W. P. Hawley

W. P. Hawley portrait

Lockley, Fred. "History of the Columbia River Valley, From The Dalles to the Sea." Vol. 2. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1928. p. 138.


"We have just installed a new paper making machine at the Hawley Pulp and Paper Company's plant at Oregon City, which operates at the rate of one thousand two hundred feet per minute and will produce one hundred and twenty tons of finished paper a day," said, W. P. Hawley, president and owner of the Hawley Pulp and Paper Company. "This new machine cost two million dollars. When I started to work in the paper-mill, my wages were six dollars a week. I was born in Malone, Franklin county, New York. My father, Prescott J. Hawley, was orderly sergeant in Company I, 106th New York Volunteer Infantry, and fought through the Civil war. That gun over the fireplace is the one my father carried during the last two or three years of his service. The first gun that was issued to him was shot out of his hands. You will know that we had pretty slim picking during the Civil war when I tell you that my father's wages of $13 a month as a soldier, had to support his wife and four small children and also his mother. Father was born in Malone, New York, February 29, 1824. He was a mechanic and for most of his life followed the trade of bridge building. My mother's maiden name was Emma Holden. She hailed from Middlebury, Vermont. Her people were old time New Englanders. Mother was born on December 26, 1832. Mother's father, like my father, was a mechanic. He was not only able to make all of the woodwork of a wagon, but to do all the iron work as well. My sister Frances, was the first child. The next two children were twins, Harry Hiland Hawley and Harris Holden Hawley. My brother Harris Holden Hawley was an officer in the Children's Home here. My brother Harry Hiland Hawley was a member of the New York legislature when Judge C. E. Hughes was governor of the state. My youngest brother, who died some years ago, was on the Boston American. What were the luxuries of a few years ago are the necessities of today, so that it is hard for the present generation to realize the privations and the hardships endured by the former generation. I can remember that we children were all dressed in soldier uniforms during the Civil war. Father would secure the worn out and discarded uniforms of the men in his company, pack them in barrels and send them to mother. She would wash them and make clothes for us children from them. I was a little shaver, but, I had to do my share in helping to earn the family living. I drove the neighbor's cows to pasture about a mile and a half distant, before breakfast, and would bring them up again in the evening. This meant a six-mile walk each day in addition to walking to school. From the money I earned in this way and by doing odd jobs, I was able to buy a pair of boots which were the pride of my life. When I was fourteen years old, I landed a job on a farm at thirteen dollars a month. In those days people had never heard of an eight-hour day. In fact, during harvest time, we worked eight hours before dinner and eight hours after dinner. My job was to be up by daylight, milk the cows, clean the stable, curry the horses, then eat breakfast and get ready to be out in the field for a day's work. Sometimes it seemed to me that noontime never would come, I would get so hungry. Along about sunset I could leave the field and after doing the evening chores, I didn't have to worry about having an appetite for supper. At sixteen I was drawing a man's pay which, in those days was one dollar and thirty-seven cents a day. I worked in the railroad yards. After six months I became second boss and had a gang of men and worked on the section.

Clark Weed, a wealthy man in our community, was building a paper-mill. He stopped at our house and told my mother he wanted to see me. I was pretty busy so I neglected to see him, so he called again. Mr. Weed asked me to go to work in his paper-mill at a dollar a day. This was less than I was getting, but he told me I could learn the paper business. My job was wheeling cordwood from the stack to the fire-room, and firing the boilers. I had a twelve-hour shift going on at midnight and working till noon the next day. There were about thirty-five employes in the mill, and we made about one and a half tons of paper a day. We made both news and wrapping paper. We made the paper for the Burlington Free Press and we also had a contract with the New York Weekly Witness, to furnish them their paper. After six months I was given charge of the paper-making machine at a dollar and a half for a twelve-hour day. Part of the time I was on shift from midnight to noon and at other times I had the daylight shift. Working in the hot room till midnight and then walking home through snow knee-deep with the thermometer from fifteen to twenty below zero, affected my lungs so that I began having hemorrhages. I consulted a doctor who said, 'You will have to quit the work you are doing and work outdoors. I suggest that you go to Colorado or to California.' I borrowed one hundred and thirty-five dollars and invested sixty dollars of this amount in a ticket on an emigrant train for Stockton, California. The seats were of slats and we could fold them down so as to sleep at night. I had an army blanket my father had given me and during the entire trip I never took my clothes off. In this car the passengers were all men. This was in 1877. Most of the passengers on the emigrant train were going to the Black Hills. We were constantly side-tracked, sometimes waiting for hours, for a passenger train to pass us. One evening when we were side-tracked in Nebraska, there was a sudden violent storm. For a while the lightning and thunder was almost incessant and was followed by heavy rain. There was a small railroad town not far from the sidetrack. One of the men in our car went out to get a flask of whisky. He came back in a few minutes very much excited and said, 'Some men in the saloon held me up, and took my watch and all my money.' One of the men in the car who seemed to be a natural leader, organized the men and equipped them with steel drills that the miners were carrying for their work in the Black Hills. Most of the miners also had six-shooters. We went to the saloon, found the men who had held up our fellow traveler, recovered his watch and money and then we broke all of the windows and doors out of the saloon, tipped the bar over and broke all the bottles, as a warning to them not to rob travelers in the future. When we got back to the train we put out all the lights and kept out of range of the windows by stooping over, till we pulled out. It took me eleven days to get to Stockton. I will never forget the pleasure and luxury of sleeping in a bed once more, after lying on slats for eleven nights. I had left New York in the midst of winter and here I found a cloudless blue sky, bright sunshine, meadowlarks singing and the grain green as an emerald and six or eight inches high.

"I had brought with me a letter of introduction to my uncle's nephew, Mr. Pratt, who lived at Chinese camp in Tuolumne county. Mr. Pratt was a money loaner. In those days they loaned money at from 2 to 5 per cent a month interest. Mr. Pratt had, among his other holdings, a ranch on Woods creek. The house was located in a deep canyon in the foothills of the Sierras. In the early days Ira Kroemer had mined there and after the mines were played out, he sublet the placer claims to Chinese miners. He started a vineyard and a peach orchard, went back to Germany, married a German girl and brought her out to California. He was a good deal of a miser and a very hard task-master. He made his wife work all day in the fields with a grubbing hoe and wouldn't let her go to see the neighbors. She simply pined away and died of homesickness and a broken heart. I moved into this house. One day I met state senator Dr. Lampson. I said, 'I understand that someone killed Ira Kroemer for his money. Did they ever catch the murderer?' Dr. Lampson said, 'They never even looked for him. People were so indignant at the way Kroemer had treated his wife that they thought he had gotten what was coming to him.' Mr. Pratt sent me up to this old ranch to keep up the property and to represent him and collect the rents from the Chinese placer miners. I placed a long table across one side of one of the rooms to serve as a counter, put some gold scales on this counter and the Chinese would often pay me their rent in gold dust. One Chinaman either gambled away his money or used it for opium. In any event he didn't pay his rent, so I put him off the claim. A Chinaman who liked me came to me and said this Chinaman was going to kill me, so for some time thereafter I kept my weather eye open, but nothing ever came of it. There was a choice variety of grapes in this vineyard. In fact, there were a good many varieties, because they began ripening in June and I had ripe grapes clear up to December. I only cooked one meal a day. I would get a dishpan full of grapes and pretty near finish them. I seemed to crave fruit. My cheeks soon regained their natural color and after eight or nine months I found I had gained thirty pounds. From that day to this I have never had another hemorrhage. Learning that a paper mill was about to start in Stockton, I applied for a position and was given charge of a paper-making machine at two dollars and seventy-five cents a day. While working in the paper mill I met, wooed and won Eva Adele Pusey. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been in the paper making business in England. In fact the family had been engaged in paper making for over two hundred years, in the old days when all paper was made by hand from old rags. The smartest thing I ever did in all my career was to marry my wife for I found she was not only a good wife and mother but a comrade and a business partner. I flatter myself that I have good business judgment but added to good business judgment my wife has a certain intuition that time after time has either saved me from loss when I followed her advice, or made good money for me. In fact, I never go into a business deal without talking the whole matter over thoroughly with my wife for we are partners in fact as well as in name. Two dollars and seventy-five cents a day isn't very much money to get married on, but shortly after I got married I saw a notice in my home paper that our old home was to be sold the following week for debt. I telegraphed a lawyer at Malone, asking him to postpone the sheriff's sale and that I would pay all indebtedness. Instead of living on two dollars and seventy-five cents a day, my wife and I lived on one dollar and twenty-five cents a day for the next two or three years. We finally paid the seven hundred and fifty dollars that was due on the old home. We rented a small house, consisting of a dining-room, bedroom and pantry, the rent being one dollar a week. We allowed three dollars a week for meat, milk and groceries. The paper-mill was located, in an old orchard so my wife was able to have all the pears, strawberries and other small fruits we needed. We lived pretty much on fruit during the season and she put up a lot of fruit for winter use. I found that they were paying twenty-two dollars each for the four wheel paper trucks they used in the mill. I took a contract to make six of them at seventeen dollars each. I had the wheels cast in the local foundry and I did all the woodwork myself. They cost me nine dollars to make, so I made eight dollars on every one of them. Some of the fruit growers, seeing these trucks, ordered them, so I was able to put in all my spare time making trucks. This was practically velvet, so we sent most of it back to apply on the payment of the old home place in New York. I took a lot of pride in not only increasing the production of the machine I was working on, but improving the quality of the paper. The owner of the mill, unknown to me, was keeping tab on me. One day he came to me and said, 'Any man who can do what you have done in increasing production and improving the quality of the paper deserves promotion, so hereafter you are going to be superintendent of the mill.' The San Francisco Examiner was growing by leaps and bounds at that time, and they were unable to get, under their existing contract, enough paper to take care of their increased circulation. The manager, who had failed to anticipate the growth of the paper, wired to us to furnish him paper and to spare no expense. Their Sunday paper was growing larger and larger and one day we got a telegram saying that they were almost out of paper and they must have paper at once. We had one hundred rolls of paper in the warehouse but they were sixteen inches too long for the Examiner presses. I took these sixty-eight-inch rolls, speeded up the winder rerolled them and took a trimming off each side, cutting them down to fifty-two inches in width. Every Friday night I would send extra paper up by express for their Sunday issue. Mr. Bogard, the manager, was so grateful for the way we had helped him out that when Mr. Remington, the owner of our paper-mill came out from Watertown, New York, the Examiner gave us a contract for paper that amounted to a little over a million dollars. Mr. Remington was so pleased with securing the million dollar contract from the Examiner, that he said to me, 'You have made good as superintendent of this mill. I want you to come back to Watertown, New York, and take charge of the seven mills I have there.' We went back to Watertown and Mr. Remington not only increased my salary, but he took me in as a partner. I had such good luck with the mills at Watertown that I decided to go into business for myself. I would go to a mill that had been losing money and I would offer the owner my services without charge, unless I could put the mill on its feet and make it pay. I had more work than I could do and I made big money. The first mill that I took a contract from on this basis, was one at Birmingham, Connecticut. John Wanamaker, postmaster general, had given them a contract to make government postal cards. The government inspector refused to accept the paper they were turning out for the postcards as it was off color and not firm in texture. The owner of the mill had spent one hundred thousand dollars in new machinery to remedy the defect, but still the government inspector refused to accept the postal cards. Before I had left the mills at Watertown, the sulphite process had come in. I made an improvement on this process, which I patented. I told the owner of the Birmingham mill that by spending three thousand dollars I would guarantee that within three months all the paper produced would pass government inspection. Within six weeks I had increased the production thirty-three per cent and the paper was coming out the right color and was firm in texture so that the inspector passed it without question. When the owner paid me for my services at the end of the six weeks, I said, 'You have paid me generously, so I am going to stay with you without expense until you can get rid of the warehouse full of rejected paper you have.' Mr. Wilkenson, the owner of the mill, had a beautiful home there. He certainly treated me like a member of the family. When his daughter was married, I sat in the family pew in spite of the fact that I had no dress suit and was dressed in an ordinary grey business suit. In addition to paying me the sum agreed upon for my services, Mr. Wilkenson wrote me a generous check as a token of his appreciation of my services. The next mill I took hold of was the one at Rochester, New York. This was owned by the Hastings Paper Company. While here, I patented a thermometer for digesters. Practically all of the mills at that time used thermometers made by Taylor Brothers of Rochester. Their thermometer was so easily broken that it caused heavy expense for the mills. The thermometer I patented was just as sensitive as the Taylor thermometer, but it was enclosed so that you could drop it on the floor without breaking it. I took it to Taylor Brothers and asked them what arrangements we could make for manufacturing it. Taylor Brothers could not afford to reconstruct their entire plant, so they told me if I would turn the patent over to them, they would give me ten per cent of their gross sales on sulphite thermometers. This made a very satisfactory addition to my yearly revenue. From there I went to the Hastings Mills on the Genesee river. They were making paper for the New York Sun. They had gone to a great deal of expense in trying to adjust and repair the machines they had but they failed to work well. The superintendent said, 'Can you fix this machine and if so, what will you charge?' I watched it work and discovered that one part of the machine needed a little adjustment. I said, 'I can fix it and I will only charge you fifty dollars.' The superintendent was incredulous. He told me to go to it. In two hours I had the machine adjusted so that it was doing the work satisfactorily. There was another machine there that needed a little adjustment, so after supper I overhauled it and adjusted it and they paid me twenty-five dollars extra for that, so that I made seventy-five dollars that day with very little work. The owner of the mill asked me to go to work for them at a good salary and he offered me a percentage of the profits, but I had to refuse, as I had already promised to go to Niagara Falls to inspect the work of some paper machines that had been made by Bagley and Sewall. The purchasers claimed that the machines were not up to specifications. The manufacturers of the paper machines and the owners of the mills where they were being used, had agreed to abide by my decision. I found that the operator of the machine was at fault and reported accordingly, so an adjustment was made on that basis. However I got the machines to working satisfactorily. The manager of the paper mill there told me that if I would go to work for them, he would pay me the same salary that he was receiving, make me a member of the Board of Directors and give me ten per cent of the profits. It was certainly a very attractive offer. I asked for a little time to consider it and that same day I received a telegram from S. D. Rosenbaum, president of the Crown Paper Mills of Oregon City, asking me to come to Albany, New York, the following day and meet him at the Delavin House. Mr. Rosenbaum was a brother-in-law of Mr. Fleischakker. He wanted me to go over the plans with him of the Crown Mills at Oregon City. He asked me to name the figure I would charge for going out to Oregon City, take charge of the mills and put them on a paying basis. They had been losing money for two years. I went over the whole situation with him and told him things about the mill that he himself did not know. He couldn't understand how I could have such intimate knowledge of conditions there when I had never seen the mill in Oregon City. When I named my figure, he said, 'Your figure is too high. I can get a man from Binghampton, New York, to go out there and do the work for much less.' I told Mr. Rosenbaum to wire to the man at Binghampton at once, as I had more than I could do in the east. Mr. Rosenbaum wired to Mr. Fleischakker and some of the other stockholders and then notified me that they were accepting my proposition. He asked me before, going out to Oregon, to stop at Poughkeepsie and go over the paper-mill there and make my recommendations for the installing of a steam plant. I sized up the mill at Poughkeepsie, found they had abundant water power and that they were using an old fashioned water-wheel that did not begin to utilize the potential power. I told them to put in a Success water wheel and that they would have all the power they needed. They accepted my suggestion and it proved all I had claimed for it and saved them the heavy expense of installing and maintaining a steam system.

"With my wife and my baby boy, Willard, who was then about eighteen months old, I came out to Oregon City in 1892 and became superintendent of the Crown Mills. At that time the mill produced eight tons of straw paper. We made wrapping and strawboard. There were thirty-five employes in the mill and the payroll was less than two thousand five hundred dollars a month. I changed the mill over so that we no longer used straw, but used wood pulp. I installed the chemical process. I was with the Crown Mills for nearly eighteen years and when I severed my connection with them, I was the second largest stockholder.

"In 1908 I purchased the site of the old Portland Flouring Mills at Oregon City. I also acquired their power rights. The 1907 panic had hit the east pretty hard. I went to Beloit, Wisconsin, and the manufacturers of the paper-mill machinery told me that for the sake of keeping their men employed, they would build my machinery for about half of the ordinary cost. When I turned out the first paper from my mill, the capacity was eighteen tons a day. I employed forty men. Today we turn out two hundred tons a day and we have five hundred thirty-five men on the payroll. Some time ago we purchased twenty-four thousand acres of spruce and hemlock timber, located largely in Tillamook and Clatsop counties. On account of the fog and moisture in the air, there is but little danger of forest fires there near the coast. We can begin to cut off our timber and by reforestation, by the time we have it all cut, we can start all over again for the new growth will be large enough to use. In other words, we have a perpetual supply of timber. When I go into the mill and look at the new paper-making machine we have recently installed, that operates at the speed of one thousand two hundred feet a minute and produces one hundred and twenty tons of finished paper in a day, it seems a far cry back to the old days when I wanted to speed up a paper-machine from fifty-two to sixty feet a minute and they told me that a machine could not go at sixty feet a minute without being wrecked. Now the machine operates at one thousand two hundred feet a minute.

"I am president of the Hawley Pulp & Paper Company Mill and I am also president of the St. Helens Pulp & Paper Company. Our son Willard is vice president of this company and Max Oberdorfer is manager. We make craft paper at St. Helens, our production being sixty-five tons a day. I am also president of the California Bag and Paper Company of Emeryville, California. They convert six hundred tons of paper into paper bags each month. We ship the paper to them either from Oregon City or St. Helens. Our son Willard is now vice president and general manager of the Hawley Pulp & Paper Company. I am turning over to him not only the financial details but the other details of the work, so that my wife and I can take time off to travel. We have made three trips to the orient and four trips to Europe. On our last trip to Europe, we took our little grandchild, Adele, ten years old, with us. She not only greatly enjoyed her trip but she went to a private tutor in Germany, so that she can read and talk German readily.

"Our office in Oregon City occupies the site of the Oregon Spectator office. The deeds to our property go back to Dr. John McLoughlin. There is a bronze plate on the corner of our office building, giving the history of the founding of the Oregon Spectator. I purchased the property where the old McLoughlin home stood and I gave the McLoughlin home to the historical society and the property surrounding it is now used as a public park."


Submitted to the Oregon Bios. Project in May 2010 by Diana Smith. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.

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