Big Mills Still Lumbering

Millpond and Henry J Wachsmuth Lumber Mill ca 1920 BHA 1980.4.12

Millpond and Henry J Wachsmuth Lumber Mill ca 1920
BHA 1980.4.12

Big Mills Still Lumbering

By Editor- W.H. Holmes

Excerpt Bayfield Progress

July 1, 1909

Captain Robinson Derling Pike died on March 27, 1906 and from there the family moved from the Bayfield Peninsula area. In the spring of 1904, the Captain sold his “Little Daisy” mill yard and saw mill business, lock, stock and barrel, to Henry Julian Wachsmuth. The Bayfield Progress provides further insight into H. J., the man who became lumber king of the Bayfield Peninsula until the pineries were no more and the buzzing music of his mill died in September of 1924.

 “The Progress man has been so long laboring with pencil among the potato fields of Central Wisconsin, that he scarcely realized that there was much lumbering left in northern Wisconsin.  But since coming to Bayfield he has found that he was mistaken.  There’s still lots of hemlock, birch, maple, cedar and some pine left in our end of the county, the Apostle Islands and places on the South Shore of Lake Superior that furnishes work for lumbermen during the winter months.

The mills supplied are two in Ashland, one in Washburn and three in Bayfield, which includes the Wachsmuth Lumber Company, the Bayfield Mill Company at Roy’s Point, and the Red Cliff Lumber Company.

We dropped in on the hustlers at the mill in this city at 5 p.m. one day last week and took a look at the bee hive of the industry, where the band saws were sawing planks and boards at a lively rate while the two log carriages, each with its quota of experts were riding back and forth, having “nothing to do” only to see that the auto lumber carriage did the work satisfactory; and a man with a stick full of figures measured the end of every log as it was brought up automatically from the big pond in the rear of the mill. 

As the lumber is delivered on the carriers as fast as sawed, another man keeps tally of the exact amount of boards measured in feet they have produced and in less time than it takes to tell it, the boards and slabs go hustling along automatically by a system of chain belts which propel the carriers, with men standing at the proper place to start the boards and slabs on their destination. 

What is good of the slab after it reaches the basement finds its way to the lath mill, and what is only fit for wood is sawed the proper length and taken in a dump cart to the wood piles covering a large space in the yards.  Some of which is burned at the mill, and much finding ready sale in the city. 

Mr. Henry J. Wachsmuth is manager of this concern.  The book keeping and office work is under the supervision of Mr. John B. Bovee.  Everything moves off on the business end, like the mill, all “OK”.

But returning to the lumber, after it leaves the mill from its automatic delivery chain carriage, it reaches the hands of men who put it on the tramway cars, when a man with a horse trundles the little cars of lumber out in the vicinity of the big slips and docks, where piled in a systematic manner ready for and shipping either by boats, barges or by rail.

Other features about the big plant are a large shingle mill, also a big blacksmith and machine shop for the repair of their machinery.  Then those big band saws have to be changed two or three times daily, giving work to several men in the filing department.

The motive power of this mill as well as all others of its class on the bay is from powerful engines, fed by the sawdust and trimmings from the mill.  There is also at this mill a complete electric lighting plant of over 300 lights, as the business runs day and night with complete shifts of men to the number of one hundred twenty-five for each shift in all departments when running to its full capacity.

Another institution not to be forgotten running practically in connection and alongside of the Wachsmuth Lumber Company’s plant, but under entirely different management is Bayfield Lumber & Fuel Company, which does an up-to-date plane mill business, doors, sash, screen doors, mill work-etc.  Mr. Carl Johnson is the owner and manager and Mary McNeil book keeper.  They have an up-to-date mill, well equipped with everything needful in machinery.

The pay-roll of the Wachsmuth Lumber Company averages about $15,000.00 monthly and the two other mills mentioned about as much or more.  The majority of the men from the three mills last mentioned make Bayfield headquarters for disbursing and spending a large share of about $30,000.00 monthly in wages in Bayfield from lumber manufacturing alone, for seven months in the year.   Four months during the winter nearly as much in monthly wages is paid out for preparing the logs for the following season’s mill work.

And it is said by expert lumbermen that in this county and vicinity which includes the islands, it will take at least ten years longer to exhaust the supply of workable logs into lumber.  So, if Bayfield profits by the sad experience of many other places and hustles to get the farms under way with fruits and diversified farming, they will not experience the deadness of a collapse when the mills stop, for they will have other industries going and a busy lot of workers on the rich lands. 

This history brief was written by Robert J. Nelson. Generously sharing our local history through his research and writing.