Yoncalla Log Pond History
In May 2013, North Douglas Betterment received a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation to develop cultural and historical information associated with the log pond and the Yoncalla area. This project is ongoing and to date over 1 GB of data is available:
Other files can be accessed at the Data Repository. The repository contains a report of area geology, historic photos, interviews with local residents, and other historical documents and references specific to the pond area as well as to the general vicinity. (This page should be revised to include direct links to more of the data)
The following is a brief summary of the history of the Yoncalla Log Pond. This information was acquired from the archives of the Yoncalla Historical Society and the Katcha report that is listed above.
Early views of the pond area show significantly different features.
In the 1920’s this field served as an emergency landing strip. The book “Yoncalla Yesterday” published by the Yoncalla Historic Society in 2001 states “The Yoncalla emergency airfield was about 2200′ long and 1000′ wide, located easterly from the railroad loading docks and west of Poodle Creek (Yoncalla Creek). The land was owned by Bob Thompson who annually harvested a crop of highland bentgrass seed from it. The rotating field beacon was located on the west edge approximately 400′ due east from the junction of Applegate St. and the Pacific Highway (the SE corner of the City Hall lot). Stationary field lights, located about 100′ apart, delineated the exterior boundaries of the airfield at night.”
Early Logging History
The north end of the site was the first to be developed by a timber company in the mid-1930s. Francis Bigelow of the Bigelow Mill had originally started his business approximately 10 miles east of Yoncalla in Elkhead, OR. After depleting the timber supply there, he relocated his mill to the northern end of what was then the Yoncalla Emergency Airfield. A few years later in 1939, the Scheiman Brothers built a mill at the south end of the site (See figure below). This began the divided northern/southern layout of the Yoncalla mill pond site.
The year of 1941 set the stage for the first round of changes on site. The site’s proximity to the railroad proved to be beneficial to the mills. The Kruse Lumber Co. in Skelley, OR decided to take advantage of the town location and loading docks, and purchased the Scheiman Brothers mill at the south end of the site. In the same year, at the north end, Kissling Lumber Co. purchased the Bigelow Mill.
In the early 1940’s, the Exchange Sawmill Sales Company (ESSCO) of Kansas City, MO. purchased the Elmer Kruse mill at Yoncalla, OR setting up Yoncalla Lumber Company. Also, Western Timber & Land, an associated company, was formed to buy timberland.
Many of the Kruse employees transferred along with the mill and logging. J.N. Sparks, a “transplanted” southerner, was the overall superintendent. Glenn Coons was logging foreman. Some of the logging employees were: Walter Coons, Alfred. Waters, Bob Roberts, Ernest Warner, Tommy Palmer, Fred Sefton, Jack Mcnab, George Roberts, Earl McDaniels. Company bookkeeper: R.W. Cabaniss.
Known logging equipment: 3 sled donkeys, (2 yarders, 1 loader) 1 caterpillar tractor, 1 international tractor, 1 grader. Some areas logged: “Indian Timber” sale in Salt Creek, Red Hill, Kingery Ranch, and Green Ridge Creek, off of Billy Creek in Skelley. Yoncalla Lumber purchased the first Skagit BX-100 or -125 yarding donkey used in this area. It was referred to as “the big machine.”
ESSCO (Kruse) Mill circa 1940’s
In 1953 the mill burned and ESSCO then purchased the Kissiling Sawmill located just to the north. The planning mill (located on the left side of the photo) did not burn and continued operation.
Yoncalla lumber ceased doing its own logging in the early 1950’s, relying on “gyppo” loggers for supply. Western Timber & Land continued as the land and timber-acquiring company. Some of the ‘gyppos’ that worked for Yoncalla were: Jenkins Logging, E.A. Wilson Logging & Sawmill, Hite Logging Co., Two Brothers Logging & Sawmill (Wayne & Herschel Phillips). Glenn Coons was promoted to logging superintendent.
The log ponds were modified in the 1950’s as shown in the water rights maps.
Operations continued through the 1950’s, finally shutting down in 1961 or 1962. In 1963, Yoncalla Lumber Co, and the western timber land holdings were sold to Harold Woolley (Woolley, Logging, Smith. River Lumber Co., Drain Plywood). The mill and planning mill were sold and dismantled. Woolley used the ponds for log storage into the 1970’s.