THE TOWN HAS IDEA BEHIND IT, 1918

It Goes Henry Ford One Better Or So, Does McKenna
By Francis Stone Burns
Tacoma Daily Ledger November 17, 1918

McKenna, Nov. 16.–(Special)–the blue and white old mountain, seamed and scarred, majestic, her throat wrapped in a scarf of mist, turned her face through the late autumn sunshine yesterday to a half hundred towns in Western Washington.

Her serene countenance was kindest to McKenna.

For she looked down–and seemed to know it–on a town with an idea behind it.

McKenna is a mill town. Not only that but it’s the McKenna Lumber Company’s mill town. Its men and women work in the mill; live in the mill houses or a mill hotel or a mill boarding

The boarding house later became the McKenna Home. (From the 1955 Y.H.S. Tornado Annual)

house; farm mill farms with mill capital; buy from a mill store; congregate in a mill club. The church and school and pool hall are the only institutions that the mill doesn’t own, and it’s mostly mill money that goes to support them.

Beats Ford Idea

But the idea is there.

It goes Henry Ford just one better or so; it keeps the company a bit ahead of what the workman wants-or it aims to; it is socialism financed by capital; it’s two men’s hobby with a cost system a-rising it; and it is so far a successful experiment in keeping a Northwest mill running without labor troubles.

That idea is a community owned by and for a permanent body of workmen whose labor shall pay fair returned on the capital invested in the mill, but still give to labor a just reward.

And so it is planned to sell the houses that the company has built to the men at cost plus 6 per cent, with each month’s rent turned into payment for permanent ownership; to make the company store a co-operative workmen’s store. The clubhouse is being paid for by the workingmen through entertainments and the farms-but more of that later.

One of the Largest on the Coast

Plumped down in the center of a prairie close to the banks of the Nisqually river, the mill is one of the 10 largest on the pacific coast, representing an investment of almost $1,000,000. With a capacity of 200,000 feet a day, it averages at the present time about 150,000 feet and keeps 300 hundred men and women busy in the camps and mill, although everything that be lifted and moved and operated by machinery has it.

The logs, cut in the company’s camps are pulled down to the mill on a mile railroad owned and operated by the company, floated in an artificial mill pond into which water is pumped from the Nisqually river, and carried from there up the chute where they are jerked under the hungry teeth of the great band saws by the uncanny, long fingered “nigger bar” operated by levers from above. One of the bandsaws has teeth on both sides and catches the logs “going and coming.” Machinery may be installed until there is little left for one human mind to do, but there are one or two things that machinery can never do; it cannot exercise judgment in grading lumber in the various stages through which the raw log passes and it can’t boss men.

Stacked lumber from the. Located on the east side of the state highway. (Courtesy of Earl "Babe" Herness)

Log Sense Needed

So Roscoe Grant, heads sawyer with his hand at the levers of the great carriage under the band saw, must use the judgment accumulated by years of experience in selecting the logs which go under him. And Theodore Herness with great blue pencil tallies all the output of the mill and grades it as the cut finally passes under his eagle eyes in one of the big wings of the mill.

Over them all, the men and women is D. B. Berry, the foreman, watching with keen eye every detail in the mill to be sure that nothing goes wrong and a whole sawing is lost or spoiled, perhaps, and above W. N. Goodwin, a mill man to his marrow, and loyal to the company and men with whom he works.

The McKenna Mill was one of the first in the Northwest to resort to women employees and has been one of the most successful. There have been from six to eight women employed in the planing mill section for several months. One of them, Mrs. Nellie Query, who feeds a planer, is one of the most efficient workwomen they have.

Last summer the girls in the office spent an hour or two or three each afternoon when work was over in the years, wheeling and loading the light trucks with lumber , and earning their expenses after hours; so that their office pat was clear. It was clean, healthful, out of door work, and a most excellent substitute for tennis they found.

One of Early Times

This is an old community. It was at the shaving stage when Tacoma was born. And the men and women there have been there for a long time-many of them, and more of the itinerant mill population than you would think.

It is because the community is a good one in which to live. The air is fine and keen; the school boasts manual arts and domestic science departments that would create envy in some of the city’s schools; its people are social by instinct and training.

And through its system of farms the company is developing a real rural community for the backgrounds of the town, as every town that is substantially builded must have such background.

Two years ago 1,000 acres of prairie land-that land that Tacoma is ceasing to despise-was purchased by the McKenna Lumber Company. It has been divided into tracts from 7-12 acres in size. The comp[any sells it for nothing down; with water rights from the Yelm irrigation project; it provides lumber for a house and barn and other buildings; provides a cow and pigs or chickens; supplies from its great barns horses and plows or any other modern agricultural implement to cultivate the land; stocks the larder from its store.

Makes Term Easy

It asks nothing for two years except that the tenant improve the land enough to make the additions equal to the materials and money advanced, first payments begin when the second year is up, and the land, therefore, yielding.

That particular part of the company’s affairs is the particular hobby of Valentine May of Seattle, voce-president. L. M. Goldsmith is in charge of the land at the site and for him the little pack in the center has been named Goldsmith Park.

“We have found that the men so far have been pretty well satisfied,” Mr. Goldsmith said yesterday. “We have been fortunate in getting an especially fine class of men on the land. Out of the 70 who have taken up tracts, but four have failed to make good and have left. The crops this year have been surprisingly good. Red clover, berries, cucumbers and vegetables of all sorts grow well on this land. Some of the men have fine crops of sweet corn and they have found that fruit trees grow well.”

New Crop of Homes

All over the prairie new homes-and pretty ones-are springing up like mushrooms, their newness a jarring note in the harmony of gray ad brown and blues, with a dash of yellow cottonwood here and there, but a promise of a rich harvest in sturdy Americanhood in the years to come.

On one of the new houses J. R. Covert, one of the first settlers on the new land, was working to help a neighbor out and add a little to his farm.

“Like this country? Well, yes,” he said. “We are perfectly happy here. This is our first year and on a half acre I raised green onions alone which sold for $126 besides all the dry onions I have. We have six children and they keep well out in the clear air here and we are getting ahead splendidly. It’s close to market here and the land is hard to beat for berries and vegetables.”

A rank outspoken enthusiast for the whole plan is R. L. McKinney, who is assistant secretary and treasurer. A. G. Cook is secretary and treasurer and general manager of the company.

Efficient Accounting System

Mr. McKinney, who left Tacoma to join the company just a year ago, has charge of the office management, but he is interested in the 500 kilowatt steam turbine-there’s only one other in the Northwest- and in the farm as in the system of expert accounting which he has introduced in the office, and through which every mouthful of cud that one of the 20 cows in the company barn chews is accounted for-if you follow me.

R. B. Tweedy of Wisconsin is president of the company. He has large interests in the East and only finds a little of his time each year to spend at McKenna, but his hobby is this company. He likes it because it is an intricate business proposition to be studied and worked out; because the human element enters so strongly into every move on the chessboard of social and economic and financial game which they are working out; and because as head of such a company you have all the fun of being logging camp, mill, railroad, store, land owner, dairyman, real estate dealer and a sort of fairy godfather, capitalist.

Keeps Tab on Labor’s Needs

“It has been our aim to beat the laboring man to it,” Mr. McKinney grinned. “Give him what he wants before he wants it. Every workingman has a pretty definite idea of the pay he wants now, but we do want to have the men who are with us contented and happy and willing to stay on here. We were one of the first companies in the West to grant the eight-hour day; and now we are going Henry Ford’s plan one better because we are already getting our men on the land and providing for them-work in the mills if they want it and the rest of the time on their farms.”

And so it is that W. E. Kelsey, who has gone for 31 years-since he was 5 years old-with his right arm off at the elbow, is a satisfied, expert workman and has been with the company for nine years. While he is certain that there is nothing a man with two whole arms can do that he can’t, it is still rather remarkable that in addition to his work at the mill he has cultivated and developed a five-acre tract outside the town in the evening after work and on Sundays.

“Finest thing you know, this life,” he averred today.

And the company will make a success of it because it has stopped the leaks, Mr. McKinney pointed out. It has just constructed a new wood conveyor over which the scarps for wood will be carried and dropped, to be used for firewood instead of burned in the incinerator.

Women Brighten Town

A story of McKenna would be incomplete without a mention of some of the women in it. There is Mrs. Murphy, who runs the Red Cross and minute women and has had a big helping hand in every woman’s activity thereabouts; and Mrs. Mary Coffman, who since her widowhood has made a real home of the attractive cream and white interior boarding house which the company maintains for its office force and in which a great yellow kitten indiscriminately plays with the bright chintz curtains and the young people ho have come to grow up with McKenna.

The club house is a real social center-or was until influenza made its use as an emergency hospital necessary. Really it has been since then, for everybody in town has had it-the “flu”-some time recently. But in other times there are having picture shows twice weekly; plays on the stage there; club meetings before the bog fire and dances in the ballroom, with a service flag of 20 stars as the honored center of that social household whose every member wears the button of the Loyal Legion of Lumber Workers.

Scenes At The Salsich Lumber Company’s New Town Of McKenna, 1909

Scenes At The Salsich Lumber Company’s New Town Of McKenna — Mammoth New Industry Tributary To Tacoma.
NEW PLANT OF THE SALSICH LUMBER COMPANY AT MCKENNA.
Tacoma Daily Ledger May 2, 1909 (p. 40)

The Ledger presents herewith the first published picture of the Salsich Lumber company’s big new plan at McKenna on the Tacoma Eastern Railroad, together with a birdseye view of McKenna itself–a thriving little city of 450 people–built and owned by the company.

The plant, which is now operating at less than half its capacity owing to the depressed conditions everywhere prevailing in the lumber business, is another marked indication of the great pine forests which once clothed Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the moving of the center of lumber manufacture to Western Washington.

H. E. Salsich, president and moving spirit in the new company was formerly one of the most prominent manufacturers in Wisconsin and is still engaged in the business there, although output has been very materially reduced in that state by the exhausting of standing timber.

An intimate business associate of the executive officials of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad. Mr. Salsich turned his attention to the timber of Pierce county soon after the Milwaukee began its extension in this direction and in the early summer of 1907 construction of the new plant was begun.

ONLY A FOREST 3 YEARS AGO

Everything connected with the plant and the city of McKenna which is named after E. W. McKenna, second vice-president of the parent Milwaukee system, has been created and established in what three years ago was a virgin wilderness. Mr. Salsich and associates purchased 26,000 acres of prime fir and cedar on the Nisqually river, about 30 miles south of Tacoma and laid out a townsite. The Tacoma Eastern railroad built an extension from its main line at Salsich junction to McKenna to server the mill and the best millwrights in the business were employed in the construction work.

Completed, the Salsich mill ranks as the largest on the Tacoma Eastern and among the largest and finest in all Western Washington.

The mill is of the double band saw type with a double band on one side and single band on the other. Its 10-hour capacity is 250,000 feet of lumber, 100,000 shingles and 100,000 lath. The machinery was built and installed by the Allis-Chalmers company of Milwaukee, and the total cost was $250,000. The mill stands about 20 feet from the bank of the Nisqually river, which feeds water to a huge log pond and having a capacity for 5,000,000 feet. At the present time the mill is operating only on the single band side, the present 10-hour output being less than 100,000 feet. When running at full capacity over 500 men will be employed on the mill and logging camps.

In keeping with the model lines along which the mill has been constructed, the company has built a town, claimed by many to be the most perfect specimen of sawmill city in the United States. Built on land which a few months ago was covered with heavy timber, McKenna boasts row after row of pretty little cottages, with many substantial homes. Streets have been opened, but there has not been time yet for grading and the building of sidewalks.

For unmarried employees the company has erected a big boarding house about a half a mile distant from the mill, and accommodating 150 men. The operating and accounting area of the concern are located in McKenna.

The officers of the Salsich Lumber Company are: President H. E., Salsich; vice-president and treasurer, A. G. Cook; secretary, Charles Law. The directors are the aforementioned officers; J. T. Gregory of Tacoma and H. H. Field, general counsel for the Chicago & Puget Sound railroad.

TOWN MAY BE ESTABLISHED, 1907

Tract Owned by Salsich Lumber Company Will Have Good Railroad Facilities
Tacoma Daily Ledger March 3, 1907 (p. 5)

Eastern capitalists, associated with H. E. Salsich in the purchase of land and water rights on the Nisqually River in Pierce and Thurston Counties, plan the establishment of a new town to be located on both the Union Pacific and Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railways, the construction and operation of am electric line to Tacoma, and the erection of several large industrial establishments. These projects, in combination with plans concerning the erection of a large power plant already announced by the Ledger, will mean the investment of large sums of money and the development of a great commercial organization backed by men financially interested in the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railway and prominent Eastern capitalists whose attention has been attracted by the opportunities offered investors in the Northwest.

Mr. Salsich in now in the East conferring with the men who are aiding the financing of his projects. During the two months he was in Tacoma he secured detailed surveys on his large holdings on the Nisqually and of the entire river, in order to obtain data to be submitted at a conference to be held in Chicago in the near future. At this meeting the exact plan of operations to be followed in connections with the Pierce County properties of the Salsich Lumber company will be decided.

The power plant which Mr. Salsich plans to build and large sawmill and other woodworking industries contemplated will give employment to several hundred people. A townsite will be established at a location on the Nisqually, and streets will be graded and houses for workmen constructed. The power plant will furnish power for the factories located at the new town, for the Milwaukee car shops and the electric line to operated between the town and Tacoma.

Many Easterners Interested

Although all of these plans are yet to at an early stage of their development, they give promise of culminating in a gigantic investment movement and the establishment of industries which be of considerable value to Tacoma. Eastern governors and senators and men of almost unlimited means are interested in these projects. They have recently been making liberal investments in timber land, which indicates the confidence they have in the future of this action. The new town on the Nisqually will be only one of the channels into which this investment movement will be directed.

Mr. Salsich has stated that three railroads will pass either over or within a short distance of his property. He is said to have information that the Union Pacific line will pass directly over the land and through the site of the proposed town. A branch line of the Milwaukee to Olympia and Grays Harbor will pass near the town and a spur track will afford facilities to the line of the Northern Pacific.

McKenna: The Former Logging Town Which Refused to Die, 1970’s

The Big Lumbering Boom Ended, But Many Residents Decided it Still Was a Good Place to Live

 By Alice Staples

 When the 20th Century was in its teens, the booming little logging town of McKenna, nestled on the Nisqually River 25 miles southwest of Tacoma was a “jumping, jiving community where the lights never went out,” old-timers say.

There were some 50 homes, a big boarding house, a saloon, a school, and the company store and post-office. The closest town was far away by carriage, or early day automobile, and business was good.

It was about the time of the big depression at the turn of the 1930’s that the log supply dwindled. The company found itself deeply in debt. The market slumped. Finally the mill closed and the lights went out.

McKenna should have become a ghost town like Fairfax, nearby where deserted structures, built by the Eatonville Lumber Co. during the logging boom of the early part of the century, became mournful reminders of feverishly busy days. But McKenna didn’t die.

The McKenna Lumber Co. according to the times, should have gone bankrupt. That didn’t happen either, although the company was deeply in debt and hasn’t paid a cent in dividends to its stockholders in 30 years.

Today the town, a well-kept, quiet little community, seems a world away from the hectic, pell-mell bustle of modern-day living. McKenna has a constable and a justice of the peace, but neither has any business to speak of.

The community is off the beaten track and there is no industry and very little business to disturb the peace and quiet. There is a family feeling among the residents. It has been that way since the mill closed. As many as four generations of some original McKenna families now live there.

The men drive 50 to 150 miles to and from their jobs. On weekends they gather on the porch of the old company store to talk, or they go fishing in the Nisqually.

A restaurant, post office, service station and tavern make up the town’s business district–oh yes, and the old lumber company office where Mrs. Virgil Daskam, secretary for the company, has her desk. Once a month Mrs. Daskam makes out the water bills (the company owns the town water system), totals the collections and prepares her report for the company president.

Newman H. (Zeke) Clark, Seattle attorney, says he became president of the McKenna Lumber Co. “by default.” Clark seems to have a “bull by the horns” and he can’t let go.

Clark wants to close the company’s books. He would like to sell the water system to the townspeople, but they like things the way they are, and no one else is in a mood to buy it. He would like to dispose of other company property in the town, but he isn’t sure just which properties they are, and neither is anyone else.

Clark was named vice president of the company some years ago after Horton Cawmont Force, then company president and a close associate, place 100 shares of stock in Clark’s name. He succeeded to the president’s post when Force died.

Now Clark has placed qualifying shares in the name of Harry R. Venables, young Seattle attorney, and has named Venables vice president, just in case the company outlives Clark.

There aren’t any water meters in the town. The residents pay $2.50 a family for the water they use. The system brings in about the enough to pay for collecting the money.

“Operators for an old folks’ home, which occupies the old boarding house, recently dug a well to supply their needs,” Clark said. “Now the home is getting stand-by service from the system for $5 a month. They were paying $20.”

Clark said some families which have occupied homes for many years have neither deeds nor records to show ownership.

“We have one family which has occupied a house for some 20 to 30 years,” said Clark, “and we can’t find any written contract agreement. We think about $900 is owing and they say they will pay it but they don’t.

“They are nice people and they are working. I’ve threatened suit, and that’s as far as I’ve gone,” Clark continued. “The company never has sued anyone, and I would hate to break the chain of events of the past 30 years, but I’d like to get out of business.”

The late W. N. Goodwin, Sr., foreman for the company, remained in McKenna disposing of the company’s holdings and collecting mortgage payments. He took his pay in property because the collections had to go for company debts. Today the company has paid more than 90 percent of about $100,000 it owed when the mill closed.

“Now I can find no commitments or obligations for the balance that creditors say we owe them,” said Clark.

When Goodwin died, with him went much information about the liquidation.

“I think Mr. Goodwin must have kept a lot of the records in his head,” Clark said.

Why didn’t McKenna become a ghost town? Why didn’t the lumber company go out of business? People like the Daskams, the Hulls, the Huttons, the Posts, the Kominskis, the Murvins and the Conicas know.

“The company had a heart,” said one townsman. “When the mill closed the people were given a chance to buy the homes they occupied, and it was pretty much on their own terms. It was depression days, but we weren’t pressed for payments. When the people got work, most of them paid up.”

“This was our home,” said 83-year-old Mrs. C. E. Hull, whose husband went to work for the company in 1912. “McKenna was a good place to live and rear our families. The people here were like one big family, and when one need help the others all pitched in.

“I can remember when there weren’t any jobs and our men folk banded together and cut and sawed firewood. They hauled it to Tacoma and sold it and everybody got along. When some got jobs, they helped those who didn’t have work.”

The town was intended for permanency, according to Alfred Hull, a son of Mrs. C. E. Hull.

“This town was laid out like a city,” said Hull, with its wide streets and large lots. The family-sized homes were well-built and attractively designed. McKenna was built to last.”

Three sons, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren of Mrs. Hull call McKenna home. The children leave home to attend college, then return to rear their families in McKenna, sometimes driving long distances to work.

“You can’t beat these little towns for a place to live,” said Edward Daskam, Jr., who, with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, Danielle, were visiting over the week-end. “I own a home here, and I’d live here if my work wasn’t so far away.”

Daskam is in construction work in Vancouver.

Natives of McKenna think that at last inflation has hit their town. Prices range upward from $100 for a vacant lot up to $5,000 for a large house. One home has been for sale for $4,500 for a long period.

“Too high,” commented a diner at the Virgil Daskam cafe. “That’s why it hasn’t sold.”

When the mill closed many of the workers were in debt to the company store, but they didn’t “owe their souls” to it. Most of them were given a chance to work out their store bills helping Goodwin tear down the mill, clean up the property and guard the company’s holdings.

“The company was good to us,” said an old-timer. “I remember the time a new store manager put up signs stating that it was mandatory for workers to do all their trading at the store.

“It didn’t last long though,” he continued. “The big boss came to town and ordered the signs taken down.”

The “big boss” was Valentine H. May. He established the town about 1908. It was incorporated in 1914 with George R. Biddle, J. T. Gregory and H. R. Rolland as trustees.

May is remembered as “a man who never married, but one who loved everybody.”

Although they probably haven’t given much though to their holdings in the McKenna Lumber Co. of late years, the major stockholders today live in the eastern part of the United States. The estate of the late William E. Boeing, however, owns 60-1000 shares.

LUMBER COMPANY BUILDS MODEL TOWN, 1908

About Fifty Houses Already Erected at McKenna
Lumber is Being Cut for 200 More-Town Laid Out With Broad Streets and Buildings Are Being Erected With View of Architectural Neatness
Tacoma Daily Ledger June 7, 1908 (p. 11)

(Special Dispatch to the Ledger)

Olympia, June 6 – – A model town in the making is in the way Fred Carlyon of Yelm described the new city of McKenna, now being built by the Salsich Lumber Company on the Nisqually river near Yelm. The bog lumber mills and the greater part of the town are on the Pierce county side of the river, but a number of the houses are going up on the Thurston county side, the company’s intention apparently being to divide the town. The townsite itself and the water-power in the river was sold to the company by Fred Carlyon and save for a small tract that he owns near the town, the company owns both sides of the river for a distance of about two miles and for a mile back from the river.

McKenna is to be a corporation town. The company owns every foot of ground and so is every building and land improvement. As yes no street improvements to any extent have been undertaken. The town is laid off with broad streets and everything done so far is with a view of permanency. There is not a single shack in the town and every frame residence or building is well constructed and at least with a view of architectural neatness. Every structure has cement pier foundations and permanent brick flues. About fifty houses have already been completed and plans have been, made and lumber is being cut for 200 more, indicating that the lumber company expects McKenna to be quite a town.

Hundred Men Engaged in Mill

The big mill is not completed and there seems no disposition to rush it, doubtless owing to the present condition of the lumber market. A smaller mill employs about 100 men, most of the product being used in building the new town.

McKenna will be a dry town. The company will allow no liquor sold on its property and, owning so much of the adjoining property, can easily keep saloons at a safe distance.

The spur track from the Tacoma Eastern has been in operation for some time, giving rail communication by way of Tacoma. McKenna is one the line of the projected Puget Sound extension of the Union Pacific and also the Thurston County and Grays Harbor line of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul, and the building now going ahead is in anticipation of the business in store for the big mills when these roads are in operation.

GOOD OUTLOOK FOR BUILDING, 1906

GOOD OUTLOOK FOR BUILDING IN 1907
ONLY ONE CLOUD EXISTS ON LOCAL HORIZON
Tacoma Daily Ledger December 23, 1906 (p. 20)

H. E. Salsich, the Eastern investor, who recently purchased 1,300 acres along the Nisqually and near Yelm, from F. W. Carylon, is arranging for the erection of a big sawmill upon the banks of the Nisqually, and is said to be also contemplating the construction of a spur railroad track connection with the Olympia line of the Northern Pacific railway.

Mr. Salsich is the president of the recently incorporated Salsich Lumber company. J. T. Gregory, of this city, is also prominently interested in the concern. The company owns large timber tracts near Olympia.

ACREAGE IS IN DEMAND, 1906

REAL ESTATE MARKET BRISK
PRICES ON PACIFIC AVENUE AND C STREET LOTS GOING UP.
ACREAGE IS IN DEMAND
Tacoma Daily Ledger December 9, 1906

Some Important Transactions

The two big transactions of the week were the purchase of the Savoy Theater property by A. Bugge, of Bellingham, for $120,000 and the sale of 1,300 acres near Yelm, lying in Pierce and Thurston Counties, by T. W. Carylon to H. E. Salsich for $30,000. . . .

The plans of Mr. Salsich regarding the big tract of acreage located on the Nisqually river have not been announced, but they are said to contemplate the development of water power to be used in operating a plant, the character of which has not yet been defined.

The demand for acreage has been unusually large, and sales in various parts of the county show an increase.

1907 – LUMBER COMPANY IS RUSHING BIG PLANT

LUMBER COMPANY IS RUSHING BIG PLANT
Tacoma Daily Ledger August 11, 1907 (p. 16)

Salsich Project at Nisqually to Be in Operation by Next April.

Construction work upon the big sawmill and townsite on the Nisqually, the projects of the Salsich Lumber company, is progressing rapidly. Members of the company that the big mill will probably be in operation state it by April 1.

As a foundation for the mill, a concrete floor covering forty acres has been laid. A small mill has been built and is cutting out the timbers and framework to be used in the construction of the big plant. Machinery for the mill has been ordered, and the contracts for this material call for its delivery about January 1.

The site of the mill is about 600 feet east of the bridge across the Nisqually on the county road from Tacoma to Olympia.

Large forces of men are being employed in clearing the townsite to be platted near the mill. Streets are to be constructed and over 100 houses erected.

H. E. Salsich, the Wisconsin man who is president of the lumber company, is now in Tacoma giving personal attention to the work at Nisqually. He states that plans for power, street railway and other propositions have not been fully matured.

Arthur R. Sheckler’s Letters McKenna

Introduction: The following are excerpts from letters written by Arthur Sheckler while he worked at the McKenna Mill during the 1920s.

Will send cards and books of Yellowstone soon by parcel post. Must draw some money first.

McKenna Wash
Sept 3.23

 

Dear Mother:
Well I am sleeping on a bed again after 20 days on the hard ground altho I could sleep there and feel fine in the morning. I am also eating good grub again.

I am straightening the boards after they come from the saws that is, after the boards and timbers are sawed they fall on a slow moving table and if they don’t fall straight I straighten them up.

I don’t have to touch very many of them and half the time I sit around doing nothing. We work eight hours and get four dollars. Chuck is piling lumber in the yard and works hard and is sort of pieved over my good luck.

We have a room with two single beds and have electric lights and there is toilets, wash room with hot and cold water, shower baths and free laundry. We have a Japanese lady that makes the beds and sweeps every day and talk about grub. They feed the very best of grub. Several different kinds of meat, potatoes, cookies, cakes, pie, several kind of fruit, lots of milk, different kinds of sauce, soup, and lots of other things. They don’t come out and say “what will you have for supper” like in a resturant but set out big dishes full of every thing and as soon as a dish is empty they fill it up again and when you start to get up they tell you to set down and finish your meal.

Their idea is to eat all you want of everything there is to eat. Don’t let any body tell you that life in a lumber camp is hard, dirty, roughneck life. We have iron beds with white sheets and pillow cases and everything is as clean as can be and every day is quiet and orderly and friendly except the Wobblies go bugs every once in a while.

They gamble all their wages night after pay day and as soon as they are broke they spend their evenings sitting on the porch kicking about the poor grub, poor beds and knocking everything in general but the one great union (I.W.W.)

They called a strike yesterday and then kept on working as if nothing had happened. They didn’t even strike a minute, they are all bluff and talk and don’t do anything else. They are nothing but a disgusting joke.

We have a big city here, a company store, a movie house, a mess hall, a bunk house, a big mill and a few shacks. Our board costs us $1.20 a day and I don’t see how they do it for that with some of those big Swede lumber jacks that eat enough for a family of six.

The way I happened to get this job was that Denzil was working on the night shift from six to three at night and getting up before daylight and then sleeping days as he only has to appear once a day at sunset.

He lost his job because they couldn’t get enough men to run nights even though they had the entire 6th engineers band except their leader, even the corporal and sergeant worked.

Denzil is the same as ever and hasn’t grown a bit. He has taken up an I.C.S. Mechanical Drawing course now and bought a good set of tools.

I can see Mt. Rainier from here nearly every day and a river runs right by our window in our room from the Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier. The water is a milky color from the mud in the glacier.

Washington is not a built up country. Some of it is clear and fruit and garden stuff are raised by irrigation altho the eastern edge raises nice wheat, the best wheat we saw on our trip, without irrigation but all the rest is irrigation or forest, and it is real forest, no few stick of sapling pine like Michigan but real pine from six to twenty ft across the stumps. There is one tree north of us that you can drive a load of hay through and it isn’t redwood either.

Machine shops are scarce and dry gardening and farming don’t pay. Saw mills and lumbering is begging for men and the mines are asking for men but are having labor troubles.

The apples out here are big and pretty but the eastern apples have got them beat for flavor as these are flat or sour. I raided a nice tree of bright blue plums and tied my face in a knot as those ripe plums were green prunes. The darn things look like ripe plums before they ever begin to get ripe and are darn good after they ripen.

There are lots of bear and deer out here and the other day a couple of kids chased one of those so called dangerous mountain lions off the road and run it way back into the woods before they lost it.

They have a funny way of paying the men here. You get a slip from your foreman and that lets you into the boarding house and pay day they take it out of your pay and if you ask for it you can have a one two or five dollar check book for the store that they also collect from your pay. They pay once a month on the tenth and then the 25th is draw day when you can draw all but three dollars and you can draw less than five dollars any time between until you overdraw your wages.

The store and post office are in the same building and you can get anything from a stamp to a suit of clothes or a Ford.

I don’t think I will get over to Camp Lewis soon but tell Aunt Hattie I have talked Denzil out of the Alaska idea this winter and he has half promised to start home for Christmas and I will have his promise the next time I see him. He says there is only one thing he has got against this country and this is, it isn’t home and the only thing he cares about the east is his home.

I haven’t seen much of the coast yet and I have only tasted salt water a couple of times but I like the east best so far. Well write and let me know how everything is and tell Roy to write and you tell me how his kids are.

Arthur
General delivery. McKenna. Wash

* * * *

Tell Roy to write me and Denzil, he thinks Roy is sore at him

McKenna, Wn
Sep. 27, <no year>

Dear Mother:
I just got a letter from Grandpa today.

 I didn’t get to see Denzil but sent your letter over. The fellow he was going to come to work with got fired and so he lost out of his night job.

Today was clear and Mt. Ranier looked to be only four or five miles away and like a big dish of ice cream.

You can’t see the foothills on account of the big forest here but could only see the peak over the tree tops and it is a pretty sight, all covered with snow except in a few spots and the sun was shining bright on it today.

We had a small island appear in a lake here right after the Jap earthquake altho we didn’t feel anything and scientists say it is not of volcanic origin but can’t explain it.

Caught a big three foot salmon last night but it was so bruised from the rocks that it was no good. The salmon here are just the carp at home, just stick their backs and tails out of the water, only they are in the swift shallow water.

We put out from 17,500 to 20,000 ft of finished lumber a day here and this is only a small mill compared to some of them. We turn out everything from lath to 4 ft square timbers.

You ought to see the dahlias that they raise out here. As big as those small pie plates of yours and are the prettiest things you every saw. They have big farms and dahlia gardens here

(Source: Washington State Historical Society)