Puget Mill Co. sells Port Gamble mills to McCormick Lumber Co. on October 16, 1925.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/15/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5511

On October 16, 1925, Puget Mill Co. sells its Port Gamble and Port Ludlow mills and the town of Port Gamble to the McCormick Lumber Co. for $15 million. McCormick retains all the Puget Mill Co. workers and plans to upgrade the aging mills. McCormick's plans will prove overly ambitious and Puget Mill Co. will regain ownership by foreclosure in 1938.

Historic Changes

Puget Mill Company's Port Gamble mill first sawed logs in 1853. The last major upgrade was in 1858 and by the 1910s, the mills could not compete with more modern mills that had direct railroad connections. In 1925, Portland lumberman Charles McCormick offered to buy the mill and the company town and the Puget Mill Company accepted.

McCormick pledged to retain all the Puget Mill employees, most of whom lived in the company town. This change was still traumatic for men and families who had known no other employer and no other landlord than Puget Mill.

Personal Finances

Workers at Puget Mill were paid in cash.  (Those at Port Ludlow and Utsalady had often been paid in company script that they exchanged at the company store for food, supplies, rent, and other items.)  At Puget Mill, workers who wanted cash received payment in fifty-cent pieces, but some men simply left their pay on account with the company and drew against the balance as needed.

In selling the company, Puget Mill had to close out all these balances. One long-time employee had more than $7,000 on account and Superintendent Edwin Ames had to work hard to convince the man to take his money and place it in a Seattle bank.

McCormick upgraded the mill as promised, but the project exceeded the budget. In the 1930s, many residences were sold for $35 each to employees, who then moved them. The Great Depression further hampered McCormick's plans and in 1938, Puget Mill Co. foreclosed for non payment.

Sources: Edwin T. Coman, Jr. and Helen M. Gibbs, Time, Tide and Timber: A Century of Pope & Talbot (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, [1949], 1978), 255-264.

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