Tacoma Illustrated

Tacoma Illustrated
Her History, Growth & Resources
A Comprehensive Review of the 
City of Destiny
Chapter 9


By Holice, Pam, and Deb

Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this book.  The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers!  Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with genealogists!


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Nowhere in the world are there such magnificent forests as in Western Washington; forests of such vast extent and covered with such enormous trees, that the eastern lumberman can scarcely credit the truth concerning them. The value of this timber is just making itself known in the East. It has been shipped to California points and to foreign countries for years, and Douglass fir is well known and more eagerly sought for in some parts of the world than the white pine of the East, on account of its greater strength and tenacity.

Vessels have been loaded at the mills on the Sound with this lumber for twenty years and more, but it was not until 1873 that any lumber was sawed in Tacoma. Then the mill of Hansen & Co., was built in the first ward of the present city. The second mill was not built until more tan ten years later, when Mr. M. F. Hatch erected one on the railway wharf, and afterward another in the woods back of the little village.

Now there are nearly a score of sawmills proper, beside planing mills, sash and door factories and other wood working establishments, and several of them are of large capacity, especially the Pacific, St. Paul & Tacoma, the Gig Harbor, Tacoma Lumber & Manufacturing Co., and Mt. Tacoma Manufacturing Co.'s mills. The total cut of the Tacoma mills every day is 1,100,000 to 1,500,000 feet in ten hours. During the year ending June 30, 1889, the output of the mills in the city was about 210,000,000 feet, and the estimated cut for the year ending Dec. 31, 1889, is about 260,000,000 feet. Most of this is Douglass fir, with some cedar and a little spruce. More then one-half of this enormous product was consumed in the city itself, and the remainder was shipped to various parts of the world, including Great Britain, Australia, China, Japan, Peru, Chili, the Argentine Republic and Southern California, by water, and there have been an average of over a dozen large ocean vessels loading lumber at Tacoma every working day of last year. Some of these vessels have for along time been engaged regularly in the business, and one of them, the Dashing Wave, owned by the Tacoma Mill Co., has made as many as ten round trips between Tacoma and San Francisco ina single year.

Beside the shipments by water, there was also a considerable quantity of lumber sent by rail to points along the lien of the Northern pacific Railway as far east as St. Paul, and even to Chicago, while considerable quantities have been sent to St. Louis. Much of the lumber sent by rail was either bridge timber or car and tank material. The Douglass fir is without a rival for these purposes. Its great strength and enormous size make it the very best timber in the world for Howe truss bridges, and the fact that such extraordinary length of absolutely clear lumber can be cut here, makes it the finest and best material for railway cars and tanks.

The value of the sawmills to Tacoma can hardly be over-estimated. These mills employ over a thousand men every day, at an average of $2,50 each, which makes the total amount paid out in wages during the year, over $750,000 by the sawmills alone. But besides the sawmills there are many other woodworking establishments, such as planing mills, sash and door factories, furniture factories, and a new building has been erected to manufacture balusters and other turned materials under the patents of the National Lathe and Torc Company, which will revolutionize the wood turning on the Pacific Coast, and also will employ a small army of men in Tacoma. The wood working establishments of Tacoma, outside of the sawmills, employ just about as many men as the sawmills themselves, and at a similar rate of wages, so that the lumber industry of Tacoma may be said to be worth in wages to the city about a million and a half of dollars, and to employ about two thousand men, who reside there with their families. There is every probability that in a year from now Tacoma will cut more lumber and have more wood working establishments of various kinds than any other city in America. She now has more than any other city on the Pacific Coast, and they are unrivaled in the general excellence of their design and fitting up, and in the quality of the material produced.


The heaviest growth of timber in the United States is in the western part of Washington, and between the Cascade Mountains on the east, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. While the heaviest in growth, this forest is far from the most varied in character. The causes which have led to its greatest density are to be found in the large amount of annual rainfall and the mildness of the climate. There are no heavy frosts or extremely cold weather to interfere with the growth of the trees, nor is the summer heat sufficient to deprive the ground of the necessary moisture. This growth caries from two cords to 200 cords to the acre, with an average of over 100 cords. Following the foothills of the Cascade Mountains from the British Columbia line to the Columbia River, with a line drawn south from Semiahmoo Bay through Puget sound to the Columbia River as a western boundary, the reports show that the western part of Whatcom County, the most northerly in the State, has a forest growth computed at 200 cords of wood to the acre. Two hundred cords of wood would represent over 300,000 feet, board measure, but this would include the limbs that cannot be utilized in making lumber, and large quantities of standing timber of various kinds that cannot be called "merchantable timber" as the term would be used on the Pacific Coast. Merchantable timber here means timber that is not more than sixty inches in diameter at the top of the butt log, nor less than sixteen inches at the top of the smallest log. Nothing outside of these diameters is ever scaled. It is therefore a reasonable estimate to call a cord of wood 500 feet of lumber, board measure, or about one-third of what it will actually show.

This growth of over 200 cords to the acre, or say 100,00 feet, extends from the shores of the Gulf of Georgia eastward tot he foothills of Mount Baker. At the foothills the growth is less dense, and at the foot of the mountains is only

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from 50 to 100 cords to the acre, and this decreases again on the other side till the Cascade Range is met, and between Mount baker and the Cascade Mountains there will be only from twenty-five to thirty cords tot he acre, or following the estimate given above, only 12,00 to 15,000 feet.

Skagit County has the same general growth, with the exception that the density decrease more slowly as the Skagit River is ascended. In the next county tot he southward--Snohomish--the growth of timber on the immediate shore line is only from five to ten cords, or say 3,000 to 5,000 feet, but at from one to five miles back the forest becomes as dense as in the more northerly counties, but the very heavy growth extends only for about an average of ten miles back, when it again decreases to between 100 and 200 cords to the acre, and thirty miles back from the shore only shows from twenty to fifty cords to the acre. West of these counties are the counties of Island and San Juan, composed of groups of small islands in Puget Sound, none of which, with the exception of the southern parts of Whidbey and Camas, have more than five or ten cords to the acre. The southern parts of these counties has at the time this report was made over 200 cords to the acre, but much of this has been cut down.

King County, lying immediately south of Snohomish, and containing 2,000 square miles, has the same dense growth of over 200 cords tot he acre for about fifteen to twenty-five miles from the shore line, thence rather suddenly decreasing to the foothills, where it has nut from twenty to fifty cords to the acre.

Pierce, the next county south, has the same general conditions, except through a portion of its area and that of the adjoining county of Thurston. With the exception of this small treeless waste, Pierce is remarkably well timbered, the high average of more than 200 cords to the acre extending over a greater area than in any of the other counties named above, while the area containing between 100 and 200 cords to the acre extends to within a short distance of the foot of Mount Tacoma. But little timber in Pierce County has been cut, except close to Puget Sound. Thurston is the southern county of Puget Sound, and has the same heavy growth for five or ten miles from the upper shores, but this soon falls to between 100 and 200 cords.

Following the line down the western boundary of Thurston, between that and the Cascade Range, the next county south of Pierce and Thurston is Lewis, which, except in the fertile, but narrow valleys of the Cowlitz and Chehalis Rivers, has a density of growth varying from 100 to 200 cords to the acre, and the timber of this section is of fine quality and very easily marketed, as all the streams have good logging waters in ordinary seasons, while the timber being sheltered from wind storms, has no shakes, and grows to large proportions, with long, straight trunks, clear of limbs to a height of 100 to 150 feet or more. Cowlitz and Clarke Counties have the same general characteristics as Lewis, being lightly timbered in the valleys of the Cowlitz and Columbia Rivers, and heavily timbered a mile or two back. Skamania County has some fine timber south of Mount St. Helens, but the growth is not as heavy as in the other counties, and will nowhere exceed 00 cords to the acre, the average of the better land being but a little more then fifty.

Turning west to the coast counties, the small county of Wahkiakum has a considerable amount of Columbia Valley land, which, while very fertile has but little timber, not cutting more then five or ten cords to the acre. This belt extends back nowhere more than six miles, when the heavy timber lands, containing 100 to 200 cords to the acre, are again met with. Pacific county, is with the exception of the sand spits along the immediate ocean, heavily timbered, and will average throughout its extent nearly 200 cords to the acre. The same dense growth prevails through the counties of Jefferson and Clallam, to the straits of San Juan de Fuca. The land in the Jefferson and Kitsap counties bordering on Hood's Canal and Puget Sound, with the exception of from one to five miles of shore line, was similarly well wooded, and the whole, or almost the whole of Mason county, which occupies the land in the southwestern part of the Puget Sound region, and the south part of Hood's Canal region, has a forest of about equal density.


Their mill as pictured in our cut, was established in 1868, and was one of the first started on Puget Sound. It is a general saw milling business, both wholesale and retail. They do a very large foreign business, shipping quantities

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of lumber to china, Australia, South America, East and West coast of England and even Spain, was well as the Atlantic seaboard. The Spanish business is a new departure, this being the first cargo if lumber ever shipped to Spain from the shores of Puget Sound. It is probably that this first order will open up a new field, and lead to a large trade in this direction.

The Northern Pacific R. R. runs through the premises of the company, which gives them unusual facilities for shipping lumber, as they possess a switch track of their own, thus expediting transportation.

The mill is the most completely fitted up imaginable, and contains the latest improved machinery. The average daily output of sawn lumber is 250,000 feet, although on one occasion 465,925 feet were turned out in ten hours. the mill is a gang mill and can cut timber 140 feet long and 30X30 inches; 1200 horse power is employed, necessitating 18 boilers. This power is used in running two double circular saws, two gang edges, one pony saw, two lath mills, four planers. Drying kilns are connected with the mill, which employ 250 men on the premises, and the company has over 500 more constantly engaged in logging for them.

Hanson & Co., 48 Market Street, San Francisco, are the agents. Mr. Charles Hanson may be called the Tacoma Mill Co., as he and his son, William H. Hanson, are the sole proprietors. Mr. Hanson is a native of Denmark, and came to San Francisco in 1853.

He was a "rustler," and embarked in the lumber business, handling redwood chiefly. Later he came to Puget sound and noting with keen business sagacity the advantages of the location, he built the mill on the present site. Tacoma did not have enough population to unload the vessel that brought down the mill plant. When one looks at it to-day and sees ten or twelve vessels loading at the company's wharves, it seems hardly credible that a great city has grown here in so short a time.

Young Mr. Hanson is the practical manager of this great concern, and makes his home in the city of Tacoma.

J. T. L. Harris.

J. T. L. Harris, whose photograph is given in "Tacoma Illustrated," among the representative citizens, as will be seen, is man with the best part of his life before him. He came to Tacoma a short time ago from Sioux City, Iowa, and is now permanently established here with his family. When Mr. Harris came to the Pacific Coast it was with the intention of engaging either in banking or the lumber business. After looking the field over and seeing what a magnificent field for the latter business Washington is, he decided to erect a sawmill for the production of cedar shingles which are becoming so popular with builders throughout the United States.

The Tacoma Cedar Lumber Company was thereupon organized by Mr. Harris, with a capital stock of $25,000, he holding a controlling interest. The mill is situated on the shore line of commencement Bay, between Old Town and the Pacific Mill, and has a capacity of 100,000 shingles per day. the mill is operated night and day by two shifts of men, and has jumped right into a profitable business. Carload shipments have already been made to Cortland, N. Y., cities in Missouri, and Illinois, and Sioux City, Des Moines, and other Iowa points. All kinds of fancy shingles are manufactured by this company, and they are the sole makers of the Star Brand of cedar shingles.

The Tacoma Cedar Lumber Company is one of the very few firms on Puget Sound that does not belong to the single trust. The company's office is 928 Pacific Avenue.


It requires courage of no mean order to fight the long established prejudices of a trade or occupation, and no people are more tenacious of their prejudices than lumbermen. When the St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Company

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began to build their mill on the flats in Tacoma, and announced that they had ordered a bank mill and would use it without a circular saw, the old-time lumbermen scoffed at these "new fangled notions," and could by no argument or persuasion be induced to consider the possibility of success. Time has shown that the new company was wise in its determination to introduce an improvement, and that the bank saw makes as good, if not better, lumber than the circular saw, and is far more economical

The result is a triumph for the company, and will make a revolution in the whole system of lumber sawing on the Pacific Coast. The St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Company, which makes this successful experiment, is composed almost entirely of St. Paul and Minneapolis capitalists, some of whom have been engaged in the lumber business in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The officers are Col. Chauncey W. Griggs, president; A. G. Foster, vice-president; George Browne, secretary; Henry Hewitt, Jr., treasurer; and P. d. Norton, assistant treasurer. The mill has been running about six months, and was designed to cut lumber for the Eastern markets. The local demand in Tacoma has, however, been so great that the whole product has remained in this city, and has been used to build houses for the enormous population that has come to make the city of Tacoma their home.

Situated directly opposite the Tacoma Hotel, the mill is a prominent feature in the landscape, and is a handsome structure. The proprietors have made many innovations in the established practice of sawing on this coast, besides the adoption of the bandsaw. Among these are the endless chain with fixed dogs to haul the logs from the pond on to the mill floor, and the steam nigger for turning logs on the carriage. These were improvements that they were told would prove useless, but they have more than justified the expectations formed of them. The mill now cuts 175,000 feet of lumber every ten hours, and works six days every week, and every week in the year except when temporarily closed for repairs. Over two hundred men are employed in the mill or in the yard, and a large force in their logging camps. At the corner of Twenty-third and Adams streets the store and general offices are established ina very handsome building erected by themselves. The store has one of the largest and most complete stocks of general merchandise to be found in the Pacific Northwest, and does a large business with the general public as well as with the employees of the company. In the rear is the city yard, which occupies two blocks of land, and whence any kind of lumber can be furnished to all parts of the city.


In the month of July last a pile driver at work on the tide flats at the head of Commencement Bay, could be plainly seen from the business portion of the city, and gradually there towered to a great height above the piles, story by story, a large structure, which, it was then said, would be a sash and door factory. Of its magnitude and the influence it would have upon the future growth and prosperity of the city of Tacoma, little was then thought. Today it stands there complete, a monument to the manufacturing interest of this city, unequaled anywhere in the Pacific Northwest in capacity or excellence of construction.

The relation that the establishment, covering a floor space of 29,484 square feet, and employing 15- skilled workmen, bears to the industrial growth of Tacoma, is evidenced by he fact that already more then twenty-five skilled workmen, with this families, have come from the East to make his city their home, and secure employment in this factory. This concern is rated at 300 doors per day, which means

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that it will turn out in one day not alone 300 doors, but from 400 to 500 sashes, and proportionate amount of finishing moldings, casings, etc., in one day for fifteen houses, such as would coast to build $2,500 each.

The machinery is all of the latest and most improved pattern. Of the many new machines in the building there is one deserving mention, there probably being nothing like it on the coast. It is called a "sander." By the old method the smooth finish was given to doors, sashes and the like, by hand labor. With this machine a door is made smooth as glass in about one minute. The work is much more perfect than if done by hand.

Everything about the building, in fact, is on the latest and most improved plan. The exhaust fan is, perhaps, a feature new to many. It is used for carrying sawdust from the different machines the shavings and other debris that would otherwise endanger the premises by their likelihood to catch fire. A large fan is so constructed that the shavings and other debris are drawn up from the machines and forced through the flume to the shaving room. From there it finds its way into the furnace, and in the shale of smoke, out through the smoke stack.

A steam elevator, 6 X 9 feet in size, will be used to facilitate the handling of materials between the different floors.

There will be in use, when the machinery is all set in motion, over 3,000 feet of belting. The shafting runs the entire length of the building on the first floor, and instead of the usual cast iron pulleys wooden split pulleys are used, so that should a mishap occur it would not be necessary to stop the machinery for repairs but a few minutes.

The members of this firm are W. C. Wheeler, G. H. Osgood, and D. D. Clark, all of whom are thorough business men.


Has its retail yards and main office on Dock Street below Fifteenth. It has only been in existence a year, but during that time the amount of business done by it is phenomenal. The mill is situated on gig Harbor opposite Point Defiance, and is fitted with the latest improved machinery, and capable of an output of one hundred thousand feet per diem.

The export trade is by far the most important feature of this company's business, and they ship large quantities of lumber to China, Australia, South America, and to the Eastern Seaboard. The following from a trade paper is interesting, as illustrating the facts above noted:

"On Tuesday, Sept. 17, the gig harbor Mill cut six sticks of timber 24X24 inches, 110 feet long, which were loaded on the ship Earl Granville for China."

The officers of the company are Francis Hall, President; Geo. S. Atkinson, Superintendent; J. H. Parker, Secretary, and E. S. Prentice, Treasurer.


The factory and office of this flourishing concern are on Adams St., south of Twenty-fifth. The business has been established a little over a year, but is already on a substantial basis and turning our a large quantity of good work. Mr. Link manufactures windows, doors, mouldings and brackets, and does stair-building, band-sawing, turning, etc. to order. The machinery plant is very complete, and of the latest and most scientific designs.

The ownership of the mills is invested entirely in Mr. A. R. Link. He was born in Floyd County, Indiana, but lived afterward near Terre Haute, where he was in business for eighteen years. He was a carpenter in early life, and being one of that class of men that is hard to hold down, he soon began contracting on his own account, and accumulated capital. Later he moved to Wichita, Kansas, and after a residence there of two years, came here, and established himself at once in the business as has been stated.


J. H. Lister & Sons are the proprietors of these works, the oldest of this description in the city, as they were established in 1886. The principal feature is the manufacture of architectural ironwork and machinery castings. Their works are situated in the southeast portion of the city, on the line of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and near to the new freight warehouses, at the corner of East E and Twenty-third Streets. Their switch runs into the yard of the works. Since their establishment they can point to many ornaments of their handiwork, having furnished all prominent buildings in Tacoma, among which may be mentioned the Fife, C. B. Wright's, Bostwick's, Wilson's, Campbell & Powell's, Mason's, the Sprague Block, Catlin & Barlow's, and the Gross building. It is evident that these are among the best buildings in the city. Outside they have done good work in the cities of Olympia, Port Townsend, Ellensburgh, Yakima, and Spokane Falls. Every year has shown for them an increase of at least 200 per cent.




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