For those not familiar with the history of Lake Sawyer, commercial activity began here in the early 1920's. The Lake Sawyer Mill Company operated a sawmill and logging operation at the northeast corner of the lake between 1922 and 1934,with some periods of shutdown due to economic conditions in 1927 and early 1928. Employment ranged from 20 to 30 men producing 40 to 50 thousand board feet per day. This would be considered in the mid-range of mill capacity in the northwest during this period. Facilities consisted of one circular head rig saw, an automatic trimmer, dry kilns and lath mill. Logs up to 60 feet long could be processed. Company logging operations fed the mill with 3 miles of 45# rail, 1 geared locomotive, 1 speeder, 2 donkey engines, 1 high lead logging operation, 8 log trucks and 20 flat cars.
The following aerial photo taken in 1936, shows the mill site not long after shutting down.
Following is a closer image showing site rail access.
A short spur apparently connected the mill to Northern Pacific’s Stampede Pass mainline, making for efficient transport of lumber to market.
The company also had two log dumps, one at the mill site as shown above and another at the southwest part of the lake on property currently the site of the Sunrise Lake Sawyer Resort. Remains of log dump piling at the mill site can still be found. Apparently, rather than remove the piling, the tops were cut off making it easier for small boats to navigate - but the stubby piling can still be found there underwater.
Following is a photo of the log dump located on the southwest side.
Company logging operations utilized high lead logging technology including spar trees for yarding and loading. In the following photo, note the high climber standing on top and crew members suspended from the ground by cables. This is one of the better photos I've seen that shows a complete high lead logging operation including spar, cables, donkey engine and rail loading area. The size of this spar tree is impressive to say the least.
Photo courtesy Ted and Debbie Strand, Lake Sawyer Grocery circa 1920's
In May 1928, John Neukirchen, one of the owners who were based in Issaquah, apparently had a run in with their locomotive. As reported in the Issaquah Press at the time, “Mr. Neukirchen received minor injuries when the Willys-Knight he was driving was struck by a switching train at the Lake Sawyer mill. The car was demolished.”
Photo courtesy Erik Erickson, circa 1928
Judging from the photo, the locomotive used readily available wood waste for fuel and was likely used for moving railcars around the mill site. It had also likely seen many years of prior use.
Here's the mill as seen from the lake, which served as a handy log pond for receiving, sorting and feeding logs into the mill. You can also see the rail track leading down to the log dump and conveyor up into the mill.
Photo courtesy Peggy Hawkins, granddaughter of mill co-founder Joseph Neukirchen. The photo was taken by noted photographer Clark Kinsey
Following mill closure in 1934, equipment was removed and sold and the lands on the east side of the lake owned by the mill were platted for sale to those looking to build a vacation cabin on waterfront property. In essence, this was the owner's exit strategy from the business and I'm sure that it served them well. Bill Kombol recently ran across several old maps showing these East Shore lots as they were drawn by the Neukirchens at the time. Apparently, these specific maps were not recorded, but they sure look a lot like what we see today. Bill was kind enough to share this with us. Perhaps some of you can find your lot on this map.
Thank you again, Bill, for sharing with us.