Lumber Industry in Bayfield Wisconsin

Last log cut at the Wachsmuth Mill BHA Photo

Last log cut at the Wachsmuth Mill.
BHA Photo

Lumber Industry in Bayfield

Bayfield County Press

Wednesday, August 27, 1924

Next week, about September 5, according to President Wachsmuth, of the Wachsmuth Lumber Company, the big plant of the company here will complete operations, and thus will end the lumber manufacturing days of Bayfield and the Bayfield Peninsula, at least on any such a scale of operations as have prevailed here in the past fifty years.

Practically all the large timber on the peninsula, owned or purchased recently by the company, has been cut and but a few remaining logs in the slip are yet to be sawed up, and the big whistle at the mill will announce the completion of its work.

The Wachsmuth Lumber Company, which operated here at one time at the planing mill, was reorganized in 1906, and on September 1 of that year took over the big sawmill plant of the Robinson D. Pike Lumber Company, [which concern under the personal direction of Captain R. D. Pike] established the mill fifty years ago.

The Pike interests put in a small mill, originally, but in the late years of its management of the plant, increased its capacity and operated two band saws and a vertical band resaw, also lathe mill, and a shingle mill in connection, which the plant as taken over and operated til now by Wachsmuth Lumber Company.

Millions of feet of the best northern Wisconsin pine, Hemlock and hardwood timber have passed over the great chain to the log deck of the mill during the years of operation here, as the Bayfield peninsula lumber had gone into construction throughout the entire western hemisphere.

The capacity of the mill has been maintained at approximately 100,000 feet per day, and with an average operation of 8 1/2 months a year, some seasons running double shifts, one can get an idea of the amount of lumber shipped out of this point during the period of years the mill has been in operation.

The present sawmill crew of 75 men and the yard crew of 10 to 15 men will give up their work here in 10 days or so. The average wage paid by the company to employees has been a total of $2000 weekly, about 50% of this amount during the last two years being paid to outside labor.

With the completion of the sawing here the plant will be dismantled, work which will cover a period of 6 to 8 months, and requiring the employment of about 20 men.

The rails used on the logging railroad [1] of the company are being taken up and practically all the steel and railroad equipment has already been sold to a Chicago concern, a small portion of the rails going to the Schroeder Lumber Company, of Ashland.

The effect of the passing of lumbering in Bayfield and the ceasing of operations by the big mill will not be nearly as disastrous to Bayfield, as some are given to believe, for Bayfield several years ago started the plan of preparing for the day when the lumbering interest would disappear, and today has many other resources of much greater importance.

Still, there will be a difference, for we will miss the familiar sound of the big whistle at the morning, noon and night, and the familiar hum of the whirring saws as they cut their way through the logs. Commercially, the loss will be to the wage earners of approximately $1000 per week, the amount paid to Bayfield labor at the plant. Most of the men employed of the plant now have other interests, secured in the preparation for the ceasing of their labor in the mill, and Mr. Wachsmuth anticipates hardly any of those now employed will leave the community, the largest estimate being placed at about five families.

According to Mr. Wachsmuth there are still millions of feet of timber on the peninsula and the Apostle Islands suitable for a small mill of about 10,000 feet daily capacity and he fully expects such a plant to be installed in the community at some time, as he states that such timber can be secured around here faster than it can be used up. Such a plant would employ about 20 laborers.

As to his personal plans, Mr. Wachsmuth stated he was undecided as yet, but he did not anticipate going to other fields. At present, at least, his many interests here demand his attention.


Last log cut at the Wachsmuth Mill

Bayfield County Press

September 10, 1924

With approximately 50 onlookers, men, women, and children, the big saw mill plant at the Wachsmuth Lumber Company completed operations in this city last evening at exactly 7:30 o’clock, the last log going on its way in the shape of lumber over the rolls to the sorting table at exactly that time, and the big whistle of the plant blew for the shut down for precisely 9 minutes.

News that the mill would cut the last log last evening was not generally known, though the closing of the big plant has been anticipated for some time. However, quite a congregation witnessed the plant’s, final operation, among whom was “Uncle” Robert Inglis, who sat close to the log deck and watched the big band-saw cut off inch boards until the carriage had been brought to a stop for the last time. Fifty four years ago Inglis stood in almost exactly the same spot and saw the carriage start on its first journey, watching the first log go through the mill when it started on its more than half a century of operations in the city.

During the last several days the plant has been operating on but one side, cutting up into lumber the Norway pine boom sticks and cleaning up on other stray logs about the plant. Last evening the last log sent through was a big Hemlock, scaling 410 feet of lumber, as determined by Mr. Lemler, yard foreman of the plant.

Nick Kurschner, one of the best and most widely known sawyers in north Wisconsin, operated the levers on the final cuts through the big Hemlock, swinging the levers adroitly forward and back as had been his custom through years of service close to the big bands. As he raised two fingers slightly to carriage men, William Hahn, as setter, and Al Reeves, let loose the grippers and the “dog” came up and slammed the log over for the final turn. William O’Malley and George Jonas stood by the log deck, where they had been employed, and with the now useless cant-hook in hand watched the final operation on the last log “piked” up by Roy Soper from the slip below to the great chain.

Yes, the sawmill life of Bayfield, on a large scale is done, and all that remains now to wipe out memories of the olden days of when Bayfield was only a sawmill town, is to dismantle the big plant and ship out the remaining lumber on the docks.

We will miss the big whistle, the hum of the saws, the familiar drop of the lumber on the yard piles-and we will wager that among the audience last evening more than one person felt a peculiar tightening at the throat as they recalled pleasant recurrences of years past connected to the sawmill life of this city.


May 3, 1905: Largest log sawed at Wachsmuth Lumber measured 16 feet in length, 5 feet across the butt, and 4 feet on the top.  Tales of Bayfield Pioneers, Eleanor Knight

[1] Bayfield Transfer Railroad

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