You might say that lumber was Salem's first industry going
back all the way to July 1840 when the Methodist missionaries
built a saw and grist mill on North Mill Creek near Broadway
& High Streets. A historic marker marks the site.
Lumber for Salem's first house, the Jason Lee house built
in 1841 and now located at Mission Mill, was cut at that primitive
sawmill. In 1858 B.M. Durelle a later pioneer, purchased a
steamboat and started a floating sawmill, but shortly after
moved his machinery to a plant on the river bank just north
side of Trade Street. Fire struck his plant in 1860
and the larger plant he built was washed away in the floods
In 1866 the Capital Lumbering Company was organized and built
at Durelle's site on the river between Trade & Ferry Streets
and remained the principal sawmill in the Salem area for many
The Oregon Pulp & Paper Company began production at the
same site in 1920 and also owned half of the Charles K. Spaulding
Logging Company, an adjoining sawmill to the north. The gabled
roof of the Oregon Pulp & Paper Company building can still
be seen as being a part of the Boise Cascade plant. In 1949
Oregon Pulp & Paper was the largest Salem employer, with
600 employees, except for the State. The plant's papers were
distributed as far east as Chicago, and to Mexico, South America,
Asia, Africa and the Pacific islands. The sawmill was closed
in June 1955, eliminating 135 jobs, and leaving 465 at the
Boise Cascade purchased Oregon Pulp & Paper in 1862 and
a yeast plant was added to convert byproducts of papermaking
into a food additive. In 1964 a container plant was added
to supply cartons for food processing plants. Several improvements
were made under Boise both to expand production and to meet
air and water quality standards; purification lagoons were
built on Minto-Brown Island across the slough.
The Spaulding Logging Company got their logs primarily from
the tributaries of the Willamette and were sometimes brought
overland and dumped into the river to be towed down. Others
were brought in by two steamboats which the company owned,
the "City of Eugene" and "Grey Eagle".
Other departments planed and finished the wood; a large box
factory supplied local companies with shipping crates &
boxes; and a sash & door factory equipped with machines
for turning and finishing cabinets, chairs, staircases, and
other furniture. In addition to Oregon lumber, more exotic
woods were also finished for windows, doors. In 1949 the Spaulding
Company, as the lumber division of Oregon Pulp & Paper
was shipping between 1200 and 1300 carloads of lumber annually
to practically every state in the country.
The preceding were not by any means the only sawmills in
the Salem area. E.D. Towl had the "Clipper Saw Mill"
four miles north of Salem in 1865, and many smaller businesses
were also allied with the lumber industry. The 1890 Sanborn-Perris
Map shows the following: Churchill Sash, Door & Manufacturing
Company, the Erb Sash & Door Factory, T. Holman Fanning
Mill, J.F. Jacobson Lumber Yard & Western Fanning Mill.
All were within a couple blocks of the lumbering company.
However, within three years related businesses were being
located further out at 12th & Trade (J.C. Goodale),
12th & Bellevue (Santiam Lumbering), and Saginaw
& Wilson (South Salem Planing Mill).
Researched and written by Joan Marie "Toni" Meyering
"Site of Paper Mill Played Big Role in Salem History"
by Walt Penk, Statesman Journal, 1981+
"The Chas. K. Spaulding Logging Company", Oregon
Statesman, January 1, 1914.
"Oregon Pulp and Paper Biggest Except State Gov't",
Capital Journal, January 28, 1949.
"Clipper Saw Mill", Oregon Statesman, April
"Salem Lumber Firm Closing in May", Statesman
Journal, December 19, 1991.