Fortson Mill



It was December 1st, 1905 when McCaughey and McCaughey bought 113.05 acres of land from Mr. L. Brooks. They took part of this land to build a sawmill along the Stillaguamish River and started business July 27th, 1905 naming the sawmill McCaughey Mill Company. The new train had reached Darrington and the whole area was in a boom and sawmills developed along the tracks. A settlement sprang up around this mill and by 1910 the population had grown to 130 people. By 1915 it had become a major employer for the area, the average wage for a 12 hour day was $3.50.   In the height of McCaughey Mill Company's success it was severely damaged by a fire some time around 1915.  McCaughey leased the L.D.R Mill to the east to make repairs and stay in operation while making repairs and rebuilding the McCaugney Mill.  During this time the damaged sawmill went through reorganization and was renamed Fortson Saw Mill.  Stocks of $100,000 were sold and the company regained their capital and the mill was rebuilt. 





In 1923 Klement and Kennedy bought the Fortson Mill changing the name to Klement and Kennedy Company Mill.  Even though the sawmill was once again renamed, the surrounding community continued to be called Fortson and the old site is still known as that today.  By 1923 Fortson as a town had phone service through Pacific Telephone, there was a company store, post office, several fine homes and several bunk houses for the men. There were three saloons in the area, but later one of these saloons was converted into a Union Sunday School. The sawmill at Fortson was a modern mill for the day and maintained logging railroads with 2 locomotives and one skidder, 4 flat cars and 2 long logging sides, a large machine shop and electric light plant. There were two other mills in the area along the Stillaguamish River near Fortson. The Fortson Shingle Mill was located to the west where French Creek Road is now. The L.D.R.Mill was located to the east about 1/4 mile east of the Swede Heaven Road Railroad crossing.



                                                           


By 1926 Fortson had grown to a population of 320 people.  It was close to 1929-1931 when Fortson again burned during the hard times of the Great Depression and It would be a couple of years before Klement and Kennedy rebuilt and got the mill up and running once more. Much needed road improvements were being made to the Arlington-Darrington Road, now known as SR 530.  Severe storms washed out the road at Hazel and the road was rerouted to the south of the tracks further way from the Stillaguamish River.  Truck traffic was increasing and the Fortson Mill invested in 4 logging trucks. The Bennettes moved their store to the east corner of Mine Rd. and SR 530 and put in the first gas pumps for the Whitehorse area. This is now the present location of the Whitehorse Mercantile and gas station. The Train remained a primary method to move logs and lumber for several years to come, however times were changing for the area.  As traveling became easier by road a growing population moved closer to the highway.


  




Fortson was sold to Burke Barker in 1954, and he later moved the mill to the Three Rivers Mill in Darrington, later known as Summit Timber, and now known as Hampton Lumber Company. When the mill moved men needed to be closer to work and so the families moved to Darrington or closer to the highway for ease of traveling to wark.  Metal roofing and pipe was sold for salvage to the Taylor Mill downriver near the Cicero Bridge.  Some of the dwellings were moved off site for homes and the cook house was moved to be an office near the community of Whitehorse.


                               







The Mill at Fortson was powered by steam.  Throughout the massive concrete ruins you see the round holes where pipes once ran.  There was a waterwheel north of the small pond where the fish ladder is now near the railroad bridge. This supplied electricity for lighting until the town was able to connect with Seattle Power and Light.
 












Over the years Nature has pressed into the ruins of Fortson creating a strange sense of the present and the past coexisting simultaneously.  Massive concrete walls are adorned with Maidenhair Ferns, and Indian Plums and Trillium grow where men once stood working to make a day's wage. 
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The De-Barker removed the bark off of logs before sawing them for board feet.  Have a good look at the aerial  photo and you will see the Company Store, Boiler House and De-Barker. 











This is where the De-Barker once was.  Now the
Darrington Volunteer Fire Department holds the Juvenile Fishing Derby in the Spring.  You can still see the large grooves cut into the concrete embankment where tracks ran down to the pond to bring up logs to the De-barker.

Even though the town of Fortson has drifted into the past, it leaves behind a clear reminder in massive concrete ruins where men worked and families lived.  The ash and steam no longer billow from smokestacks, no more whirring saws or grinding of the de-barker and green chain, and the voices of people are now silent, and yet Fortson still exudes the presence of a place that was vital in its day, and today remains a rich reminder of our history.


Old Fortson Mill is 7 miles west of Darrington, The Whitehorse Rails To Trails passes right by this historic site on the way to Darrington.