10th Avenue Mill Site

Sawmills 10 Avenue Mill Plans J. Jacobs Kenfield & Lamoreaux

Rood & Maxwell

In December of 1885, Rood & Maxwell, a St. Paul company, began building a mill just to the west of Cook's. The mill was located on piles out in the bay at the base of Tenth Avenue West. Wing of Bayfield was the engineer in charge of laying out the mill site and N. J. Brazel of Cumberland was in charge of construction. The mill began running around June 1st, 1886.

The main building was 40 x 150 feet with an attached boiler room, engine house, shingle mill, and lath mill. Six boilers supplied steam to two 200 horsepower engines with 16 x 24 inch cylinders working one main shaft. Machinery consisted of a gang saw, rotary saw, edger, trimmer, lath mill, shingle mill, slasher and gang bolter. Capacity was 150,000 feet for a ten hour day.

In November of 1886, Rood & Maxwell purchased the stumpage and leased the mill site of the Northern Pine Company on Eighth Avenue. In the spring of 1887 they put in a large planing mill to serve both the Tenth Avenue and Eight Avenue Mills. As mentioned in the Eighth Avenue article, Rood & Maxwell lost both mills for financial reasons. Cook purchased the Eight Avenue Mill, and in April 1888, C. C. Thompson purchased the Tenth Avenue Mill along with all other Tenth Avenue properties including the planing mill.

C. C. Thompson

The Thompson-Walkup firm owned two entire townships of pine in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, had six million feet of logs on hand, and owned a huge lumberyard in Chicago. Upon the purchase of the Rood & Maxwell mill, the Chicago operation was discontinued and Washburn became the general distribution point. A 24 x 38 foot office was built near the planing mill, and Thomas Roland became the resident partner and general manager.

In February 1889 Walkup retired, and C. C. Thompson, C. F. Thompson Jr., and W. A. Thompson incorporated the C. C. Thompson Lumber Company.

The mill proved too small for Thompson's needs, so in the winter and spring of 1888 and 1889 it was completely rebuilt.

The July 27, 1889, Washburn News describes the remodeled mill as having one circular, one large 60-inch Wilkins gang, one Wilkins band saw, two edgers, two slashers, and one trimmer. Two engines, each 16 x 24, ran all the machinery except for the gang saw, and the power was supplied by seven boilers. A separate engine provided direct power to operate the gang saw. Capacity was listed at 250,000 per 21-hour day. A shingle mill of 150,000 per day capacity and a lath mill of 40,000 per day capacity ran in conjunction with the mill during the day shift. The planer building consisted of 5 planers. Thompson built two large docks with a capacity of 10 million feet of lumber and had yards that held five million more. A 72-foot high 225-barrel water tank was built for fire protection according to Sanborn-Perris, however, the Washburn News lists it at 600 barrels. I believe this is inaccurate as this would be 33,000 gallons and the existing photos do not appear to show it this large. Two-inch water pipes extended throughout the mill, and automatic sprinklers were installed, the only Washburn mill to have such a fire protection system.

The Washburn News listed the following leading workmen and superintendents:

Superintendent and general Manager-Thos. Rowlands
Foreman of mill and yards-C. McCurdy
Millwright and general superintendent of repairs-D. L. Montgomery
Night foreman-Robert Monroe
Gang Filers, day-Wm. Glover, Assistant-Ed Pelter
Gang Filers, night-Jacob Yordy, Assistant-Jno. Berger
Circular Filer-Clint Breneman
Band Filer-Jno. Reynolds, assistant-Chas. Saulsbury
Circular Sawyer, day-Louis McGee
Circular Sawyer, night-E. Madden
Band Sawyer, day-Geo. McCurdy
Band Sawyer, night-Ben Lambert
Engineer, day-Geo. Warner
Engineer, night-Jacob Dibbel

The season cut for 1889 and 1890 was 20 million feet. Over the winter of '90-'91 the refuse burner was re-bricked.

Thompson's logs came from the Sand River in 1891 and 1892, Thompson having his own camps in '91 under James Ryan and the Sand River Lumber Company supplying the logs in '92.

The season cut for 1995 was 23,000,000 in lumber 2,100,000 lath and 1,525,000 shingles.

In 1897 Thompson put in a branch connection with Bigelow's Washburn & Northwestern Railroad. That August, C. C. Thompson died and the mill was taken over by his son C. F. Thompson.

George Irving was the man in charge of the mill locally in 1898. Beginning in 1897 Weyerhaeuser & Rutledge started logging at the Sioux and Onion rivers and in 1898 Thompson got the contract for sawing the logs. Thompson also sold all 30,000,000 feet of his timber in T50NR5W to Rittenhouse & Embry and got the contract to cut it. They put in a sorting outfit so that their lumber would be graded and with the mill running day and night, the season cut jumped to 30,000,000 feet.

In March of 1899, C. F. Thompson purchased the C. C. Thompson property. At about the same time, the firms of Street-Chaffield & Keep and Rittenhouse & Embree purchased 200,000,000 feet of pine, principally located in Douglas and Bayfield counties. Most of it was in the Maple area with 70,000,000 feet located north of Washburn in what was called the Sioux River tract. The cost of the purchase was about $1,000,000 and Rittenhouse & Embree took the entire Sioux River tract. Rittenhouse & Embree contracted with Brown & Robbins to do all the logging and Thompson to do all the cutting. Brown & Robbins put in a logging railroad going back into the woods from the mouth of the Sioux River and was to cut the tract over a four year period. The logs were rafted to Washburn from the mouth of the Sioux River.

In June of 1900 a fire broke out in the Thompson yards. Luckily a strong wind was blowing away from the mill and the mill was spared. The yards west of the mill were destroyed, along with some tramway toward the mill, and fire got into the log rollways. All the lumber belonged to Rittenhouse & Embree and the loss of $35,000 to $40,000 was fully insured. A large crew kept the fire from spreading to the Kenfield & Lamoreaux factory. The cut for 1900 was 35,000,000 feet.

In 1901 the Thompson Lumber Co. superintendent was Harry Latimer and McWilliams was assistant superintendent. The tramways were extended and an up to date electric plant was installed. John Bly was in charge of the mill which had a 300,000 foot per day capacity. Logs were coming in from Sioux River with at least two rafts of 600,000 feet each arriving in October. Logs were also arriving by raft from the Iron River. The cut for 1901 was 27,000,000 feet of lumber and 8,000,000 lath, including 11,000,000 feet cut for Hines Lumber Company.

In 1902 the mill received a thorough overhaul including a new carriage track. Forman John Bly was in charge of the work. L. A. Lindsey built a camp at Little Girls Point for 200 men to cut for Rittenhouse & Embree, with the sawing to be done at Thompson's. Harry Latimer resigned as manager of the Thompson Lumber Co. and went into business with his brother at Mellen, WI.  T. C. Williams was appointed manager of Thompson's and J. Edward Byrnes of Ashland, manager of the Rittenhouse & Embree interests. Also, Wm. McBrien of New York purchased the hemlock lands owned by Thompson, consisting of about 11,000 acres and an estimated 40,000,000 feet of timber. Rittenhouse & Embree also purchased hemlock land, mostly along the Montreal River and in the Michigan Iron Range. This was to be sawed by Thompson. The cut for the 1902 season was 21,000,000 feet. Rittenhouse & Embree's Bayfield County timber holdings had been pretty much cut off by the end of 1902, with a total 135,000,000 feet being cut, most if not all by Thompson over a period of six years. The Michigan land was to be cut off by the end of this logging season, with Rittenhouse & Embree's logs being towed to Washburn from Little Girl's Point by their tug the Robert Emmett and then the lumber being hauled to Chicago and other lower lake markets by their steamers Oregon and Foster and chartered boats.

The cut for 1903 was 25,000,000 feet of lumber and 60 boats took on loads at the docks. The Rittenhouse & Embree contract had finally dried up, the firm selling their remaining 4000 acres and 20,000,000 feet of Little Girl's Point land to  N. A. Meyers of Buffalo N. Y., and Thompson took to cutting 150,000 feet of deadheads in September. The mills all made a practice of doing this when times were slow or there would be a lot more Lake Superior logging today.

The crews no longer wanted to work nights, so labor was becoming a problem. The mill averaged around 20 million during the next three years, much of it contract sawing for Red Cliff Lumber and Stearns Lumber Company. Logs came from Salmo in 1907 but the mill opened late, having to wait for the ice to go out. In December 1907 Thompson sold the mill to Marsh, Hathway Company of Chicago for $10,000, ending a 20-year business in Washburn.

Stearns Lumber Company

The mill may have sat idle in 1908, but in November of that year Stearns Lumber Company purchased it. A major overhaul of the mill which consisted of installing new engines, boilers, a smokestack, a band saw in place of the rotary, and a horizontal re-saw was undertaken. An addition was added to the lath mill and picket factory. The new mill was 34 x 130 foot and two stories.

Stearns had needed more mills to accommodate the 100 million feet of timber it planned to cut from Odanah that year. The timber had been burned in a huge forest fire, and it had to be cut quickly before it was ruined. The actual cut of timber that year was over 100 million feet. The new mill opened on May 10, 1909, after a raft of two million feet arrived from Odanah. Later in the year floods washed down a huge amount of timber down the Bad River and a raft of 4,000,000 feet arrived, the largest ever on Chequamegon Bay.

In 1910, Stearns almost ran out of logs; 60,000,000 feet were banked and stranded on the Bad River in low water. Rains in September finally flushed out the logs, but this in combination with repairs and a late opening reduced the cut for 1910 to only a bit over 10,000,000 feet.

In 1911 the mill ran day and night and opened the 1912 season in April with three to five million feet of logs in the booms and a crew of 300. Moore was manager. A new saw replaced the old gang mill, saving lumber but supposedly slowing production, and there were improvements on the boilers. By mid-June, the docks were full, the old Hines docks in Washburn were full, and the company had to tow lumber to Ashland to store on empty docks there. In August a raft of 4,500,000 feet arrived, another record which probably still stands today. The timber was gone from the reservation, but Stearns was logging in Northern Michigan just north of the Montreal River and near Cornucopia, Wisconsin.

In 1913 Stearns had camps on Squaw Bay, Oak Island and two more in Northern Michigan.

The remainder of the life of the mill is sketchy, but apparently they did well, having 200 men employed in 1916 with George R. Moore still manager. In mid May of 1917 they were having difficulty getting logs due to ice flows. The year 1917 probably marked the end of operation for the mill. The 1918 Sanborn-Perris Insurance maps show that the mill was idle and soon to be dismantled. Kenfield & Lamoreaux later used the built-up area where the mill sat to store bolts (short logs) for its factory.

Copyright 2008 Kurt Larson--Last updated April 10, 2008