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An Everett News reporter takes a death-defying ride down the log chute at a Lowell sawmill on January 5, 1892, and lives to write about it.
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On January 5, 1892, a daring Everett News reporter rides a log down the 2,000-foot chute to E. D. Smith's sawmill in Lowell. The log accelerates rapidly as it descends and the ride is terrifying. When the log finally hits water, the reporter realizes he has survived and a few days later will write his own account of the event in third-person narrative.
E. D. Smith’s Camp and Sawmill
Everett’s first newspaper, the Port Gardner News, established its office in Lowell (now part of Everett) and began publishing in September 1891, just as the Everett boom began. By December of that year, the office had moved to Everett and the paper was calling itself the Everett News. But reporters continued to give good news coverage to their friends in Lowell, especially writing about E. D. Smith and his logging and sawmill endeavors. Activity at the sawmill seemed the best show in town.
Smith’s logging camp was located about a mile and a half uphill from his mill on the Snohomish River. Huge trees were cut and then dragged from the woods solely by men working with teams of oxen and horses and then carried by rail cars to the edge of a platform built next to a steep slope. The logs were then dropped onto a log chute that ran 2,000 steep feet down the slope to the mill.
To increase the speed of their descent, Smith lubricated the chute with car grease. And part way down the distance, a stream was diverted into a trough. The trough was placed over the chute and water dripped down onto the chute, keeping the channel slippery for the remainder of the slide.
As the logs descended downhill, they picked up speed and Lowell residents were warned of the dangers. “Beware of Logs” signs were posted and the event became a spectator sport, people gathering on a nearby bridge to watch. Disaster was always possible.
Hey Guys, Watch This!
One day an unnamed Everett News reporter announced that he would ride a log all the way down the chute to Smith’s sawmill. Whether out of sheer foolishness or just hoping to sell newspapers, the reporter arrived at Smith’s camp and picked what he considered to be a substantial and trustworthy log. He then had a board nailed across the upper side for a foot brace and leather straps tacked on for hand holds.
The log was rolled onto the platform and the reporter climbed on top and prepared himself for the ride. Inch by inch the loggers moved the timber with iron levers across the greased ways and then dropped it on the chute below. By this time terrified, the reporter later reported that he would gladly have dismounted and returned to the safety of land, but there was no turning back. He was headed for the Snohomish River and as the log descended, it picked up speed.
Telling the story in his own words a few days later, he wrote: “When the hundred yard post was reached, the News man thought he was falling from the top of the Eiffel tower. Just about this time the log gave a sudden turn. It seemed to have been given a twist by a rock, lying in its path, and the passenger’s thoughts reverted to home and mother, and ... . he wondered if sorrowing friends could find enough of his mortal mutilated remains to make a show for a funeral” (The News).
A stream of water from the trough above made him think for a moment that this was his own blood. Shortly thereafter, the log hit the water like “two planets colliding” (The News), a column of water shooting into the sky. These “unnumbered sparkling drops were thought to be the myriads of brilliant stars dislodged from their orbit and falling through boundless space” (The News). This flight of verbal fancy was penned days later when the reporter was safely on land and back at his News desk. The 60-foot log he chose to ride ended up in the foundation of the Pacific Steel Bargeworks plant, the makers of Everett’s whaleback steamer, The City of Everett.
“Terrific Ride On a Log: E.D. Smith’s Chute Used as Toboggan Slide, News Reporter’s Folly,” Everett News, January 8, 1892; Don Berry, The Lowell Story: A Community History (Everett, The Lowell Civic Association, 1985), 20-22.
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