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Janet Schwarze


the Board of Education of the Owen-Withee school system acquired a strip of land between Withee and Owen on Highway 29, the Royal Hamel and Harvey Wilksman farms, for the purpose of erecting a new Consolidated School, the estimated cost of the new building with facilities for grades seven through twelve, is placed at $950,000.

Mrs. Ida Funk Munson, daughter of a Withee pioneer family has given piano lessons to hundreds of young people in the surrounding area. Her work has added much to the musical talents and enjoyment of music by many who would not have had the opportunity had it not been for her.

Space will not permit us to tell of the development of the roads and highways down through the years. It is my hope that this general outline of history will be a starting point in creating interest in continuing the record of events in this community. Let us dedicate our appreciation to these pioneer men and those who have followed, who have made our lives more meaningful. As we recall these people of action, let their memory inspire us to serve our community tirelessly and with ever increasing goals.


Grateful appreciation to Mr. W. B. Tufts of Tacoma, Washington for the Tufts history contribution.



Mrs. Ellen Hughes

The story of Owen begins with the lumber industry. Only seventy years ago a heavy growth of virgin timber covered the present town site. Then a lumbering company recognized the favorable conditions for a mill site in the little creek which flowed into Popple River, in the nearby railroad facilities, and most of all in the many acres of trees. So a sawmill was erected on the spot where now stands a large dairy plant, and the pond,in the early days was piled high with logs dumped there by the logging trains which came from the lumber camps in the north.

The little town which grew up around the mill was first located west of the bridge over the dam, and consisted of the mill, the company store, the boarding house, the company barns, the lumber yards, and a few houses for the men who brought their families to this new town.

Gradually the town moved east. The land where the city of Owen now stands was covered with trees, stumps and brush, and was used as a pasture. The first houses on the east side were: The present residence of the Gerhardts, the Zalobsky residence, the house east of the Congregational Church, a house on the location of the Burhop residence, the houses facing the pond, and the school house. Rows of identical “company houses” sprang up along the road which is now Highway 29. These houses were all painted yellow. The side walks were wooden and the town was entirely treeless. As the trade people moved in and mill employees built their own homes, trees were planted and lawns made, and the town became the pleasant tree shaded city it is today.

The history of Owen dates back to 1892 when the John S. Owen Lumber Company bought 30,000 acres of land from J. S. Spaulding and in 1893 sent Mr. W. G. Royer as general and woods superintendent to build the mill in what became the village of Owen. There were two mills at first, one in Unity and one 1* miles west of Withee, which were united in the Owen plant. Bret Creek was dammed and the saw mill and planing mill were built on the west bank of the pond thus formed.

The officers of the Owen Lumber Mill were: J. S. Owen, Pres. and Treas; his son, Aloney R. Owen, Vice Pres; his brother, Edw. A. Owen, 2nd Vice Pres; another son, John Owen, Sec.; and Gunder Anderson, Ass't Sec. and Treas.

The policy of the company was to cut what timber they could each season to sell the land, and develop fertile farms. This was a new approach since loggers in the past had stripped the timber and left a barren and wasted land.

It was not anticipated that the logging operations would continue at the most more than ten years, but instead the mill operated for more than 4O years. The capacity of the mill at first of 5,000 ft of lumber was later greatly increased. Between 300 and 1400 men were employed in the operation. Early lumbering was conducted with teams and sleds but later the company bought and operated twenty-five miles of railroad in Clark and Taylor Counties.

A box and crating company was also built in 1906 which added to the lumber output. Light and power were furnished to Owen and Withee from the saw mill.

Lumbering operations continued at Owen until 1932 when the last log was sawed. Dismantling and selling of mill properties were gradually accomplished, and in April 29, 1935, the mill site was sold to the Western Condensing Co. In September 1955, the property was sold by Western to the Foremost Dairy Co. which owns it at the present time.


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