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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Traveling the long back roads of our district between communities reminds me of the history of our area, specifically how many of our communities sprang up as the result of the logging industry.

In 1909, the community of McKenna held one of the largest mills in the nation to have its total operation under one roof. Mill workers at the McKenna Mill would sometimes live in a big dormitory which held more than 200 people. That dormitory is now the Nisqually Valley Care Center. Austrians and Japanese would come to work at the mill, which also had a company store and a big social hall. This wasn't just a job, it was a way of life.

“McKenna Mill shut down in 1929, and the plaining mill in 1930. That was a tough time for many, 'cause it was the backbone of employment.” 1

The Hammerschmith Mill first started in Roy, then expanded to Yelm. They employed about 25-35 people for logging and milling the lumber.

“Tracks ran almost to Lake Lawrence, and cars would come out loaded for the mill. Logs would be dumped into the pond, up into the mill and onto a carriage to be cut.” 1

The story of Eatonville is similar. T.C. Van Eaton homesteaded what would become Eatonville and its vast timber lands in 1889. The community was almost entirely supported by the lumber industry.

“These men built for themselves small rudely built saw mills located in the heart of the forests and at one time there were as many as eight of these small saw mills located in the vicinity of this townsite. During this time the growth of the community was small and it was not until the year 1907 that a permanency developed with the building of a saw mill on the outskirts of the present townsite. This is the saw mill that is now known as the Eatonville Lumber Company, the building of which led to the incorporation of the town in the year 1909.” 2

“The Eatonville Lumber Company attracted many people from all over the country and the world. Workers from Japan, Italy, and from several states across the country came, worked and lived in Eatonville. The population in 1900 was 70. According to the Federal 1910 Census, the population jumped to 725. Clearly the Eatonville Lumber Company caused a surge in population.” 3

Orting also prospered with the timber industry. In 1887, the Northern Pacific Railroad established a branch line from Orting to Lake Kapowsin. The St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber Company contracted with the railroad, causing the line to run through the area. In exchange, a percentage of the Douglas fir, cedar and spruce trees harvested from the area were shipped over the railroad, carrying logs through Orting, McMillin and Alderton.

“There are few families who have not derived their livelihood in some way by working in the 'woods,' or in the mills. The latter sprung up because of the tremendous availability of timber.” 4

As a History major, I values my roots, and those of my community. Many of you know this industry took a hard hit, the result of many factors. In our area, which was built by the timber industry, fewer and fewer people are working in the forest.

A working forest helps create a healthy, balanced environment for everyone. This story in the News Tribune recently shows a minor increase in log traffic for the port of Tacoma, one signal the industry may be seeing a resurgence in exports.

This year, one of my priorities was getting Washington working again. This means more than promoting airplanes and software. The original green economy was in the fields and forests of rural America. Forty years of unintended consequences of well intentioned, but poorly crafted regulation is stifling that now. Exports are one of our state's strongest assets, and we must use our strengths to lead Washington into the next decade.

The Second District is in a unique position – with its history, its skilled workforce, and its access to trading locally and around the world. I want to help the people from our communities to once again work in our sustainable forests and produce high-value wood products for sale here in Washington and overseas.

1 Yelm Pioneers and Followers, Dean Hooper and Roberta Longmire, 1999.

2 History of Southeastern Pierce County, Tacoma-Pierce Genealogical Society, 1989, which quoted “History of Eatonville, Washington” by G.E. Karlen.

3 Firm Foundation, Abbi Wonacott, 2009.

4 Orting Valley: Yesterday and Today, Ms. Guided Adventures, 1987.

In other news…

I've recently been appointed to the Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations. The purpose of the committee is to study and review economic development issues, emphasizing international trade, tourism, investment and industrial development. An economic development policy can unleash the power of private enterprise to rebuild the economy. With my experience in private business, I can help point out the places where government is standing in the way. I look forward to providing solutions and promoting our rural industries, including sustainable forestry, farming, food processing and others.

I hope you will continue to provide me feedback as I work for you. Please feel free to contact my office anytime or call and set up a time to meet with me.

It's an honor to serve you.


J.T. Wilcox

State Representative J.T. Wilcox, 2nd Legislative District
335C Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7912 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000