Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


January 4, 2024

One of R.C. Bell Logging's 2-truck shay locomotives with disconnect cars tied down on the mainline in Deep River, early 1900's. Courtesy photo.

I have some fun news. A couple years ago Ken Johnson asked me to do some interviews of local folks, so I have done quite a few. I hope to do more this year because it would be great to have more videos available so the families can see these folks for years to come. You can now watch them at Five interviews have been loaded to the website, so please check them out so you can hear more about these folks. It's so fun to see them now available to the public. A series of interviews at the Appelo Archives Center will help you see what's available there. My show is called "Take A Break With Karen." The interviews available on the web site include: Krist Novoselic, Dan Cothren, Anita Raistakka, Ken Johnson, Bob Torppa and Rick Baliff. There are more, but these are the ones Ken Johnson has put up on the website first. There are also beautiful videos of the area and sports videos featuring some Wahkiakum School District activities. I hope the Naselle/Grays River Valley School District will work with the Wahkiakum West folks to get their games and other activities on this website, too. Enjoy!

Photo of the Week: "R.C. Bell/Bell Logging Co. camp near Deep River, WA, in the early 1900s. In 1904, R.C. Bell closed down his Cathlamet Logging Company on Nelson Creek west of Cathlamet and moved it to Deep River after incorporating the Bell Logging Company that year. R.C. Bell had an interest in several different logging operations on the Washington side of the lower Columbia River at Grays River, Rosburg, Skamokawa, and Eden Valley as well. In the photo is one of Bell's several two-truck shay locomotives with disconnect cars tied down on the mainline. In the distance are more disconnect trucks on a sidetrack leading up to a log rollway behind the buildings. A flatcar is on the end of that spur. A three-story building is definitely a rarity at a logging camp, and I wonder if that was Mr. Bell's personal residence. It's the typical wet weather in western Washington, and that is the reason planks are everywhere, to keep people from having to walk in the ever-present mud. The mainline was also the main street of the camp, where people walked when a train was not parked on it, or rolling through the camp." The photo was taken by John Ford. The "old" days of logging have changed so much that even trying to imagine how it all worked is a challenge. Today machines have replaced much of the work done by people from Longview to Grays Harbor, and over the hills to PeEll and Ryderwood.

Many of us are familiar with the Jerry DeBriae Logging his logging trucks are everywhere. Jerry was born in 1940 at the Long-Bell Company town of Ryderwood, Washington, the largest logging camp in the world. His father, Raymond, worked as a machinist in the Long-Bell shop.

With nearly three-thousand employees, spouses and children, Ryderwood fed logs to the giant Long-Bell mill, fifteen miles south of Ryderwood in Longview. When Ryderwood shut down in 1953, Raymond found work with Crown Zellerbach in Cathlamet. The DeBriaes have maintained a working relationship with Crown and its descendants ever since. Jerry graduated from Wahkiakum High School in 1959. At the time, the timber industry was booming.

Jerry said, "When I finished school, I needed a job, so I went to work in the woods."

He's now worked in the woods for over sixty years. When he started it was "the days of big trees, a booming domestic housing market, limited environmental restrictions and plenty of work for loggers," according to "When Logging Was Logging," a book on local logging history published by the Appelo Archives in 2011, and still for sale there. So many old timers who are featured in it are now gone. At 83, Jerry keeps going to the woods every day with his latest black lab, Sitka. His business has around forty employees, more in years past. His business has always provided good jobs. Happy New Year, Jerry, and I hope there are many more to come.

A class on "How to write a Family Portrait" will be offered on Saturday Jan. 13, at the Columbia Heritage Museum in Ilwaco at 1 p.m. This class is free, thanks to Humanities Washington.

Coming Concert: On Sunday, Jan. 14, Greg Parke and Gene Quilhaugh, will perform at the Naselle Community Center. Both are worth hearing.

Calendar of Events:

Mondays/Wednesdays: Balance Class Naselle Community Center 2-3 p.m.

Second Monday: American Legion at Rosburg Hall, meal at 6. Meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesdays: Naselle Lutheran Church: quilters in morning/ knitters in afternoons.

Third Tuesday: Naselle/GRV School Board 6:30 p.m. Next on Jan. 16 in School Library.

Wednesdays: AA meeting Grays River Grange at noon.

Second Wednesday of the month: Grays River Flood Control District at Fire Hall 5:30 p.m.

First and third Wednesdays each month: Rosburg Senior Club Lunch Rosburg Hall. Jan. 2 and 16.

Thursdays every week: CAP senior lunches at noon at Rosburg Hall. Joel Fitts recommends it.

Second Thursday: Johnson Park Board meeting at 10 a.m.

January 13: class on "How to write a Family Portrait" will be at the Columbia Heritage Museum in Ilwaco at 1 p.m. It's free, thanks to Humanities Washington.

January 14: Concert at Naselle Community Center at 3 p.m. with Greg Parke and Gene Quilhaugh, both excellent singers.

January 17: County conservation meeting, Dan Cothren, chair, at 2 p.m. at Courthouse 3rd floor.

February 24: Memorial Reception for Dale Dutcher at Rosburg Hall from 1-4 p.m.

April 7: Memorial service for Darlene Bjornsgard at Naselle school. Time not set yet.

Word for the week: Hope.


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