Ellingson Mill was located on the South Fork of the John Day River about four miles north of the Keerins Ranch. It was an isolated site that required housing and amenities for mill employees. The site of the mill was originally established by Ralph Smith in 1946. In 1949, Smith sold out his mill operations on the South Fork to the Ellingson Lumber Company, based out of Baker, Oregon. Ellingson Lumber Company had a number of mills in Eastern Oregon.
The old Smith mill was operated until 1951, when it was destroyed by a fire. The mill was rebuilt by company employees and became operational within a few months. Because of its isolated location, the mill had to produce its own electricity, first provided by a diesel engine generator and then a wood-fired boiler generator. In 1956, Central Oregon Co-op brought power to the mill. There was a 7-foot bandsaw with a resaw, edger and edge sorter. Logs were fed into the mill from a large pond with water coming from the South Fork.
The first few years, the lumber company did their own logging operations but later contracted the logging operations. Rough cut lumber was shipped by truck to a planing mill at Seneca, Oregon. The planed lumber then would be shipped by rail to the midwest and east. The logs primarily came from the Ochoco and Malheur National forests. In the 1950s, logs were mainly high-quality pine. It was common to cut 90 to 100 board feet per eight-hour shift.
There was a large camp associated with the mill that included 30 or more houses, 20 trailer sites, a cookhouse, five bunkhouses, a company store, gas pumps, a community hall, a post office and a company bus that transported children to the Izee School. Employees were charged $20 rent for the company houses. The cookhouse served high-quality meals for $1, which was deducted from the employees' paycheck. The community hall was used for many activities. Even a baseball field was constructed for use by employees.
Competition for timber by other mills in Burns, Prineville and John Day eventually led to the mill closing down operations in 1966. The planing mill in Seneca closed soon after. Most of the equipment was dismantled and sent to other Ellingson mills. The Keerins Ranch later bought the old mill site and removed most of the old company buildings. The dry old mill pond is the only relic of the once prosperous mill.
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