Lumber Industry in Washington

Discover your
family's story.

Enter a grandparent's name to get started.

choose a state:
Start Now

The chief article of export since 1851 has been lumber. The piles and squared timbers constituting the earliest shipments were cut by settlers and ship crews and dragged by hand to the water’s edge. The skippers paid eight cents a foot for piles delivered alongside the vessel, and sold them in S. F. for a dollar a foot. Among the first vessels after the Orbit and the George Emory to load with timber was the G. W. Kendall. She was sent to Puget Sound toward spring in 1851 to get a cargo of ice by her owner, Samuel Merritt of S. F. When he returned the captain met Merritt with the announcement, ‘Doctor, water don’t freeze in Puget Sound!’ But he had brought back a profitable cargo of piles, and the doctor was consoled for his disappointment. Contemporary Biog., II. 94. Getting out spars became a regular business before 1856. Thomas Cranney was one of the first to make it a trade, about 1855. He says he had 9 yokes of cattle, with ropes and blocks equal to 90 more, and with all this power was from 2 to 3 days getting out one spar. But after he had completed his expensive education, he could haul 2 in a day with a single block and lead. Morse’s Wash,. Ter., MS., xxii. 47-8. On the island of CaamaƱo, in 1858, a company of Irish Canadians were getting out masts for shipment to Europe. Rossi’s Souvenirs, 163; Stevens’ Northwest, 9-10. For this market the timber had to be hewed to an eight-sided form from end to end. For the China market they were hewed square to where they pass through the vessel’s deck, and above that round to the end of the stick. Aloe’s Wash. Ter., MS., xxii. 48. Later they were made square to avoid import duties. A skidded road was prepared on which the spar was to run, a heavy block was made fast to it, and another to a tree ahead, the oxen slowly pulling it by the rope between, along the track, the forward block being shifted farther ahead as the spar advanced, until the chute was reached, which conducted it to the vessel. S. F. Alta, Oct. 20, 1862, in loading spars some space is necessarily left, which is filled in with pickets and lath from the mills. Morse’s Wash. Ter., MS., xxii. 48. But previous to this, as early as 1855, the bark Anadyr, Capt. J. H. Swift, sailed from Utsalady with a cargo of spars, consigned to the French navy yard at Brest. The shipment was made by Brennan and Thompson to fill a contract made by Isaac Friedlander of S. F. In 1S37 the same ship took a cargo of spars from Utsalady to the English navy yard at Chatham. The spars sent to France were subjected to rigid tests, and found equal to the best. Since 1836 spars have been regularly sent to these markets, and to Spain, Mauritius, China, and elsewhere. The Dutch ship Williamberg, in 1856, took out over 100 spars from 80 to 120 feet long, and from 30 to 43 inches diameter at the but, the largest weighing from 18 to 20 tons apiece. S. F. Alta, Dec. 29, 1856; Sac. Union, Nov. 13, 1837. The first vessel direct from China that ever arrived in Puget Sound was the Lizzie Jarvis, in Oct. 1838, to load with spars for that empire. In 1860 the first cargo of yellow-fir spars was shipped to the Atlantic ports of the U. S. in the Lawson, of Bath, Maine. These sticks were from 60 to 118 feet in length, and were furnished by the Port Gamble mill company. Port Townsend Northwest, Aug. 1860. In the following year the ship Indiaman loaded with spars at Utsalady for the Spanish naval station near St Urbes, and the ship True Briton for London. Id., Oct. 26, 1861; Wash. Scraps, 20; Seattle Intelligencer, Aug. 20, 1879. The annual shipment is about three cargoes. In 1869 2,000 spars were shipped, at a value of $2,067,000. Scammon, in Overland Monthly, v. 60.

Milled lumber, owing to the necessities of California, was early in demand on Puget Sound. From the date when Yesler first established a steam-mill at Seattle there has been a forward progress in the facilities and extent of this first of manufactures, until in 1879, a year of depression, the estimated product of the Sound mills was 120,500,000 feet. The pioneer lumbering establishment on Puget Sound was erected in 1847, by M. T. Simmons and associates, at Tumwater, as I have said. Its first shipment was in 1848, when the H. B. Co.’s sty Beaver took a cargo for their northern posts. Olympia Transcript, May 23, 1868. James McAllister erected the second sawmill, in 1851. It was a small gate or sash mill driven by waterpower, cutting from 500 to 1,000 feet per day. Wash. Ter. True Exhibit, 1880. 59; Dayton Dem. State Jour., Nov. 17, 1882. A. S. Abernethy erected a waterpower mill at Oak Point on the Columbia in 1848-9. In 1872 it was turning out 4,000,000 feet of lumber annually. Victor’s Oregon and Washington, 64. In the winter of 1852-3 Yesler put up a steam sawmill at Seattle, which turned out from 10,000 to 15,000 feet per day. The sawdust was used in filling in marshy ground on the beach, where it forms a considerable part of the waterfront of the city. The mill-waste and slabs were converted into a wharf. The mill was rebuilt in 1868. Ten years afterward the old machinery was in use in a gristmill at Seattle. Yesler’s Settlement of Seattle, MS., 1, 3, 7.

In 1852 a mill was erected at Shoalwater Bay by David K. Weldon and George Watkins. Swan’s N. W. Coast, 64-5. In the spring of 1853 Nicholas Delin, M. T. Simmons, and Smith Hays formed a partnership to erect two mills, one at the head of Commencement Bay, and the other upon Skookum Bay, northwest of Olympia. The first was completed in May, and 2 cargoes of lumber were shipped on the George Emory to S. F.; but the mill proved to be badly situated, and was abandoned, even before the Indian war. Evans, in New Tacoma Ledger, July 9, 1880. A mill was built in the winter of 1852-3 at Whatcom, Bellingham Bay, by Roder & Peabody, but water failed in summer. Its capacity was 4,000 feet per clay during high water. It was burned in 1873, and not rebuilt. Roder’s Bellingham Bay, MS., 17; Eldridge’s Sketch, MS., 4. At Port Ludlow, G. K. Thorndike, in 1852, began erecting a mill; in the spring following he was joined by W. T. Sayward of S. F., and a large steam-mill built. In 185S it was leased to Arthur Phinney for $500 a month, who finally, in 1874, purchased the property. Sayward’s Pioneer Reminiscences, MS., 34. Phinney died in 1887, and on the settlement of the estate the mill was bought by the Puget Mill Co. for $64,000. Morse’s Wash. Ter., MS., xiii. 1-2; S. F. Chronicle, Nov. 9, 1378. Another large mill was begun in 1852 by the Puget Mill Co., at Port Gamble, by Josiah P. Keller, W. C. Talbot, and Andrew J. Pope. A village sprung up, originally called Teekalet. These proprietors purchased large tracts of timber. Morse’s Wash. Ter., MS., xxii. 43. The capacity of the Port Gamble mill in 1879 was 36,000,000 feet annually.

In 1552 Edmund Martin, J. J. Phelps, and Ware built a steam-mill at Appletree Cove on the west side of Admiralty Inlet. Martin was afterward a large liquor dealer in S. F., and cashier of the Hibernia Bank. He died about 1880. Before this mill was fairly in successful operation it was sold to G. A. Meigs in 1853, who removed it to Port Madison the same year. In Dec. 1854 it was burned, but rebuilt, and in March 1861 the boilers of the new mill exploded, killing 6 men and stopping work for 2 weeks, when it resumed and ran until May 1864, when it was destroyed by fire, but was again rebuilt. In 1872 the firm was Meigs & Gawley. Owing to business complications and embarrassments from losses, it was not until 1877 that Meigs was able to clear the establishment, and to associate with himself others who formed the Meigs Lumber and Ship-building Company. Of all the lumbering establishments none were more complete than this. Its capacity in 1880 was 200,000 feet in 12 hours, and it could cut logs 132 feet long. It has an iron and brass foundry, machine, blacksmith, and carpenter shops, and shipyard. The village was a model one, with neat dwellings for the operatives, a public hall, library, hotel, and store. Masonic and good templar’s lodges, with dancing assemblies, lectures, and out door sports, were features of the place. About 300 people were employed, and no liquor sold in the place. Miegs was a Vermonter. Yesler’s Wash. Ter., MS., 5-6; Murphy and Harned’s P. S. Directory, 1872, 147; Seattle Pac. Tribune, Aug. 17, 1877, Scammon, in Orel-land Monthly, v. 59; Morse’s Wash. Ter., MS., xxii. 44-6. Another of the early mills was that of Port Orchard. It was first put up at Alki Point, called New York, by C. C. Terry and William H. Renton in 1833-4, but removed after 2 or 3 years to Port Orchard, which had a better harbor. The mill was afterward sold to Coleman and Glynden, who rebuilt it in 1868-9, but became bankrupt, and the mill was burned before any capital came to relieve it. Yesler’s Wash. Ter., MS., 4-5; Seattle Intelligencer, March 11, 1869. After selling the Port Orchard mill, Renton & Howard went to Port Blakeley, 10 miles distant from and opposite to Seattle, and erected a large lumbering establishment, costing 880,000, and capable of turning out 50,000 feet a day. It began sawing in April 1864, cutting an average of 19,000,000 feet annually down to 1880, when its capacity was increased to 200,000 per day. Howard died before the completion of the mill, in 1863, and the firm incorporated as Renton, Holmes & Co., but in 1876 became again incorporated as the Port Blakeley Mill Company, with a capital of 8600,000. Wash. Ter. True Exhibit, 1880, 60. This mill shipped, in 1883, 54,000,000 feet of lumber, and could cut 200,000 feet in 12 hours. It had 80 saws of all kinds; 19 boilers and 7 engines, with a united power of 1,200 horse. It was lighted by 16 electric lights, and was every way the most complete lumbering establishment in this, if not in ally, country. In 1853 the frame of the Utsalady mill was hewn out for Grennan & Cranney, who began sawing in Feb. 1858. The sole owner in Dec. 1869 was Thomas Cranney. In 1873, Cranney & Chisholm owned it; but in 1876 it was sold to the Puget Mill Co. for about $35,000, and was closed for two years. It cut for 11 years an average of 17,000,000 feet annually, and afterward more than double that amount. Morse’s Wash. Ter., MS., xxii. 43, 47-8. In 1858-9 S. L. Mastick & Co. of S. F. erected a mill at Port Discovery, which in the first 18 months cut 8,500,000 feet of lumber. It employed in 1871 50 men, and turned out 12,000,000 feet of lumber and 200,000 laths. This amount was increased in 1874 to 18,000,000 feet annually, but dropped to 12,000,000 from 1875 to 1879; since which time its capacity has been doubled. Id., MS., xxiii. 2-3; Portland Oregonian, May 29, 1875. In 1862 a firm known as tho Washington Mill Company, consisting of Marshall Blinn, W. J. Adams, John R. Williamson, W. B. Sinclair, and Hill Harmon, built a mill at Seabeck on Hood Canal, with an average capacity of 11,000,000 feet per annum, at a cost of $80,000. Blinn & Adams were the principal owners. In 1879 Adams was sole proprietor. The establishment owned two vessels, the Cassandra Adams and the Dublin. In 1865 J. R. Williamson and others built a mill at Freeport (now Milton), opposite Seattle, which was sold to Marshall & Co., about 1874. Its capacity was about 35,000 feet per day. In 1868 Ackerson & Russ of Cal. erected a mill at Tacoma (then called Commencement City). In 1877 the firm was Hanson, Ackerman & Co., and the mill was cutting over 81,000 feet per day. New Tacoma Ledger, May 7, 1880; Olympia Transcript, Feb. 15, 1870; Portland West Shore, Oct. 1877. Of local mills and those connected with other manufacturers, run by water or by steam, there were about 50 others in western Washington, on Gray Harbor, Shoalwater Bay, the Willopah, Chehalis, Cowlitz, and Columbia Rivers, and scattered through the settlements.

In a review of the market for 1880 it was stated that the capacity of the Puget Sound mills was about two hundred million feet a year, and the shipments about eight million feet under that. Walla Walla Statesman, Jan. 27, 1883; Commercial Herald, in La Conner P. S. Mail, Feb. 12, 1881. The capacity of these mills is given in 1883 as 1,306,000 feet daily, or three hundred millions annually.

An interesting feature of the lumber business is that part of it known as logging, which is carried on by companies, on an extensive scale. Wilkeson’s Puget Sound, 13-14; Rept of Com. Agriculture, 1875, 332; Evans’ Wash. Ter., 41-2; Dayton Dem. State Journal, Nov. 17, 1882.




MLA Source Citation:

AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 23 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/washington/lumber-industry-in-washington.htm - Last updated on Aug 16th, 2013


Categories:


Contribute to the Conversation!

Our "rules" are simple. Keep the conversation on subject and mind your manners! If this is your first time posting, we do moderate comments before we let them appear... so give us a while to get to them. Once we get to know you here, we'll remove that requirement.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Newsletter Signup

We currently provide two newsletters. Why not take both for a run?

Genealogy Update: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new, or significantly updated, collection or database on our website.

Circle of Nations: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new (or significantly updated) Native American collection or database on our website.

Once you've clicked on the Subscribe button above you'll receive an email from us requesting confirmation. You must confirm the email before you will be able to receive any newsletter.