I was the last child born in the company hospital in a company town. Started in 1853, the company sawmill was the longest-running mill west of the Mississippi River. My dad worked in the woods and in the mill for the company for 46 years. It was a simple process. The company owned the forest that supplied the mill with logs that came out the other end as lumber. The lumber went out to the company dock to be loaded on ships headed for ports across the nation.

In 1985, the company decided that it could increase its profits if it split into two divisions. The resource division now managed the land and the trees, and the company mill had to start competing for logs. There was big money to be made from the highest bidders. Unfortunately, all too often that wasn't the company mill. The death blow came when the logs started coming down the hill, through the main gate and bypassing the mill, heading to the dock to be loaded on ships for export.

The whole town is now on the National Historic Register. The mill shut down in 1995, and the site is completely leveled, but you can visit the museum and see pictures of my mother and aunt working in the company store. The company declared bankruptcy last year.

Astoria was built on trees, logs, sawmills and lumber, not on the exporting of logs. The period when logs were being exported from the port docks parallels the time when the city was in decline. Tourism, based on the city's heritage, was not someone's sinister plot to undermine traditional history. It was the survival strategy.




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