Chapter 7: Two Other Operations at Roy’s Point – 1906-1913

Finch-Bell Company (1906-1909)

The Finch-Bell Company was incorporated in October 1905. It bought 23,000 acres of cedar trees on the north shore and in 1906 it leased land at Roy’s Point from the Bayfield Transfer Railway Company for its cedar yards. This cedar yard would have been located on the south side of Brickyard Creek where the boat storage yard is currently situated. The company probably used an old dock that extended out from the beach area.

The Finch-Bell cedar yard was taken over by the Kurz-Downey Company of Chicago in 1909 and both the cedar yard operation and the company office was moved to Ashland.

Kurz-Downey Mill (1910-1913)

Kurz-Downey Mill site at Brickyard Creek - Roys Point

Kurz-Downey Mill site at Brickyard Creek – Roys Point

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The Kurz-Downey mill was built in 1909-1910 at Roy’s Point between Roy’s Point Road and a ravine on land currently owned by Ken Dobson. The company built a sawmill, drying kilns, a power house and a box factory. A large dock extended out into the lake. The mill was finished
and in operation by April 1, 1910 and was expected to employ 150 laborers, both skilled and unskilled, during the 1910 season.

In addition the company built a plant to manufacture excelsior. Excelsior, or wood wool, was made out of thin wood shavings from a variety of wood (including aspen, pine, poplar, basswood, and spruce), and was used for packing breakable objects or as stuffing for furniture and toys.

Kurz-Downey First Sawmill

Kurz-Downey first sawmill at Brickyard Creek – Roys Point, ca 1910.

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Fires broke out in the Bayfield area during the summer drought of 1910. In June, fires were reported near the Kurz-Downey box factory, the Skyes farm in Salmo, and on the north end of Madeline Island. Large crews of men were sent out to fight these fires. Then, on November 10, 1910, the Kurz-Downey box factory was completely destroyed after a fire broke out in one of the dry kilns. The fire started at the west end of the dry kiln and was driven by a northwest wind that caused all of the buildings except the excelsior plant to ignite. The tug “Bayfield” spent the night throwing water on the lumberyards, saving the lumber, but four loaded Omaha railroad cars were destroyed. The company reportedly sustained a loss of $60,000.00.

Tug Bayfield near Cornucopia gathering white pine log raft

Tug Bayfield near Cornucopia gathering a white pine log raft, ca 1912. Photo courtesy of the Bayfield Heritage Association. Image ID: 2015.334.1

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Efforts were immediately made by the local community to encourage Kurz-Downey to rebuild its mill and box factory. Citing rumors that the company was thinking of relocating in Ashland, the Bayfield County Press argued that Bayfield needed to offer inducements to keep the company, which employed between 125 and 200 men at an average wage of two dollars per day, at Roy’s Point. Apparently the inducements were made because on January 19, 1911 it was announced that the company would rebuild its plant.

Kurtz-Downey Second Sawmill

Kurtz-Downey second sawmill, ca 1912. Photo courtesy of the Bayfield Heritage Association. Image ID: 1980.1.240

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The new plant was finished and ready for operation by May 1, 1911 under a new name, the Bayfield Box and Lumber Company. The new mill was set back from the shoreline with a set of four boilers between the mill and a spur line from the Transfer tracks. Waste product from the mill was conveyed through a lath mill and out to a refuse pile near the shore that was “burning constantly”. A piece of sheet metal protected the mill from this refuse pile. The finished hardwood lumber was piled in nine 15 feet high stacks divided by driveways.
Kurz-Downey Logging Camp

Kurz-Downey logging camp. Photo courtesy of the Bayfield Heritage Association. Image ID: 1980.32.4

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Up until 1911 the two mills at Roy’s Point operated only during the summer season. When Kurz-Downey rebuilt their mill they also created a hot pond on the south side of the mill. Exhaust steam from the mill was now vented into the water of the hot pond where frozen logs could be thawed out to make the wood easier to cut. The water in the hot pond also cleaned sand and grit off the logs thereby keeping the saws sharper longer. The hot pond enabled the mill to continue operating through the winter.

Construction work on a big box factory was to begin during the summer of 1911, but by October 1912 those plans were scrapped due to financing issues and a labor shortage.

Unfortunately the new mill did not last long. In July 1913 the plant was destroyed by fire. This time the company abandoned the site and, with the closing of the Bayfield Mill Company in August of that year, the sawmill operations at Roy’s Point came to an end. The hot pond, various large sections of the foundations of the Kurz-Downey buildings, and cribs from the large dock can still be seen on the site and in the lake.

The Brickyard Creek History Chronicles are being shared with you by Brickyard Creek community member, Mary E. Carlson.

She explains, “As we look out at Buffalo Bay and Basswood Island, we can’t help but think of those who came before us to this beautiful place.

She started her historical quest in 2007 and is sharing her finds in this ten-part series below. Her book, On the Streets of Bayfield, is available at the Bayfield Heritage Center

Mary E. Carlson

Author - On the Streets of Bayfield