“The mill houses from Nationalwere sold when Weyerhaeuser Companydecided to completely clear the old town site. Single bedroom houses sold for $100, two bedrooms for $200, three bedrooms for $300, and so on. One condition was that all the houses had to be removed within 30 days Thus started the great National House Movement.
After work each day, teams of the new owners lifted the houses off their foundations, placed them on trailers or skids, then hauled them to the the new site, where they were then lifted onto the newly prepared foundation. Today as one travel from Elbe to the Park Gate, they can see these houses. The Grange building in Elbe and the Whittier Bunkhouseare from National, as are over 20 other homes in the valley.” (Per Upper Nisqually Valley.)
This pictures ran in a 1989 edition of the Dispatch. The caption reads:
Logging quickly became the main industry in the area, supporting a number of mills in Eatonville,Alder, Elbe, Ashford,Nationaland many other more short-lived communities. When this photo was taken trees were felled without the benefit of chainsaws and forests were cleared wtihout the aid of builldozers or logging trucks. These men worked in an industry where injury was a common acquaintance and death no stranger.
On that last note, you can see why so many were injured. Safety equipment had yet to be developed.
These 128-foot timber were milled at the Pacific National Lumber Company. It’s hard to get an idea of how really large 128-foot timbers are until you see these 40 people lined up on one.
The University of Washington Librarysays . . .”The Pacific National Lumber Company was established ca. 1905. By 1922, it had its headquarters in Tacoma and sawmill and logging operations in National. The company apparently went out of business ca. 1942.
The town of National is on the Mount Rainier Highway 7 miles west of the Nisqually entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park in southeast Pierce County. It was a company town established by Pacific National Lumber Company. It once housed 300 people who worked for or were dependent on the sawmill and logging operation. A post office was established December 3, 1910. The sawmill and a large part of the town burned May 13, 1912, but was rebuilt. In 1940, a writer for the WPA described National as a town of small, red, boxlike cottages crowded onto crooked, planked streets and dominated by the large red sawmill.
In 1953 it was obvious Eatonville’s lumber mill, the town’s main industry, was shutting down. Hundreds of people had already left and residents were depressed and worried about the town’s survival.
No one wanted to see Eatonville disappear like other logging towns, and with the help of the University of Washington’s Jack Wright and John Mills, townsfolk set out to make Eatonville “a better town. . . and an improved, more prosperous area.”
Operation Bootstrap was born.
Forging Ahead It was ambitious project from the start and described as, “A program to get everyone in the community to take hold of the rope and pull in the same direction.”
On October 4, 1953 the News Tribune ran an editorial on the project, when 513 people out of the 1,048 residents turned out for the launch of Operation Bootstrap.
“The citizens and their town are acting as guinea pigs in the first movement in the county of the University of Washington Community Development Plan. It is not a short course, but is scheduled to go on for half a year, during which all manner of questions from religion to recreation will be discussed . . . in an effort to make Eatonville a better place to live, and an outstanding example of a cooperative, democratic society.”
Committees Are Formed Residents didn’t just get involved — they jumped in with both feet. Committees were formed on every topic — population, church, government, library, history, health, recreation, economic development, education, and more. Each area was examined and all kinds of suggestions were made for improvements, from how to be more friendly to newcomers to the need for a library.
Community spirit ran high through 1953 and 1954. People not only made many positive changes to the town, they took their message to the airwaves and made T.V. appearances. They also created a large festival called Robin Hood Daysthat included archery events, a street dance and a pageant.
Success for Failure In the end no new businesses set up shop in Eatonville and some say Operation Bootstrapfailed. Others, like Margit Thorvaldson, executive secretary for movement, who documented the countless hours people put into their committees saw another side, “It was successful in that the community got together to get insight on the problem.” And people who may never have socialized worked together.
Almost 60 years later, people are still benefiting from Operation Bootstrap. For example, if you like these history articles, thank Bootstrap’s history committee, which produced the two volume History of Tacoma Eastern Area. It covered not just Eatonville, but Ohop Valley, Ashford, National, Elbe, Alder and La Grande. It’s a priceless record of our history and without it these articles wouldn’t be possible.
The University of Washingtonsays this photo is of the “Pacific National Lumber Company mill pond. Mill jack and Asian crew, at National”
The picture, although not the clearest, gives you a lot of detail about logging in the early part of the 20th century.
“The history of National is closely connected with that of Ashford,” says the authors of History of South Eastern Pierce County. “The coming of the railroad in 1905 was the beginning of National Logging Co. #17 and The National Sawmill started that year.
“Camp #17 was operated by the Mineral Lake Logging Company. Pacific National Lumber Company, of which Mr. Demorest was superintendent, built the sawmill. The sawmill and most of the town burned on May 13, 1912 and had to be rebuilt.
The mill had a large payroll, which made National a thriving town for many years. The sawmill was dismantled beteween 1944-1945, and Harbor Plywood Company took over the operation on April 1, 1944 on a much smaller scale.”