Flathead Lake Historic Timber – The History

By August 27, 2014Article, Uncategorized

Northwest Management, Inc. has been working with the family for the past 5 years that owned the Somers Lumber Company mill located on Flathead Lake in Somers, Montana. Many of the logs stored in the lake during the mills operation sank and have been preserved in the bottom of the lake for over 100 years. These logs are 150 to 250 plus years old and have been in the lake for another 100 years making this some of the oldest lumber products available for those special projects.

The town of Somers, Montana is located at the northern end of Flathead Lake near Kalispell. The DeVoe Family helped build the community of Somers and operated the Somers Sawmill on Flathead Lake from 1901 to 1948. The sawmill and planer mill were shutdown in 1948; however, the DeVoe family continued the operation of the tie treatment plant until 1957.

The mill burned down in 1957 and was never started up again. The sunken logs remained in the lake until 2010 when the family began operations handled by North Shore Development, LLC. and Northwest Management, Inc. to recover the logs through a reclamation effort.

The history began with the Great Northern Railway tycoon James J. Hill and local businessman John O’Brien joined forces to build and operate an 11-mile railroad line to a sawmill on the north shore of Flathead Lake. Hill provided financial assistance for the construction of the sawmill and O’Brien supplied 600,000 railroad ties annually to the Great Northern Railway until 1906. At Somers, O’Brien built more than 120 residences and a general store to provide housing and support services to the workers and their families until the closing of the sawmill. By 1910, the Somers Lumber Company sawmill was the largest in the Flathead Valley, providing over 30 million board feet of lumber every year.

The Somers Lumber Company was not only the main employer providing a great deal of work for the town residents, but they catered to their workers needs and transportation to and from the mill. For example: the “Wanagan” was a large company barge with living quarters for 25 men, a dining room and a kitchen. A small tug moved the barge up and down the Flathead River while the crew gathered cut logs which had hung up in the bushes and sand bars during the early spring log-drives. Log-drives were difficult and dangerous comprising large floods of water carrying 16-foot to 33-foot logs down local creeks and the Flathead River with great force. During these log-drives many trees sank in the rivers and even more sank while being stored in Flathead Lake before the sawmill could retrieve them. In those days, it was easier to cut new timber than recover lost logs; therefore, much of the wood that sank was left behind.

Today these logs are being recovered and are carefully being handled to make use of the valuable wood characteristics, grain and colors that these timbers provide. The DeVoe family one of the leading pioneers in the Flathead valley is once again pioneering a new wood product and will be making these exotic one of a kind woods available. To see some of these unique products look at our web page Flathead Lake Historic Timbers or www.flatheadlaketimber.com