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Tumwater Sawmill - Puget Sound Milling Company

In August, 1847, however, eight of these pioneers joined together to form the Puget Sound Milling Company -- the first corporate commercial venture in this new American settlement. The land selected for the mill was part of Simmons' New Market claim, and the following agreement was drawn up with him:

August 20th 1847. I, Michael T Simmons of said County do lease to the following
persons: namely (M. T. Simmons, J. Ferguson, G. Jones, A. D. Carnefix, J. K. Kindred, B. F. Shaw, E. Sylvester, and A. B. Rabbeson)  for the period of 5 years and ten if said Company shall think advisible the North-West part of my lower falls as a building spot for a sawmill for the said Company reserving to myself during the period of 5 years likewise extending to 10 should said company desire. No right or authority whatever any more than each induvidual of said Company is possessed of in testamony whereof I have signed my Name this 20th day of August 1847 before the following Witness L. L. Smith.

The company purchased the equipment for the mill from the Hudson's Bay Company for three hundred dollars in lumber which they delivered to the landing of Fort Nisqually at the enviable rate of sixteen dollars per thousand.

(Journal of Levi Lathrop Smith, 1847 - 1848, edited by James Robert Tannis,  Transcribed in 2003 by Roger Easton )



Late the following year a saw-mill was completed at Tumwater, built by M. T. Simmons, B. F. Shaw,  E. Sylvester, Jesse Ferguson, A. B. Rabbeson, Gabriel Jones, A. D. Carnefix, and John R. Kindred, who formed the Puget Sound Milling Company, October 25, 1847, Simmons holding the principal number of shares, and being elected superintendent. The mill irons, which had been in use at Fort Vancouver, were obtained from the Hudson s Bay Company.

(Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, Voume XXXI, History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana 1845 -1889, published 1890)



August, Colonel Simmons, Frank Shaw, E. Sylvester, Jesse Ferguson, A. B. Rabbeson, Gabriel  Jones, A. D. Carnefix and John Kindred formed themselves into a company for the purpose of erecting a saw mill at New Market named the Puget Sound Milling company. The date of the lease from, Colonel Simmons, proprietor of the claim, is August 20, 1847, the lease to continue for five years with the privilege of
ten. The site described was the northwest part of the Lower Falls. On August 24th, the trail between Smithfield (Olympia) and the Falls was blazed. out. On the same date the Puget Sound Milling Company completed its organization by the election of Colonel Simmons, Superintendent, and upon the following day commenced the erection of the mill, which was completed during the winter months.

(J. C. Rathbun, History of Thurston County, Washington from 1845 to 1895, published 1895)



In 1847, Simmons, Frank Shaw. Edmond Sylvester, A. B. Rabbeson, Gabriel Jones, Jesse Ferguson, John Kindred and A. D. Conifix built a saw mill near the lower part of the falls at the same place, and this was the first mill of the kind on Puget Sound.

 (Pioneer reminiscences of Puget Sound By Ezra Meeker, published 1905)



The next sawmill was that built by the so called Puget Sound Lumber Company in which MT Simmons, George Bush, Jesse Ferguson, AB Carnifex, John Kindred, Colonel BF Shaw, Edmund Sylvester, and EB Rabbeson were interested and which was in fact nothing more than a partnership The mill was built at the lower Tumwater Falls in the winter of 1847 and its machinery seems to have been that first used by the Hudson's Bay Company in its mill on the Columbia and which doubtless had been replaced by something better imported from England

(History of Washington the rise and progress of an American state - By Clinton A. Snowden,  Cornelius Holgate Hanford,  Miles C. Moore,  William D. Tyler,  Stephen J. Chadwick, published 1909)



August of 1847, Jesse Ferguson, Col. Simmons, Frank Shaw, E. Sylvester, A. B. Rabbeson, Gabriel Jones. A. D. Carnefix and John Kindred formed a company for the purpose of building a sawmill at New Market, named the Puget Sound Milling Company. The site was the northwest part of the Lower Falls. The mill was completed during the winter of that year.

  (Early history of Thurston County, Washington by Georgiana Mitchell Blankenship, 1914)





Simmons was joined by AB Tony Rabbeson, Edmund Sylvester, Frank Shaw, Gabriel Jones, Jesse Ferguson, John Kindred, and AD Cornifix in building a sawmill. From the Hudson's Bay Company they obtained the iron work of an old upright mill and organized the Puget Sound Milling Company and were soon turning out fir and cedar lumber at the rate of about 100 feet an hour. In a letter signed by Peter Skene Ogden and James Douglas, Doctor Tolmie is informed of the transfer to the Americans of the mill machinery as follows:  "We have given Mr. Simmons a crank and other irons for a saw mill of which Mr Forrest will send you an account and the weight of such irons being charged by the pound and you will carry it to his account at the rate of 20 cents per pound.  We have promised to take shingles from Simmons people for the coming winter at former prices. They have spoken to us about getting sheep and cattle shares and also for purchase, but we have given them no encouragement to a compliance with their wishes. "

 (Herbert Hunt and Floyd C. Kaylor, Washington - West of the Cascades - Volume I, 1917)


This was according to A.B. Rabbeson (who made many mistakes)...

Returning from the mission to the Sound, he organized the Puget Sound Lumber Company. The following is Mr. Rabbeson's description of the mill, and the incidents of its first operations:

"The company consisted of M.T. Simmons, George Bush, Jesse Ferguson, A.B. Carnafi, John Kindred, Colonel B.F. Shaw, E. Sylvester and myself. We purchased of the Hudson's Bay Company a set of mill machinery then at Vancouver, which the latter company had shipped from England with the intention of erecting a mill at some point upon the Columbia river; but they, believing it to be to their advantage, sold the same to us for the sum of three hundred dollars, to be paid for in lumber delivered at Nisqually Landing at the rate of sixteen dollars per thousand. The mill was built in the fall and winter of 1847 at the lower falls of the Tumwater. It had an old-fashioned up-and-down saw run by a flutter wheel, and cut from twelve hundred to fifteen hundred feet per day. I rememfler very vividly the trouble I had to get room when the mill was first started up on account of the Indians, who flocked to the mill by hundreds to behold the wonders performed by the Boston man who could, by a word, make the saw move up and down and the log advance or recede at will."

We also insert here his account of an early experience with the Indians. It is too interesting to be omitted:

"I remember the second log that was sawn. When I went to put it upon the carriage, I requested the Indians either to get out of the way or to roll the log upon the carriage themselves; and, as they desired to make themselves useful, ten of them attempted it but failed. When I picked up the cant-dog and turned the log without help, they were astonished at my remarkable strength; and, when I proposed to pick up one of them and throw him from the mill to the other side of the river, they all declined the experiment, - feeling no doubt that I could do it. This was the first effort to manufacture lumber upon Puget Sound, and I look back with pleasure to the fact that I had the honor of being the first to cut a board on its waters."


History of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington, 1889
North Pacific history company - Portland, Oregon