Someone recently asked about the origins of Junction City, the turnoff on the eastern fringe of Aberdeen. It all goes back 115 years, when A.J. West, founder of Aberdeen’s first saw mill and sponsor of the first bridge across the Chehalis River, sold his interest in the West and Slade Mill and set out to build a new facility. Here is the story as related through the pages of the local papers of the day.
A.J. WEST SELLS ALL HIS INTERESTS TO S.E. SLADE — S.E. Slade and T.F. Moulton of San Francisco came to Aberdeen last night and negotiations which have been underway for a month for the sale of and transfer of A.J. West’s interests in the West & Slade Company on Grays Harbor and San Francisco were completed.
Mr. Slade, who is at the Washington Hotel, said that he didn’t care to say anything about the deal and had made no arrangements as to the business, having been in the city only a few hours. That the deal has been made is practically admitted.
The consideration in the deal is not given out but it is understood to be close to the $150,000 mark that Mr. West will receive for his mill interests alone. The decision of either party to sell was reached a month ago but were not finished until midnight last night when Mr. West and Mr. Slade were in conference.
Mr. West’s future plans are not divulged but it is reported he will build a mill either on Willapa Harbor or on Grays Harbor. He has been looking at sites at South Bend and up the Wishkah River. As hisinterests are all together in Aberdeen it may be that a new mill here will grow out of his withdrawal from the West-Slade mill company. — Aberdeen Bulletin, May 27, 1905
TO BE CALLED JUNCTION CITY — The A.J. West Lumber Company has been incorporated with A.J. West as president John G. Lewis, vice president and Watson A. West, secretary. It is understood the new site town is to be called Junction City by Mr. West, although Judge Pearson favors the name of Roosevelt.
The Vidette speaking of the sale of the site to A.J. West by Judge Pearson says:
“Back in 1890 Judge Pearson of Aberdeen found an abandoned claim on the Chehalis River east of Aberdeen. He took it as a homestead and after a fight with the railroad company secured title.
“Last week the judge sold eighty acres of the land to A.J. West for a mill site for $7500 and has been offered $16,000 for the remaining 80, but does not care to sell at the figure.” — Aberdeen Bulletin, June 17, 1905
FIRST BUILDING AT JUNCTION CITY — Ground was broken Tuesday at Junction City for a boarding house 30×60 and 30×32, shape of an L, to accommodate the workmen who will erect the big mill for the A.J. West Lumber Co. at that place. It is expected that Mr. West will leave for St. Paul today to see the officials of the N.P.R.R. Co. regarding the side track to the mill. Now that the bridge over the Chehalis is in successful operation Mr. West will turn his attention to the new mill and it will be pushed. Lucas & Bean are building the boarding house. —Grays Harbor Post, September 16, 1905
MANY NEW FEATURES — The large mill of the A.J. West Lumber Co., which is rapidly nearing completion at Junction City, will have some features not found in any other mill on the Harbor. The Post reporter took a little journey to the new mill in the company of Mr. and Mrs. A.J. West. A short ride on the streetcar over the Chehalis river bridge and through South Aberdeen took the party to the broad bend of the river near the Deming shingle mill. Mr. West insisted on rowing the party across the Chehalis, landing near the new mill which loomed up in splendid proportions and though new, all exposed parts were freshly covered with the lime solution necessary to protect it against the elements.
The main mill is 54×350 ft. The lumber as it is cut runs on the conveyors to the sorting shed, which has been built in a different manner than any other mill on the Harbor. The floor of this shed is some eight feet above the wharf. This shed is 80×100-feet and gives ample room for the sorting of the various kinds of lumber cut. It will then be shot down inclines on the various sides, taken to the docks, planing mills or to the city. By this plan gravity does a lot of handling of the heavy timber which is usually done on trucks with the expenditure of a great deal of manual labor. At the time of this visit, only part of the engine foundations were in and yet seven car loads of gravel and two car loads of stone had been placed in the beds. The monster boilers, 660 horsepower, were in position and bricked up. One of the distinctive features of the mill site is the canal connecting Elliott’s slough and the Chehalis River and running to the east of the mill.
This canal will make it possible for logs to be floated in from the boom, gates closed, and the logs sorted out at any time, irrespective of the tides. This canal is 50 feet wide and 10 feet deep and parallels the county road at this point. This will give the mill an opportunity to cut any particular stick at any time and will be a decided improvement over other mills, whose booms are in the direct curve and tide. The mill will cut 150,000 feet in 10 hours. A feature of the machinery will be the direct haul on the logs into the mill, separate engines being placed for this particular purpose that will not be used in any other way. New features in the machinery to turn the logs have been added and for this purpose alone $4,000 have been expended.
Speaking of the capacity of the mill, Mr. West stated, in his usual direct manner, “The mill is equipped to cut 150,000 feet in 10 hours, and if the mills ever go to an 8 hour day, we will be equipped to cut 150,000 feet in 8 hours.” He paused a moment and then added, “I stated to the West Coast lumbermen, at our last meeting, that the labor unions are the safe guards of the lumbermen of this coast and if the labor unions would only strike for 8 hours in all the mills, in this manner curtailing the output, I would join a labor union.”
Mr. West realizes that there is a vast destruction and waste in the natural resources of this great region, that the lumber has been cut in a wasteful way and in vast quantities and sold at prices below its value, and he is willing to agree that organized labor, by curtailing the output through shortening the hours and increasing the pay, would cause a more careful handling of our rapidly disappearing forests and would be of absolute benefit to the lumberman and his interests. This is a degree of foresight which every lumberman does not possess but which is highly gratifying to the Post to be able to discover in one of the most successful lumbermen that ever operated on this coast.
On the trip from the mill to the boat, we visited the clean, roomy boarding house, where the men who are constructing the mill are living. It is conducted by Mr. Lee Berryman, one of the best cooks on the Harbor. We went from the reading room through the dining rooms, and into the sleeping apartments; throughout the service and management was better than half of the restaurants or rooming houses in this city. They are doing things up at Junction City, and some of the people under the big smokestacks further up the river could well afford to make a little journey down to Junction City and imitate the example set there.
The prospects of success at the new mill are very bright. Mr. West is erecting it for his sons in order that they may have a field of useful activity, and the young men are actively engaged in assisting in the construction. — Grays Harbor Post, April 14, 1906
NEW MILL READY — The A.J. West Lumber company has completed its large mill in East Aberdeen and is now sawing lumber for docks. Mr. West said that they had to saw their own dock lumber as the other mills are all so rushed with business that none of them could fill his order soon enough. The plant will soon be ready for business and will add very materially to the output of lumber from this point. When running at full capacity there will be employed about two hundred and fifty men, and the daily output will exceed one hundred and fifty thousand feet. Mr. West, who is the principal stockholder, is an old resident of the city and has been identified with the lumber interests here from its infancy. “I sawed the first board,” said Mr. West, “that was ever cut in the town, and sawed it by hand, and I am willing to stay to saw the last one.” Mr. West is hale and hearty and looks as though he would stay a long time, and he will be found boosting for Aberdeen all the time. — Aberdeen Bulletin, September 11, 1906
Eventually Junction City grew to boast its own post office and schoolhouse. Nothing much is left of West’s town today and only exists in the fading memories of those who lived there when Grays Harbor was the booming timber center of the world.
Roy Vataja is the son of Finnish immigrants and currently has the crud that is going around and is not in a good humor.