Hull-Oakes: America’s Last Steam-Powered Sawmill

In 1934, in the depth of the Depression, Ralph Hull started sawmilling by leasing a mill from a friend who had closed the operation due to harsh economic times. In 1936, Ralph’s uncle, Wes Miller, saw his Dawson sawmill burn to the ground. The only buildings undamaged in the fire were the boiler room and planer. Wes decided not to rebuild the sawmill and sold the site to Ralph.

Ralph and one of his employees then drew up plans to build a new sawmill, now on the registry of National Historic Sites. In addition to designing and building the mill, Ralph began purchasing timberland to ensure a log supply for his operation. The sawmill is registered with the Historic American Engineering Record and the U.S Park Service in Washington D.C. Ralph Hull’s biography, photographs, and drawings of the sawmill are recorded in the Library of Congress.

Throughout the years, Hull-Oakes has provided Douglas-fir timbers for many significant projects worldwide. These include beams for the U.S.S. Constitution; 100-foot stringers for ferry slips in New Jersey; and timber for mine construction in Peru, bridge building in Newfoundland, the world’s longest love seat in Tennessee, and water piping systems for a hydropower plant in Quebec.

Today, Hull-Oakes Lumber Company continues to run under the management of Ralph’s grandson, Todd Nystrom. Hull-Oakes is one of the last steam-operated sawmills in the United States. Visitors come from all over the world to experience the unique sights and sounds of the past. In 2009, over 1,500 people from 42 states and 15 countries toured the mill.

Tours are available by appointment through the main office. Use this contact form


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