The Last Remnants of the Minkler/Savage Sawmill
"Historical Birdsview can be very confusing to those who are not familiar with the area. An area about five miles or more wide on both shores of the Skagit was known by that name and Birdsey is most unique because he was identified with both shores. He would build a cabin on the north shore and a mill on the south. The future town of Birdsview, however, was only on the north side. Others were settling on the south shore at the same time, but he is father of the town itself."
Birdsey Minkler, a man astride the Skagit.
Noel V. Bourasaw Skagit River Journal
"In 1877, the late Hon. B.D. Minkler built a saw mill at the mouth of Mill Creek, at Birdsview, WA., it being the first saw mill built [up-river?] in Skagit county. The mill was operated by water power for a number of years. In 1911, the timbers remaining on the flume were used to build a summer home on a little bench land near the mouth of Mill Creek. In 1923, a logging railroad was built running close to the old mill sight. At that time the panstock which had stood through the years was demolished. The turbine was never removed, it is still lying beneath the ruins of the old mill." W.V. Wells
"Finally , a man of indomitable will and energy by the name of Minkler, started a little saw-mill about 30 miles up the river and landing there one day while freighting he showed me a claim which looked good to me. He offered me steady work so I took it." George Savage autobiography
Along with the photo, contributed to the Stump Ranch by Jack Wells of Lynnwood, WA, son of the late Washington Senator W.V. Wells. Mr. Wells shared the previous passage with a poem (see below) addressed to Mr. [Bert] Savage, who were neighbors at the time. The summer home mentioned is still owned by Jack Wells. The passage next to the photo read: Remnants of old Mill Creek operation of the Minkler Mill ca. 1924 (?) note the log house. (or George Savage's cabin)
Noted in the Communication from Birdsview dated May of 1886 from the Skagit News, "The saw-mill at this place will start up immediately under the supervision of George Savage." Birdsey Minkler was done with Birdsview by 1886 and wanted to try his hand further down-river just west of Lyman, worked up a deal with George Savage to take over the mill. Savage was said to have the mill paid in full by 1888-1889 along with a new partner, John Carr. According to George's autobiography, Carr and him were at loggerheads almost from the beginning in the running of the mill.
"Then I bought the saw-mill of Minkler for $3,000, he going to Lyman in the mercantile business. The mill [at the mouth of what we now call Mill Creek] was a success from the start. We had no trouble in running it, but it being run by water power we could only run 4 or 5 months in the year. I began surveying and cruising. Surveying, I and my son Leslie could earn 8 dollars a day, but the work was very unsteady. [George Savage was the first elected county surveyor] The second year I had the mill I sold one half interest to a man named John Carr for $2,000, and with what I had earned I paid Mr. Minkler for the mill in full. Now my troubles began. Carr and I could not agree on running the mill, so I left the farm and mill and moved to LaConner."
The following was sent to me by Noel Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal several years ago, "If you recall, last year, I found the date when George Savage and [brother in-law] L.A. Boyd first started advertising the mill in their name. Well, I have just found when George actually bought it from Minkler Skagit News 2/13/1888
George Savage having purchased the property and sawmill at Birdsview. Lumber delivered on the bank at any landing, $12/1,000. George Savage, prop. *Note that this price is up from $6.50/1,000 in 1885"
Here is the original note I found:
Sept. 16, 1889
Savage & Boyd!
Dealers in rough and dressed lumber
Savage and Boyd are putting their mill in order and stocking the millyard with saw logs for the fall and winter run because water is cheaper than steam, we have plenty of good timber near the mill. We raise our own hay and keep our own teams. Send your orders by mail or call on:
Savage and Carr, Birdsview, Skagit river, Washington Territory
While the previous items show George's brother in-law, Alex Boyd working at the mill, the Boyd family were living down in the Nookachamps area, south side of the Skagit river from Sterling. Savage and Carr were done with each other sometime in 1890, Alex Boyd worked out a deal with either Savage or Carr to run the mill and brought the family back up the their previous home on Boyd Creek. With Archie and Jim helping him at the mill and no success coming their way, Alex called it quits with the mill during the harsh winter of 1891-1892 following the birth of daughter Mabel in November 1891.
Ode to the Savage Mill
There's a place that is rich in story of deeds of pioneers,
By a stream which sings their glory as time tolls off the years;
A penstock and flume have vanished but the turbine lingers still
'Neath decayed and crumpled ruins of a by-gone water mill.
Far in the depth of forest and far form road or trail,
Undaunted woodsmen labored, the motto "never fail."
Where a stream flows to a river and close to a wooded hill,
With axe and saw and sinew htey wrought a water mill.
The sound of axe and cross-cut gaily mocked the cougar's yell
As, one by one, the forest monarchs from their ancient moorings fell.
The bull-puncher, loud and vulger, thrust forth his feigned strokes
As the swaying teams of oxen tugged grimly at the yokes.
May years the sturdy upright chugged on from day to day,
The quiet waters of the river bore the lumber far away.
Sixty years have brought their changes and all around is still
Where the water drove the turbine and the turbine drove the mill.
'Neath summer suns and moonlight the land is all agleam,
tall and stately alders ahve spread an archway o'er the stream,
Then again, October casts a glory o'er the trees,
And the gorgeous hill is dappled with the paleing maple leaves.
W.V. Wells, written for Bert Savage
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