Eureka’s past is inextricably tied to the Eureka Lumber Company. Formed in 1905 shortly after the railroad pushed through, it was the focal point of the economy and without it, the town would have grown to little more than a whistle-stop as was the fate of so many other settlements along the line.
The June 19, 1908 issue of the Tobacco Plains Journal extolled the virtues of the company in a front-page article:
“The passing traveler who takes occasion to note the circumstance from a railway car window will see an almost solid pack of logs in the river above Eureka for a distance of twenty miles. He will need no other evidence to understand that something is doing in the lumber manufacturing line in the vicinity. The vicinity is Eureka.”
With over 100 men employed at the mill and another 150 employed in logging camps, the company’s payroll amounted to $10,000 a month. In the spring when the logs that were decked along the Tobacco River throughout the winter were “driven” to the mill, the payroll grew by another $5,000. When one considers the trickle-down effect of such a payroll, it becomes clear that the operation was the foundation of the local economy.
There were other far-reaching effects. Three dams were built upriver in 1905. Environmental impact was not a consideration in those heydays of the lumber industry. Railroad spur lines were built to access more timber. A three-mile flume brought more water into the Tobacco River from Glen Lake. Few signs of any of these “improvements” are in evidence today.
The Eureka Lumber Company went beyond simply providing jobs. It also was a stalwart supporter of all enterprises of a public nature whether the company was directly interested or not. Long about 1911, P. L. Howe, involved in the company from its inception, bought the controlling interest and changed the name to the P.L. Howe Lumber Company. By 1917, the International Workers of the World (I.W.W.) was making headway in organizing the mill workers and river drivers. They called strikes in 1917, 1918, and 1919 in an effort to halt the spring drive. This coincided with the United States entry into WW I and patriotism were at a fever pitch. Howe, who detested the I.W.W., used his influence to call in Federal troops, claiming the labor union intended to destroy infrastructures such as dams and railroad bridges.
The company flourished and died in less than 20 years, but in that time Eureka became a permanent spot on the map. Though the mill’s closure staggered the town’s economy, particularly when the Great Depression hit just four years later, the people found ways to diversify and have proved that Eureka is here to stay.
It is proper that the site of the Eureka Lumber Company is presently occupied by the Historical Village where its contribution to the foundation of Eureka can be preserved and remembered.
Source: U.S. Forest Service pamphlet researched and written by Lost Trail Publishing.