History of Wendling Oregon

History of Wendling Oregon

Original document is here: http://ths.sps.lane.edu/english/Period3/Nick/ Copied to this site for preservation in case the original disappears.

Springfield has been influenced by many people, but nobody has created more culture for a town than the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company and the early logging of the Mohawk Valley. Booth-Kelly operated one of the first major lumber mills in this area. This mill was located at the junction of Mill and Wolf Creeks and was originally owned by a man named Holcomb. Who in 1885, sold toWhitbeck and Sterns who operated the mill a short time and then sold it toJohnson and Wendling (Polley 14). In 1898, Robert Booth and the brothers George and Tom Kelly, all native Oregonians, bought the mill and it became part of the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company (Velasco – Lane 66). They flipped a coin and decided to name the mill town Wendling honoring George Wendling and in 1899 a post office was established.

The mill town of Wendling seemed to grow overnight. It first consisted of a bunk-house with forty-six rooms. Each room was furnished with electric lights and shared by two men. There were two reading rooms, bath-room, commissary, and a large, well-stocked store operated by the company. There were also a number of cottages for the use of the married men, a church, a school, and even a resident doctor. In 1900 the entire valley was booming with logging activity. A stagecoach line was established between Wendling and Springfield that ran three times a week, and with the addition of the telephone and telegraph lines, the town took its place among the mill towns of Lane County. In October of 1900, the Springfield-Wendling branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad was built which gave an outlet for the timber cut by the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company. With the help of the Southern Pacific Railroad, the milltown started to expand even more. Lumber was shipped by railroad instead of having to haul it by wagon. You could also travel to Eugene and back in one day on the Southern Pacific freight and passenger train, called the “Wendling Bullet” (Polley 73). Before the lumber could be shipped by rail, however, they had to get the timber to the mill.

Because the first logging was done with oxen and horses, the mill was located close to the timber. They would build a logging road out of small logs split and laid crossways. They would sometimes peel the logs and would bevel the end so that they would drag easier. The oxen were eventually replaced with a steam, diesel, or gas powered machine called a donkey. This was mounted on a large sled and was used for pulling logs. It consisted of a single engine driving a vertical winch drum. They would use a horse to pull the line out, sometimes as far as 1,000 feet or more to the logs. When they started pulling the log in, they would put a few wraps around the vertical drum and then coil the cable as the log was drug in to the landing. Another way that was used to transport the logs from the landing to the mill was with a pole chute or flume. The pole chute was a long wooden chute that ran from the top of the mountain down to the bottom. They used two and three log wide pole chutes. They would put the logs in the chute with the aid of the donkey and the logs would slide down the chute to the mill or to the water. The log would pick up speed and be traveling so fast that it would nearly catch on fire and would become airborne as it left the chute. Booth-Kelly operated a 2-mile long chute that ran into Mill Creek.

Another way to transport timber to the mill was via the Mohawk River and what was known as log drives. Three dams were built on Mill Creek and usedto drive logs to the Wendling Mill. The first dam was located about one-half mile above the picnic area and was built around 1901. The principal behind the dams was to fill the reservoir up with timber and then to release the spill gate. This rushed the trees downstream toward the mill. The splash dam, as they were called, allowed loggers to control the flow of water when floating down the river. When the logs would get hung up in the shallow water, they would have to drag them to deeper water. To do this they would use horse teams hitched to one end of the log and a tool called a peavey to push the log along. When they would get the log to deeper water, the dogger as he was called, would release the horses. If this was not done at the right time, the horse would get carried into the deeper water with the log and drown. The horses were shod with river-calk shoes. This consisted of sharp metal points on front and back of the shoes to give them better footing in the muddy water. Many of the horses would get what they called “mud fever” as a result of being in the water for long periods of time (Polley29).

The first mill on Mill Creek was a water power mill and had a vertical saw. Using the vertical saw was a very slow process. According to Joed Albro, one of the Wendling mill workers, “the old saw was so slow that they had time to go kill a deer and get back in time to set the saw to a new cant” (Polley 15). They soon upgraded to a circular saw.

With Booth-Kelly’s purchase of the Wendling mill site, more modern logging techniques, and rail logging, Wendling was transformed into a true mill town and the lumber output increased dramatically. The timber tributary to the Wendling mill on Mill Creek cut on an average of 40,000 to 50,000 feet to the acre. The timber was almost entirely yellow fir and averaged from three to seven feet in diameter and 100 to 150 feet in length. The mill could cut on an average 100,000 feet in ten hours with twenty-three men (Polley 49). These huge trees came in handy when it came to building Fall Creek’s Pengra covered bridge. Booth-Kelly supplied the 16” x 18” x 126 foot beams under the bridge to span the river. The bridge still remains with these boards that are some of the largest of any of Oregon’s covered bridges (Pengra).

In 1903 after realizing the future potential of timber land, the Southern Pacific Railroad announced that they would no longer sell land grants to individuals. This was in conflict with the terms of the 1869 Congressional Agreement. The Federal Government filed suit against the Southern Pacific Railroad and because of this Booth-Kelly was shut down in 1904 (Polley 3). This hurt Booth-Kelly because many people had to move to find other work. Two years later the mill re-opened, and by 1908 the town of Wendling had grown even larger with a locomotive barn, machine shop, blacksmith shop, train depot, bowling alley, barber shop, and even a skating rink. In August of 1910, fire, a timber company’s worst enemy, struck Wendling. The population of Wendling at the time was 700 people (Polley 102). Hard work by the mill’s employees controlled the fire and saved the mill but not until it had burned homes, shops and the school. Months later everything had been rebuilt and Booth-Kelly was back to full operation.

In 1913, Booth-Kelly converted their locomotive engines from wood to oil and steam generators replaced the old carbide lights. By 1921, Booth-Kelly employed over 250 men working in the field and mills, had 26 miles of rail track, and had 20 flat rail cars. It was reported that in one day they filled 32 cars with an average of 7,500 board feet to the car (Polley 116). The main line of the yarder was clocked at 30 miles per hour dragging a log and the haul back was even faster. In 1922, part of the mill burned down again but was rebuilt by 1924. In the spring of 1946, Booth-Kelly closed the mill during a labor dispute and a fire destroyed the mill later that year (Springfield News). In 1952, the Wendling post office closed and in 1959 after most of the timber had been depleted, the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company sold its land to the Georgia Pacific Corporation (Polley 124).

Today, the only landmarks left from the once lively mill town of Wendling is a covered bridge, a few roads, and a few homes of the remaining few that couldn’t bare to leave the peace and tranquillity of the surrounding hills. It is rumored that parts of a wooden flume remain in the hills above the Wendling site and that at the top a child’s cemetery can be found. A few of the people that used to call Wendling their home still get together periodically to have lunch and to reminisce. These “Wendlingites”, as they call themselves, have a history they can be proud of.

More information about Wendling can be found at The Wendling Project

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31 Responses to History of Wendling Oregon

  1. I was born in Wendling Or. in 1939.
    Fine place to grow up.

  2. Linde Wicklund says:

    Wendling is still a great community.
    Does anyone know any of the teachers’ names who would have taught up in the camps? I am working on a project about one-room schools and if possible would like to find out how the teachers were hired, how much they were paid, whether they could be married and if anyone has memories about school in the camps.

  3. George says:

    Clara Graves was a teacher in the camps.She later
    was the principal at the main school.She never
    married but she had a paddle that could make the
    biggest kid cry.

  4. Les Warner. says:

    Clara Gravos was not married,because there was not one man in East Lane Co. that would have her. Her paddleings were only one step better than pulling Canadian thistles with out gloves. Les

  5. John Ross says:

    I took a guy horse back rideing today his name was david Sanborn said he lived in windling when he was a kid anyone remember the family thanks alot for any info

  6. Gary Wild says:

    Lived in Wendling from Dec. ’45 into June of ’50.
    House was A8, grandparents were in A6. Several houses moved out across our back yard.
    I think Mrs. Bryant was the teacher we had in grades
    6,7,8. I finished 6th in Wendling then we moved to Springfield.

  7. I was in school with David Sanborn and Gary Wild.
    I havn’t seen David since Wendling.

  8. Les Warner. says:

    When the scrap iron drive for the war effort was in full swing in the 40′s. Our School at Wendling had a very large pile that was collected by the children. Wayne Warner captured the title “tin can king” this was because he collected more cans,and delivered them with both ends cut out,and flattend. I am sure that out of desperation in the race for the prize that he didn’t go to the store,buy can goods,and dump the contents ,so that he would out do the rest with high numbers. Jr Bunch cut both ends out of the cans and lined them up, then stood a large plank up and let it fall smashing the cans flat. Even with this method he was no match for Wayne. Les warner

  9. Helen Warner Johnson says:

    Clara Gravos–At noon one day I told Miss Gravos, You sure look young today.” I was in 7th grade. She got a sly little grin on her face, gold tooth showing, and said, “Helen, I realize you are growing up. You can do anything you want to do this afternoon.” Wow! I said, “Can I go home at 2:30?” She said, “Yes.” So when that schoolroom clock ticked down to 2:30 she nodded at me and I got up and left the room. Afterwards I thought how dumb I was–I should have said, “Can I go home now (at noon)?” Oh well, I enjoyed an hour of freedom that day.

  10. Curtis Irish says:

    I remember that one day I was walking along Main St.in Marcola shortly after graduating From Mohawk Union High School, and here came a beautiful yellow convertible Cadillac with the top down, driving slowly down the street, and to my surprise there sat Selma Plant in the passenger seat. It was at that point that I realized that having a new Cadillac gave a young fellow certain advantages. At the time I had a Model A ford, but have done better in recent years as I now have worked my way up to a small Toyota pickup. CURT

  11. Wheee, such babies! George you were born the year we moved to Wendling. Think the Wendling Bridge was built in 1936?? Hmmm, if that’s correct, you’re just 3yrs younger than that OLD bridge. ;p) Oh shucks, using that logic, that makes ME 6yrs older than that old bridge.

  12. Tom Aldous says:

    There are not very many of us left. George Warner
    and I are class mates. We moved in 1949 to Mckenzie
    bridge. My dad Sid moved to Wendling nn the early
    1920′s. I am next to the youngest of four boys and the girls. Bill,Ed,Louise.Luke,Florence, Tom, and Martha. The only ones left in our family is Marti and myself.

  13. Helen Warner Johnson says:

    Just a few historical notes about the Warners–nine children, Lawrence, Ellis, Jo, Leonard, Ernie, Helen, Wayne, Les, and George. Lawrence is deceased. Our great great grandparents, the John Stewarts, and our great grandparents, Agnes Stewart Warner and Tom Warner, traveled to Oregon in covered wagons. Agnes was a teen and kept a diary which is in the U of O. It took them from April until October to reach Oregon coming from St. Joseph, MO. They were from Pennsylvania and caught the train in MO. They settled in Fall Creek. Oh, they named a middle school in Springfield after our great grandmother Agnes Stewart Warner. End of history lesson.

  14. marjirie raines johnson says:

    i lived in wendling from1933 till 1945 long before the bridge was built so that makes me old

  15. Kelsey Ivey says:

    Hi! I recently came across the town of Wendling online and it really peaked my interest. I live just south in Eugene, and since I read about it I have been researching the town and its history. I was wondering if anyone who grew up in the area still lives there and if there are any remains of the logging town at the site?

  16. Grintz says:

    Some years ago I was visiting in the state of New Jersey and a new acquaintance asked me as a former Oregonian if I had ever heard of Wendling, OR. Even though I had grown up in Eugene as a teenager, I had never heard of it. Checking things out I found that my sister lived about 10 miles away from old Wendling on Marcola Road. My next trip out to OR to see family I made a point of going to the site of old Wendling town where, incidentally, the person from New Jersey happened to be born. Arriving at the site, we saw nothing but overgrown foundations. Likely of saw mills and maybe of a general store, couldn’t tell. I took a few photos and sent them to NJ to inform the acquaintance that indeed Wendling was no more. Nothing further to report

  17. Robert Martin says:

    My name is Robert L. Martin I lived in Wendling,Oregon
    I just went back there today July 17th 2010 could not find nothing other than over growth but it was fun to go back in time.

  18. Roger Martin says:

    Roger and Robert Martin the twins. We used to live next door to the Downings.We used to hike to winding point with the warner boys.Roger lives in Madras Oregon and Robert lives in Hemet CA. We are very sad to see the town all gone. The bridge is about all thats left.

  19. Wayne Warner says:

    Miss Gravos was my teacher for 3 years–6th through 8th grades. She sent me to the office one day because I had been cutting up in class. I had been to the office before and knew how she could use that 18″ rule on the guilty one’s hand. This time, however, I kept going, out the back door, through the white covered bridge, and to our home. I told my mother I was sick, so she sent me to bed. I was pretty dumb because I had not figured out how I would face Miss Gravos when I returned to school. When my sister Helen came home for lunch, my little game was over. She reported the real story, and our mom gave me a taste of her switch on my legs. She sent me back to school in the afternoon, and Helen showed her love for little brother by telling Miss Gravos that I had been disciplined at home. Miss Gravos reasoned that that was enough and I didn’t feel the sting of her rule.

    By the time I graduated from the 8th grade in 1947, the town was going downhill pretty fast. With the mill gone, families were moving to other places for work. Lyle Love and I were the only two graduates that year and then we enrolled at Mohawk high that fall.

    I think the last time I saw Miss Gravos was in 1960 at Anne Downing’s funeral in Eugene. Clara probably wouldn’t make it today in the school room because she couldn’t use her 18″ rule on kids like me. She’d spend more time in the courthouse than she would the school house.

    Wayne Warner
    Springfield, Missouri

  20. Carlene (Boyd) Shrode says:

    Hi Wendlingites, Just checking in. Would like to keep in touch.

  21. Marilyn says:

    My grandparents met at the logging camp around 1902. My grandfather had immigrated from Germany when he was just a teenager and worked as a faller for Booth Kelly. My grandmother had immigrated from Norway as a young child and got a job working in the logging camp’s kitchen and would see my grandfather come through the food line every day and made the comment that she would marry that man someday. When the mill closed in 1904 he went to work at Bridal Veil but soon sent for her and they were married in 1908 in Portland. He worked in the mills all his life as a saw filer.

  22. LESLIE BROOKS says:

    We are from the Harding,Brooks and Littrell family and we are from Wendling and Camp 5. This summer we are having our family reunion (7/4/2012 to 7/7/2012) and would you know of someone that can give us a tour or history and point out interest. Grandfather Archie Brooks was killed in Wendling January 1943. I was born in 1934 in Wendling and lived in Wendling until 1947. About 20 years there was a bus rented and many old timers went on the tour do you think that this could happen again? My step father was Jack Littrell and I went by the name of Leslie Littrell Thank You and please e-mail with your thoughts/ Les Brooks

  23. Tina Brannan says:

    My grandmother and her older brother I believe we’re born in Wendling. Her name was Leona May Cole. Her younger brother was Harvey J. Cole. Their parents, a young married couple at the time moved to the community of Wendling around 1922. Harry Harvey Cole and his bride Louellen May Young must have felt fortunate to have found housing and promising employment as they began their lives together. Harry’s older brother, James Weaver Cole was working for the Booth-Kelley logging company at the time he completed his WW1 draft registration card on June 2, 1917. Was he responsible for helping Harry get a job there as well? Harry and Louellen’s first child was born this same year, 1922, followed by their daughter Leona May born just 13 months later in May of 1923. One day Louellen was in the front yard, with nine month old Leona on her hip, when the men were coming home from the woods for the day. On this particular day the group was displaying the insignia that a member of the crew had been killed that day. As they walked past Louellen shouted out , “Who was it?”. To her horror, the reply was, “Harry Cole”. Does anyone know, what was the insignia? The two young children were taken to live with their paternal grandmother, Rebecca Prince Cole Hunt, in Springfield. Louellen took a job as a live in maid for a widowed gentleman and his son in Portland. Leona said that her mother started drinking heavily after the accident, and died in a tuberculosis sanitarium in 1932. This info is yet to be confirmed, as no death certificate for Louellen has been found. If anyone has knowledge of surviving Wendling records, stories, photos, I would be grateful!

  24. Laura Alier says:

    Hello all,
    I grew up on Wendling Road, almost at the very end where the old town was. When I was a kid we’d comb the fields (before the trees got big) and find old pieces of broken dishes. It was fun memories. I’m putting together some research and information on Wendling. I’d like to ensure that as much information gets preserved as possible. I’d love if anyone could contact me. I’m just getting started and would love any information anyone has. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] or you can call me at 907-538-1464. Thanks everyone!

  25. carlene (boyd) shrode says:

    A short addendum: Knew the Warners very well and the Martin twins, in fact, lived in their house at one time which was also the Warner house. Lived there from about 1945 to 1948. House is gone now and the Lee Downings built their house on that same property. That’s all for now. Bye, Carlene

  26. Wayne Warner says:

    Leslie, I just saw your note above. Yes, I remember you. I was a grade ahead of you. Seems like I remember that you lived near the swimming hole. We lived near Masons and Putnams. You might know that some old-time Wendling people get together in Springfield or Eugene monthly for lunch. I’ve been there a few times when visiting Oregon. Send an e-mail and I’ll correspond. I live in Springfield, Missouri, and my e-mail address is:
    [email protected]

    Best wishes. Wayne Warner

  27. My great grandparents and grandmother (when she was a baby) lived in the logging camp at Wendling. My great grandfather was killed there in a logging accident. I am taking my family there today to look around. For those of you who have been there, do you have suggestions for exactly what we should look for? Thank you. – Tina (Van Vlack) Brannan

  28. carlene (boyd) shrode says:

    Noticed in recent Register Guard obituary a, Jack James Dunn, (93) born in Montecito, Washington, but, grew up in the logging camp in Wendling. Graduate of Mohawk High School. Married Imogene Harvey in 1946–2 sons, Jim and Jerry Dunn. Is he related to Sylvia Dunn who married Lawrence Warner? I’d like for someone to write back if they have any information. Thanks, Carlene