Life and making a living were the principal daily concerns
of the pioneers. And one means of livelihood gave its name to the community.
The old sawmill in Cedar Mill, established around 1855, was among the earliest
lumber operations in Washington County as well as the first organized business
in the area. The mill was operated until 1891, affecting the community
in a variety of ways.
In the beginning, the lumber business was stimulated by the needs of
new settlers seeking shelter; very likely most of the lumber was distributed
locally for construction purposes. Another impact of the mill was that
timberland rented or bought by the operation provided profit for farmers
in the area; the cleared land also proved useful for farmers.
Although the mill was abandoned for lack of timber in 1892, the holding
pond continued to exist as a community recreation area. For nearly 50 years
after the operation ceased, local residents swam and fished in the pond.
Others have enjoyed the natural beauty of Cedar Mill Creek and its falls
near the site of the old logging operation.
The mill became permanently identified with the community when the post
office was officially designated as Cedar Mill in 1874. But even after
the office was closed 30 years later, and Portland addresses were adopted,
the area continued to call itself Cedar Mill.
Almost certainly the presence of multiple logging operations in the community
led to the name corruption "Cedar Mills." While many longtime residents
continue to use the plural reference, the singular usage, Cedar Mills,
is the officially designated form.
The Jones Cedar Mill
Plans for a sawmill were developed in 1855 by John Halsey Jones, then
23, who worked in a Clatskanie mill near his donation land claim. Jones
had been logging since he crossed the Oregon Trail in 1852, and he realized
a lumber mill of his own would require a plentiful supply of trees. Leaving
his claim, he traveled around the Willamette Valley searching for a suitable
mill site. Seven miles west of Portland in what became Cedar Mill; Jones
located a heavily timbered squatter's tract.
Cedar mill founded
by Justus and John Halsey Jones. 1883 photo taken during Young Brothers
ownership. (Courtesy Hazel P. Young)
Jones and his father purchased 183 acres from the squatter and later
filed a donation land claim for the property near NW 119th Avenue and Cornell
Road. Since John had previously received all the free land to which he
was entitled, his parents, Justus and Lois, filed the claim. John and his
eight-year-old brother, Elihu, moved to the area with their parents.
A small sawmill was built by Justus and John. Their mill, as indicated
on an old road survey map, stood on the south side of Cornell near a 32-foot
drop of Cedar Mill Creek. According to family accounts, power for the mill
was supplied by a large overshot water wheel below the falls. Above the
mill site, the meandering creek was dammed in a natural basin to form a
Like other early pioneers, the Jones familiy worked together in their
enterprise. John, Justus, and later young Elihu cut timber from the surrounding
hills, using ox teams to skid logs to the pond for storage. to process
the fir and cedar, Justus operated a siimple muley, or up-and-down saw,
housed in a large sash frame. As much as 10,000 board feet of lumber could
be cut each day in this manner.
It was a primitive mill operation, requiring innovations for the many
shortages that arose. Bacon grease served to lubricate the crude machinery
and, according to one account, hand-made nails were driven into footwear
and cut off at the proper length to form boot calks. When sawing was restricted
by a shortage of water power, activities shifted to felling timber in the
hills. A letter belonging to Jones family descendants, and provided by
Halsey Jones, great-grandson of John Halsey Jones, gives an account of
"They [Justus, John and Elihu] would start up sawing logs to
make a wagon load of lumber, shut down the mill and haul it to Portland
about eight miles away. It took all 3 and the horses or oxen to get the
lumber into town because of the bad roads. Then they would go back and
cut another load and repeat it..."
In December of 1869 the mill was sold to John Quincy Adams Young
and William R. Everson. The Jones family relocated in Portland and founded
the Jones Lumber Company on Macadam Avenue the next year.
|[Ed. Note: This home still stands on N. W. Cornell,
adjacent to the Cedar Mill Bible Church. The Tualatin Hills Parks and
Recreation District acquired the house in 2005 and is planning to preserve
it as a community resource. Click the image for a larger view.]
Young built a saltbox style home next to the sawmill along Cornell Road.
The family resided there for a few years until sometime prior to 1874,
when the lumberman retired from the milling business. After he sold the
mill to Everson, he moved his family to a larger new home across Cornell
hear NW 119th Avenue.
The first floor of the old family home became the location of the first
Cedar Mill store and post office, where Young served as postmaster. Both
homes are still standing, although the newer Stick style home has been
somewhat remodeled since its construction.
Other Mill Operations
Eventually, growing lumber demands and the availability of more advanced
machinery led to the establishment of additional milling operations in
the vicinity. Two notable concerns that developed were Potter's Mill and
Believed to be Potter's Mill operation
on N.W. Laidlaw Road, about 1910. (Courtesy Lawrence Lehman)
Potter's Mill was founded around the turn of the century, at a time when
mechanization was being adapted to the lumber industry. The sawmill, actually
owned by Union Lumber Company, bur managed by stockholder E.O. Potter,
was located on Hamel property near N.W. Laidlaw Road bordering Cedar Mill.
After the concern was purchased from Charles Thomas in 1903, the inventive
Potter set about improving the enterprise. Mechanical equipment replaced
the work formerly done by oxen and horses Two 50 horsepower Russell steam
engines were purchased, one for hauling logs to the mill and one for transporting
lumber to the railroad.
Potter used some of his timber to plank N.W. Saltzman and Thompson roads
to accommodate the steam engines and the heavy wagons. When the plank roads
became worn or muddy, the mill manager applied sawdust to make them more
Other lumber concerns eventually located in the surrounding areas
where timber was readily available. One of these was Bonlock's Mill, established
on Hamel property hear the southeast corner of the Saltzman-Thompson Road
Potter's Mill steam engine, transporting
railroad ties to the Oregon Electric, about 1905. (Courtesy Jessie Walters
Within a few years, Bonlock, with a partner, relocated the mill a few
blocks east of its original site. This operation contiued for several years
until the timber supply was exhausted; then it was moved to various points
in the Bonny Slope area where the owners pursued more convenient stands
of timber. Except for a log pile under a nearby bridge, the second mill
site stood vacant for a number of years. Unknown to most Cedar Mill residents,
including the property owner, the log pile contained an active whiskey
still where moonshine was manufactured during the Prohibition period. The
logs ingeniously concealed a frame that sheltered the distillery. The operation
was eventually exposed, and the whiskey runners were forced from the area
when Federal agents raided the illicit enterprise.
[Much more information in the
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