This month in his guest column, Snoqualmie Valley Historian, Dave Battey, introduces us to W.W. Warren. There are numerous memorials to Warren throughout the Valley, as he played a very important role in the evolution of the town of Snoqualmie Falls and Lumber Company nearly a century ago – and his wife was also part of a prominent local family.
The Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company, incorporated in 1914, was formed by Weyerhaeuser and Fisher interests to merge their timberlands into a contiguous property. About two-thirds of the land belonged to Weyerhaeuser and one-third to the Grandin Coast Lumber Company, owned by the Fisher family and their partners in Midwest timber and flour milling interests. Yes, this is the local KOMO TV (Fisher Broadcasting) and Fisher Flouring Mills family.
The new mill, surrounded by the new 250 homes of Snoqualmie Falls Washington, would be the second “all electric” mill in the nation and state-of-the art in all aspects.
The key to success was finding a good manager and the newly formed corporation chose William Willard Warren, who at the time was the manager of the Louisiana Long Leaf (pine) Lumber Company.
Warren was married to Lula Christina Fisher, daughter to the son of the prominent Fisher family. His appointment was not a decision based on nepotism, as Warren had already built a very successful mill from scratch in the malaria infested wilderness of Louisiana. His sound judgment was respected in the industry. W. W. Warren was an exceptional manager and his managerial foresight of new mill is still felt in the Snoqualmie Valley today.
Warren’s almost impossible job was to build and staff a new lumber mill at the same time the nation was gearing up for and involved in WWI. Articles made of steel were almost impossible to obtain and his workforce was diminishing as thousands of Americans volunteered or were drafted in to the military.
Warren’s correspondence with George S. Long, the manager of Weyerhaeuser interests in the Pacific Northwest, tell the tale of a caring and logical person, who won his debates over and over again, providing a superior mill and forest operations, as well as industry-leading living conditions for his workers.
Warren brought the Valley a thriving Japanese community and moved women into traditional all-male jobs to provide workers. He created a mill town with exceptional amenities, including a fifty-bed hospital (open to all), public grade school, post office, general store, barbershop, the largest Community Hall (YMCA) this side of Seattle, a Milwaukee Road railroad depot and modern woods and mill facilities that were soon turning out over 25% of the entire Weyerhaeuser output on the West Coast.
He negotiated a water system for the mill and town utilizing water from Tokul Creek when the original concept would have just pumped water out of the Snoqualmie River. Warren also sold the idea of leasing the mill homes to mill and logging workers with families – stabilizing a workforce with a reputation (too often earned) of being drunken drifters. W. W. Warren also created a work environment that shielded the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company from the radical labor unrest prevalent in the Pacific Northwest at the time the Snoqualmie Falls mill was beginning production.
Very unfortunately, W. W. Warren died suddenly in April of 1921 at age 45. His heart had been weakened by the infamous influenza epidemic of the WWI era. His passing was a shock to the Snoqualmie Valley. To quote Valley pioneer Dio Reinig, “He was one of the finest men who ever came to the Valley, loved by all who knew him.” Mr. Warren talked with his people and listened to their ideas, using “modern” participative management techniques some 95 years ago.
Today, there are four Snoqualmie Valley memorials honoring W. W. Warren. First is the bronze likeness and sundial, purchased with small donations from his workers after his untimely passing in 1921. This stood in front of the Weyerhaeuser mill office for almost ninety years. Second is the voting precinct for the town of Snoqualmie Falls and surrounding territory called the Warren Precinct. Third is the Rose Window in the Railroad Avenue gable of the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church, donated by his wife Lula Christina. The fourth, and newest memorial, is Warren Avenue on Snoqualmie Ridge, which ironically is only a block long.