Paul Kelly was a lumberman and civic leader
Paul Kelly was born near Seattle, Washington, in 1886. He attended grade school but dropped out of high school to begin a logging career.
When he was 16 years old, he was a gyppo logger with a small team of men backing him up. He began to earn a reputation as a superior logging specialist.
When Kelly was 31 years old, he moved to Eastern Washington for logging operations. While working there, he met Lucile McKay. Her family was wealthy and did not approve of young Kelly and his logging profession. It did not appear to discourage their relationship as they were married in 1917.
Shortly after their marriage, Kelly enlisted in the U.S. Army and was traveling to Europe to serve in World War I when the ship he was on was torpedoed, and the ship sank slowly. Kelly was one of those onboard to be rescued. He was then sent into southern France, where he was put in charge of a logging operation to aid the war effort.
After the war, he and Lucile moved to Metaline Falls, Washington, where their daughter, Jean, was born. They moved frequently to where timber operations were best. They lived in Lewiston, Idaho, for a few years.
Ochoco Timber Company decided to establish a mill in Prineville in the late 1930s, and Kelly was brought to Prineville to manage their timber operations. He built a house in Prineville for his family, but his logging duties often kept him away from home for days at a time.
In 1941, Kelly decided that his best opportunity for improvement was to become a mill owner and operator rather than being a logging superintendent. He formed the Paul B. Kelly Lumber Company and built a small modern sawmill south of Mitchell on West Branch Creek. The site included a sawmill, bachelors living facilities, which included bunkhouses, a cookhouse and dining hall, and a family housing area. There were up to 30 families that lived in the camp. The company built the houses and the employees paid rent. He only operated using private timber, and when it became sparse, he sold his mill equipment and moved to Prineville.
He became a business entrepreneur and owned a variety of businesses. He also became a Prineville city councilman.
Kelly became aware of the availability of a large holding of redwood trees in California that was being auctioned off. He and a fellow lumber man, Lee Evans, obtained enough cash to make a successful bid for the timber. Kelly became the engineer for construction of a lengthy logging road to access the timber near Santa Rosa, California. The road became known as Kelly Road.
Kelly died of a heart attack on Dec. 30, 1953, prior to the completion of Kelly Road, although it was completed after his death. Services were held in Prineville, and his remains were cremated in Portland.
Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.