Oregon State University

Hull-Oakes Lumber Company's Steam-Powered Sawmill: A Case Study in Industrial Archaeology

Hull-Oakes Lumber Company's Steam-Powered Sawmill: A Case Study in Industrial Archaeology, by George B. Wisner.
1998. $18.00

By examining the combined written, ethnographic and physical evidence of a surviving steam-powered sawmill in the Douglas-fir region of the Pacific Northwest, this monograph seeks to supply new insights into the operation and adaptability of antiquated machinery during a period of rapid social and technological change and to develop a descriptive model for the sawmill industry. Steam-powered sawmills, those mills using steam power to operate primary and secondary lumber-cutting saws, are now dinosaurs in the sawmill industry. They are a vanishing example of a mechanical process once common throughout America. This monograph describes a last-of-its-kind commercially-operating medium-sized steam-powered sawmill, the Hull-Oakes Lumber Co., Inc., sawmill in south Benton County, Oregon. It also explores how this sawmill survived through specialization rather than through wholesale adoption of emerging technologies. By examining a surviving sawmill that uses antiquated machinery, this monograph captures, in part, the way of life of the builders and practicers of the arts the industry represents; it also offers new insights for future researchers seeking to understand and explain industrial adaptability and cultural remains from similar sites. It does this by describing through words, photographs, diagrams and maps how such mills worked, what the machinery and its parts looked like, and what physical traces such mills might be expected to leave after they are gone.

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