Before there were lumber mills, canneries, or even commercial fishing, the primary industry in what is now Aberdeen was farming. When Sam Benn settled here in 1867, he cleared a pasture, brought in some beef and dairy stock, and supplied butter to Olympia and the sparsely populated Puget Sound region. It would be another 17 years before the arrival of the A.J. West family from Michigan and lumbering began to take hold. The town was platted, streets were laid out and a business section grew along with the population, and cows, descendants of Aberdeen‘s first industry, continued to wander whenever and wherever the mood struck them. By 1905, the free-roaming cow was Aberdeen’s most divisive political issue.
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In the early 1900s through the 1920s, Grays Harbor was one of the world’s busiest seaports. Longshoremen werer kept busy loading lumber for shipment around the world — shipments that would go nowhere without the pilot tugs that guided the schooners and steamers across the bar at the mouth of Grays Harbor. Of the dozens of tugs that worked the Harbor, one of the most storied was the John Cudahy .
In the summer of 1901, the enterprising Hoquiam duo of Vernon Smith and Charles Kuhn put together a transportation scheme that was intended to bring Aberdeen and Hoquiam together with a means of transportation the likes of which had never been seen in these parts.
At the end of the nineteenth century, before there was a Department of Labor &Industries and unionization was still a few years away, the lumber mills on the Harbor were a largely-unregulated maze of screaming saws, and canvas and leather belts running on open wooden pulleys with none of the guards or shields that are taken for granted today. Gruesome injuries were a nearly daily occurrence, and all it took was one moment of inattention, one small distraction. The following stories are rather graphic and not for the squeamish, but it is essential that the largely-anonymous workers who built the timber industry, often giving life and limb, are remembered and given their due.
The children at Franklin School clutched their buffalo nickels with hungry anticipation — they were about to take advantage of a relatively new social program presented for the first time in Grays Harbor. Whether you loved ‘em or loathed ‘em, tomorrow marks 100 years of hot lunches being served in the Aberdeen School District.
The pleasant weather on April 6, 1906, drew a larger than usual crowd to the sprawling Lindstrom Ship Building Company shipyards where Washington Street meets the Chehalis River. They had come to witness the launch of the S.S. Quinault , a 147-foot steam ship with a 38-foot beam, built for Aberdeen’s Hart-Wood Lumber Company. The ship was to carry lumber and passengers on the Grays Harbor — San Francisco route and was fitted with the most modern accouterments including steam heat in the passenger and crew areas. The festive air belied the tragedy that would soon befall a family.
P reviously, the Flood of 1913 was highlighted — let’s continue celebrating the rainy season with a postman’s account from 80 years ago. From 1927 to 1962, Jim McLean worked at the Aberdeen Post Office and the following is a first-hand account of his experiences during the Aberdeen Flood of 1933 which crested 10 feet above flood stage. Here is McLean’s account: