Below is unprocessed text taken from a scan of our PDF document. It's messy;we know. If you would like to help us clean up these transcripts, please email Devin Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org
SAM SCHRAGER: One point I read in Timber and Wen was that the way of clearcuttingwas the way they used to do it in the Midwest.
GAMBLE: Oh yes.
SAM: ...And they just brought that out here, and adapted it.
W3G: Well, there was no such thing as reforestation. It took too long to growa tree! Now since they've figured that timber is a crop the same as wheat is, why they've got around to a new way of doing it. They can use smaller timber now, and they can produce a tree in 50 years, and those things were unheard of when they first started. That's the reason they slaughtered everything. And when the first rains came in the fall, they'd burn all the slash, it was burned up. Well, the fire was so hot it absolutely killed the ground. No vegetation on the ground, you couldn't grow anything on it; couldn't grow a seed on it, not evea weeds. It was a heck of a mess, be cause there was too much stuff left after logging, and it created too hot a fire. Slash burning is what they used to call it. Those things are just a natural change, as we discover better methods of doing things, that's all it amounted to. There was nobody out here that was doing any lumbering before these big mills come out and started up. Oh, build log cabins and stuff like that, but the population was rather sparse out here. Well it was when I come out in 1910, that year of the big fire. Well just to show ya how sparse it was, I come out on the Northern Pacific Railroad, and during that 1910 fire, when I came through, the fire was burning right up to the edge of the ties. Now all they did was just hew a trail out for this Northern Pacific Railroad, and there was timber right up to the tracks (chuckles). Well, you can imagine what that would do if it started burning and couldn't put it out. It'd burn all their bridges because all their bridges were made of wood those days, there were no steel bridges. So it was just a matter of change, 'til they found out a better way to do things.
SAM: Would you tell me again what you think the main differences wece betweenthe way they log here and the way they logged back in the Midwest? As far as getting the timber out?
W3G: Well the Midwest, they did it the same as they did in Pennsylvania in theearly days. Their only method of transportation—why they wouldn't think of hauling any logs on oars or anything—they'd get their logs to water. And I know, ray father, he used to go to the woods in the wintertime and work in the woods all winter, 'cause they couldn't run the sawmills in the winter time. It all froze up because of ice, didn't know how to keep them open. So all the sawmill crews would go to the woods and cut timber. Oh they had two or three ways of doing it, mostly with sled, sleigh-hauls. And they'd sleighhaul these logs to the river bank landings; they'd be piled up high, and they'd remain that way until spring. We had very—and we did cut here too— they had very heavy snowfalls, and the snow stayed with us until the spring rains started in. And all that spring moisture and the acummulation of snow— well we always had a flood in the rivers then. And when the floods came, we had those logs stacked up so that we had key logs; we'd pull those and the whole damn stuff would start rattling out and rolling into the river. The same crew that had been logging all winter would jump in the icy water and drive the logs down to a sorting gap. They had one up here at Coeur d' Alene— a boom. They were marked, the logs were all marked, branded like you brand cattle, every sawmill had their own brands. And they were sorted out, then rafted, put in rafts and taken down the river to the various sawmills. That was the way they got their logs to the sawmills. But we didn't have the kind of streams out here, except down on the Clearwater. But all this North Idaho area, we didn't have any streams that would float logs. They tried to float logs on the St. Joe River but it was too narrow and too rough, and hung up all the time.
SAM: Why wouldn't the sleigh-hauling work, like we tried it here?
W3G: It was too rough a country. That country was more or less flat back there,and they could haul them on a big sled. Some of those sleds were four horse sleds, and there would be, lets see, about six, seven thousand feet of logs on a sled. And you can't haul those things up and down these steep hills that we have out here. All over this country out here, west of the Bitterroot Mountain range and between the Bitterroots and the Rockies, it's all so steep and rugged compared with the East that you can't—well, it was hard to put highways through here, because the terrain is so steep. Back there a river valley was broad, flooded at times in the spring, but it was broad, and you could do anything with it. You could sleigh-haul with it, you could float logs down the river, and all that stuff. But as I say, we always had those spring floods. A matter of fact, I've been through three of them. I was through the 3ohnstown Flood—you've heard of that, haven't ya? I remember as a kid, my dad took my mother and I out of the house in a rowboat. The water was up about halfway up the first floor. But we expected those things. Nowadays we'd be putting in for government help (chuckles).
SAM: When you got out here in 1910, did you fight that fire?
W3G: No. No, I was not in the fire crew. Oh I fought it to this extent, I wasinstrumental in hauling a lot of people out of Bovill. The woods came right up to town up there, and they were afraid of getting burnt out. So we took a train in there with cars, and we took and brought all those people down to Potlatch, the whole darn caboodle, with all the clothes they had and everything else. But they finally got it stopped. Wallace was not so fortunate, that thing burned up up there. There was two bad years. But as they skimmed off the cream, that is get the logs that were close to our railroads and our highways, what have you, as we got going back further and further for our timber, that fire hazard as far as towns were concerned was over with. There was nothing left to burn. So the present population don't know anything about those things, because there's not such a hazard now. But when the timber line was right up next to town, it was a different proposition.
SAM: Would you tell me how you came to come Potlatch? How it turned out youcame here?
W3G: (Laughs.) Well, that's kinda funny. I had been working in Pennsylvaniaon different railroads. And I finally wound up with the Baltimore Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, and went along until about 1907. About 1907 was that depression started. That was a bad one. There was no work, everything was shut down. I know myself, they kept me working, made jobs for me in order to keep me until, well as long as they could. Then they finally they had to tell me that well, you're all through. Well there was no place to go. There was no work any place. People were hungry. So I went home. My home was Williamsport, Pennsylvania, about 200 miles north of Philadelphia. And I was loafing around home, and my wife's father called up one day, says "I want to see ya. Come up" to a place called 3ersy Shore, it's oh about 12 miles from my home. Says "I want to see ya." Well I went up, and he says, "I've been transferred." He was an agent and a telegraph operator. He says, "I've been transferred up to a place called Waterville, Pennsylvania," he says. He says, "I have to take the job because it's all there is open," he says, "and I don't want to move up there." It was up in the woods; about all they had was these big slate quarries, digging out slate to make side walks, if you please, with it. And there's a big tannery there. He says, "If I get you a job as an assistant agent," he says "will you go up there?" He says, "Then I can go back and forth on the train," he says, "I won't have to move."
Well gosh, it was something to eat for me, as far as that goes. I said,"Sure, I'll do anything." So I went to Waterville. It was a part of rail roading that I had never been into before. So I stayed up there for about two years and learned about agency work, and become a telegraph operator and all that. Then the depression broke and of course I got uneasy. Picked up another fellow and I says "Let's get the hell out of here." "Where'11 we go?" "Go West!"
So we got on a train and started West. We got as far as Chicago-Chicago looked pretty big to me, didn't like it, so got back on the train and went to St. Paul, Minnesota. And pretty soon we run out of money. I says to this fella, I says, "We got to go to work." At that time St. Paul and Minneapolis were booming as far as railroads were concerned. These western roads were building West, you know, Great Northern and Northern Pacific, and it was pretty good. So I said, "I'm going down to the railroad to see if I get a job." So we went down and he says, "You fellas go in the telegraph office and take an examination if you want a job." Says, "I might be able to find you something." So we went in, took the examination, and I went back to the hotel. He had given me a pass to Havre, Montana. The other fella says "God, I didn't pass." (Chuckles.) "Well," I says, "what are you gonna do?" He says, "I'm going home!"
Well, I divided up half my money with him, and he went one way and Iwent the other. And I didn't have much left. So I got on a train and came to Havre, Montana. Well Havre was quite a place in those days. And the fella says, "I'll give you time to eat breakfast," he says, "and you go down and get on the train, you go to Zurich." Says, "That's where you're headed for," says "I've been waiting for you." I never heard of the place before. Zurich is a little bit east of Havre. I said, "All right." I says, "Will you give me 500 so I can get breakfast?" He says, "Sure!" (Laughs.)
So he give me 500, so I went down and got breakfast and got onthe train. The conductor came through after awhile, they used to call out the name of the stations as they go through the train, you know. "The next station's Zurich," that signaled that I had to get off. I got off in Zurich. And God, I got to looking around for the town, I didn't see any! And by the time I got through looking around, the first thing I knew there goes the train down the track. And there waan!t a damn thing there except a telegraph tower and a section house and a water tank. That's all there was, right out on the prairie. God, here I am, no money. I guess I better go to work. So I went into the telegraph office, and it was a one of those hot jobs that you had to know your stuff. But it was a hell of a place to live, and they couldn't keep a good man there. Well I didn't know what I was going to do to eat. So I went to the section house, and there was a Greek family, a Greek section foreman, he couldn't talk English but she could. And I told her I was down there to go to work, and I had to board some place. "Oh boy, everytime we board anybody, they always sneak off and don't pay their bills." "Well," I says, "I got a watch, you can have that. Got a gun, you can have that."
Well, I finally talked her into boarding me. They didn't even havewater there, no water, because it's an alkalai region. So the water train would come out from Havre once a week, and there was four barrels set along the track; they'd put water in these barrels for us to drink. I never will know why I didn't get sick, but I didn't. And back at that time they only paid you once a month. But they always held up the first month's pay on you to keep you on the job, more than anything else. So I had to work on that cussed job for two months before I had a paycheck. Well, after I got a paycheck I got something to eat, and was .boarding myself. But it was a heck of a place. Well I'll tell you, I was the best operator the Great Northern ever had, I'm telling ya, Iwas working to get out of there (laughs). So one morning the dispatcher called me up and he says, "Say," he says, "where have you worked before?" "Oh," I says, "I've worked all over the East, New York, Central, Penn sylvania Railroad." He says, "I got a job you might be interested in up at Shelby, Montana. That's the place where they had the big fight, you know?" He says, "it's a pretty hot job," he says, but he says, "I think you can handle it." Says, "Will you go up there?" I says, "I sure will."
So I got to Shelby. That was a nice little town, although it was arough place. One line went up into Sweetgrass, Canada, and one down to Great Falls, Montana, and then the east and west line of the Great Northern. And it was so situated that it was a central spot for the gamblers and prositutes and everything else you can think of, to come there. And gambling and drinking was their principal occupation. And it was pretty rough. But fortunately I got along pretty good. I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and my eyes open. I liked Shelby pretty well, it was a pretty good job too. And then I got to playing baseball. In those days there was no auto mobiles, you know, and every town had to provide their own entertainment. And baseball, every town had a town team, which was all right, and it produced some pretty good men in the early days. But the heck of it is, like every thing else out in the West they got to betting on it. Couldn't do anything without betting. When they got to betting, why then they commenced hiring players, you see. So I picked up a couple of men that I got acquainted with. I was a catcher, I was a pro, semi-pro. I never did get in the big leagues, but I was a semi-pro catcher. And I picked up a couple of pitchers, and we practiced, and we'd hire out on weekends to go and play with these people, you know. You get pretty good money out of it. So I was playing baseball all through Montana one summer, and I got tired up in Shelby so I thought I'd better leave there, and I went down to Great Falls, and Helena, and Butte. I got jobs at all those places, but I didn't like them and didn't stay. And I finally got on the train one day, and I found I was out of money when I got to Spokane. So Igot off the train and went down to the hotel and told them I was broke but I was going to get a job. And I guess that was the story of most young fellows in those days. They didn't pay attention to it and said "OK." So I went down to the railroad and got a job. I could always get a job.
I was boarding in a house in town, a very nice place. And one LaborDay morning, if you please—I was working nights—a woman come up and rapped on my door. She says, "A man downstairs wants to see you." I says, "You sure?" "Yes, said he wants to see Mr. Gamble." Well I says, "I don't know a soul out in this country." I says, "I don't know who would want to see me and call me by name. I don't know any body." "Well," she says, "that's what he wanted." So I got dressed and went downstairs.
And there was a fella by the name of Ricker, he was the auditor ofthis railroad over at Potlatch. You see they had built that railroad at a cost of about four million dollars. They couldn't get the big lines to build it. And then they started operating it, and they found they didn't have any men that knew anything about railroading—they were all lumbermen. They had something on their hands they didn't know what to do with. It was built primarily to haul logs in; but they had to haul lumber out, and as these communties grew it become a regular railroad. They had something they didn't know what to do with. Well anyhow, this man Ricker was auditor, and he had to have a man in the auditor's office that knew something about rates and collecting your money on the stuff—the freight that went out, you know, and ended up in the East or someplace. That's a game of its own. And he had come to Spokane to get a man of that kind, and he'd went around to these different railroads, and I had been around to them too, looking for a job, you know. And one man in particular, Imust have made some impression, I don't know, I never asked, him about it. But he seemed to think, well he asked me to come back, because the Interstate Commerce Commission was start ing to evaluate the railroads in those days, and he wanted me to be the representee of the Spokane International on the evaluation procedure; but they weren't ready to start. So Ricker contacted this man, and he in turn recommended me for the job at Potlatch. Well he told me he was gonna give me more money than Iever knew before. He says, "Come to Potlatch." "Why," I says, "I never heard of the place" "Well," he says "I know you didn't." He says, "The biggest sawmill in the world is all is there." He says, "It's a good place. It's a company town." He says, "And by the way," he says, "do you know anything about baseball?" "Yeah..." He says, "Well," he says, "we got four baseball teams in Potlatch." He says, "That's not essential to this job, but it would help alot."
(Laughs.) Well anyhow I made a deal with him, and I came down to Potlatchin 1910. I looked around and my gosh I thought, "Well, I'll be here for six months, 'til the baseball season's over anyhow." I had no more idea of staying there than flying. Well, one thing lead to another, you know. I had no trouble railroading because I knew quite a bit about it, I'd been around so many different parts of it. I started bettering myself, and I got married. There gets to a time, a fella in that stage gets to a point where he'd like to go with a bigger outfit, but you can't afford to quit—if you know what Imean. Well Iwas in that position. I'd just got married, and had a baby come along. I was involved, I had to have a job. I could have gotten one someplace else. About the time I was getting ready to make a move, why I'd get an advancement of some kind. Then one thing led to another (chuckles). I went to work in 1910 and quit in 1951 (laaqhs).
When I quit I was general manager of course. And besides that I gotinvolved with the lumber company, and I was taking care of the real and personal property tax of all the railroads in North Idaho. Not the Potlatch Lumber Company, but there was an assocation called the the North Idaho Forestry Association, which is composed of all the lumber companies north of the Salmon River. Well, that's north and south Idaho, you know. And I did a pretty good job for them taking care of their real and personal property taxes. And the next thing, why they wanted me to take care of the public relations for this outfit, and so I just became a plain damn lobbiest as far as Idaho was concerned (chuckles). This North Idaho Forestry Association was a good outfit. What it meant was anybody trying to promote or kill legislation of any kind, they didn't have any problems within their own product. The lumber companies were all consolidated, so that was a nice way to have to work. And besides that, the shareholders in these big companies were pretty good men. They had more than just their own selfish interests at stake. Matter of fact, when Iwent to Boise the first time, Mn Weyerhaeuser says to me, he says, "Gamble" he says, "you're going down there." He says, "I'm not going to tell you what to do, because Ican't." He says, "But just remember this." He says, "What ever is good for Idaho is good for the Potlatch." That was very, very good. To my way of thinking, it was, well, what success I might have had why I attribute to that. I didn't have to play the game like they play it in Washington now (laughs).
So that was my story of coming to Potlatch. And I was quite happy atPotlatch after I got to the point where I was in the money and all that kind of stuff, you know. I was also vice-president of the American Shortline Railroad Association. That took a lot of time and travelling. What that is, is well, there was 351 shortline railroads like this WIM at Potlatch. All of them are owned by some big industry—the rubber industry, the steelworks, or the Pullman people, or the mines, or other lumber companies, or what have you. They've all got a rich poppa (chuckles), so to speak. And most of them were prosperous too, very much so. But as an individual, a shortline railroad don't have very much to say when they're talking to these big lines. But 351 of thBm combined into one organization with all the backgrounds of lumber companies and steelworks and everything, they do have a lot to say. So we belonged to that, and Ieventually became vice-president of it. That give me a lot of experience, just a lot. So Isay, I've had alot of wide experience, and Iloved it, (chucklinoj I liked it. And it put me in a position where I got to know a lot about the railroad industry and the lumber companies. So what I was saying, don't take it in the line of bragging or anything, it's just a matter of fact.
SAM: What was the situation when you started with the WIM, I mean when you camein? How was the WIM running, and what kind of changes did you wind up making to make it more efficient?
W3G: What had happened, they had brought a group of railroad builders in hereto build it. The men that built it, they knew their stuff. But they were not operators, and when they had it all finished and built—here it is. Well, they picked up—they thought they was picking up men who knew how to run it, but oh some of 'em landed in jail and some were fined, and they couldn't stand that. They didn't know their stuff, so it was a case of gradually weeding out some of this stuff, and planning anew for the railroad company. For instance, we didn't have through rates with anybody or anything of that kind, you know. We'd haul lumber from Potlatch to Palouse, or Potlatch to Bovill, and turn it over to these other railroads. But that wasn't the scheme of things, and we finally got rates to apply from Potlatch, the same as they applied from anyplace else. Then we'd get part of the divison of the haul on it, money. That's the way other big railroads do, and we finally showed them that we could give them a lot of traffic if we had through rates. We had to work with the big roads, and in order to work with the big roads you have to have somebody that knows what it's all about. And from that they got into a lot of stuff. They had a railroad at Cloquet, Minnesota, and they have one over at Longview, Washington, they have one down at Arkansas, and they have four or five steamships. But in all cases the railroads have been financed—well they've been financed by the companies—but they're a separate and distinct operation from the lumber company.
SAM: Is there a good reason for that?
W3G: Yeah, sure, sure. First thing you know, why the Interstate Commerce saythat a railroad can't do anything for any one person that they wouldn't do for everybody. Well, industry don't understand that. A lot of these people have landed with enormous fines because they would make preferential rates for their own product, and all that kind of stuff. And so, as far as we were concerned, we always kept separate and distinct, you know.
SAM: Well, why wouldn't Northern Pacific build the WIM to start with?
W3G: When they came out here, the timber owners were out here with their cruisers,oh I imagine five, six, seven, eight years before any sawmills were built. They were picking up this timber at little or no price, they could get it for whatever they wanted to pay for it, and they accumulated thousands and thousands of acres of timber. And when they got ready to harvest the timber, then they realized they had to have a railroad to come in to their plant to haul the lumber out. They couldn't make either the Great Northern or the Northern Pacific realize that it would be profitable for them to build a railroad from Palouse to Potlatch. A big company makes big mistakes, a little company makes little mistakes (laughs). And that was a big mistake on the part of the Northern Pacific that they didn't...Of course, maybe I shouldn't say that that way, because the Northern Pacific had been under heavy expense of building West, and they'd just completed a line from Spokane to Lewiston. And they—well, matter of fact the company asked them to build this railroad. No, they couldn't see it at all. So this man Deary, he was a rough, tough lumberjack, he said, "The hell with ya, we'll build our own." And that was that. We at one time were going to build into Moscow here, a matter of fact I used to have the maps, I don't think I have them any more, "Moscow and Eastern," Potlatch to Moscow. Moscow could have had that sawmill here at one time too, the early days.
SAM: What happened with that?
W3G: Well, 'course a big company comes in, and come to a place like Moscow, andsay that we're gonna put up a sawmill. Well, in that time there wasn't very many men that knew very much about sawmilling here in Moscow, and they didn't know what the spending of ten million dollars would mean, they couldn't visualize a sawmill that big. And a man like Deary come in here and say, "We'll put a mill here, if you'll give us the land we need." Well, they couldn't hear that kind of stuff. We really first started at Palouse, to put a sawmill at Palouse, but there wasn't enough land available for the size of the mill, and the kind of a yard that we had to have to dry our lumber. So Bill Deary came up to Potlatch, and bought a lot of Indian land and built our own town, that was the reason for the company town. And established Potlatch. There was nothing at Potlatch. But, got the land pretty cheap.
SAM: What was the reason for the company town?
W3G: Well, there wasn't a thing there, there wasn't a thing there—all it was,trees and stumps at Potlatch, with the river meandering through the place. And when they decided to put the mill there, they figured how many employees they'd have to have. Well, they were gonna bring most of those men to start with out from Cloquet and Chippewa Falls, all experienced men. But he couldn't ask those men to come out here and spend money and build their own homes. So they decided to build a company town.
And their idea was that a company town, properly run, was better thanthe average town, which it is. Anything of that kind, that's the economical way to do it, if it's handled by the right kind of people. Of course it can be a monopoly, and then that would be bad. So they decided to build a com pany town, so they did. Their idea was that their men should not be burdened with excessive rates, rentals, that you should have good schools for them, you should have a company store where they can buy things at a fair price; and they followed that procedure from the time the first house was built until they sold them. Nobody ever paid any taxes over at Potlatch, and our rentals were ridiculously low, and they kept our houses up for us. The store was outstanding up there; they made money but they didn't charge excessive prices. Had the best schools in the state of Idaho.
And it was run very good. I think that the caliber of the people—Idon't suppose I'd get very far if I'd make this statement to the Chamber of Commerce in Moscow—but I think the caliber of the people, from the workingman clear down to the bottom to the president on top, were a preferred class of workmen. We were singled out as the one company that made the most money for the Weyerhaeusers, the Potlatch Company, when the Potlatch was by itself. And we made good lumber, because we had men that knew how to do it. All experienced men—they were all happy, they were all satisfied. Didn't need to have a union. The union couldn't get a foothold in there: "Potlatch treats us better than you would." That's the kind of an outfit the Potlatch was. I look back at them now, more so than I ever did before, and figure out how good they were to their men, and the profits they reaped from that. Now they spent money on their men all right, but they made money too, 'cause they had, like Carnation's Milk Company, "milk from contented cows." That's the theory of it. A very, very good group of people. Oh sure, you have rotten potatoes in a sackful once in awhile. But we had nothing...We didn't even have a policeman over there.
'Course everything is a little different now, since the companies consolidated in 1932. These were all separate and distinct outfits: Coeur d'Alene Tacoma, Snoqualmie Falls, Potlatch, Lewiston. They were all absolutely... We had our own sales company for instance, and all that—and we had a good one too. Then that was the start of a consolidation. The directors, and rightly so, thought that if we had a sales company to take care of the sales of all of these companies, why we'd be better off, and a lot cheaper, and it worked out that way. Although to start with it was pretty rough going, be cause each company thought that their product was a little better, and also they thought the other fellow was getting a little better of it. But those are things, just natural things that come up. But anyhow, it was the start of the consolidation of 1932. Right after the Depression, why it became the Potlatch Forests Incorporated. And the corporate offices were moved to Lew iston, and now they've moved to San Fransico.
SAM: What do you think the reason is they wound up selling the town, do youthink, to the people, and ending the company town in Potlatch? Do you think that it was declining as a town through the years, and that's why they sold it, or why would they have done that?
W3G: Well, these sawmills were established to take care of a certain amountof standing timber. Now when Potlatch was set up, it was designed to operate for fifty years, had that much timber available for fifty years. And that's the way it worked out. When the fifty years was up—why that's been a little while ago of course—but they've been getting smaller and smaller all the time. Finally they had to sell their town, and sell their railroad, and sell the store, sell everything, you know. One of these days why it'll be all over, 'cause there'll be no timber to keep it going. For instance, the methods of transportation nowadays are such that they can haul logs clear to Lewiston, if you please, where that would have been an impossibility when Potlatch first started. They can consolidate on larger mills now. Matter of fact, Lewiston, I think what they're going to do down there is consolidate on paper, because they moved a part of their sawmill up closer to the timber—at Headquarters, they put a big plant up there. And Coeur d'Alene is in an enviable position, because they're right on the lake, right where the Northern Pacific, Great Northern and Milwaukee railroads kind of merge. They've got the greatest stand of standing timber of anybody yet now. That's the land grant timber, you know, that the government gave these railroads for building into this country. And Couer d'Alene can handle that a lot cheaper than we can at Potlatch because it's too long a haul. That's the reason Potlatch is folding up, they're getting too far away from the timber. Cost too much to truck. Well, they've been trucking logs clear up from Avery down to Potlatch, and you just can't do that; whereas the thing to do would be to truck them down to the head of the lake, and dump them in the lake. That's the practical thing to do, and that's what their gonna do.
Unless—what I was hoping would happen would be what happened back inPennsylvania. Now all these sawmills along the Susquehanna River, they all folded up, and steel plants in there now. And all these little towns like Williamsport, 3ersey Shore, Lock Haven, they all had sawmills, were busy towns. And the timber got all cut out, and those towns folded. Some of them are just on the verge of collapsing right now. I was talking to Ed Renfrew. (His brother is Mel Renfrew up at the University. They're both Potlatch boys. And Ed was out here, he come up to see me.) He wanted to tell me about, he said a town called Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. It was a sawmill town just close to where I was born and raised. He says the Analyne Dye Company, which was a big outfit here in America, they...I forget where their headquarters was, it was in some large city. And the city, the problems of the city got so bad that their employees were quite dissatisfied, and it was costing them too much to operate. They went to this little town, Lock Haven, and set up their big dye works. Well, I don't know why more...Well a lot of people are doing that nowadays, a lot of companies are going to these small towns. Because their employees can get to and from their work cheaper, you don't have to automobile for fifty or a hundred miles to get to the job, and their rents and their taxes are cheaper in a little town. It's just getting back to that old plan that the lumber companies had years ago: establish their own towns. And Renfrew was telling me, he says "We got to...? Well, one of the reasons that they came to Lock Haven was, it puts them pretty close to Pennsylvania State College, and they use that, their chemistry department, quite a bit.
So there's those possibilities, and that's the kind of a possibility thatI've been hoping would happen at Potlatch, that some outfit would come in. There's a town already for them, and they have good transportation facilities for all railroads. I think they'd be smart if they would.
SAM: By the way, do you think that lack of water was an important factor forwhy it went to Potlatch instead of Moscow, the mill?
W3G: Lack of water is a factor all over this country. It's a factor at Potlatch.If it hadn't been for lack of water, we'd've had a paper mill over at Pot latch. No chance of that, they don't have the water. Yes, that's a factor. It was not a factor in as far as the Potlatch sawmill was concerned, no, because we don't use much water.
SAM: But you think that that mill could have gone to Moscow, if Moscow had beenprepared to try to get it?
W3G: If they'd had a live bunch over here, they could have had that mill here.Sure, they wouldn't build it at Palouse.
SAM: Well, was the real reason, the whole reason as you were saying about Palousethat there just wasn't the room there to do anything?
W3G: Yeah. They bought the old Cod property, a fellow by the name of Cod hada sawmill at Colfax and one at Palouse, and we bought the Cod property at Palouse. Then we operated down there for a couple of years, and we used to drive the logs down the Palouse River. But it was not big enough for the kind of a mill we wanted. See, we had a"lumberyard there bigger than the town of Palouse (laughs).
By the way, that's always been a kind of a sore spot too, that we didn'tmaintain that mill at Palouse. The oldtimers. They gave us a right of way through the town of Palouse for the railroad, you know, donated it. Which was all right, they was smart in doing that, because we could have got in different way. But they lost their sawmill, and that was quite a loss to a little town like Palouse. Palouse used to be quite a place. A matter of fact, it was a livelier place than Moscow in the early days. Pretty good.
SAM: Had they done much logging from Palouse and Colfax in the Potlatch country?Had they done much logging, those Cod mills over in our country before?
W3G: No, not very much. A little bit of logging oh, from between Potlatch andPalouse, there was quite a bit of timber in there. They were just getting started at it. They hadn't been operating very long. Then of course, our timber buyers got in, you know, and bought up everything as fast as they could. (Chuckling.) They plowed a lot of money into this country. And they went into Bonners Ferry. We had a mill at Bonners Ferry and one at Sandpoint, too, and one at Spirit Lake. The mill at Spirit Lake (chuckles), well that's a good illustration. I knew the operators at Spirit Lake. They were a bunch of men from Pennsylvania, Williamsport, Pennslvania; I went to school with their kids in Williamsport. And they had a big saw mill. And they cut out. There again, their men with the money, they didn't know what to do with their money, so they come up to Spirit Lake and they bought a bunch of timber at Spirit Lake. And it was good timber too, very good. But they found the same thing that we found, that their logging operations were entirely different than they were back in Pennsylvania. And the first thing they had to do was build a railroad. They built that rail road from Spokane up to Metalline Falls.
And they were a bunch of men that had money, and they built this railroad, and all they ever knew in their life, or all they ever saw, was the Pennsylvania Railroad in Pennsylvania, which is quite a property. And they proceeded to build a little Pennsylvania Railroad up there, and that broke »em, absolutely broke them. God, they had private car, (chuckling) managers used to ride around in it, all their depots were brick buildings, and they had a wonderful track, oh brother!...and equipment. They had good equipment, if it'd been handled right, they'd have been all right. But they cut out pretty quick. All they could do was take the cream off was all, and they had to go back and spend money...
SAM: Where did they fall down? What was the main thing that they did wrong?
W3G: All they had to support this railroad was a little bit of lumber that they'dship out to Spokane. No towns along the place to support them, no agriculture or anything of that kind. And it cost money to operate a railroad, cost money to build a railroad. When I arrived at Potlatch they had a debt of four million dollars for the WIM, with bonds and stock. You have to pay those things off, regardless of who owns them.
SAM: Were you able to pay that off?
W3G: Oh, yes.
SAM: How long did it take?
W3G: Oh, let's see. I paid a million dollars in interest and a million dollarsin bonds in about 15 years. 'Course you have to pay dividends too.
SAM: How important was the produce? How important were non-logging goods to therailroad? Did you do much produce shipping?
W3G: Oh, we built and run the grain warehouse at Deary, Vassar, Harvard, Princeton, Potlatch, Kennedy Ford, Wellesley and Palouse. And we run those ware house* ourselves, because we couldn't get anybody to buy them. So we had to have them, because the land developed pretty fast up through those valleys. There wasn't very heavy timber on the lands through the valleys, they de veloped pretty fast. And we shipped a lot of grain out of there, just a lot. And of course cordwood was a big item in those days too—shipping wood, if you please. We shipped wood into Moscow here by the carloads. And then we had a little ore, mica ore, up around Vassar, and a lot of poles, electric light poles, going into California from up around Bovill. And it got so we had—they were improving their livestock, they got quite a bit of livestock to ship. And hay—by gosh we shipped hay, well shipped it clear over to this Carnation outfit over on the coast, you know, where they have their big farms over there; and that was the alfalfa hay. And the timothy hay—we had to have a lot of timothy hay for our own consumption, because we had a lot of horses in the woods and we had to feed those, and it took a lot of hay. Then potatoes—we raised seed potatoes, a lot of seed potatoes were raised around Potlatch. See these irrigated spuds, down around south Idaho, they're no good for seed, you have to get the dryland potatoes for the seed. So we raised dryland potatoes up here, and shipped a lot of them down to south Idaho.
Yeah, we had pretty good...But of course, now trucks have come in andtaken all that bound, because of the river transportation out of Lewiston. So that's changed. That's another good reason for selling the WIM, because all those things are out of the picture. The only people that could buy the WIM was the Milwaukee Railroad, which they did. Now, there wasn't any money transaction. The Milwaukee, building west, they got land from the government, you know, every other quarter section on both sides of the track, to build the railroad west. And they have that timber, a lot of it on hand yet. And they traded timber for the WIM railroads. We were glad to get the timber, and glad to get rid of the railroad because we could see the end of it. And the Milwaukee will gain by this—that proposition came about after I left, the sale of the railroad, so I'm not sure, but I think what happened was that in the deal, all the lumber that the sawmill produces has to be shipped out by the Milwaukee Railroad. Now that's just a guess, but I'm a pretty good guesser about some things. (Laughs.) Yeah, I knew Bill Borah pretty well. Strange thing—letfe see, what was Bill Borah's wife's, his wife's name was McConnell, wasn't it?
W3G: And what was the man's name that married the McConnell sister? Ben Bush.Ben Bush, Bill Borah,and our man Humiston wrote the forestry laws for the state of Idaho. And believe it or not there haven't been very many changes in those laws ever since. Now, that's the kind of thinking that went into things of this kind by our stockholders; in other words, they didn't want a law that would benefit them too much, but one that would be good for every body, one that they could work under, of course. So Ben Bush and Bill Borah and Humiston; and Ben, oh I've been down to Boise with old Ben many times, he was United States forester. Bill Borah was quite a man. He was—I said our man, I don't think Bill was anybody's man as a matter of fact. But he was very friendly to us, and he understood our problems. But I don't think anybody could talk Bill into anything that he didn't think was right. I'm sure they couldn't. I knew your man Church that used to own that place down there too. He was from pretty close to where I lived. He lived at this place called Lock Haven, that I was talking about, and he graduated from Pennsylvania State College. Oh gee, he and I used to reminisce and visit about things (laughs). He was quite a little guy. Nice fella.
SAW: Well, before we get off the WIM, I wanted to ask you more about the shipping. What were the basic routes that the timber went out on? I mean, which way did more of the timber go? Did more of it go up to Spokane, or more of it go east on the Milwaukee?
W3G: I'm just trying to think how to answer that. It's such a long story. AsI told you before, to start with we didn't have any through rates with any of these railroads. The first railroad that was friendly to us at all, was built, was finished about the same time we were. It was the old Inland Electric out of Spokane. You're familiar with that?
SAM: I've heard of it.
W3G: Well, they just tore up some of the tracks the other day out here. Butthis Inland Electric was an electric line out of Spokane. They came to Moscow through Palouse, they had a branch that left at Spring Valley and went to Colfax, and they had a branch going from Spokane to Coeur d'Alene. It was an electric line, it was run very cheap, but they picked up a lot of traffic to turn over to these railroads in Spokane, picked up a lot of it. It was local capital up there that picked that up, and we started playing ball with them. Palouse, they connected with us at Palouse. And through them we got the Canadian Pacific Railroad to put through rates into Potlatch. In other words, this rate situation, like Potlatch and Moscow and all these little towns out here have what they call the Spokane rate, rate base; the rate's the same to Spokane, Moscow, and Potlatch to any place, in and out. That's the way of making rates, which is all right. But they'd never make that kind of a deal with the WIM, they didn't want to give up part of their rate structure to us. If they make a through rate, then they have-to pay us a certain amount for our haul, and whichever railroad it goes over gets a certain proportion of that for theirs. But we couldn't talk them into it until this Inland was built, and the Inland wanted to pick up traffic. And we got ahold of the Canadian Pacific, and the Canadian Pacific was glad to get traffic in Spokane to take clear to St. Paul long haul; so we got through rates.
Well, it wasn't very long after that until we got through rates withthe Great Northern via this electric line, and then pretty soon the Northern Pacific come in, "Yeah, we'd like to get in on this too." And the next thing we knew, the Union Pacific, through this electric line, wanted to get in on it, transfer to 'em at Garfield. Then, about that same time the Milwaukee built west. And that really put these other railroads on a spot, because right away they built a spur from St. Maries to Elk River. This was right after we got the Elk River mill finished and they was going to get a lot of lumber out of Elk River. They could get it all out of there; and they wanted some out of Potlatch too, and they did.
So, we were all getting quite a mess about that time. And everybodywas offering everybody else everything he could think of, but we couldn't go for that. We had five routes that we shipped our lumber. Not very many outfits have that: Canadian Pacific, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Milwaukee. And after we got all unscrambled and everything, we divided that thing up even, 20$ each way, of the competitive traffic. Oh like, traffic from here going to the eastern seaboard, the rate from here to Chicago where it breaks, they'd get 20% of that kind of traffic. Anything that was on just one railroad, between here and St. Paul or something like that, that was theirs, they were entitled to that. But on competitive traffic we divided it up equally among all railroads, and that worked out pretty good. We always had a good supply of cars, no trouble of any kind. But it took a lot of doing to work those things out. So you can see what a group of people, that all they knew was lumber, and fiddled around with stuff of that kind that they didn't know anything about, why they'd get all balled up, and probably violate the law.
SAM: It confuses me a little bit on this 20%, if you could go on and explain,give me an example.
W3G: Well there's five railroads, 20% of competitive traffic would be equal:out of 100%, each would get their share.
SAM: I see, so they'd all share equally.
WG: Yes. Yeah, yeah.
SAM: So, how did your shipping then stack up as to where most of the timber wasshipped?
W3G: Well, the lumber company would get an order from one of the salesmen fora car of lumber for a certain destination. They'd send it out, it'd be sent up to our office and we'd put the routing on it. So that's the way we could control it. The railroads east of Chicago, I didn't mix with that. They had a traffic man in St. Paul, George Shaeffer, he had some irons in the fire back east of Chicago; and so any routing east of Chicago, why we took what he wanted for that. So we worked together on those things. But it all takes a lot of doing to get those things working.
SAM: Where did you find that most of the lumber went? I mean, if you were tosay so much went here, so much went there.
W3G: When I first came here, most of our lumber went into building-up Northand South Dakota. That's when the Northern Pacific and Great Northern built West, you know? My gosh, the population of North and South Dakato was just leaps and bounds, you know, trying to populate that country. And the first few years they had good crops back there and farmers made money, but a little later on they had those droughts, terrific droughts, people moved out. But in the meantime they had built barns and silos and homes and everything. For two years after I came in, most of our stuff was shipped into North and South Dakota and eastern Montana.
SAM: At that time was the WIM taking a beating because it didn't have thesecooperative agreements worked out?
W3G: No, no, we'd get the same percentage regardless of where it went. Well,.of course we didn't have any through rates at that time.
SAM: That's what I meant.
WG: Oh that's—well the lumber company itself took a beating on that, you see,because they had to pay the freight bill.
SAM: So then can you...
WG: In other words we'd haul the lumber to Palouse and charge the lumber company with it (chuckles).
SAM: So, then what kind of shifts can you recall after North and South Dakotatook the timber, then where did the timber go? WG: Well, all over the country. In the later years I think most of our lumber went east of Chicago.
SAM: Well, I read that there was a problem, in that shipping southern whitepine, Imean southern pine, not white pine, the freight rate was 15% cheaper, it was claimed, than the rate was to bring it to Chicago from out here. WG: There were problems of that kind in existence, yeah, yeah there were. As a matter of a fact, we could ship lumber to the coast and put it on our ships, take it to the eastern seaboard to ship back as far as Pittsburg, at the same rate we could ship by rail from here to Pittsburg. That's the reason those big warehouses were built back in New 3ersey, lumber warehouses. Yeah, we shipped a lot of it. But we didn't ship too much from here back there; most of the stuff that goes by ship goes from Longview or Tacoma or Snoqualmie or Everett. That stuff goes back there and they put it in their warehouses, then the ships are leased to the United States Steel Company, and they haul steel back.
Pulp and paper made a difference in that kind of stuff too. They shipan awful Jot of pulp and paper east. Some of it goes into New England, some pulp goes into New England because they have some very fine paper mills in the New England states, that make this bond paper, and they like some of our white pine pulp. And this Simplot that's got that plant up at Bovill, clay, I think he's gonna start shipping some of that back there, too. That clay is used for glaze for paper, you know. And we shipped an awful lot of mica back there at one time. That was during the war, there's no activity in that now.
SAM: From the Deary area?
WG: Yah, yah.
SAM: I also read that Northern Pacific later offered to buy the WIM and...
WG: They did, later on, yeah, they wanted to buy.
SAM: Why did they decide not to sell it, because it was doing well?
W3G: Yup, we were making money. And we could control our traffic better thatway. The Northern Pacific would have bought it, traffic would have gone Northern Pacific. I think we got better service from the railroads. I don't know whether you've experienced or not, but you've probably heard of it, of these terrific car shortages we had? Well, we never had any car shortage at Potlatch, not to amount to anything.
SAM: Even during World War I? Why was that, because you were working with allthe different railroads?
WG: Well for several reasons. We had a product that they wanted pretty badat that time: we were cutting spruce for airplanes, we were under govern ment contract, and we got cars. And with five roads competing for traffic, they were looking at the future, you know, pretty bad, pretty much. If they could furnish us cars when we needed 'em, they might get some favors when things were better. That's the way things work out. Yeah, NP changed their minds a little too late. If they'd have been smart, they would've built in.
SAM: Was the railroad, WIM, did you do all the shay building? Were you responsible for all the spur lines?
W3G: No, no, just for the equipment, just for the locomotives.
SAM: So how did that work then, the individual camps built the lines in?
W3G: Oh yes, they built their own lines.
SAM: Did you supply the operators?
W3G: No, there was nothing, not too much in the line of operation, mostly themaintenance more than anything else. Because they were only in there a short time, they'd build a spur line up between two mountains, you know, and they'd log to the top of the mountains on both sides. Then they'd pull a line up, and put it down, up the other valley. Oh I don't know, there was a couple of spurs that were in for quite awhile, four or five years, but most of them were only in for a short time, 'til they got that area logged out. And as a result, they built just a road that they could get over, that's all. It was a very slow operation, and very, very hazardous operation, because the tracks in places were, well they were in the mud in some places (chuckles), and they couldn't afford to build a bridge across, and they devised methods to get across places like that. They had difficulties at certain times of the year when the weather was bad. It was entirely a different method of railroading. But as far as the locomotives were concerned, that was our problem, to keep them in shape.
SAM: What kind of special problems were there with trying to construct thesespur lines, just to physically get 'em up in the draws?
W3G: I don't get ya.
SAM: Well, what I'm wondering is, was it really hard to actually just lay thetrack up in there and figure out the grades, and that?
W3G: Oh no, no. They just went along, they cut the timber out along the rightof way, and just go along with a bulldozer and throw some ties and rails down.
SAM: So there really wasn't much to it?
W3G: No, no. And there was no bridge building of any kind, of that kind whichrequired knowledge, any thing of that kind. That's something else they had problems with, because there came a time...A wooden bridge is only good for a certain number of years, you know, because the timber rots and loses its strength. You've got to replace it, and you can't replace a half a bridge, you've got to replace a whole bridge, a wooden bridge. These steel bridges now, there's nothing to that, they're built at the factory, and all you do is come down and set 'em down with a crane. But wooden bridge building was quite a science in the early days. Did you ever notice this one out here at Viola, on the old Inland? That's an example of bridge building. There's not very many bridge builders left any more in this country, wooden bridge. And there's two or three big high ones like that that I know of, there's one down around, called Lawyer's Canyon, down here in south Idaho.
SAM: I've seen that one.
W3G: Have you?
W3G: There's two on that line, there% Lawyer's Canyon and there's another one.We had a couple on our line, had one pretty high one. But that's just another example of a railroad being turned over to, after it's complete, to a group of lumbermen to run. "Well, we got to build a bridge." "Well, what'11 we do about that?" Well, they don't know (chuckles). 'Course they could bring a bridge building crew in from another road, but that would be rather expensive, to do that.
SAM: So they had a rough time building the bridges, when they put the men onthat?
W3G: Oh no. I rebuilt our bridges three times I think, while I was up there.
SAM: Did you have somebody who was a specialist in it?
SAM: You did it yourself?
W3G: Well, I didn't do the work, but I supervised it, yah.
SAM: How would you go about doing it, I mean, just real roughly, in the orderthat you'd proceed?
W3G: Well you have to—that's the big problem of rebuilding a bridge underoperation, is to keep it operating. And you have to do certain things first, so that you can set a bridge on new pilings, and all that kind of thing. You have to know what you're doing, that's all. The specifications—you preserve your specifications, so they don't change too much. You know what kind of size timbers you have to have, and that's a steady file that you keep. Well, it's the same way with anything on a railroad; the railroads pretty much specialized on certain things. Ties have to be of a certain size in order to run at a certain speed with a certain weight of locomotive, and the same way with your rail and all that kind of stuff. It's one of those things you have to know about.is all.
Most of that stuff is developed and tried out at Purdue University forthe railroads, they make a speciality of that. For instance, when we were changing air brakes on all of our equipment, Purdue University was under contract and was making experiments for five years before they really solved the problem. And our problem was that in the early days—I'm talking about all railroads now—in the early days of railroading a train going along, maybe 10 or 15 cars, had air brakes on it, works fine. And pretty soon the traffic gotheavier, and they increased that to 20 cars to a train; and pretty soon we got up to a 100 cars to a train. When we got up there, we found we had trouble with our air. We couldn't get the same braking power on our rear of our train that we had in front. And it caused difficulty in operation, and we had to get somebody that was a specialist to devise valves, air valves, that would take care of that problem. And it took Purdue five years to do it.
So, the railroads, all they had to do, they were just waiting so theycould buy this stuff from Westinghouse. I don't think any one railroad would have been able to have done it. They knew what they wanted, but they were not equipped to make these experiments. God, they run trains down to California over that Shasta route, on the hills—now that's a big hill, you know, from Shasta down to Red Bluff—and they tried out their air brakes, that's where they made their big tryout, on that hill. It was quite a problem.
All those things are quite specialized, especially in the operation ofa locomotive. Even a car, although that's been changed now, even a regular old freight car. They had a hard time developing the kind of babbitt that they use on the bearings, on the wheel bearings—it would get hot and melt. So there again Purdue come into the picture, and they developed a babbitt to line the bearings that would stand up. And Purdue has done a good job, a very got job. Except they didn't get into the electrified stuff though, that was developed by Westinghouse, these diesels and stuff of that kind. The Milwaukee, when they electrified from over in Montana to Everett, they did that themselves. They made that experiment themselves, and they had a pretty good system, very good. Course they use diesels now. Yeah, the old Inland used to come into Moscow, and they tore up the tracks. They tore that bridge down there because they didn't have enough traffic any more. I don't know whether they stop at Palouse there or not, I believe Palouse is about as far as they go now. Well, they may have a warehouse that they serve out here or something like that.
SAM: How come you scrapped the idea of going from Potlatch to Moscow, thatidea?
W3G: We wanted to get a connection with the Union Pacific, that's what we werelooking for. And we had it all surveyed.
SAM: Well, why'd you change you mind?
W3G: The Inland made it possible for us to get a connection through Garfield.At one time, in that country between here and Colfax, we would ship 500 cars of wood a year. You can't believe that now, can you? Slabs of 16 inch wood, for burning in cookstoves. And then we had the cordwood besides that, for furnaces and stuff of that kind. And we used to, oh hundreds of stuff'd come to Moscow here. All this country burned wood. Our wood industry was quite an industry. Like the Potlatch yards down here. I was talking to the fellow who used to run them the other day, an oldtimer. We used to ship green wood. He had a big yard, he'd piled it outside and air dry it, before he sold it to people in town. Mark P. Miller, he used to run the flour mill here, he used to handle wood too. By the way, we sold our warehouses to Mark P. Miller, grain ware houses to him. I don't think Miller owns this warehouse down here anymore, I don't believe he does. He had a flour mill here. He had a great big home over here. I knew his daughter pretty well, she married, they got a divorce. Mark P. was quite a guy. He made a lot of money, some of it was a little bit questionable. But he run a good flour mill...
1:00 - New logging methods that don't scorch the ground; area of timber at the time of the fire of 1910
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link:
8:00 - Hauling people out of Bovill during 1910 fire; how cutting timber decreased fire hazards for towns
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link:
17:00 - Transfer to Shelby Montana; playing semi-pro baseball; arrival in Spokane; Potlatch hired him because he was a good ball player
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link:
Segment Synopsis: Expected to stay 6 months with Potlatch, but got married, and stayed with them from 1910 till 1951. General Manager for WI and M. Took care of the real and personal property taxes for North Idaho Forestry Association. Also,their public relations man and lobbyist. Vice President of American Short Line Railroads—351 short lines, each owned by some big industry who grouped together to insure good treatment by the big lines.
30:00 - Importance of having men who know how to operate a railroad; Importance of rates and separation of railroad from parent industry; why Moscow lost the mill to Potlatch
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link:
52:00 - Spirit Lake Lumbermen built a railroad like the one they knew in Pennsylvania and lost money badly.
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link:
63:00 - Connections with other railroads; problems of shipping logs long distances; markets for Potlatch lumber
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link:
Direct segment link: