1920s

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The old furnace site at the mouth of Oswego Creek became Lake Oswego’s first city park.

 

Aug. 6, 1920, Oregonian p4

BINS AT OSWEGO BURN — Iron and Steel Plant Has Fire While Being Razed.

Fire destroyed the bins at the old plant of the Oregon Iron & Steel company at Oswego last night, but without any damage to other property in the vicinity. The plant has been in the process of demolition by wreckers for some time and the fire, of unknown origin, broke out about 10:30 P. M.

It made a brilliant blaze that lighted up the campsites of that neighborhood and the nearby buildings of the Oregon Portland Cement company for half an hour and left a mass of smoldering embers at the end of the period.

The giant wooden stock houses of the Oswego iron works were destroyed by fire on August 5, 1920. Photo courtesy of Lake Oswego Public Library.
The giant wooden stock houses of the Oswego iron works were destroyed by fire on August 5, 1920. Photo courtesy of Lake Oswego Public Library.

Aug. 13, 1920, Oregon City Enterprise p4

OLD OUTBUILDINGS OF OSWEGO SMELTER DESTROYED BY FIRE

A large frame warehouse and other buildings belonging to the smelting plant of the Oregon Iron & Steel company at Oswego, were destroyed by fire Thursday night. The smelter itself was uninjured. The blaze, which was of unknown origin, started at 10:30 P. M. and the fire continued to burn throughout the night. The damage was nominal.

The smelter has not been operated for many years and the frame outbuildings have been in the process of demolition for some time by wreckers who were salvaging the building materials. Residents of the neighborhood prevented the destruction of other property in the vicinity.

The old wooden buildings were thoroughly dry and the blaze lighted up the country for miles around, causing no little excitement among the people of the town and forming a highly enjoyable diversion for the summer campers along the shores of Oswego lake.

 

Feb. 2, 1921, Oregonian p20

HOME PATRONAGE LAUDED — City Council Praised for Placing In Matter of Contract

A communication was received by the city council yesterday from A. G. Clark, secretary of the Associated Industries of Oregon, commending the council’s action in awarding a $75,000 contract for pipe to the Oregon Iron & Steel company, a local concern, in preference to a lower bid for the product from an eastern company.

Another letter was received from the Oregon Technical council, tendering its services to the city in an advisory capacity in “matter of public service requiring technical and economical data.”

The council recently was organized from the Oregon delegates to the American Institute of Architects, the American society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of electrical Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the National Electric Light association.

 

The old stack at the mouth of Oswego Creek. Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Public Library.
The old stack at the mouth of Oswego Creek. Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Public Library.

May 29, 1921, Oregon Daily Journal p10

FIRST IRON MINE IN WEST LOCATED AT OSWEGO LAKE — Waterpower Used to Create Air Blast for Furnace; Charcoal from Fir Trees Used as Fuel.

By Marshall N. Dana

The first iron mined and manufactured west of the Mississippi river was taken from the ground and melted in a blast furnace around the shores of Oswego lake more than half a century ago.

The waterpower of the lake, which is now employed to produce about 1200 horsepower of hydro-electric energy, was then used to create the air blast for the furnace.

The fuel was charcoal made from the fir trees which grew abundantly in the vicinity.

The old Ladd & Tilton bank at Stark and First streets was fronted with sheet iron made in the Oswego blast furnace.

COMPANY FOUNDED IN 1866

The furnace itself was made of quarried blocks of basaltic rock taken from a ledge only a little way from the point where the structure still stands overlooking the Willamette, an enduring monument to a picturesque past. The plate upon its side reads: “Oregon Iron Company, Founded 1866.”

Near it is the greater blast furnace constructed when the owners of the property became more ambitious, but now also fallen into disuse.

This is all at the foot of beautiful Oswego lake. At the head of the lake is another historic feature, less easily viewed. It is the canal dug by Joseph Kellogg, pioneer steamboat man, in the early ‘70s. Captain Kellogg believed that it was possible to connect the lake and Tualatin river, take the drift and snags from the latter and operate a line of steamers to Forest Grove. He spent all the money he possessed and could borrow in making a deep, wide trench from the lake to the river. A dam in the Tualatin was to serve the double purpose of filling the canal and equalizing the levels of river and lake.

RAILROAD SPOILED PLAN

But before his dream was realized the Southern Pacific built its West Side Road to Forest Grove, rendering the boat line competitively impracticable.

A week ago—Saturday, May 21, to be exact—L. B. Seeley of Portland celebrated his seventieth birthday by wearing the vest his grandfather wore 80 years ago, by attending a dinner given in his honor by John E. Gratke and by revisiting in company with John K—back, S. B. Vincent and the writer, the scenes of his first youthful experience in iron production.

The vest is still as good as it ever was and “Captain” Seeley—as all his friends know him, although he protests the title—is as young a man of his years as walks the streets of Portland. He says, by the way, that the way to prolong the exuberance of youth is to smile at trouble and joy alike, keep outdoors and walk several miles every day, drink much buttermilk and water and eat sparingly of meat.

It was a fortunate incident that pavement construction on what is now the main road to Oswego diverted us to the Boone’s Ferry highway.

GETS CALL TO WEST

“Forty-eight years ago, a lad of 22, I drove with M. S. Burrell, Walter F. Burrell’s father, for the first time over this road,” said Seeley. “I was born in Ohio and spent my earlier years at Buckhorn furnace down near Ironton on the Ohio river. While I was on a visit to the home of my cousin, E. B. Willard, at Hanging Rock, Ohio, a letter came from L. B. Benchley, head of the Pacific Rolling Mills at San Francisco. He wanted to know all about blast furnace. I jumped at the idea he had found iron in California and probably wanted a man who knew how to operate a furnace. I came West by way of the Union Central Pacific at San Francisco found the iron mine and furnace were in Oregon, and promptly came the rest of the way on the steamer John L. Stevens, Captain Connor in command.

“M. S. Burrell was then president of the Oregon Iron company, Henry Failing was secretary, and the other directors were W. S. Ladd, H. W. Corbett, C. H. Lewis and Charles Diamond of New York. H. T. [sic] Leonard of Leonard & Green gas and water works fame, was the first superintendent. He was succeeded by a man named Botsford and the latter by John J. Williams, a furnace man from Green Bay, Wis.

MINE IS TAKEN OVER

“I worked around the office for a couple of years and then became superintendent, in 1875. A couple of years later, a group of us who were then young fellows brought out the furnace and mine. I became president of the company, which we proceeded to reorganize as the Oswego Iron company. C. R. Donohoe was secretary; S. H. Brown, treasurer and Portland representative, and E. W. Crichton, superintendent. I took up my residence at San Francisco and became the selling and financial agent of the company.”

Mr. Seeley pointed out from the road Mount Sylvania [sic], under which the half mile tunnel had reached when mining stopped. Still standing within view was the home of Robert Stevenson from whose donation land claim the first wood for charcoal was taken.

“Stevenson and his family came from Virginia and Henry L. Pittock came with them,” he explained.

PRODUCTION COST CUT

We crossed Tryan creek, named for another donation land claim pioneer and on a side road climbed to the top of the bluff overlooking Oswego lake. Here stands today the tank which furnishes Oswego’s water supply. Immediately beneath is the now choked entrance to the iron mine. Mr. Seeley found the original miners lifting the ore, which tested about 40 per cent ore [sic], from the tunnel to the top of the bluff by means of a horse propelled winch and then hauling it to Oswego by a roundabout road.

It was costing $4.50 a ton to get the ore to the furnace. His first act was to build a road directly to the mouth of the mine, reducing the cost of hauling to $3.50 a ton. Later, with C. W. Burrage as engineer in both instances, he built a narrow gauge railroad, which with mine economies reduced the production cost to 70 cents a ton.

The first move of the young men was to secure more property, including all the riparian right of Oswego, in order that they might be undisturbed in the use of the waterpower turbine that developed the air blast. The lands around the lake are still owned by what is now known as the Oregon Iron & Steel company in which Seeley has yet a minority interest.

BUSINESS SOLD IN 1881

In 1881 [correct date is 1882] the controlling interest was sold by the youthful industrialists to Simeon G. Reed, Henry Villard and D. O. Mills. But in the meantime they brought it from a production of 10 tons a day to 20 tons, by enlarging the output of the mine and by raising the stone stack of the furnace 10 feet.

After his iron manufacturing experience, Seeley became successively connected with Willamette, Columbia river and Puget Sound steamboating. He was interested in the power development and locks at Oregon City. He was a factor in the inception of the Astoria-Portland (now S. P. & S.) railroad. He was an active figure in the campaign which put the dredger Chinook on duty at the mouth of the Columbia.

It is improbably that the old blast furnace will ever be used again, unless a suggestion by Seeley is adopted. “I think we should use it as a base and upon it erect a statute [sic] in honor of Dr. John McLoughlin, who once as Hudson’s Bay company factor ruled over all this region,” he said.

We were standing by the historic tower which stands while hurrying life passes it by. “Did you ever hear the origin of the word pig iron?” asked Seeley. “When we had melted the ore, the molten iron was allowed to run through a trench called the ‘sow.’ The laterals in which the metal solidified were called the ‘pigs.’ That is the way language as well as iron is made.”

 

April 15, 1923, Oregonian p55

LAKE OSWEGO BUILT UP — W. B. Allen Joins Ladd Estate Company to Handle Sales

During the last ten years over 500 families have located along the shores of Lake Oswego and the region transformed from a wilderness to a thriving community. Credit for the success of this important development is mainly due to W. B. Allen, member of the firm of Atchison-Allen company, which first opened the Lake Oswego project for the Oregon Iron & Steel company and who has had charge of its sales ever since that time.

Mr. Allen is now with the Ladd Estate company, 87 Sixth street, where he will carry on with the same work, having charge of the development of properties along the shores of Lake Oswego. J. R. McClure, a salesman with an intimate acquaintance of the district, has well as other members of the original sales force, are also with the Ladd Estate company, which has taken up the sale of the Oregon Iron & Steel properties.

Under the expert guidance of Mr. Allen and his salesmen, all of whom are thoroughly familiar with the Lake Grove and other Lake Oswego districts, the Ladd state company will, in the future, show and handle all Lake Oswego properties from the Portland head office. An intensive campaign will be started immediately with a large assortment of offerings in this scenic suburb, small farms, acre garden tracts, slightly country estates and modest homesites.

Ladd Estate Company advertisement from The Oregonian, July 5, 1923.
Ladd Estate Company advertisement from The Oregonian, July 5, 1923.

April 23, 1923, Oregonian p17

OSWEGO TRACT FOR SALE — OREGON IRON & STEEL COMPANY IS OWNER — Eighteen-Hole Golf Links to Be Constructed on North Bank Of Body of Water

A large section of property lying south of Portland and in the vicinity of Oswego lake, which is owned by the Oregon Iron & Steel company, will be disposed of through the Ladd Estate company, according to announcement made yesterday by Frederick H. Strong, manager of the latter concern.

The development, Mr. Strong said, contemplates the construction of an 18-hole golf course on the north bank of the lake, with probably the erection of a clubhouse later. Work on the golf course, he said will be started probably this summer and will be pushed to completion in connection with the platting and sale of a number of holdings surrounding the lake.

Several subdivisions at the head or west end of the lake have already been disposed of and many Portlanders now have suburban homes in that district. The development contemplated by the Ladd Estate company promises to make the district still more popular, Mr. Strong predicted.

The property is reached by the red electric car line and is on a good highway.

The Ladd Estate company recently placed Dunthorpe, lying adjacent to this same district, on the market and a large number of new homes have already been erected or are under way there.

[The relationship between the Ladd Estate Company, the Ladd & Tilton Bank and the Oregon Iron & Steel Company is explained in Marylou Colver’s article in the Oregon Encyclopedia: http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/ladd_estate_company/#.VyjDvHDdWUc http://lakeoswegopreservationsociety.org/nh-ladd-estate-company ]

17-newspaper-notice-ladd-estate

Sept. 16, 1923, Oregonian p21

CANAL IS MADE NAVIGABLE — Canoes and Launches to Be Able To Use Lake Oswego Inlet

Within a few days canoes and launches will be able to navigate the canal that supplies water to Lake Oswego. For the purpose of opening this half-mile stretch through the woods to lovers of water sports, the Ladd Estate company will lower the level of the lake temporarily to enable workmen to clear the canal of underbrush and open the way for uninterrupted navigation all the way to the headgates, which are half a mile in from Lake Oswego.

The work is in line with the improvement of Lake View Villas, which include the ultimate construction of an extensive boulevard system around the lake and into Portland via Dunthorpe.

The lake level will be kept lowered for several days, and the Ladd Estate company is notifying owners of lake shore homesites so they can take advantage of the situation and improve their own private frontages if desired.

Fall home-building activities in the Lake Oswego region are brisk. Several new homes have just been completed, including the $8000 home of W. M. Gray in Lake View Villas, on Lake View boulevard, at the west end of the lake.

Birdseye view from a Ladd Estate Company promotional brochure.
Birdseye view from a Ladd Estate Company promotional brochure.

March 23, 1924, Oregonian p6

Dairyman Buys Land

Oregon City, Or, March 22.—(Special) – The Oregon Iron & Steel company has sold to Antone Schleiss, a dairyman, 150 acres of land near Stafford, Clackamas county. The new owner has begun clearing the land and will plant it to orchard. For some time Mr. Schleiss has operated a large dairy on the Iron Mountain farm near Oswego, but this farm is to be converted into a golf course.

 

Lamar B. Seeley
Lamar B. Seeley

May 21, 1926, Daily Oregon Journal

L. B. SEELEY, 75, RECALLS PIONEER DAYS OF OREGON

There is no old age of the heart in Oregon, says Lamar Boudinet Seeley, veteran Portlander. With the enthusiasm of a boy and among his friends, Mr. Seeley celebrated today his 75th birthday. For 53 years of his active life he has been a citizen of Oregon. His latest photograph shows him with a cane, which is more of anniversary significance than of necessity. He cut the small evergreen from which the cane was made from the tomb of George Washington at Mount Vernon 55 years ago, and presented it to his father, Boudinet Seeley, in Ohio. The cane is now the property of a representative of the fourth generation, Tyler Woodward Seeley, son of the Rev. Boudinet Seeley, formerly of Portland, and now a leading pastor in Pennsylvania.

On his 75th birthday Mr. Seeley turned to the scene of his first industrial activity in Oregon, nearly half a century ago. This was the Oregon iron foundry at Oswego, the first to be established in America west of the Mississippi and a factor in the earlier building both of Portland and San Francisco.

Statue is Suggested

The old “stack” or stone base of the foundry stands today at Oswego overlooking the Willamette at the mouth of the little stream that drains Lake Oswego, as well preserved as when the plate, “Oregon Iron Company, Founded 1866,” was first attached to it.

“I want to propose,” he said, “that this hewn stone base, 42 feet high and 34 feet square at the ground level, be used as the foundation for a statue of Sam Simpson, the poet of the Oregon Country. This poet, whose songs of Oregon were pure melody, still lacks the recognition due him. His statue should stand overlooking that Willamette of which he wrote:

  •      Time that sears us, maims and mars us,
  •      Leaves no track or trench on thee.

A poetic urge was felt by the former iron founder and steamboat owner as his 75th birthday dawned. With perhaps more appreciation of Oregon than metrical smoothness he wrote:

  •      Seventy-five years ago today
  •      I was launched on life’s highway.
  •      At the Buckhorn furnace, land of coal, pig iron & corn,
  •      In the beautiful Ohio valley I was born.
  •      When twenty-two I felt the lure of the Golden West,
  •      Bade Ohio farewell and goodbye to the old “home nest.”
  •      Then to Oregon, grand Oregon, I came,
  •      With heart, and soul ready for the game.
  •      Fifty-three years have flown like a dream.
  •      Mighty cities stand now where silence was supreme.
  •      Ohio, my native state, ranks among the best,
  •      But Oregon, our Oregon, leads all the rest.
  •      Here may be won health, wealth and fame
  •      If you have “pep” and play well the game.
  •      To my friends today, God-speed and hello.
  •       Here’s youth of the heart, they make it so.

History is Recalled

Portland was a village and the sites of Tacoma and Seattle were wooded when Mr. Seeley first came West. The Oregon Iron Company, incorporated in 1865, with stock ownership by W. S. Ladd, Henry Failing, H. W. Corbett, C. H. Lewis, Tom Davis, John and Henry Green, H. C. Leonard, M. S. Burrell, Judge William Strong, William Rallston and Charles A. Dimon, was a leading industrial enterprise by men who themselves represented the foremost banking, merchandising and professional interests of the day.

The stone “stack” of the foundry was quarried from a ledge on the north shore of Lake Oswego. The foundation was bedrock and the masonry is today a model. The foundry made its first blast in 1866 and produced a high quality of charcoal pig iron from brown hematite near by. Ten years later the entire property was bought by the Brown, Seeley, Crichton, Donohoe syndicate. The new owners increased the height of the stack from its original 32 feet to 42 feet, installed new blowing machinery and built a three mile narrow gauge railroad to the Prosser iron mine, now known as Iron Mountain, above the lake.

Modern Furnace Built

Controlling interest was sold in 1881 [correct date is 1882] to Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific, D. O. Mills of New York and S. G. Reed of Portland. Then was organized the Oregon Iron & Steel Company, the old furnace was abandoned and a larger and modern one built and operated until the ore deposit of the Prosser mines was exhausted, when it, too fell into disuse.

“For all time to come,” added Mr. Seeley, “the tourists who travel the Pacific Highway will be attracted to stop as they pass by and visit the ‘Oregon Iron Furnace park’ having previously learned from their guide books that this is the place where the first pig iron was made west of the Mississippi river. There they will see the first furnace erected on the Pacific coast by representative men of Portland, and will also be informed of Sam Simpson, Oregon’s poet, who brought home the grandeur of mountain, sea, river and sky.”

 

The abandoned furnace site at the mouth of Oswego Creek on the Willamette River. Photo courtesy of the Lake Oswego Public Library.
The abandoned furnace site at the mouth of Oswego Creek on the Willamette River. Photo courtesy of the Lake Oswego Public Library.

July 1, 1926, Oregonian p8

OLD METAL TRACT ASKED — Historic Site Desired by Oswego for Park Purposes.

Donation of the former site of the first iron industry in the west as a public park has been asked by the city council of Oswego in a resolution forwarded to the Oregon Iron & Steel company and the Ladd estate. The tract includes five acres and a beach at the mouth of Oswego creek, between Oswego lake and the Willamette river.

The stone stack of the foundry, erected in 1866, still stands on the site, and Oswego plans to erect on the stack a bronze statue to Sam Simpson, Oregon poet. The city council has asked that the gift be made to the city so the dedication of the park may become part of the July 4 celebration.

 

Aug. 20, 1927, Oregonian p5

PIPE PLANT INSPECTED — Oregon Purchasing Agents Go Through Oswego Factory

Members of the Oregon Purchasing Agents association made an inspection trip through the plant of the Oswego Pipe company at Oswego yesterday morning, following out their program of factory inspections. The entire pipe-making process was demonstrated for them. Following the inspection the members motored to the Oswego Country club for luncheon.

The pipe company employs 60 men. The plant covers seven acres. Pipe is now being supplied to Camas, Chehalis, Clackamas, Longview, Silverton and the new Oregon terminals. The pig iron used is received from Provo, Utah, so that the plant and its product is truly western. Another large industrial plant outside the city will be visited on the next trip of the association.

 

Oct. 14, 1927, Oregonian p26

TWO TIE ON LOW PIPE BID — Gladstone City Council Expected to Make Award Soon.

A report sent out from San Francisco and printed by the press here Tuesday indicating that the United States Cast Iron Pipe Foundry company was low bidder on 730 tons of pipe for Gladstone, Or., was declared in error yesterday. The bids, which were opened by the Gladstone city council October 3, were:

Oswego Pipe company, $23,712.08; Pacific States Cast Iron company, $23,712.08; California Pipe company, $26,788.88; United States Cast Iron Pipe company

$25,542.98; American Cast Iron Pipe company, $24,826.71 (mono cast) and $28,590.40 (sand cast), and Peerless Pacific company, $31,721.30.

It is expected that the award will be made soon on the basis of these bids.

 

July 22, 1928, Oregonian [Advertisement]

FOUNDRYMEN, ATTENTION.  Have purchased entire plant of Oswego Pipe company and have ready for sale, consisting of all kinds electric cranes and hand cranes:  One 20-ton Baldwin locomotive, flat cars and all other machinery and equipment at great bargain.  SEE US BEFORE YOU BUY.  WILL SAVE YOU MONEY ON ALL YOUR NEEDS.  CHICAGO MACHINERY & SUPPLY CO.  “THE HOUSE OF SERVICE.”  269-271 Front Street, ATWATER 3928.

 

Feb. 7, 1929, Oregonian p8

HUGE CHIMNEY DOWNED — Waterfront Landmark Pulled Over By Wrecking Crew

Wreckers leveled an Oswego riverfront landmark yesterday noon, when they brought down the 160-foot chimney of the old iron works with a crash that shook surrounding territory. The base previously had been cut with acetylene torches, and a mighty pull by a steam engine on heavy cables fastened to its framework brought the huge chimney down.

The entire plant of the Pacific Coast Steel company, which was built about 40 years ago, is being scrapped.

Aerial view of the second iron works in 1928, a few months before they were demolished. Detail of photo from the Lake Oswego Public Library.
Aerial view of the second iron works in 1928, a few months before they were demolished. Detail of photo from the Lake Oswego Public Library.