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Memories include Childs Point, Moores Butte

The first log went into the Brookings mill in 1914 (McPeak photo, Chetco Valley Museum).
The first log went into the Brookings mill in 1914 (McPeak photo, Chetco Valley Museum).

When the Brookings Timber and Lumber Company began operations it brought here another of its top employees, Vern C. Cross, who became engineer on the logging train. His daughter, Anna, is said to have been the first child born in the town of Brookings.

She recalls that John Brookings, for whom her father worked, was always called "J.R." And she recalls that when her mother had a piano brought here by ship it was swung ashore while many spectators held their collective breath until it was safely down.

The Brookings area at that time was called Child's Point, or, sometimes, Arkansas Flats. Just north of where the present Bonn Motel is now located. Behind it was a hill called Moore's Butte, a good area for deer hunting then. According to longtime resident Max Brainard, Tom Moore, a one-armed half-breed teamster, had a house and a barn there. He carried the mail south, and on need sounded the triangle fire alarm, which was made of railroad rails and stationed on top of the hill.

The company soon built a large bunk house, called the St. George Hotel, to house the unmarried male employees. This stood on the south side of the present Pacific Avenue, adjoining Chetco Avenue. The St. George Annex was constructed on Pacific Avenue, across the street from the hotel. Directly west of the Hotel stood the mess hall which seated 300.

According to Leo Lucas:

Over the years, since the closing of the mill, the building was used as a dance hall, a temporary school house, a feed store, and a restaurant.

On the north side of Pacific Avenue, in 1979 the site of the Brookings Tire Shop, a hospital was built. It was staffed and equipped to care for the sick and injured of the area. A sobering and chilling experience for everyone, particularly those who had some member of their family working at the mill, was the sound of six short blasts of the mill whistle signaling for the hospital staff to be prepared for someone who had been injured or killed.

The present Central Building was the company's office building. Also constructed was a commissary. The company began construction of a town sewer system in 1915. Completed in 1923, it is now referred to as Sewer District No. 1.

The all-electric mill the company built was one of only two electric unit package mills in the world for cutting fir. The other was in Marshfield (now Coos Bay), Oregon. Built in 1913, it cost $1,250,000. This type of mill almost entirely eliminated the need for shafting and belting because nearly every machine was powered by direct drive from an individual motor. The electric power and lighting for the entire town as well as for the mill was produced at the plant by a 1,250 horsepower turbo-generator, driven by three automatically stoked boilers. An 80-foot high dam was constructed, and a 20-acre mill pond to float the logs. A standard-gauge railroad was extended from the logging camp up the Chetco River to the mill.

FIRST LOG INTO MILL

On Oct. 6, 1914, the first log came out of the pond and into the Brookings Lumber Co. mill.

John Brookings wrote from Harbor to Dr. D.J. Brookings in Woodward, Iowa, on Feb. 18, 1913:

Walter (John's son) has just returned to San Francisco from St. Louis after a conference there with R.S. Brookings, having incorporated the Brookings Timber and Lumber Co. and (to) issues bonds to install our plant and operate ...

We have about 80 men working now and will probably have 200 this summer. One building and a log pond at a cost of about $40,000. We will make a town called "Brookings" upon a fair amount of agricultural land ...

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