Lumber Industry in Longview, WA
A Portland‚ Ore.‚ newspaper reporter visiting Longview in 1923 described the upstart town as a “Utopian dream.”
The model city in the making was the brainchild of Robert A. Long‚ chairman of the board of Long-Bell Lumber Co.‚ who laid out the town at the confluence of the Cowlitz and Columbia rivers in 1922 – two years before the company’s new mill started production there.
“Mr. Long was interested in building a community that was a good quality place to live‚” says David Freece‚ director of the Cowlitz County Historical Museum. “Obviously‚ his business was lumber and he needed workers‚ and he also needed to have a place where they could live. But he was determined to make it a beautiful place.
“From the start‚ he put in things that a lot of communities wait a long time to get‚ such as parks‚ libraries and nice hotels. He provided those things‚ and a lot of it came out of his own pocket.”
So while the opening of the Long- Bell Lumber Co. was the impetus for the town’s settlement‚ jobs weren’t all that attracted initial residents to Longview.
Many were drawn by “the spirit of the place‚” says Louise F. Shields‚ in her March 23‚ 1923‚ article for the Oregonian. That spirit included “honesty and courtesy‚” traits also associated with Long-Bell’s business dealings.
Robert A. Long made his fortune in the lumber industry after he and Victor Bell founded Long-Bell Lumber in Columbus‚ Kan.‚ in 1876. A search for a new lumber source led him to the northwest‚ where‚ in 1918‚ the company bought property from the region’s lumber industry pioneer‚ Weyerhaeuser Timber Co.
Weyerhaeuser consummated what was then the biggest land deal in U.S. history in 1900 by acquiring 900‚000 acres from the Northern Pacific Railway. By the 1920s‚ Weyerhaeuser was shipping vast amounts of lumber to the East Coast in response to the growing demand for Douglas fir.
Before building his mill‚ Long designed every detail of Longview‚ down to the last sidewalk and street name. Along with company capital‚ he poured much of his own fortune into the project‚ donating the Monticello Hotel‚ R.A. Long High School and the YMCA building to the city.
Long also encouraged other companies to build mills and lumber yards nearby to help bring additional jobs into Longview‚ says Clyde Shadiow‚ 80‚ a lifelong resident who went to work for Long-Bell in the 1930s.
“The pay in those days started out at 25 cents an hour‚” Shadiow recalls. “Then it went to 40 cents. During the war it was $1 an hour. But you have to remember‚ back then it didn’t cost but a nickel or a dime to buy something to eat.”
In 1954‚ Long-Bell sold its operations to International Paper‚ which eventually relinquished its holdings in the region‚ including 300‚000 acres sold to R-H Timberlands in 1994.
But the other successful companies have helped maintain and even strengthen Longview’s traditional ties to the lumber industry. Weyerhaeuser now employs 1‚700 at its Longview operations‚ which include pulp and bleached paperboard‚ newsprint‚ lumber and timberlands management. The company also owns 440‚000 acres of forests in Cowlitz County.
Longview Fibre Co.‚ founded in 1927‚ operates a pulp and paper complex that employs more than 1‚700 workers with an annual payroll of some $90 million‚ says Curt Copenhagen‚ public affairs director. The company’s focus includes sustainable forestry practices and value-added production‚ creating retail-ready cardboard containers and other products.
“Several generations from the Longview-Kelso area and surrounding locales have worked for Longview Fibre‚” Copenhagen says. “We feel the combination of these experienced employees and the integrity of our operations fit well together.”
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