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WEYERHAEUSER, Frederick (1834-1914)

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WeyerhaeuserWEYERHAEUSER, Frederick (1834-1914).

Frederick Weyerhaeuser, born in 1834 Niedersaulheim, Rhein-Hesse, came to America in 1952 as a penniless youth and went on to become known as the Timber King, a title for he cared very little.  He remained throughout his life a simple man who shied away from publicity.  Who's Who in America only discovered him in 1911, three years before his death.  He enjoyed his anonymity, as did his descendents.

After coming to America, he worked as a day laborer in the vicinity of Erie, Pennsylvania, where he married Elisabeth Bladel.  He then moved to Rock Island, Illinois, where he worked on a railroad and as a carter. 

He advanced quickly where he worked.  In one of the few interviews he ever gave, when asked to explain the reasons for his tremendous success, he said, "The secret lay simply in my will to work.  I never watched the clock and never stopped before I had finished what I was working on."

He put this sentiment to great effect.  In Rock Island he was put in charge of a sawmill and then a timber yard.  After the panic of 1857 he was able to buy both with money he had saved.  Soon afterwards, he bought logs from the shores of the Mississippi and acquired additional sawmills. 

In the year 1864, Weyerhaeuser began to buy up pine tracts in Wisconsin, after which he had all stages the lumber business under his control.  He acquired still more land in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.  In 1891, he moved to St. Paul where he became friends and neighbors with James J. Hill, the operator of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Hill had acquired millions of acres of the best timber forests cheaply form the government for his railroad.  He knew nothing about the lumber business, and sold more than three million acres of forests to Weyerhaeuser at bargain rates, contributing much to the wealth of the company.

At the turn of the century, he owned more timberland than other American did.  He held rather liberal views, considering the period, and showed greater concern for his workers than any other industrial magnate of the time.  He impressed upon them the necessity of protecting even the smallest trees.  Upon his death in 1914, Hill commented, "His place can never be filled…He was one of those national forces that helped build our country…"

Today the Weyerhaeuser Corporation is a multi-million dollar company with offices in Europe and Canada, with their Headquarters in Washington, near Seattle.  There is also a Weyerhaeuser Company Foundation, founded in 1948.  Since then the foundation has directed over $100 million to worth causes.

Related website:  Weyerhaeuser Corporation

Bibliography:

  1. Americans from Germany, by Gerard Wilk, reprinted in 1995 by the Max Kade German-American Center and Indiana German Heritage Society, Inc.
  2. 2. The German Dimension of Americana History, by Joseph Wandel, printed in 1979 by Nelson-Hall Inc., Publishers, Chicago, Illnois.
  3. 3. Drei Jahrhunderte deutschen Lebens in Amerika, by Rudolf Cronau, printed in 1908, by Dietrich Reimer, Berlin, Germany
  4. The German Element in the United States, by Albert Bernhard Faust, printed in 1909, by Houghton Mifflin Company, Bosten and Bew York.
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