Wagner and Wilson
A History of the Wagner Community is now available on DVD.
When the Great Northern Railway arrived in Monroe in 1893, it set off a logging boom. Until then the only way to get logs to market was by floating them down the river to the mills around Puget Sound. Now the logs could be milled locally and the lumber and shingles shipped by rail to markets all across the country.
In 1897, E. Milton Stephens and his brother Elmer established one of the first local sawmills northeast of Monroe on Woods Creek, which produced both lumber and shingles. In 1900 they built a larger mill on what is today known as Wagner Lake just off Wagner Road across from Salem Woods Elementary School. The new mill employed 64 men and 14 draft horses making it one of the largest mills in Puget Sound country.
After a fire destroyed the mill, the two brothers took on new partners, their brothers Foss and Lew Stephans, and B.F. Bird and William Malone. The mill was rebuilt and this new mill could cut 65,000 board feet of lumber per day and was powered by six huge boilers. By 1903 it employed 125 men and a new spur line connected it with the Great Northern mainline.
In 1906, George Wagner and his son Charles in partnership with Harry R. and Ed Wilson (brothers) purchased the Stephans Brothers Mill for $350,000. The sale included 2,200 acres of timber, 800 acres of logged land, the large saw, shingle and planing mills, and a large inventory of shingles, lumber and cut logs. Another fire struck the mill in 1908 and it was again rebuilt. George Wagner was the working partner in Wagner and Wilson and he died in 1931. His youngest son, Frank, finally closed the mill in 1936.
A small Department of Fish and Game Boat Launch across from the school is the only public access to Wagner Lake today. Just to the north of this access is a private home that was converted from the Wagner Mill Power House and Machine Shop. It is the only Monroe area landmark on the Washington Heritage Register.