Chapter 7: Two Other Operations at Roy’s Point – 1906-1913
Finch-Bell Company (1906-1909)
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)
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.
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.
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, ca 1912. Photo courtesy of the Bayfield Heritage Association. Image ID: 1980.1.240
Click image to enlarge.
Kurz-Downey logging camp. Photo courtesy of the Bayfield Heritage Association. Image ID: 1980.32.4
Click image to enlarge.
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