The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

and predecessors.
Medco 1944Maypm
Medco circa 1940.

Owen Firm of Wisconsin and Portland Principals--Railway Extension and New Mill Expected.
    MEDFORD, Or., March 16.--(Special.)--The first step in an extensive lumber deal was consummated today when the Hart tract of 6000 acres, near Butte Falls, was sold to Owen Brothers, of Eau Claire, Wis., and Portland, Or. The deal has been pending for some time, and it is probable that the Harkness tract of about the same area will be transferred in the near future. Although no price for the Hart tract was made public, it is estimated at $180,000.
    The deal will involve the extension of the Pacific & Eastern Railroad seven miles and the probable construction of a mill and box factory in Medford at a cost of $100,000. P. W. Murphy probably will be manager of the Butte Falls plant and will move to that city soon with his family. Frank Owen, of Portland, has been in Medford for several months. The Hart tract has been carefully cruised and every phase of the matter investigated. If the entire deal goes through it will mean the development of the timber resources near Medford, the extension of the Pacific & Eastern, and the pouring of thousands of dollars into Medford for several years.

Morning Oregonian, Portland, March 17, 1914, page 5

    Now that the Pacific & Eastern Railroad has been sold, all the Medford and Jackson County public is wondering what the new owner's plans are in connection with the operation of the road, and when he will start it. But M. D. Olds won't talk.
    However, the fact he has for the past year or more been busy buying up timber holdings and leases in the territory contiguous to the road and the fact that at least one new large mill is in contemplation for Medford leads to the general belief that he will operate the road partly in connection with this contemplated project.
    Another patent fact to the well informed is that there are six billion feet of the best timber in Oregon, 60 percent fir and 40 percent pine, in the country east of Medford, mostly in the Butte Falls section, which would be tapped by the operation of the Pacific & Eastern.
    While there have been and are many rumors in connection with Mr. Olds and his ownership of the road, some of which, if true, would have a stupendous bearing on the future welfare and development of Medford and the valley, nothing will be known until the Michigan lumber man's plans are perfected. The fact that Mr. Olds refuses to rush into print is taken by many as a good sign, showing that he is not the type of hot air promoter which has led the people of Medford to entertain false hopes so often in the past.
    As it is now, the people of Medford, Eagle Point, Butte Falls and the general residents along the P.&E. line are happy that Mr. Olds has bought the road and the strong probability that he will put it in operation within the next year.
    But about the sale yesterday: Notwithstanding the rumors that there would be several probable bidders and the fact that until a few hours before the auction the Miller Grier Construction Company of Portland contemplated bidding and had their first payment check of $15,000 deposited, the Pacific & Eastern went under the hammer to M. D. Olds, who was the only bidder, for $196,600, of which $15,000 was to be paid at once and the balance in 60 days.
    The sale was conducted by attorney Robert F. Maguire of Portland, special master for the United States court in conducting this transaction before a crowd of about 100, and Mr. Olds' bid was just the exact amount set by the court as the minimum price which would be accepted at the sale.
    The Pacific & Eastern had an estimated scrap value of $438,000, according to W. E. Turner, its receiver, who is vice president of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad Co. and System Lines, who after the sale before departing for Portland last night with C. H. Hart, attorney for the receiver, said that the Hill railroad interests favored the sale at auction at the minimum price set by the court, rather than to see the railroad torn up and scrapped.
    The rolling stock of the P.&E. went with the sale, consisting principally of two engines, two passenger cars, one box car and six flat cars. The road also had been using for years six S.P.&S. railroad cars, which will probably be taken over by the new owner.
    The Miller Grier Construction Company's failing to enter a bid at the sale yesterday is a mystery, as during the forenoon G. M. McDowell, its secretary and treasurer, while in the Mail Tribune office with receiver Turner stated that it would try and purchase the road, and that if it was successful at the sale the company would see that it was operated in the interests of development of the great timber territory east of Medford.
    The Pacific & Eastern was built in 1909-1910 by John F. Stevens, the famous engineer, now in Siberia, and was then intended to complete the link of the Hill system between Bend and California.
Medford Mai Tribune, August 25, 1920, page 5

Head Men on Ground for Erection of Plant--Machinery Shipped--Six Months Before Operation--To Employ 500--Will Build Roads into Timber--Develop Timber Holdings
    The commencement of work by the Brownlee Lumber Co. on their big lumber mill on their 32-acre site just north of Medford will be received with great enthusiasm, not only by the people of Medford, but of all southern Oregon, as it means a big thing for the city and valley, bringing a payroll of more than 500 people when the mill is in operation and adds another unit to what promises to be one of the biggest industries of the valley.
    The mill site is just north of the Pacific & Eastern track and on the Southern Pacific, and Mr. Brownlee, Sr. says that if the P.&E. is not in operation when their mill is erected when their mill is erected they have arrangements made to secure plenty of logs to be shipped on the Southern Pacific.
    A temporary office has been built for the mill site. Measurements are being made for the different buildings, and work will be pushed along as rapidly as possible. It will take six or eight months to complete all the buildings and install the machinery. The plant will have a capacity of 125,000 to 150,000 every eight hours and the mill will be run on double shift when in full operation.
    J. N. Brownlee and his sons, J. G. and R.O., are the sole owners of the Brownlee Lumber Company, all of whom are here and will be actively engaged in the mill. Their logging superintendent, cruiser and head mechanic are also here directing preparatory work.
    This company has been conducting extensive operations near Shubuta, Miss. but have sawed out all their holdings and are tearing down their mill and logging road there to move to Medford. Part of the new machinery to be put in the mill here has already been shipped.
    The Brownlee company has been purchasing timber lands around Medford for more than a year and now have between three and four million feet and are purchasing more. They will build eight or ten miles of road from the P.&E. tracks to connect with their timber holdings.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 9, 1920, page 6

    J. N. Brownlee, who returned recently from a trip to the East and Southern states, says conditions for the lumber mills look brighter and that the recent reduction on freight rates will also be a big help to the western mills. The Brownlee Lumber Company's mill in north Medford is progressing nicely and will be completed this summer. Several carloads of machinery have been put in place and two more carloads were received this week.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 5, 1921, page 5

    "Lumber activities and irrigation are the two big things which are interesting Medford people just now," reports S. S. Smith, newspaper man of Medford and member of the Republican state executive committee for Jackson County. "The Pacific & Eastern Railroad, which runs from Medford to Butte Falls, is being reconstructed and is to be extended 12 miles into the Four-bit timber which Mr. Olds, owner of the road and the timber, bought some time ago. The Brownlee Lumber Company has about completed the mill which it has been erecting for nearly a year and the mill is waiting on the extension of the railroad, for the Brownlee plant will cut for Mr. Olds and Brownlee. The plant will give employment to several hundred men. The timber to be tapped is what is said to be the largest body of pine in the state--timber in which an ax has never been set."
"Medford People Prominent in Portland News," Medford Mail Tribune, January 19, 1922, page 3

    The Pacific and Eastern Railway has recently received from the Porter Bros. shops in Pittsburgh, Penn., a new, prairie type, 62-ton, oil-burning locomotive. The new engine was shipped from Pittsburgh via San Francisco and arrived here via the Southern Pacific several days ago.
    A test run was made with the new locomotive about the first of the week and the functioning was above the highest expectations of the officials of the road, the engine having drawn 25 cars from this city to Eagle Point and passing over the grades in the steepest places without difficulty.
    It is understood that a number of men have been employed all winter getting the road in condition for operation this spring and that the work is nearing completion. It is expected that the transportation of logs from the Butte Falls timber district will soon begin and that the mills will start operation in the near future.
    The Medford sheet metal works has constructed a galvanized iron tank of 7000 gallons capacity for the storage of the fuel oil to be used in the locomotive.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 31, 1922, page 6

Largest Lumber Manufacturing Plant in Southern Oregon Ready to Start
As Soon As P.&E. Brings Down the Logs--
Expect to Put Out 125,000 Board Feet a Day.

    The Brownlee Lumber mill which has been under construction for the past year is now complete and ready for operation, and will begin cutting logs as soon as the Pacific & Eastern Railroad supplies them in sufficient quantities from the Butte Falls timber belt.
    The mill has an estimated capacity of 125,000 board feet per day and it is expected that when the mill is put into operation this estimate will be exceeded in output. A planing mill to be used in connection with the sawmill and sufficient in size and capacity to surface all of the output of the sawmill is now nearing completion. A millpond, from 5 to 10 feet in depth and more than 5 acres in area, has been constructed and is now full of water ready to receive logs from the railroad.

    The Brownlee mill, which has recently been completed and which is now ready to cut lumber at any time the P.&E. railroad can deliver it, is the largest, most modern and complete lumber manufacturing establishment in Southern Oregon.
    The lumber will enter the mill from the 5-acre pond in the form of logs and will be transferred to the two carriages which are drawn past the large bandsaw and the circular saw at breathtaking speed by the long steam cylinder, termed "shotgun" in sawmill parlance.
Handle Giant Logs
    There are two of these carriages, the largest of which will handle logs up to and including 7 feet in diameter and which passes a bandsaw with a blade 12 or 14 inches in width. The Cunningham band mill which cuts the boards from the log carried on the large carriage is driven by a two-hundred-horsepower steam engine. The carriage has been arranged so that logs of considerable length may be cut, but it is not anticipated by the management that any lumber will be cut in excess of 20 feet in length.
    The circular saw on the other side of the mill is provided with a similar carriage and has been installed for the cutting of logs of small diameter, being capable of cutting logs two feet or less in diameter. Both carriages have steam-operated setwork. That is, a number of levers and ratchets operating the rack and pinion arrangement on the carriage for the purpose of advancing the log into a plane with the saw the distance of the desired thickness of the board to be cut do not have to be operated by hand but are operated by one man who holds a control lever in his hand and who sets the log the desired thickness of the next cut by a mere movement of the lever.
Nine Circular Saws Operate
    After the lumber has been cut from the log it will be ripped to the desired width and will be passed on to the trimmer where nine circular saws cut it into the desired lengths. Four circular saws are provided for the cutting of the bark into four-foot lengths for slab wood. The lumber is to be fed to these latter saws by a system of endless chains as is customary in sawmills. The slab wood will drop into a large bin from which it will be taken for fuel purposes and the lumber will be carried on a long trestle across the mill pond to the east side where it will reach the sorting table. This transportation is effected by means of endless chains and cables running on top of the trestle. All of the machinery in the mill with the exception of the band mill is operated by a second large steam engine of about 500 horsepower.
Big Battery Boilers
    A battery of four large sawdust-burning boilers supplies steam to the engines, "niggers" which are used for shifting and rolling the logs into their places in the mill, and "shotguns."
    A complete shop which is now in a temporary building is also an adjunct to the mill and comprises a large lathe, a drill press and other metalworking machinery.
Cut 87,500,000 Feet
    It is understood that the mill will cut 87,500,000 feet of timber to be logged by the Millard D. Olds interests. owners of the P.&E. railroad and of large timber interests in this vicinity. The referred to timber is situated in the Butte Falls district and requires the extension of the P.&E. railroad for a distance of 11½ miles above Butte Falls. It is understood that several miles of the extension have been completed up to the present time, although the management of the railroad will give no definite information as to the progress which has been made during the past year. The timber to be cut is in the Four-Bit tract of the Crater National Forest and was purchased a year ago by the Olds interests. The conditions stipulated by the government call for the beginning of cutting operations on or before June 1st, 1923. So, despite the silence of the management of the road the public may be assured that operations will begin within the next year.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 9, 1922, page 24

    Tomorrow's program of "Prosperity Week" consists of a recognition of the industrial and irrigation development that has taken place in the Rogue River Valley within the last few years.
    Between the hours of ten and twelve tomorrow morning, the general public is invited to inspect the Tomlin Box Co., the big new Brownlee Lumber Mill and the dumping of logs from the cars of the Pacific & Eastern railway into the mill pond of the Brownlee mill. The Rogue River Canning Co., and other industrial plants will be open for inspection. The Brownlee mill and the operation of the Pacific & Eastern are the two big factors that will bring greater prosperity to the valley than is now being enjoyed.
    At two-thirty in the afternoon the D.O.K.K. band will start the ceremony at the city park at which the irrigation development, especially the construction of the Medford Irrigation District system, will be given recognition. The ceremony is in charge of a committee of the Medford Chamber of Commerce, of which Benj. C. Sheldon is chairman.
    In the evening the Medford Post of the American Legion will stage a busy night in Jacksonville in 1848. [No white people lived in the Rogue Valley in 1848.] No human being, unless he lived in Jacksonville at that time, can visualize what such a night really included, and a correct reproduction in every detail is promised.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 14, 1922, page 6

    The Brownlee-Olds Lumber Co. will make the first run of the big new mill in North Medford next Monday and hope after a few days of adjusting machinery and doing other things necessary to starting a plant, to be running steady.
    This will be welcome news, as it means the employment of a large number of men, a splendid payroll and the opening of the lumber industry in this community on a large scale.
    A logging camp was established near Butte Falls the first of the week and the number of men will be increased as the demand of the mill requires.
    The railroad has been rebuilt to Butte Falls, the new road graded several miles from there into the lumber district, fifteen new modern logging cars of 80,000-pound capacity, built in Oregon, were received this week, and with the twenty other logging cars and three engines, makes a splendid equipment for the logging road.
    The new whistle you hear of mornings, noons and nights is the mill whistle.
    They are also digging a large well to supply water for the mill and mill pond.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 14, 1922, page 6

Circular Saw Bites into First Log at Brownlee's Lumber Mill
    The teeth of the big circular saw at the Brownlee mill bit into the first fir log Tuesday morning and the mill will now continue operation, steadily increasing its output and crew daily for some time to come.
    The management expects to saw between 60,000 and 70,000 feet of lumber a day, working one shift, within the next month and between 125,000 and 150,000 feet within another two or three months when the band mill will be started.
    Only one side of the mill is now in operation, the big band mill resting until the P.&E. railroad, which brings the logs from Butte Falls, gets its full equipment and is operating to capacity.
    The railroad has ordered 15 new logging cars from the Pacific Car Company in Portland, four of which have already arrived, and is having a number of flatcars rebuilt for logging purposes.
    The five-acre mill pond, with a capacity of 3,000,000 feet of lumber in logs, is about one-fifth full and the management counts on these logs to keep one side of the mill busy until the railroad is operating steadily. The railroad also furnishes logs for the sawmill of the Tomlin box factory, which is cutting a large quantity of lumber and turning out hundreds of thousands of boxes per annum.
    It has been more than two years since the beginning of construction of the Brownlee mill which has been practically complete for some time. A planing mill which is capable of handling and surfacing all of the lumber which the big saw can cut has also been constructed and both have been waiting for the operation of the railroad for several months.
    All day Monday was spent making final adjustments on the mill machinery which was finally put in satisfactory operating order yesterday. Medford citizens are glad to see the mill in operation at last and merchants and business men welcome the addition which it will make to the local payroll.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 9, 1922, page B5

    Two Clyde skidders were received this week by the Brownlee Lumber Company for use in their timber operations in the Butte Falls district, and are being shipped to that section. The skidders are the same type as used by the Weed Lumber Company in their logging, are a highly complicated piece of machinery, and some idea of their size can be gained from the fact that six flatcars were used in transporting them from the East. They are used in hauling logs with wire cables to the tracks, and take the place of the old donkey engines.
    A leader and steam shovel to be used in the work are en route from the East, and are expected to arrive this month.
    It is expected that the machinery will all be on hand and installed by February 1st and ready for operation at that time, though no definite date has been set.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 5, 1922, page 3

    Definite announcement was made Tuesday that the main plant of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company would be built in this city by James H. Owen, general manager of the company, on the present site near the north end of Central Avenue, augmented by recently acquired property. It is the most important and beneficial step in the industrial history of southern Oregon, according to The Medford Mail Tribune.
    The plant will cover 100 acres of land when completed, and will involve an expenditure of approximately $1,000,000.
    The main features of the new industry are:
    The enlargement of the millpond to cover ten acres, for the storage of logs.
    The building of a new planing mill, with new machinery.
    The construction of the first unit of Crane dry storage sheds.
    The erection of a battery of 20 dry kilns, five now being under way.
    Work begun on lath mill at once with a capacity of 15,000 per day.
    The building of a railroad roundhouse, machine shop, oil storage tanks, loading decks, storage and supply sheds.
    The operation of two camps in the woods--one for fir, and one for pine.
    The maintenance and operation of the Pacific and Eastern Railroad between this city and Butte Falls.
    Plans have been drawn for all of the above work, and contracts have been let, or soon will be, for all of the above construction at early date.
    The building of the main mill will be deferred until the subsidiary plants are finished, the present mill being used in furnishing material for the new work. Manager Owen said that the date of the completion of the new big mill was indefinite, but would be rushed as fast as possible.
Cut 75 Million Feet a Year
    The plant, when complete, will cut between 60 and 75 million feet of lumber a year. The payroll will average in the neighborhood of $70,000 per month, with between 500 and 600 men regularly employed. The present capacity is approximately 30,000,000 board feet per year. The present payroll is about $15,000 per month, with 325 men employed. One of the difficulties besetting the new industry is sufficient housing facilities for the employees. The management announces that wherever feasible and possible they will employ men of families.
    It is the present plan to operate on a double shift basis, beginning January 1, 1926, increasing the capacity to 50,000,000 board feet.
Ashland Daily Tidings, September 18, 1924, page 1

    The building of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company's new mill is progressing rapidly.
"Building Activities in Medford Greater Than for Many Years," Medford Sun, May 10, 1925, page C2

Oregon Lumber Firm to Extend Plant at Medford.
    MEDFORD, Ore., Feb. 11. (AP)--The Owen-Oregon Lumber Company announced today that it would start work within the next 10 days upon construction of a new $500,000 sawmill in this city.
    The new mill will be electrically operated, with a capacity of cutting 327,000 feet in a 16-hour shift. The new plant will be in operation by January 1, 1927. The increased capacity will mean the employment of 250 more men.
    The $500,000 sawmill is in addition to a $600,000 improvement of the present mill, now under way.
Spokesman-Review, Spokane, February 12, 1926

    At the Owen-Oregon plant, work is continuing on the new mill and improvements and getting ready for the installation of mill machinery and electric power plant to furnish the power. The track is being laid for the electric yard locomotives, which will not be put in operation until the new plant is started, about February 1st next.
    The new office building of the company on the Pacific Highway will not be occupied until November 15, instead of November 1st as originally planned. The office grounds and roads leading thereto are now under construction.
    James Owen, general manager of the Owen-Oregon Company, left today for British Columbia to attend a meeting of Northwest lumbermen.
"Start Work at Tomlin Plant on New Mill," 
Medford Mail Tribune, October 26, 1926, page 8

Oregon Plant Nearing Completion
    MEDFORD, ORE., NOV. 27.--The big, modern plant of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Co., which has been under construction for several months, is rapidly nearing completion. One of the accompanying illustrations would indicate such to be the case. No expense has been spared in making this the most modern and efficient plant possible.
Medco 1926-12-4 AmerLumberman
    The company operates in two belts of timber, one furnishing California white pine, and the other Douglas fir. The principal equipment consists of two 9-foot band mills, a 48-inch gang, a 6-foot horizontal resaw, two edgers, two trimmers and the usual complement of the modern sawmill. It is a completely electrically driven plant, with power furnished by two 1000-kilowatt turbine generators. The above mentioned equipment, including sawmill, power and electrical units, is Allis-Chalmers, with the exception of the gang, which is Wickes Bros. This brief description speaks volumes to the practical sawmill man.
Medco 1926-12-4 AmerLumberman
    There is another illustration accompanying this article. Make no mistake--this is not a photograph of an exclusive country club, neither is it a church of any denomination whatsoever. It is, however, the new office building of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Co., standing on the Pacific Highway. It is, moreover a work of art, an exemplification of what a lumberman may actually build with his own products and, due to its location, is the target of admiring eyes of all tourists traveling north or south over the Pacific Highway from California to British Columbia.
American Lumberman, December 4, 1926, page 65

Owen-Oregon Headquarters, April 21, 1927 Medford Mail Tribune
April 21, 1927 Medford Mail Tribune

April 21, 1927 Medford Mail Tribune
April 21, 1927 Medford Mail Tribune

Machinery of New Mill Set in Motion this Afternoon After Flag Raising by Boy Scouts--
Mrs. J. H. Owen Christens First Log--Many Out-of-Town Visitors
    Hundreds of Medford and valley residents attended the formal opening of the new Owen-Oregon sawmill which was held this afternoon at 2 o'clock, following flag-raising exercises by local Boy Scouts one hour before. The mill machinery was set in motion shortly after 2 o'clock when John G. Owen Jr., 16 years of age and grandson of John S. Owen of Eau Claire, Wis., president of the company, pulled a number of electrical switches which sent electricity into the mill motors.
    Steam was turned into the electric generating turbines by Mayor O. O. Alenderfer, setting the large turbine in motion at the rate of 3600 revolutions per minute. The first log to be pulled into the mill was christened by Mrs. J. H. Owen by breaking a bottle over it just before it was sawed. The crowd cheered long and loud immediately following this part of the ceremonies.
    John S. Owen, president of the company, was not present. His son, John G., and wife, were, however, in attendance. George Cornwall of Portland, editor of the Pacific Timberman, John Alber of Milwaukee, Wis., an official of the Allis Chalmers company, John Swanson of Portland, who is connected with the Hartford Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, were among the out-of-town visitors present.
    Moving pictures were taken of the ceremonies and as well as numerous photographs. The Medford High School band rendered a number of selections before the attention of the crowd was drawn to the mill proper. Several congratulatory bouquets of flowers, including two from the Jackson County Bank, were on display in the office building, which was visited by many.
    Most of the stores of the city closed for the most important industrial occasion in the history of the city and valley.
    At one o'clock the Boy Scouts of this city took part in the dedication by raising the large American flag in front of the mill office facing the Pacific Highway.
    The nicely uniformed Scouts made a very fine appearance, and were congratulated by many of the visitors witnessing this ceremony. While the flag was being raised by Scouts, Burns Cadwalder and Gordon Williams, bugler Robert Colvig played "To the Colors," and all the other Scouts stood at salute until the last notes of the bugle died away.
    Scoutmaster Robert Taylor was in charge of the troops, together with Scouts executive W. W.  Belcher, and Scouts participating were: From Troop 2--Fred Colvig, Robert Colvig, Alan Darr, Albert Gaddis, Earl Gaddis, Charles Green, Lloyd Nichelson; from Troop 3--John Weills, Fred Schmidt, Earl Mercer, Roger Headlee, Burns Cadwalder, Ben Stinson; from Troop 4--Walter Harris and Marvin Cave; from Troop 5--Elden Johnson, Allan Carley, Russell Newcomb, Nelson Florey; from Troop 6--Robert Wilson; troop 8--Gerald Latham.
    The plant will employ between 350 and 400 men.
    The completion of the new mill marks the end of the expansion program that the company had planned. However, additions may be made from time to time, but as to that no plans of any kind have been made. The holdings of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company in Jackson County, including the plant here, the logging railroad to Butte Falls and the timber and equipment above Butte Falls, represents an investment of more than $6,000,000, of which the holdings in Medford represent a value of more than $2,000,000. Ever since the Owen-Oregon company commenced operations in Medford, its efforts have been continually directed toward expansion in all departments. Numerous improvements and additions were made during the three years past in preparing for the construction of the new mill, which has new equipment of the most modern type.
    It has a capacity of 250,000 feet in an eight-hour shift and will cut fir and pine. The mill machinery is housed in a structure 300 feet long and 90 feet wide. It has two additions, one for the resaw and remanufacturing plant and the other for a complete lath and picket mill. Two nine-foot bandsaws may be regarded as one of the features of the mill, inasmuch that the rough logs are cut there in the long process of being turned into lumber. A gang saw, a resaw, three edgers, two trimmers and slashers will provide untold interest to the visitors who are planning to witness the opening of the mill tomorrow.
    The power plant is a unit complete in itself with two large boilers and two Allis-Chalmers electric steam generators, which will supply the mill with all the needed electricity. The power plant will also furnish steam for the dry kilns. Sawdust conveyors will furnish the fuel for the large furnaces, while unsaleable refuse will be burned in a giant burner south of the mill building. The power plant is the most noticeable unit of the plant, having two chimneys nearly 200 feet high.
    After traveling on numerous conveyors in the sawmill, lumber after leaving the mill will travel along a sorting table toward the dry kilns and yards. A monorail system will be used largely to handle the lumber in placing it on cars, which will then be taken by electric locomotives to the planing mill or to piles in the drying yard.
    The mill pond area was increased last winter to ten acres, in order to provide ample storage for a large supply of logs to keep the mill running, even though the daily log supply does not reach the mill from the Butte Falls woods. The pond is also large enough to provide ample space for sorting activities.
    The company has 12 dry kilns of the latest type in operation, to season all grades of lumber in a comparatively short time, and the lumber [capacity] later may be increased. Foundations have been made to accommodate 30,000,000 feet of lumber in the yards. Concrete blocks are the base for the foundations which permit the use of high piling machinery, which can build up piles to 24 feet in height. Narrow-gauge track, which has been laid throughout the yard, will enable the speedy handling of lumber by electric locomotives.
    Built large enough to easily take care of the production of the new mill, a planing mill was the first unit of the new plant to be constructed and is equipped with modern planers, matchers, sizers, band, rip and resaws, electric moulder and cutoff and trim saws. A fleet of eight Gerlinger high lumber carriers transport stacks from the yards to the kilns and from the planers to the shed or to freight cars for loading.
    A huge storage shed has been completed for some time in the rear of the planing mill and is used for dry and surfaced lumber. It is equipped with an 80-foot electric crane used for lumber meant only for temporary storage. The company has facilities to load 10 cars daily at present, and this capacity will probably be shortly increased.
    Including men employed in the large lumber camps above Butte Falls and the men who will be employed in the local mill, the lumber company will employ approximately 600 men, meaning a payroll of approximately $1,000,000 annually. The products of the company are sent to all parts of the nation and are sold in retail lots locally.
    The capacity of the old mill, which will not be used for a time, and perhaps later converted into a remanufacturing plant, was 55,000,000 feet in contrast to the new mill, which will have an annual capacity of more than 100,000,000 feet.
    The company owns 60,000 acres of pine and fir timber above Butte Falls, and it is estimated to include more than 1,500,000 feet. Four billion feet of timber, in addition, is also purchasable, insuring a long lumbering life.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 21, 1927, page 1

Former Lumber Mill Owner Visits Medford
    Mr. and Mrs. M. D. Olds of Sheboygan, Mich. are in Medford for a couple of days, en route home by auto from California, where they spent the winter.
    Mr. Olds came to Medford years ago and purchased a big body of timber northeast of Medford, and later purchased the Pacific & Eastern Railroad, expecting to erect a lumber mill. Mr. Brownlee erected a mill on the site of the present Owen-Oregon mill--the plant they recently dismantled--and formed a partnership with Mr. Olds, who later purchased Mr. Brownlee's interest and enlarged the mill.
    Three years ago Mr. Olds sold the mill and railroad to the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company, and out of this purchase comes the big modern mill started yesterday.
    Mr. Olds sees a market improvement in Medford in the past three years. He enjoyed an inspection of the new Owen-Oregon mill today.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 22, 1927, page 4

Medco 1927-9-14MMT a

Facts About Owen-Oregon Lumber Co.
Average annual daily payroll, $3450.00
Average other local daily expenses, $700.00
Total yearly local expense, approximately $1,000,000.00
Number of men employed, 400 to 500
Average yearly output, 60,000,000 feet
Largest industrial taxpayer in Jackson County
Pays $16 labor and other expense on every 1000 feet of lumber produced
    One of the outstanding industrial plants in Medford and all southern Oregon is the Owen-Oregon lumber mill, just north of the city limits of Medford, completed last year at a cost of about $2,000.000. It is one of the largest and most modern lumber mills on the coast.
    The mill proper is 300 feet long and 80 feet wide [and] has a capacity of 200,000 feet every eight hours, or 600,000 feet if operated 24 hours.
    The average daily output has been 200,000 feet, part of the year the run 300,000 feet. The total output in 1927 was 50,000,000 feet of fir and pine.
    The main timber holdings of the company are located near Butte Falls, north and east of this city. The company owns approximately 50,000 acres of timberland with an estimated stumpage of 1,500,000,000 feet. In the neighborhood of 4,000,000,000 feet of additional timber is adjacent to the company's present holdings.
    The power plant is a complete unit itself, with two large boilers and two Allis-Chalmers electric steam generators, which supply the mill with all necessary electricity. The power plant also furnishes steam for the dry kilns, and sawdust conveyors furnish the fuel for the large furnaces. Unsalable refuse is burned in a great burner south of the mill buildings.
    The entire plant is largely operated with electrical power, employing 96 motors of 3 to 150 horsepower type. The mills contain:
    Two 9-foot bandsaws, one gang resaw, one 6-foot type C horizontal resaw, three edgers, two trimmers, one of which is a 26-foot compressed air lift trimmer with fifteen 30-inch saws, one slasher, and one hog mill.
    One carriage has a 52-foot steam shotgun feed and another 44-foot shotgun feed. Both have electric-driven dogs and setting rigs. The deck equipment consists of a cutoff saw, 12-inch three-arm log turner and steam riggers. A modern lath mill forms an auxiliary to the saw mill. An electrical-driven monorail equipment connects the green chain with the yard-truck system and loads the lumber from this discharge directly onto cars.
    The yard is equipped with track and two electrically driven locomotives. All the yard equipment is modern in every respect. An electrically driven crane is operated in the storage sheds, and planing mill and ten lumber carriers are part of the shed equipment
    In the timber in the Butte Falls district the company operates two model camps, using steam skidders and Caterpillar tractors with big wheels for handling the logs. The logs are carried from the camp yards to the mills at Medford with new logging cars and locomotives on their own railroad.
    The planing mills of the company at Medford are equipped with modern surfacers, matchers, sizers, band, rip and resaws, a moulder and the necessary cutoff and trim saws. Gerlinger lumber carriers are used to convey the lumber from behind the planers to freight cars for loading. Back of the planing mills is a crane shed, a large storage shed for surfaced dry lumber. The company has twelve drying kilns of the latest type for the rapid seasoning of lumber. Foundations have been laid to accommodate 30,000,000 feet of lumber in the yards.
    On the Pacific Highway, east of the mill and lumber yards, an attractive building houses the offices of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company. This office has all the up-to-the-minute equipment, and its beauty has caused considerable favorable comment on the part of visitors in Medford.
    The plant at Medford, the railroad and the company's timber holdings represent an investment of approximately $6,000.000.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 1, 1928, page D4

Medco 1930ca
Owen-Oregon circa 1930.

Owen-Oregon Mill Reopening Slated Monday
Repairs to Plant and Railroad First Necessity--
Operation Will Be Through Medford Corporation.
    Operation of the Owen-Oregon lumber mill starting Monday morning with a repair crew and increasing during the ensuing two weeks to employment of 200 men was announced today by James H. Owen, former manager of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Co. and present manager of the new Medford Corporation.
    Owen stated that reopening of the mill, which has been closed since last August, after a slowing down of operations for the past four years, was authorized by H. F. Chaney of Portland, vice-president of the Medford Corporation, who was conferring with Owen in Medford this week. The Medford Corporation is a newly formed organization which has replaced the Owen-Oregon Lumber co.
    "Mr. Chaney authorized me to start operating at once, so we are going to start Monday morning," Owen stated today.
Repairs First
    The repair crew starting Monday will go to work putting the railroad in shape and doing other repairs on the entire mill. Only former employees of the company will be hired, Owen said, and owing to the fact that many are out of the city, it will require several days to get the full repair crew of 200 organized.
    "The woods crew will start falling timber just as soon as they can be hired and put to work." Owen said. "We hope to start falling timber next week, and lumber saws should be operating within three weeks.
    "I ordered ties for the railroad this morning. The mill is in fair shape, but general repairs are necessary on the plant, railroad and logging equipment before we can go ahead under full power."
Full Capacity in Year Aim
    Owen stated work will continue this summer as long as weather permits, with the hope of increasing to full capacity within a year. Complete reorganization will necessitate going ahead slowly at first, but Owen said Medford Corporation plans definitely to "hit it up" to full capacity.
    One of Jackson County's main industrial payrolls will be resumed by renewed operation of the mill. Owen stated that due to some extent to closure of large northern mills, there is a good prospective market for pine.
    Owen-Oregon Lumber Co. established the present mill in 1926, following the purchase of the business in 1924 from M. D. Olds. The direct payroll in 1929 was $800,000, which when combined with the contract payroll totaled a regular payroll of $1,000,000, according to Owen.
    Between 65,000,000 and 70,000,000 feet of lumber is considered a capacity cut for the mill.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 26, 1935, page 1

    Destruction by fire of undetermined origin Monday night of a Medford logging railroad trestle, five miles west of Butte Falls, 450 feet in length and 70 feet high at its loftiest point, will delay opening of the Medford Corporation (Owen-Oregon) sawmill in this city until about September 15, manager James H. Owen reported today. It was planned to start cutting lumber September 1 or thereabouts.
    Insurance adjusters are today surveying the loss, and manager Owen hopes for a speedy adjustment to enable operation plans to continue.
    The fire necessitated laying off for a week or ten days of part of the saw and bucking crew, which started Monday in the woods near Butte Falls.
    Rebuilding of the destroyed trestle--the longest on the logging railroad--will start as soon as the insurance loss is adjusted. No estimate of the loss was announced.
    The cause of the fire is unknown, but manager Owen this morning attributed it to a carelessly thrown cigarette.
    The placing of the sawmill and other department machinery in order will not be delayed by the blaze, manager Owen said, nor the repairs on other sections of the railroad.
    As soon as possible the logging crews in the Butte Falls area will be restored to a full quota to furnish logs for the sawmill and hauling of them over the road, Owen stated today.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 7, 1935, page 1

Trestle Burning Halts Mill Start
    MEDFORD, Aug. 7 (AP)--Fire of undetermined origin Monday night destroyed a 450-foot trestle of the Medford logging railroad, in the Butte Falls district.
    The loss necessitates the postponement of the opening of the Medford Corporation (Owen-Oregon) sawmill in this city until September 15, it was announced by manager James H. Owen today. Owen said the work of rebuilding would be started soon.
Oregonian, Portland, August 8, 1935, page 4

Medford Corporation Operating
    Medford Corporation, Medford, Oregon, successor to Owen-Oregon Lumber Co., J. S. Owen, general manager, is operating two bands [bandsaws], Wickes gang and horizontal resaw on the cutting floor. The mill reopened in September. R. W. Dean is sales manager. The company uses tractors in its logging operations. One Hilke and two Sky Pilot lumber pilers are used. Gerlinger and Willamette carriers transport the lumber in the yard.
    "Sugar pine has a lighter texture than ponderosa pine and seasons more easily. Thick stock can be dried in six to eight days. Sinker sugar pine [heavy, wet logs that sink in the log pond] requires longer time to season. The moisture content in sinker sugar pine runs up to 200 pounds to the thousand feet," states E. W. Kessler, superintendent of seasoning for Medford Corporation. The company operates a battery of 14 Moore and General kilns.
    Ponderosa pine drying schedule: 4-quarter stock 130 hours, 6-quarter stock 162 hours, 8-quarter stock 174 hours.
    The men who make the sawdust include E. Gillespie, superintendent; Joseph Rosser and A. Brown, sawyers; E. W. Thomas, filer; Ed Johnson, assistant filer; C. English, planing mill foreman; William Bryant, electrician; E. W. Kessler, dry kiln foreman; Smith Trent and Frank Huffman, trimmermen.
    R. A. Flemming is logging superintendent, putting in 200,000 feet a day with seven tractors, three equipped with Euclid arches, the other four skidding, loading with McGiffert loaders, using three hookers. Rail haul to the mill at Medford is 35 miles. Two direct-connected locomotives are operated on the main line and one geared locomotive on logging lines. W. I. Odin, Butte Falls, and Ralph Chandler, Medford, are the locomotive drivers. Another tractor with arches may be added to the camp equipment this year. The logs will average 1000 feet, consisting of sugar pine, ponderosa pine and fir.
    Almost simultaneously with announcement by Medford Corporation of its reorganization and plans for resumption of operations, a trestle on the Pacific & Eastern, with terminus at Butte Falls, was burned, which delayed the operation of the mill until September 16. Haste in rebuilding the trestle was the essential factor, resulting in completion of a 17-bent, 65-foot-high trestle in 12 days, under supervision of W. P. Stewart, in charge of railroad operation.
    The bents were constructed in two sections, framed on the ground at the end of the trestle. Top sections were 30 feet high. Soon as a two-section bent was placed in position the railroad track was laid over it, permitting a Clyde jammer to operate on the track and handle the bents into place for the next section.
    About 140,000 feet of lumber and timbers were used in construction of the bridge. Men responsible for rebuilding the bridge in the record time were Everett Gillespie, in charge of framing; Herbert Schritt, in charge of construction, and Ed Albern, handling the jammer.
The Timberman, November 1935, page 75

    MEDFORD, March 20 (AP)--The Medford Corporation (Owen-Oregon Company) has announced that it will start its sawmill here April 6.
    General Manager James H. Owen said that logging operations would start next week in the Butte Falls district.
Oregonian, Portland, March 21, 1936, page 8

    Everette Gillespie, formerly an employee of Louisiana Central Lumber Company, Clarks, and later an employee of Forest Lumber Company, Oakdale, Allen Parish, was recently made assistant general manager of Medford Corporation, Medford, Ore. Mr. Gillespie went from Oakdale to Pine Ridge, Ore., when Forest Lumber Company began operations there. For the last seven years he has been with Medford Corporation, which is one of the large lumber manufacturing plants on the West Coast.
"Clarks," Monroe News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, December 26, 1940, page 11

'Skunk' Run Adding New Engine
    FORT BRAGG (Mendocino Co.)--F. H. Sturges, Vice President and General Manager, California Western Railroad, stated recently that during the summer tourist season a steam passenger train will be operated by California Western Railroad.
    A daily round trip between Fort Bragg and Willits beginning July 1 is now being planned. Trips will start at Fort Bragg with lunch stop at Willits before return trip to Fort Bragg.
    A 2-8-2 steam engine purchased from the Medford Corporation, Medford, Ore., and four passenger coaches purchased from the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, Meadville, Pa. will make up the train.
    The California Western Railroad will continue to operate its world-famous "Skunks" besides the steam train.
    Summer schedules are being prepared for all runs and will soon be available for distribution.
Humboldt Times, Eureka, California, February 27, 1965, page 9

Medco Observes its 30th Anniversary in Forest Industry
    Medford Corporation celebrated its 30th anniversary in timber harvesting and forest products manufacturing Thursday, Sept. 16.
    It has grown from its 1935 start to a corporation with 81,000 acres of timber holdings and a direct annual payroll from woods operations and timber processing of $4 million.
    The corporation now includes a plywood plant covering more than five acres which started in 1961. The plant has already undergone two expansions. It consumes 55 million board feet of logs annually.
    The present firm started 30 years ago with a work force of 237 people with average earnings of $1,371 annually. This compares with the 1965 personnel load of 600 full-time persons whose average earnings exceed $6,000 each year.
Additional Employees
    Additionally, independent contractors, primarily engaged in Medco work, employ some 80 people with an estimated annual payroll of a half million dollars.
    Owen-Oregon Lumber Company and Brownlee-Olds were forerunner lumber firms out of which arose Medco. Brownlee-Olds purchased the Pacific and Eastern Railroad, which was used to haul logs. However, in 1910 the railroad hauled passengers from Butte Falls to Medford and came down the present location of Biddle Road. The railroad owned what is now Hawthorne Park and had its depot where the swimming pool is now. [The depot was closer to East Main than the pool was.] A group of Medford citizens purchased the property from Burnham Olds for the park.
    The present Medford water source at Big Butte Springs is on land sold to the city in the mid-1920s by Medco. Additional rights of way were acquired from Medford Corporation in the early 1950s.
Pays Property Taxes
    The company has paid almost $3 million in property taxes over the past 30 years. For the past five years, the average property tax has been an annual $240,593, of which $129,185 is on growing timber land that ensures continued income for the valley.
    Medco officials started the first reforestation program in Medford. Continual utilization efforts and studies have resulted in modernization and constant updating of all phases of the industry. Substantial capital investments at all plant levels have resulted from these studies.
    Participating in this industry development have been employees and officials with long experience with the company.
    These include the present president-general manager R. J. Hogue, credited with many of the latest company innovations and with the company since 1944. Others are K. E. Pickens, treasurer, with the company since 1946, and B. L. Nutting, senior vice president, and with Medco since it was formed in 1935. For 11 years prior to 1935, he was with one of the founding companies of the corporation.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 19, 1965, page 6

Medco Purchases Southern Oregon Plywood in GP
    Medford Corporation, Medford, a major lumber and plywood producer in this county, has acquired Southern Oregon Plywood, Inc., of Grants Pass, a major plywood producer in that area.
    The several months' negotiations were completed 10 p.m. Friday. Amount of the purchase was not disclosed. The acquisition includes Sierra Wood Products, Inc., actually a branch operation of Southern Oregon Plywood. Sierra produces prefinished hardwood and specialty lumber products. It is located on the same property as the parent company.
    Southern Oregon has 200 employees in its plant operations and Medco has 600 in its lumber and plywood plant operations. Neither company has curtailed employment or shut down due to the current depressed lumber and plywood market.
    A Medco spokesman said the acquisition merely expands the total operation in Southern Oregon. Both companies will operate as separate entities. There will be no personnel changes.

Medford Mail Tribune, February 27, 1967, page 1

New Veep Named
    Russell J. Hogue, president and general manager of Medford Corporation, Medford, Ore., is the newly elected vice president of the American Plywood Association. He was elected June 13 at the 31st annual meeting of the association.
    Also president of Southern Oregon Plywood, Inc., Hogue has been with Medford since 1938.
High Point Enterprise, High Point, North Carolina, June 25, 1967, page 6

53-Year-Old Pledge by Medford
Not to Annex Medco Is Revealed

Mail Tribune Staff Writer

    A promise secured by honor of "a majority of the prominent citizens" of Medford more than 53 years ago may become an issue in the current debate over the city's urban growth boundary.
    Medford City Councilman Hugh Jennings distributed copies of a document dated Aug. 11, 1924 to his colleagues on the council Thursday. He said it documents his contention that Medford long ago agreed never to annex Medford Corp. to the city.
    Members of the Westside Fair Share organization and the city's planning commission have urged the council to include Medco and other industrial properties on the edge of Medford within the urban boundary, because, they say, they are already urbanized.
    If included, those properties could eventually be annexed to Medford involuntarily if they become surrounded by the city.
    The document distributed by Jennings Thursday apparently represents the minutes of a meeting of a "citizens committee" formed to secure a series of public subsidies demanded by James Owen--founder of Medco predecessor Owen-Oregon Lumber Co.--before he would locate a new wood products plant near Medford.
    The committee members agreed to apply the political pressure needed to gain city and county approval of those subsidies.
    And they agreed to have "a majority of the prominent citizens of the city of Medford" sign a petition on Owen's behalf, promising that "they would exert their best efforts" to keep the lumber company's property and plant out of any extended city limits if the question is brought up in the future.
    "It was unanimously agreed that this committee would see that petition in a form satisfactory to said Owen-Oregon Lumber Company was drawn, circulated and signed as requested."
    The document distributed by Jennings Thursday does not disclose who signed the eventual petition. It does name members of the committee who promised its delivery.
    All are long dead.
    But half a century later, the majorities on the Medford City Council and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners are apparently keeping faith with their political ancestors by striving to keep Medco outside the growth boundary and thus immune to involuntary annexation before the year 2000.
    The 1924 committee included the city's business leaders plus representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, City Council, Water Commission, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Crater Club and the First National Bank of Medford.
    In order to meet Owen's requests, the group committed itself to purchase several blocks of land and deliver them to Owen, to give the firm city water and city water mains with a price of 4 cents per 1,000 gallons of flow, and to build and maintain two paved streets at public expense to serve the plant site.
    Members of the committee making those pledges included J. H. Cooley, C. E. Gates, John H. Carkin, J. H. Butler, T. E. Daniels, A. J. Vance, E. C. Gaddis (then mayor of Medford), J. C. Brown, H. L. Walther, W. H. Gore, A. L. Hill, Delroy Getchell, O. O. Alenderfer, J. C. Mara, V. H. Vawter, S. Sumpter Smith, Porter J. Neff, B. W. Paul and B. E. Harder.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 10, 1978, page 3

Last revised July 22, 2021