Northern Pacific Railroad reaches Hoquiam in 1899.

  • By Aaron Goings
  • Posted 11/21/2012
  • Essay 8765

In 1899,  four years after the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Hoquiam's sister city of Aberdeen, it was extended into Hoquiam, thus completing the capitalist project begun a decade earlier. Although its earlier access to rail gave Aberdeen an early lead in population, capital, and prestige it would never relinquish, the railway brought a massive dose of new investment to Hoquiam, particularly by lumber capitalists

The rail line spurred the local economy. Lumber and shingle shipments from Hoquiam, previously confined to water-based transport, increased dramatically. Equally dramatic was the rise in population, which more than tripled during the first decade of the twentieth century, reaching 8,000 in 1910.

To cite only one dramatic example, Robert and Joseph Lytle, two Hoquiam brothers who made their money by operating a grocery business and what one logger called "the worst camp I ever got into," transitioned to lumber and shingle manufacturing shortly after the extension of the railway into Hoquiam. With guaranteed access to cedar for shingles from their logging operation and the ability to ship their products by rail and sea, the Lytles transitioned their small firm into the giant Hoquiam Lumber and Shingle Company, capable of turning out 275 million shingles per year by 1906.

The Grays Harbor Post crowed over the mill's success in 1911:

"Establishing a record for rail business in lumber and shingles from Grays Harbor, the Hoquiam Lumber & Shingle Company has shipped an average of 175 cars per month during the past three months ... . This record is considered remarkable and especially so since it has been maintained for three months" (Grays Harbor Post, May 13, 1911).

With the Lytle Mill, the North Western lumber company, and scores of other lumber and shingle mills operating at the dawn of the twentieth century, the city of Hoquiam was emerging as a giant in early twentieth century industrial capitalism.

Sources: Grays Harbor Post, May 13, 1911; "The Grays Harbor District," Grays Harbor Post, May 26, 1906, p. 2; Daily Washingtonian, February 1, 1906, p. 4; "Meet at Tacoma," Aberdeen Daily Bulletin, December 15, 1904, p. 1; "Northern Pacific Railroad," Hoquiam Washingtonian, July 23, 1891, p. 1; "The N.P. Railroad Situation," Hoquiam Washingtonian, June 15, 1891, p. 1; "The Society Event of the Season," Hoquiam Washingtonian, February 19, 1891, p. 1; "A Brief Retrospect," Hoquiam Washingtonian, January 1, 1891, p. 4; "Many Long Established Hoquiam Firms," Daily Washingtonian, March 26, 1930; F. W. Mathias, "Annual Report of Chamber Activity," Daily Washingtonian, January 25, 1927, 4; Robert A. Weinstein, Grays Harbor, 1885-1913 (New York: Penguin Books, 1978), 17-24; Ed Van Syckle, They Tried to Cut it All: Grays Harbor -- Turbulent Years of Greed and Greatness (Seattle: Pacific Search Press, 1980); Ed Van Syckle, The River Pioneers: Early Days on Grays Harbor (Seattle: Pacific Search Press, 1982); "Busy Mills of Chehalis County," Hoquiam Washingtonian, May 27, 1897, p. 1; "Articles of Incorporation, North Western Lumber Company," January 29, 1902, Articles of Incorporation, Grays Harbor County Government, Articles of Incorporation, 1891-1975, Southwest Washington Regional Archives, Olympia, Washington; "Articles of Incorporation of the Lytle Logging and Mercantile Company," April 21, 1899, Articles of Incorporation, Grays Harbor County Government, Articles of Incorporation, 1891-1975, Southwest Washington Regional Archives, Olympia, Washington; John D. "Bus" Fairbairn, "Fairbairn's Guide to History of Logging in Chehalis-Grays Harbor County Since 1882," Aberdeen History Collection, Timberland Public Library, Aberdeen, Washington; Philip J. Dreyfus, "Toward Industrial Organization: Timber Workers, Unionism, and Syndicalism in the Pacific Northwest, 1900-1917" (PhD dissertation, City University of New York, 1993).

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