis and the Hoquiam Rivers.
In 1884 Chas. Stevens converted his Cosmopolis grist-mill into a saw-mill, which cut the timbers for Aberdeen's first mill - the A. M. West. The West mill was already in production when the Weatherwax party arrived in 1885 and began the construction of another mill. By 1886 the Weatherwax mill was shipping lumber.
With a competitive market thus assured, logging spread around the Grays Harbor shoreline and into the mouths of its tributary rivers.