Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Glorious Field for Sawmills: Humbird Lumber Company, 1900-1948

by Jennifer Lamont Leo

"Oh! beautiful grove of large cedar - then Hemlock . . . Pine . . . then Tamarack again - tice for ties. What a glorious field here for saw mills."--H. Milnor Roberts, Northern Pacific Railroad Survey, Lake Pend Oreille, July 1869

A Glorious Field for Sawmills: Humbird Lumber Company, 1900-1948, a new book by historian Nancy Foster Renk, tells the story not only of one lumber company, but of the people who worked there and the community that burgeoned around it. 

Today the forested mountains and beautiful lakes of northern Idaho attract visitors--and locals--in search of recreation and adventure. More than a century ago, lumbermen were drawn to these same resources for opportunity and profit. By the early 1900s, sawmills dotted the northern shores of Lake Pend Oreille and continued down the Pend Oreille River, from Clark Fork in the east to Newport in the west.

The most prominent of these local mills was the Humbird Lumber Company. Operating for more than three decades, the company encompassed large sawmills in Sandpoint, Kootenai, and Newport (now known as Oldtown); 200,000 acres of timberland; close to one hundred houses in three towns; two company stores; and a bank. The company even built an athletic field and sponsored a winning baseball team.

A Glorious Field for Sawmills chronicles the fascinating history of Humbird Lumber Company and its logging operations. The company existed in a context of rapidly developing towns, changing rural landscape, and sometimes tumultuous social times. Historical photographs from the collections of the Bonner County Historical Society and Museum in Sandpoint, Idaho, richly illustrate its story. The book was published as a cooperative project involving the Bonner County Historical Society and Museum, the Idaho Transportation Department, the Sand Creek Byway Project, and SWCA Environmental Consultants.

In a career spanning more than forty years, historian Nancy Foster Renk has worked throughout Idaho, Montana, and Washington. In addition to published articles and many contracted reports, she wrote Driving Past: Tours of Historical Sites in Bonner County, Idaho (2014). She received the Esto Perpetua award from the Idaho State Historical Society in 2010 in recognition of her contributions to the preservation of Idaho history. She lives in Sandpoint, Idaho.

A Glorious Field for Sawmills is available for purchase directly from the Bonner County Historical Society and Museum,, 208-263-2344. It can also be purchased locally at Vanderford's Books, the Corner Bookstore, and Common Knowledge in Sandpoint; Bonners Books in Bonners Ferry; Hastings Entertainment in Coeur d'Alene; and other outlets.

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