The Benson Logging Company

The Benson Logging Company

Every school child ought to read:

“Simon Benson: Northwest Lumber King”
by Alice Benson Allen
Binfords & Mort, publishers
Portland OR 97242 1971

Therein is the story of a man going from rags to riches, fulfilling the American Dream by the dint of hard work, long hours, clean living, and having an eye for efficiency; a poor immigrant was able to amass a fortune and do public good too.

Simon Benson started with oxen logging on a small scale. Realizing that steam logging held advantages he was able to put steam to work where others had failed. Working on the Washington side of the river at Cathlamet in 1891 he built the first logging railroad on the lower Columbia river.

In May of 1902 local newspapers reported that Simon Benson was planning eight miles of railroad from Clatskanie to his new timber purchase and and would soon commence logging.

In 1903 Benson started building a logging railroad from Clatskanie on the Oregon side of the river and headed toward the Nehalem valley.

By April 10, 1903 newspapers reported that Benson’s road was “crawling” up Barr Creek. By November he was going past the shingle mill of Wilson Brothers and past the Keystone Lumber Co.’s mill.

After Benson’s logging operation closed in 1936 his railroad grades provided future generations a path to walk on while pursuing hunting and fishing interests in the canyons tributary to the Clatskanie river.




May 1, 1936: Originators of the unique cigar shaped ocean going log raft, the Benson Timber Company is now near the end of more than 32 years of cutting in Columbia County. The concern has the longest operating record of any logging company on the Columbia River.

It is expected that the company will finish its work at Apiary and Clatskanie sometime this year. But one more donkey setting will be logged and this will end the railroad logging. There is one isolated tract of about 20,000,000 feet which will be taken out with trucks.

The Bensons sold their concern to the Evenson interests in 1911 but the company has always been known by that name. Since launching their first great log raft the story of that achievement has become history in the lumber industry. These rafts contained upwards of 6,000,000 feet each and are towed to a sawmill at San Diego. A total of about 640,000,000 board feet of logs has been handled in this manner, raft No. 105 having been launched late in January.


August 14, 1936: Closing its operations at Apiary, the Benson Timber Company has moved to Mist where the last chapter of its long career in Columbia County will be written. After having worked more than three decades in this vicinity, the company apparently will cease to exist when its work at Mist is finished and will abandon the base at Clatskanie.

The Evensons have purchased an interest in the Deep River Logging Company with headquarters at Knappton, Wn. The timber holdings of this company are sufficiently extensive to assure operation for 15 to 20 years.

The company had been cutting in the Apiary district for a little over a year and their operations there depleted the last stand of virgin timber in this vicinity. At Mist trucks are being used to haul logs out to the Clatskanie River and are then floated to Clatskanie [?] where log raft No. 107 is now in process of construction. Last of the famous cigar shaped log rafts invented by the company for towing in the ocean, it will follow predecessors to the mill at San Diego.

Rails are being taken up, both in the woods and on the company’s main line railroad. Some of this rolling stock equipment will be used in the new location across the river but most of it will be either junked or sold.

It is reported that cutting of timber at Mist may keep the Benson company occupied as long as two years. Other estimates indicate a much shorter time than this will be required. When the present raft is completed logs will be sold entirely to small mills on the river.

Mr. Simon Benson started the company years ago with the purchase of thousands of acres of timber in the Clatskanie area. The first load of logs was brought out in 1904. For many years thereafter Benson operated the company with his son Amos. Later they sold their interests to O. J. Evenson and his son Willard. Benson retired to Portland and built the hotel which bears his name. He was also instrumental in promoting construction of the scenic Columbia River Highway.

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